Wikimedia CEE Spring article contest

CEE Spring + #100wikidays =

Both born in the CEE in the last days of 2014, the article writing contest CEE Spring and the article writing self-challenge #100wikidays are going in different directions, yet often with paths crossing. Read the stories of some of the #100wikidays “victims” who also took part in the CEE Spring. And about the new sister challenge “CEE Women” open to all language versions of Wikipedia, within and beyond our region.

Inspired by the Wikimedia CEE Meeting in Kyiv in the late 2014, the CEE Spring has become one of the biggest article writing contests in the wikiverse, a collective effort of the Wikimedians in the region of Central and Eastern Europe to contribute for the benefit of shared free knowledge and in support of mutual acknowledgement and understanding. Invented by a group of volunteers, whose company I was happy and honoured to share, for already three years the competition has been pursuing its goal to bring volunteers together and increase the quantity and quality of free knowledge available about the CEE region both within it, and globally.

In the days right after this same Wikimedia Meeting, the idea about the #100wikidays occurred in my mind. Originally thought as a self-challenge for writing 100 articles in 100 days in a row, it was my way to resume my then low wiki activity and remind myself of the sheer pleasure of contributing with new encyclopaedic content. What started as a personal test for perseverance, however, was soon perceived by other editors from CEE and around the globe as a glove thrown down as a challenge to them, too. And many accepted it. 🙂

And maybe because both appeared in the same time and space, and both require significant amounts of inspiration and dedication, the #100wikidays and the CEE Spring communities started growing together, mutually enriching (or, if you prefer, infecting) each other with enthusiasm and ideas for new articles.

In 2015, Toni from Macedonia was one of the “victims” of the #100wikidays (yeah, we call each other “victims”!), who also took part in the CEE Spring. Toni remembers that he wrote several articles related to competition and that gave him ideas of articles for the challenge, when he didn’t have any.  One of these was the Latvian liquor “Riga Black Balsam”, now available in Macedonian, which was inspired by another “victim”, Mārtiņš from Latvia.  

Mārtiņš himself was one of those who combined the two efforts quite successfully. His progress in both the contest and the challenge in 2015 comprises articles related to countries from all over the CEE region: Slovenia, Lithuania, Estonia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Romania, Russia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, to name “a few”.

For Ата from Ukraine, merging the competition with the self-challenge was like “two hares at once”.  She says that she had already started the self-challenge and had written several articles about cello concertos, but when the CEE Spring began, it became much easier for her to find more diverse topics for her articles.

The numerous local articles lists, created by CEE volunteers, are just one of the ways the competition can assist anyone who has decided to test their perseverance and no-sleep abilities by undertaking the #100wikidays. The handpicked notable and well referenced topics are grouped in about 10 categories and offer a valuable pool of ideas, ranging from culture to transport, and from nature to economics.

When I asked her about some topics that she vividly remembers, Ата’s top-of-mind choice was the article about Diana Abgar, probably one of the biggest rock stars of the #100wikidays and CEE Spring. Mrs Abgar was the first Armenian woman diplomat and possibly the first woman to have ever been appointed in any diplomatic post. The article about her went viral in both wiki communities and currently exists in 19 languages, starting from just 4 prior to March 2015. Another article Ата vividly remembers was the Elbasan Castle in Albania, for which she received a personal thank-you from an editor born in the eponymous town.

Unlike Ата, the things with Marek happened just the other way round. In 2016, he had just started writing articles for the CEE Spring, when he realized that on this basis he can possibly do the #100wikidays, as well. The problem for him was to find interesting topics, and ones not yet covered in Polish Wikipedia, and the CEE Spring lists were exactly what he needed as a source of inspiration. And, as if both the contest’s and the challenge’s rules were not demanding enough, Marek had additionally restricted himself into writing about women only! “I was looking for biographies of interesting women on the current week lists and when I already became a “victim”, I just had to finish it.”

“Interesting women? Can you give me an example?” I asked, and Marek immediately pointed out his article about the Azerbaijani investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova, which actually came very timely “as just a few days later there was a big grafitti about her in Warsaw, demanding her release from prison”.

Some other people, like Natalia from Poland, however, preferred to stick to their guns and use their paper sources rather than follow the CEE Spring lists or the topics of immediate interest onwiki and in real life. “I found a book about Estonian writers in a library so I spent some time with that topic: Estonian writers, literary groups, etc. which probably added to the fact that Estonia was the most popular topic in last year CEE Spring”, she said, referring not only to the actual statistics, but also to the running joke in the CEE circles that “when in doubt, write about Estonians.” 🙂

Another #100wikidays veteran, Armine from Armenia had already completed two full runs of the challenge, when her third run, in Armenian Wikiquote, coincided with CEE Spring 2016. Her approach was to write biographies of CEE writers as part of the contest, and additionally create their respective Wikiquote pages as part of the challenge. This year, the CEE Spring coincides with Armine’s sixth #100wikidays run and she is specifically creating GLAM-related articles about museums, galleries, etc. She’s again combining the two efforts, having written multiple articles about museums in Russia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Croatia…

And this is understandable. While the challenge gives you the timeframe, the competition gives you the thematic direction to write about, and both of them perfectly match and reinforce each other. And numbers support this observation. From all the 220+ “victims”, who have started the challenge by now, 36% are CEE editors, pursuing the challenge in 20 out of the 55 language involved versions. And even larger share of those who successfully completed the challenge, are from CEE: up to 45% of all  “survivors” globally. 🙂

So, what is the next crossing point of the CEE Spring and the #100wikidays?

In attempt to attract the global wiki community to learn more about CEE and write articles about the region, from 20 April to 30 May, a sister challenge is taking place: the CEE Women challenge. This time there will be symbolic, yet supercool prizes! Any editor, who creates at least 10 new articles about notable CEE women, in any language they like, will obtain a postcard from Bulgaria. Moreover, it will be delivered to them with the first Bulgarian Wikipedian postage stamp, created with one of the winning photos from the Bulgarian national stage of the Wiki Loves Earth 2016.

Don’t you feel like starting writing about CEE women immediately?! 😀


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