Scots Wiki – moving forward

‘Stinking’ misprint, 1787 Edinburgh Edition. Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, by Robert Burns. By user Rosser1954, public domain.

By Dr Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Coordinator

As Wikimedia UK, we work to support language communities living in, or connected to the UK. This translates to a range of projects, including Scots Wikipedia. 

Up until recently, there were only a relatively small number of regular, active editors of sco.wiki. However, as of the end of August, that has most definitely changed. And that’s the best thing that we could have hoped for. I really hope that these new editors will feel motivated to stick around, because their long-term support will would be transformational for the Scots Wiki, and hopefully will have benefits for the wider Scots language community too.

With all the press coverage, a certain amount of immediate interest was inevitable. And the community has worked hard to increase their capacity to help deal with this; nominating and onboarding new Scots-speaking admins, improving on-wiki tools, organising review of articles, discussing spelling and dialect, deflecting vandalism, writing a new notability policy, deleting spam.

We’ve been heartened by the energy and proactive attitude of the existing Scots wiki community in dealing with the increased attention and participation in their project. At the same time, it was disappointing to see some of that attention fail to assume good faith on the part of the editor upon whom attention fell, and to engage in personal criticism. That’s not a behaviour we would support, and what we want to focus on here is the positive impact of the story on Scots wiki. 

With any minority language Wikipedia, community building is incredibly important; one of the ways this happens is through events like the Celtic Knot conference which Wikimedia UK have organised since 2017. Calls for content to be parachuted into the Wiki are ultimately not the most helpful, not least because a Wiki relies on its community; it needs the ongoing support and oversight of that community to survive. It needs those volunteers who look out for vandalism, who fix spelling mistakes, who create new articles, who review articles, who work on tech infrastructure – all of those kinds of things which it’s easy to take for granted if you spend most of your time on en:wiki. If you want paid editing, and an encyclopedia which remains fixed in one point in time, there are options for that. But that is not Wikipedia. 

The relationship between a chapter and a language Wikipedia is one of support, not of dictatorship. So as Scotland Programme Coordinator for Wikimedia UK what I’ve been working on for the last few months is seeing how I can support, and help to grow that community. 

In practice, what that’s meant is a whole load of activity if not behind the scenes, then in the wings. User:Cobra3000 set up a two-day editathon at the end of August, for which I ran online training sessions (we’ve been doing a lot of that recently) using the Wikimedia UK Zoom and Eventbrite accounts; set up a Dashboard to track activity; helped to set up an on-wiki event page, and I created and uploaded some sco.wiki specific how-to videos to Commons, which went on the event page, was used for training, and in the off-wiki locations where activity was being organised – Cobra3000’s Scots Language Discord server, and the new Scots Wikipedia Editors Facebook group, which is now at over 100 members. I’ve been active in both of the latter, answering questions, promoting the training, and answering wiki-specific questions where possible. For the editathon, we also were sure to include a range of activities for non- or lower-proficiency Scots speakers, of whom there were many who were interested in helping out. Dr Michael Dempster of the Scots Language Centre has been very involved, including making an 8 hour introduction to Scots course available for free on YouTube. The editathon produced some quite incredible stats; they include high-volume AWB tasks, but even so, I was excited to see the enthusiasm and care that the community has for the Wiki. 

We’ve also been talking to the Scots Language Centre about how we might engage the wider Scots community with Wikimedia in the future, and this will hopefully build on some existing projects which had to be shelved due to COVID. 

The second editathon was held at the end of September, focussing on places, and we hope that these editathons can become a regular event. Now that we’ve done with the initial firefighting period, it’s time to dig in for the long term. 

If you’d like to find out more about community building through events, you can get involved here, or to see more about our Scottish activities, you can browse the blog tag.

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