Jay Walsh already wrote about these new videos on the Wikimedia Foundation blog, and I want to write about them as well. I really, really love them :-)
One of my main functions is to be a face and voice for Wikipedia — telling our story to all kinds of people, including potential partners, donors, critics, and so forth. And the least-visible part of our story has always been the editors — the people who write the encyclopedia. That’s because most readers don’t actually think much about how Wikipedia gets produced: they tend instead to imagine it as a kind of utility, like their web browser or ISP or hydro-electric service. (Like, “I turn on the faucet and information comes out.”) So from the beginning, I’ve aimed to tell that untold story — to, in effect, take readers backstage.
Partly it just seems fair: when people are reading something, they deserve to know who wrote it and why. But also, I want people to use Wikipedia, to trust it and support it. And the more they know about our editors, the likelier they are to do that.
Wikipedia’s written by smart people, 99% of whom have no motivation other than a love of knowledge and sharing. They’re not trying to sell anything, or make readers vote a particular way or believe a particular idea, nor are they trying to enrich or benefit themselves. As Jimmy said once long ago, they’re just smart geeks – the kind of people who think writing an encyclopedia is a fun way to spend their free time.
So, up until a few weeks ago, I used to tell the stories of Wikipedians by running a little slideshow of photos that I pulled off Wikimedia Commons, in decks like this one. I’d talk over them, giving the basic info – that the average Wikipedia editor’s male, in his mid-twenties, typically a graduate student, and so forth.
But now, Wikimedia’s Head of Communications Jay Walsh has made four lovely videos in which Wikipedians speak for themselves.
This first is just a kind of teaser / proof of concept — it was strung together in the edit suite to see what it would look like.
“Nice People” is intended to introduce viewers to typical Wikipedians.
“Edit Button” is part of a set of outreach materials the Wikimedia Foundation’s creating, aimed at encouraging readers to try editing.
“Great Feeling” is I think most people’s favourite — definitely, it’s mine :-)
I think these videos are really lovely. Many thanks to Jay for commissioning them, and to Jelly Helm for directing them. Jelly’s talent is shiningly, thrillingly obvious here — I’m really happy that Jelly loves Wikipedia, and that he wanted to help its editors tell their stories :-)
All four videos are on Wikimedia Commons and YouTube. They’re all CC-BY-SA. For the YouTube version, please consider supporting the open web by opting into YouTube’s HTML5 beta. And many thanks to the people who are currently translating the videos for subtitling and closed-captioning. The translated text is linked to from these pages on Commons.