A Wiki-Picnic for online encyclopedia editors

On Saturday, the Wikipedians of the world will unite in the first Great American Wiknic, a Wiki-Picnic for editors of the online encyclopedia.

The contents of the picnic will be entirely user generated.

“Basically, we tried to encourage people in each local area to do their own thing,” says Richard Knipel, who has been heavily involved with New York area Wiknics on which the national effort, planned for 18 cities around the United States, is based.

“You get to talk about deletion debates” or controversial editing decisions, Knipel says, describing how it is fun for Wikipedia volunteers to meet in person. He remembers one gathering at which attendees shared their favorite Wikipedia April Fools’ jokes, including Knipel’s, in which he deliberately confused George Washington, the president, with George Washington, the inventor of an instant coffee process.

(Note: It has been suggested that the above paragraph be merged into “List of April Fools’ Day Jokes.” See discussion on talk page.)

The Washington area Wiknic is scheduled to begin at noon at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington. About a dozen people are planning to attend, though an additional 20 are on the maybe list.

“Wikipedians are notoriously socially awkward,” says Dominic McDevitt-Parks. “But after a few minutes of socializing,” he predicts, nothing will be awkward at all.

McDevitt-Parks is the new Wikipedian-in-residence at the National Archives; he helps get archival content online, creating greater accessibility for the public. Partnerships like this, McDevitt-Parks says, represent the “secret agenda” of the Wiknic. “Getting involved socially offline is the precursor to activism offline,” he says. He would like to see greater partnerships with cultural institutions from the Wikipedia community at large. Already, Washington Wikipedians have been working with the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art to help curate the collection’s presence online.

Saturday’s meet-up will, however, be predominantly about getting to know one another. “We can do outreach projects, but we also want to have fun sometimes, too,” says editor Katie Filbert, whose particular areas of Wikipedia interest have included Banff National Park in Canada and emergency law in Egypt.

After the gathering, participants are considering a post-Wiknic jaunt to Theodore Roosevelt Island. On the Wiknic’s Wikipedia page, the editor who suggested this excursion notes that the island’s loop trail exhibits riparion ecology, estuarine intertidal habitats and the Atlantic Seaboard “Fall Line.”

He has helpfully provided Wikipedia links for each term.

Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.
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