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The primary research question (How can Wikipedia increase participation in content creation and editing in Arabic across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region?) is both complex and multi-faceted. One approach is to survey the existing field of volunteers who participate in content creation and editing. There is an important distinction to be made here. Many online volunteers, bloggers and micro-bloggers in the MENA region create content in English. This is not only due to the multi-lingual nature of several of the countries in the area, but also due to the prevalence of English on the Internet. However, there is a nascent, growing network and culture of content creation in Arabic that Wikipedia can tap into-- and the time is now.

Lessons from...

A Wikipedia Volunteer

A Twitter Translator Volunteer

A Network of Volunteers

(Interviews conducted in November 2011)

Summary of Recommendations

  1. It would serve merit to survey Wikipedia Arabic editors, or those who edit in English but live in the MENA region, about how to improve both simple and complex issues in design, translation and the editing process, and learn more about the perceived barriers to entry.
  2. Understand the availability of references in the Arabic language. What are the alternatives? References in other languages, translation or visual referencing are some examples to study.
  3. There needs to be one, succinct page of instructions for new users - in every language - that is easy to find, simple enough to follow and gives enough information without being too complex. The burden should not be on the user. While highly motivated online volunteers may not be deterred in the absence of clear a manual, they are the minority in the possible pool of volunteers.
  4. Create a fun environment that feeds off of the satisfaction of contribution and a healthy competition to create content on Wikipedia Arabic. This can be via online forums, or potentially in-person events, with symbolic prizes.
  5. Understand the various elements needed to build an effective Wikipedia Arabic volunteer community, with separate (but complementing) roles for different volunteers, applying a 4-tiered model, which includes technical people, linguists, media experts and translators (or other equivalents).
  6. Support events on the ground, which would include Wikimedia personnel presence physically as co-organizers and/or guest speakers. Instead of "Tweet-ups," there can be "Wiki-ups."
  7. Tap into existing enthusiasm and networks of volunteers online. This may require support, both moral and physical, which can be as varied as training, helping with events or providing funding to assist with database building, technical network issues, meetings, etc. Some form of funding and material support may be required to move content creation on Wikipedia Arabic forward (not for individual volunteers, but for the support of these networks, building awareness and constructing working online and/or offline communities of volunteers, based at non-profit organizations, for example.

For more on each of the recommendations, click on the individual pages under the "Lessons from" section above.

This research was done by Michelle Chahine, a second-year SIPA student in the Masters in International Affairs program, specializing in International Media, Advocacy and Communication. Email her at

This is a sub-topic page, under Wikimedia in the Arab World.
See also: