Wikisource:Oxford Transcribathon 2015

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Women in Science Oxford Transcribe-a-thon: Ada Lovelace Week 2015

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About the Event


The University of Oxford’s IT Services, Bodleian Libraries and Wikimedia UK are organising a series of Wikipedia events focused on women in science to celebrate Ada Lovelace Day. The first event, on Monday 12 October, is focused on transcribing texts in Wikisource. It will take place at IT Services on Banbury Road, Oxford.

Ada Lovelace is widely held to have been the first computer programmer, and Ada Lovelace Day aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire. This international day of celebration helps people learn about the achievements of women in STEM, inspiring others and creating new role models for young and old alike.

Come along to see how Wikisource works and contribute a greater understanding of the role of women in science!

  • Date: 2-5pm, Monday 12 October 2015
  • Venue: IT Services, University of Oxford (directions)
  • Participants: All welcome! The event is open to anyone who wishes to help preserve women’s science history. No Wiki editing experience is necessary, though experienced editors are very welcome; tutorials will be provided for Wikipedia newcomers. Female editors are particularly encouraged to attend. Can’t be there the whole time? No problem. Join us for as little or as long as you like.
  • Can’t get to Oxford? Virtual participation is welcome.
  • Register to attend in Oxford: Oxford University members should Sign up online via Oxford IT Services. Others should email . You're welcome to add your name below as well.
  • Cost: Free!

On the day


We will be based in a computer lab, so there is no need to bring your own laptop (though you are very welcome to do so; wifi will be available).

Approximate Timetable

  • 1.50-2.00pm Registration, housekeeping
  • 2.00-2.15pm Introduction from Professor Ursula Martin CBE
  • 2.15-3pm Exploring Wikisource
  • 3pm-4.40pm Producing definitive electronic versions of selected texts
  • 4.40pm-5.00pm Summary and closedown


New accounts on Wikimedia


  1. Index:Somerville On the Magnetizing Power of the More Refrangible Solar Rays.djvu
  2. Index:Portraits of celebrated women Florence Nightingale.djvu
  3. Mary Fairfax Somerville 1832 A Preliminary Dissertation on the Mechanisms of the Heavens

Participant evaluation


See wmuk:Oxford Ada Lovelace transcribeathon 2015



(Also posted to the Scriptorium)

It's been a while, but now we have the participant feedback, it's time I reported what happened at this (first?) Wikisource training event last month, held by Oxford University IT Services and the Bodleian Libraries.

The session was three hours, including a guest speaker talking about women in science, so about two and a half hours of learning and doing Wikisource, which participants said felt exactly the right length.

There were eleven trainees, four who had edited Wikipedia before; seven who were new to wikis in general. We started with a discussion of the advantages of electronic text, writing up the benefits on on a flipchart. Then I brought up Wikisource and talked through the different kinds of text that are available.

My demonstration of EPUB export wasn't as impressive as I'd planned: the app on my phone (Google Play Books on Android) temperamentally shows a blank screen sometimes when returning to a book, so people just had to trust me that my phone has Ada Lovelace's notes on the analytical engine.

I handed out post-it notes with page numbers on, and I'd set up a URL-shortener so that we could rapidly get to the transcriptions. The page numbers were spaced two apart, the idea being that each person would proofread a page, then another page, then validate a page that had been proofread by someone else (though I came through and did a more thorough check afterwards).

They picked up the basic formatting conventions pretty quickly, just from the premise that the purpose is to make text more accessible. With a very mixed group, some of whom are very non-technical, it's not really feasible to go deeply into templates, but I did point everyone to the Help index, and especially Help:Templates. The more IT-confident attendees picked up quickly how to do recurring headers and so on. Those people got to grips with the site more quickly, and so did more validation of others' work.

We didn't do a huge amount of pages on the day, but then that's the nature of a training event for people who are new to the site, and which has to make sure everyone is keeping up. We completed one eight-page paper and about a quarter of a short book by Mary Somerville. One of the texts that I prepared for the event was a book chapter about Florence Nightingale which we didn't end up using on the day, but was later transcribed by ShakespeareFan00 to whom I'm very grateful.

We didn't have many comments on the interface, though some of us had a problem with dragging the page-image around with the mouse. This would work the first time a page was being created (though it's not obvious that you can do this- people had to have it pointed out) but when they saved, then clicked "edit" again some found that the image wouldn't move. This happened more with Internet Explorer, but to be honest we didn't detect a pattern to this problem.

There was an online evaluation form. We only had four responses out of eleven, but they were mostly very positive ("Fantastic activity. I loved it." "I was impressed with the whole Wiki thing."). I recommend reading all their comments. In-person responses on the day reinforce that, in general, they found it fun and relaxing- this is a big contrast to the Wikipedia training that I more usually give. Writing a Wikipedia article that won't be deleted is often a scary experience for a newcomer- with Wikisource they make visible improvements more quickly. I felt that they could become regular contributors but that they'd like to do it with in-person support- they liked working together as a group, while also being conscious that they were taking part in a global community. The hosting organisations were also pleased to run an event which gets good feedback, and which teaches a novel set of skills relevant to research and education. Hence I'll push for other events like this.

I hope this is interesting and that other Wikisourcerors get a chance to run similar outreach events.