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These personal stories about Wikipedia are part of the set of communications resources in mind from our Community Communications Kit. Please feel free to add yours!

"Wikipedia and I"

by Asaf Bartov, Wikimedia Israel

Back in 2001, an Internet-savvy friend told me about a Web site with an odd notion -- writing an encyclopedia through massive collaboration on a public wiki system (i.e. an easily editable Web site). I had used wikis before then; I was a free-software and open-content enthusiast already (having founded Project Ben-Yehuda -- a volunteer-run project creating digital editions of public domain Hebrew texts, akin to Project Gutenberg -- in 1999), and yet the notion seemed laughable. I told my friend: “Well, good luck to them, but it’s not going to work. First, the Internet is becoming wilder, and there’d be plenty of vandalism, and second, massive collaboration would never be able to handle complicated, incendiary issues, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict.

My friend answered: “Well, perhaps. But I’ve been following them for a few weeks now, and I think it’s going well, and that it has potential.” That got me curious, and so I visited Wikipedia to see for myself. I was generally impressed with the seriousness with which most contributors were treating the project, and intrigued by the potential of core Wikipedia principles like “Assume Good Faith” and “Neutral Point of View”. I edited a few articles on topics I knew something about, read a few discussions and policy pages, but did not bother to register a user account. I kept checking in every few months, contributing corrections and improvements of style and grammar, still anonymously.

By 2003, I had created a user account, and was already confident in the success of the Wikipedia model. Wikipedia was flourishing in other major languages such as French and German, and it seemed obvious to me that Wikipedia would one day replace all general-purpose (but not field-specific) print encyclopedias.

In the summer of 2003, a university student in my native Israel decided it was time to start a Hebrew edition of Wikipedia. He translated the software interface into Hebrew, and got the Hebrew edition wiki opened, beginning with the article “Mathematics[1]”.

Learning of this, I immediately thought: “Oh, this is silly; Wikipedia works (surprisingly enough) in English, French and German, but Hebrew? Seven million native speakers are just not enough to form a contributor base! And Israelis are likely to perceive editing Wikipedia as doing something for nothing! And vandalism! And politics would ruin the whole thing! No, this is absolutely doomed; no point in even trying this, it’s a waste of effort. We should all just stick to cultivating the English Wikipedia.”

But then another part of me thought: “Well, yes, that’s all true, and yet -- if a Hebrew edition of Wikipedia fails, let it not be because I didn’t contribute. I should participate a little and see how it goes; it’s my duty as a Wikipedian. So I signed up and wrote Hebrew articles in my academic field (classics) -- Homer, Iliad, Herodotus, Thucydides, etc.

To my utter amazement (really!), the Hebrew Wikipedia took off, new contributors appeared, a community was being formed, and I found myself gradually switching my focus to contributing to the Hebrew Wikipedia. A few years later, I began taking an interest in the wider circle of Wikimedian activity -- everything related to the Wikimedia Vision (working toward giving all humans access to free knowledge in their own language) that goes beyond editing the online projects: educational outreach, government outreach, fundraising, technological development, communications and press, international cooperation, research, etc.

In 2008, I joined Wikimedia Israel (an NGO formed in 2007), the Israeli chapter affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation, and am now a member of its executive board. Through the chapter I have been engaged in fruitful and inspiring dialogue with our peers and colleagues overseas, produced events, gave talks, and worked on various outreach and technology projects within Israel. I even had the opportunity to be instrumental in delivering 1 million French Wikipedia articles, with pictures, to villages in Cameroon and Benin with no access to the Internet, through an Israeli student expedition.

The more Wikimedia work I do, the more inspired I am by this monument of human goodwill, and the more committed I become to furthering its vision of massive collaboration by the public for the public benefit, relying only on donations to keep its hugely popular servers running (Wikipedia is the 5th most popular destination on the entire Web) and to pay the small full-time staff that maintains them and runs educational and outreach programs worldwide.

I invite you all to join and support our work, whether by contributing time online (editing the projects, even fixing typos) or offline (volunteering with a local Wikimedia chapter or the Foundation), or by contributing money. Or both! :)

Asaf Bartov, Wikipedian since 2001 Israel

[1]There is something appropriate in this, as the Greek stem ‘mathema’ means ‘learning’.

Anonymous Story Translated from Hebrew

by Wikipedian from Israel

How Did Wikipedia Change My Life?

