Archives for posts with tag: Wikipedians

I haven’t posted here for a while because I was on a long and slightly gruelling trip, timed to coincide with Wikimedia’s 2010 fundraiser. (Which has just successfully concluded with more than a half million people contributing a total of USD 16 million, exceeding our goal in our shortest annual campaign to date: you can read more about it on the Wikimedia Foundation blog. My thanks to everyone who donated / helped with the campaign, and congratulations to Zack and the fundraising team!)

The gist of the trip: Between November 20 and December 6, I was in Stockholm, London, Dubai and Delhi. I spoke at three conferences, was interviewed by 16 journalists, and met about 50 Wikimedians as well as a few supporters and friends at cultural institutions, and I interviewed candidates for the Wikimedia Program Director for India. Afterwards I went on three weeks of holiday in India, including a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Karnal, north of Delhi. The trip had multiple overlapping goals — to advance awareness of Wikipedia (particularly during our fundraising season) and encourage people to try editing, as well as to support chapters and find out a little more about the challenges and opportunities faced by editors in the Middle East. On the whole, the trip was successful and we’ll probably aim to do similar ones in future, building on lessons learned this time. I’ll blog more about it here as I get my notes organized.

Now, I’m back in San Francisco, and catching up on the 650-ish e-mails that accumulated (and didn’t get responded to) while I was away. Happy 2011 :-)

I’m in Stockholm for the Swedish chapter’s third Wikipedia Academy, and I spent most of today with Swedish journalists.

I was talking with Robert Brännström, Editor-in-Chief of IDG Sweden, about the characteristics that distinguish people who edit Wikipedia from those who only read it. There are lots – I’d say that relative to the average person, Wikipedia editors are geekier, more curious, more introverted, they tend to be smarter, and are perhaps more inclined to be obsessive. But if I had to pick a single characteristic that’s common to all editors, I’d say it’s confidence. All Wikipedia editors share the belief that they know something worth sharing with others.

Robert immediately started laughing, and introduced me to the word wikipetter.  It’s derived from the Swedish word viktigpetter, which apparently means something like know-it-all, smarty-pants, smart-ass or “big head.” Wikipetter is apparently in fairly common use among Swedes — a quick search turned up quite a few definitions.

I hesitate to say this, because maybe Swedish Wikipedians consider the word wikipetter insulting. And probably they are tired of hearing about it, considering there have been no fewer than twelve lengthy debates about whether the Swedish Wikipedia should include an article about the Wiki Petter concept. (The outcome, I gather, is always no.) But nonetheless: I think it’s charming that the Swedish people have developed a special word for smarty-pants Wikipedians. If you know of other words like wikipetter, please tell me in the comments.

(By the way the title for this post was taken from a comment here, on this usability consultant’s blog. The Google translation made me laugh: it is “Long live Wikipettrar! (Is not a Wiki Petter self).”)

29 November 2010: I’ve just updated this post to correct the spelling of viktigpetter, which Lennart Guldbrandsson kindly informed me I’d gotten a bit wrong.

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.