#NOW Charity Challenge

The Newspapers on Wikipedia WikiProject attempts to get students and other interested citizens to improve the number and quality of articles on local newspapers on Wikipedia. We have a current goal of creating 1,000 U.S. newspaper articles complete with infoboxes by December 15, 2018.

(Why 1,000 by that date? It seems hard but not impossible. There’s thousands of U.S. papers out there needing articles — if we can hit 1,000 in six months, there’s a good chance we can get to nearly full U.S. coverage in short order, and then tackle other gaps in coverage).

We think the main incentive for working on the project is the good this project will do in the world — better coverage of news sources in Wikipedia will make it easier for the public to sort the real from the fake, the straight from the slanted. But we’re excited to announce an additional incentive for project participants.

Donors Paul Haahr and Susan Karp have offered to give $25 per page completed towards the goal to the Room to Read charity, up to a total of $25,000. The amount will be tallied up based purely on pages completed by project participants by December 15, 2018. For example, if we finish 938 pages the amount of the donation will be $23,450. The donation will be in the donors’ names, though we encourage people to note they contributed work toward the challenge on their user page, and to broadcast their participation through blogging, Twitter, and any other suitable means.

The challenge only includes pages created/improved by people on the participants list who have not opted out of the challenge. Pages that are created and improved by people outside the project will not be counted.

Room to Read is a non-profit organization for improving literacy and gender equality in education in the developing world. For as little as $50, Room to Read can provide a young person with a year’s worth of literacy instruction.

Notes on implementation

Some Wikipedia policy-related stuff follows about whether this counts as paid work, and on how to opt-out of the challenge. Some of it may be overly legalistic, but we are trying to model best practice here.

Does not constitute paid work or alternate giving

Since this donation will not be given in the name of participants of the project, it does not constitute alternative giving or paid work as those terms are used on Wikipedia. It is based purely on pages completed by the project as a whole by the count date, not the work of individual participants.

Think of it the way you might think of a “matching donation” during a pledge drive. You are giving your time to make Wikipedia better, and that is being matched with a personal donation to a good cause.

Editors in the project who have not opted out of the donation piece (see below) are encouraged but not required to put boilerplate similar to this on their userpage:

Newspapers on Wikipedia Project
I am working on an exciting project to create and improve Wikipedia pages about local news sources. The idea behind the project is to improve the usefulness of Wikipedia in judging source credibility, and to build awareness of local newspaper history and culture more generally. In the U.S. alone we estimate there may be up to 3,000 significant local news sources that do not have Wikipedia pages detailing basic facts about them, often making it impossible to judge if one is looking at a “real” or “fake” news source, independent or corporate media, a paper that popped up last year or one with a long history.  More and better articles can help.

As part of that project a donor has pledged to give a small donation to Room to Read, a literacy charity, for each article the project completes. I have no connection to Room to Read, and the donation is not in my name. My participation in the project is primarily based on my desire to improve the information environment with regard to coverage of local newspapers, though helping young girls in developing countries to read is a nice side effect. You can read more about the challenge here.

If you work for Room to Read, this creates a conflict of interest and you MUST opt out of the challenge, but are otherwise encouraged to participate.

The donors do not judge whether pages qualify

We are using a third party (Wellesley students and researchers in assessing the credibility of online sources) to judge which pages meet the quality requirements and should be counted toward the challenge. The donors do not exercise any influence on the form or content of finished pages, or set the criteria on which of the thousands of papers needing articles get prioritized.

Opting out of the charity challenge

Out of respect for people who may have reasons for not wanting to take part in the charity challenge but do wish to take part in the Newspapers on Wikipedia project, we have a donation opt-out. If you are in the participants list but would like to opt-out of the donation part, you can email Mike Caulfield and let him know you would like pages that are solely improved by you to not be counted for donation purposes and we will exclude them from that count. You are welcome to advertise your opt-out status on the Participants list on the project page in parens like so:


Or you can keep your opt-out status secret. We understand there are valid reasons for opting out, and so we leave this decision up to the individual.

Work done on the target pages that is not done by project participants will not be counted; people not listed on the participants list do not need to opt out.

Choice of Room to Read

Neither the donors nor the project organizers have any financial interest in Room to Read (or in the local newspapers in the project). We just think teaching young girls to read in developing countries while making Wikipedia better is a good thing.

Why choose donating to the developing world when we are editing U.S. papers? We were looking for a charity that would appeal to young people, be non-political, and had visible impact. It’s actually good that the charity is unrelated to newspapers or the U.S., as we are trying to draw in people that might otherwise not participate in projects about U.S. newspapers.

Note to long-time Wikipedians

The vast majority of people I have talked to about this project have been excited about it, including the Wikipedians I have talked to. But a short note to Wikipedians who may have mixed feelings about this challenge.

We’re interested to see if we can use this sort of challenge to increase the number of young editors trying their hand at editing Wikipedia. In particular, we’re interested in whether socially conscious incentives attract populations that are traditionally underrepresented on Wikipedia.

Our hope is that people who come for the “nudge” of the charity challenge stay for the culture and mission of Wikipedia, and that we foster a whole new generation of editors to help us rise to the challenge of protecting Wikipedia from the many forces of disinformation and manipulation that wish to pervert it. There’s a tsunami of that coming and we need to radically expand participation to handle it.

We get that most efforts to recruit new editors fail. And we’re well aware of the history of both the (still  extant) Reward Board and the (now nixed) Bounty Board, and the debates around both those efforts. We’ve actually gone through the archived discussions on those efforts, and tried to address a lot of the concerns in how we’ve structured this. (Most notes above address various problems people in those discussions identified).

At the end of the challenge we’ll look at the impact and do a frank assessment of the pros and cons of this sort of set-up. I’ve talked to many Wikipedians excited about this experiment. I am also grateful for the smart critiques of the doubters, and happy for commentary.


I am indebted to many people for their feedback on this project, but special thanks goes to Pete Forsyth, who provided significant feedback and guidance on this page and project as it developed over many drafts.