I was born 22 years ago into a closed, religious community, which maintained a wall between me and the world outside the community. I had few prospects in this modern world, being 20 years behind the rest in terms of general education and life skills. But then I discovered Wikipedia, and with it, the joys of knowledge and of life itself. Now, two years later, I'm a university student, a full citizen aware of 21st-century culture and politics, a world I knew nothing about as recently as two years ago. I can't forget that day in August 2008, when I first entered Wikipedia, and was set free to live a life of choosing and of thinking for myself.

I grew up in Jerusalem, to a family belonging to the ultra-orthodox Gur Hassidic sect. I had no access to any general (non-religious) reference books of any kind. The math I was taught until the age of 13 comprised the four basic arithmetical operations and nothing else. After 13, I was taught exclusively religion. I had never even heard the word 'physics' before chancing upon it in Wikipedia, after discovering it.

Even basic mastery of Hebrew -- both the national language and the language of the Torah -- was not achieved in my education. I discovered Wikipedia when, having discovered the Internet, I immediately typed the most natural query I could think of -- "Gur Hassidim" -- to see what "they" wrote about us. I was surprised to discover an accurate and comprehensive entry on what I knew was a small minority in Israeli society--about 12,000 households in all. That entry drew me further into Wikipedia, and, after reading about great past rabbis and leaders of my own sect -- heroes and cultural icons, as it were -- I began looking at other entries, and became fascinated with math and physics. The first entry I contributed to (on the Hebrew Wikipedia) was Hippasus.

I'm now an active Wikipedian, doing both monitoring and editing, mostly in the fields of math, computer science, Jewish religion, and archaeology of the near east. I'm now a freshman majoring in computer science at a university in Israel.

Anonymous Story from "Anyone"

I guess I could be described as anyone, really. Much like anyone I live my life with all its stipulated ups and downs, riding along with them, never complaining all too much, but without falling into conformant acceptance for that matter. And never failing to sometimes simply sit back and marvel at the sheer greatness of it all, this sometimes overwhelmingly ubiquitous presence of everything that isn't you, but instead part of the ever larger unknown.

As a child, I remember first starting to stumble across Wikipedia articles in poorly-worded searches when it was still pretty young, in connection to some small assignment or other we had got in school. At first I found them hard to access because English isn't my native language, but as I grew, so did my grasp of the language as well as Wikipedia. And at some point I finished my first article. And it wasn't until then that I realized how absolutely marvelous an idea it truly is, and that it even had a Swedish version. I began accessing it in my free time, which sometimes involved carefully using our dial-up connection so as not to excessively bill my parents for my etherworldly ventures. But even then, Wikipedia at some point or other always managed to draw my attention when there was something I simply couldn't wrap my head around. And it still does. My use of Wikipedia evolved into something I cannot describe as anything but a dependence.

Not because I cannot function without it, but because it in most cases has the ability to satiate the hunger for knowledge. And in the rare case that it doesn't, I hope and believe that sometime in the future, it will.

With its stored knowledge it is probably the world's largest safety net for all of those of us who grow up in places relatively devoid of infrastructure, or who don't know anywhere else to look, or for those who simply must *know*; or for those who have it in their hearts to share their knowledge with past, present and future generations alike. And for everybody else, too. It is at this point in time a necessity for oh so many, and a catalyst to understanding.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

How a 10-year-old started working for Wikipedia

This story is also submitted to the European Year of Volunteering 2011, a project by the European Union. I encourage everyone else to do the same with their stories; probably, they'll get some attention that way.

Did you know that the largest encyclopedia in the world is written entirely by thousands of voluntary people around the globe? Did you know that you can become one of them, with just a few mouse clicks?

I was 10 years old when I did. Here's my story.

When I was 10 years old, my father showed me a cool website he had found on the Internet. It was a site full of facts. Sure, sites full of facts weren't that unusual - but the thing was, that this site was special. Anyone could add to it as they pleased, without having to ask for permission first. I was stunned, and didn't actually think it would work - really, letting anyone edit the site? So we tested it. In the almost stress-like situation, I used the first subject that crossed my mind, that I had vast knowledge about: Pokémon. And then, I wondered for some seconds about which of the Pokémons I would write about. I decided to write about Rattata, since it was the only Pokémon I at least was quite sure on how to spell.

