Following up on Wired Magazine's feature on Wikipedia The Book Stops Here (see archived story), Wired News has taken another look at what drives people to become wikipediholics, devoting extraordinary amounts of time and energy working on the project. The article, entitled Wiki Becomes a Way of Life, is dedicated to quick glimpses into work of six of Wikipedia's most prolific editors, whom it calls "power Wikipedians".
Derek Ramsey of Pennsylvania, the combination of man and machine responsible for over 140,000 edits to Wikipedia, lists his hobbies as photography, woodworking, cooking, gardening, chess, aquariums and computers. Talking about why he spends up to six hours a day working on Wikipedia articles, Ramsey said "I feel strongly in the ideals that Wikipedia stands for, and that drives me to use my programming skills to be as productive as possible."
Daniel Mayer, otherwise known as Maveric149, echoed Ramsey's sentiments, describing Wikipedia as "...democratizing knowledge on a massive scale", and said he was "proud to be a part of it". Meanwhile Stacey Greenstein opined that a project which had the potential to foster chaos had in fact encouraged responsibility. "The concept of 'freedom to do as we please' has finally begun its maturation to 'responsible to do what we need'", he said.
Different users focus their energies on different themes. Bryan Derksen reckons he spends 70% of his Wikipedia time fixing minor errors, utilising the other 30% for more substantive work when he feels creative. Seth Ilys, meanwhile, intends to create all the maps that are needed for articles relating to all 50 U.S. states.
Charles Matthews says "(I'll) tell you how you know you're a Wikipedian," he said. "You read any nonfiction book from the index end first. (And you think), 'I wonder if our coverage of this is complete.'"
The reporter, Daniel Terdiman, incorrectly identified Stacey Greenstein as being female in the initial version of the article, but Wired quickly made a correction.
Clay Shirky, one of Wikipedia's frequent advocates in the public debate over the merits of the project, now has come up with a new way of looking at the debate itself. In a blog post last Wednesday, he drew an analogy with coordinate systems to shed light on why those who love Wikipedia and those who hate it have such difficulty understanding the opposite point of view. Using this model, Wikipedians are apparently radial thinkers, concerned with the direction of change rather than fixing on a specific target; anti-Wikipedians are Cartesians, focussing on the final destination and sceptical of the notion that incremental change can get them there.
Shirky's colleague on the Many-to-Many blog, danah boyd, responded that she was unsure about the model, but agreed that she looks at things from a different perspective. She reiterated that she prefers not to compare Wikipedia with an encyclopedia, but indicated that neither particularly solves the problems she is most interested in.
Mainstream news sources now frequently cite Wikipedia articles. But German Wikipedianer have seen Germany's best-selling weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, take things a step further by copying large chunks of an article from the German Wikipedia, and neglecting to attribute it. de:Völkermord an den Tutsi was quoted verbatim in an article on the magazine's website about the Rwandan Genocide, as if it were the reporter's own work and without any mention of its source. The article was later retracted, and replaced with an apology. "Of course this is completely opposing the Spiegel Online editorial guidelines", the newspaper said. "We strongly apologize to the creators and authors of Wikipedia."
As yet, a similar situation is not known to have occurred with the English Wikipedia. News outlets citing us honestly this week include the Mail & Guardian of South Africa recommending the article on the French Revolution as a primer on how to run a successful revolution; The Boston Herald notes that both E-mail and Email are listed on Wikipedia as acceptable forms of the word; the Northern Illinois University magazine discusses the problem of senioritis; and The Star in Malaysia quotes from Snoop Doggy Dogg, noting that Wikipedia provides more information on the rapper than his own web page does.