I typed Rattata in the search engine of the site, and was redirected to a List of Pokémons. That was weird. However, I soon figured out how to go the page for Rattata so I could edit it. And so I did. When reaching the page for Rattata, I simply clicked "edit". And then I changed the text from what had been there before (a mere redirect to the List of Pokémons page) to a simple sentence: "Rattata is one of the smallest Pokémon figures", the word Pokémon linking to that page. I clicked Save. Done! I had created my first article ever on Wikipedia, the cool website anyone could (as I had just experienced) edit. (Since my native language is Swedish, I created it in the Swedish-language version of Wikipedia. The English-Wikipedia article has another story.)

What I didn't know at the time, was that Wikipedia wasn't merely a cool website anyone could edit. It was so much more. It was a site with one of the greatest and perhaps hardest-achievable purposes in human history: to grant every single person on the planet access to the entire sum of all human knowledge. The founders of the site were Jimbo Wales and Larry Sanger, who - if they would have chosen to put ads on it when starting the site on 2001 - probably could have made a fortune of it. However, they chose not to, but rather to try and achieve that great purpose. And thanks to Internet, it really worked out, probably a lot greater than how they had ever imagined.

The ordinary way of knowledge creation would be to recruit a group of specialists and then starting a slow process of creating the content, including heavy review of the texts before publishing them. Actually, Wales and Sanger had already tried this method before they created Wikipedia, with a website called Nupedia. It failed. Why? It was too hard to submit material to the site. And material from non-experts wasn't accepted. Wikipedia, however, trusted the masses, the general public, to submit their knowledge. The reviewing process would be open to everyone, and all articles would be published instantly. Anyone could join. Anyone could write. Simply, Wikipedia trusted the goodness of humanity. Simply, that concept worked.

Today, Wikipedia globally has 17 million articles. Over the years, I have created a couple of dozens of them. Over the years, I have improved a couple of thousands of them. The rest has been created and improved by hundreds of thousand other people just like me - unpaid, voluntary, information-liking people who want to do a favour to the knowledge of humanity (or just are bored and want to engage in a fun way to write). Together, we have created a top 10 visited website of the world. Daily, hundreds of millions of people go to Wikipedia to get information. That wouldn't be possible without the great deal of work humans around the globe have put in it.

So what happened to that article about Rattata? Well, it wasn't really encyclopedic enough (since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not all information suits the site). I myself later merged it into the List of Pokémon article - and today, List of Pokémon has been completely rewritten. That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing. It shows that the reviewing process on Wikipedia - of course also made entirely by the volunteers - works. Information that is regarded as not being in accordance with the scope of Wikipedia is rewritten, or deleted. As time went, I grew up to write about other, more serious subjects, such as geographical articles - mostly, I translated articles from the (often much better) English-language version of Wikipedia, into the Swedish-language version of Wikipedia.

In 2008, three years after I first created that article about Rattata, I was elected administrator (a kind of glorified cleaner job - with access to more advanced features such as the ability to delete articles - that everyone who is trusted by the other users of Wikipedia can get), possibly the then youngest administrator on Wikipedia, being merely 12 years old. I have since then developed my work for Wikipedia by meeting other Wikipedia users off-line in so called wiki-meetings, joining the Swedish Wikipedia-supporting organization Wikimedia Sverige and attending the conference Wikipedia Academy at the National Library of Sweden. Sometimes, I also blog about Wikipedia on my (mostly net-political) blog.

And now I have also written this text about my involvement in Wikipedia - actually, with the help from other wikipedians, in a very Wikipedia-ish way. On a personal page (outside of the ordinary encyclopedia part of Wikipedia, and instead in the community section), I wrote a draft, and then others (those kind people are on Wikipedia called Rex Sueciæ, Tanzania, and Jssfrk), who are better in English than I am, edited it. The difference is great. And thanks to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license all Wikipedia content is licensed under, I could simply copy the text - including the improvements from my fellow Wikipedians - and use it here. The image below was taken by Wikipedian Lars Aronsson (LA2), and is, too, released under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license, so I could copy it as well. And the best is, you can - as long as you follow the license - do the same with all the open and free content on Wikipedia!

All in all, the voluntary work I have done in the service of humanity has affected me on many levels: I have become smarter myself, picking up bits of knowledge from the articles I write and edit; I have learned to cooperate better with other people, and the art of on-line communication; and mostly, I have developed a caring for the knowledge of humanity.

I love knowledge. I love humanity. And that's why I love to contribute to Wikipedia.

So why don't you start contributing? Hey, if a 10-year-old could do it... how hard could it be?

It totally changed my life

I have written a few articles and have helped with adding information to others. I have found so many new minds and friends that have helped me grow in a way I never thought I would at my age. Wikipedia is a phenomenon like no other. One of the most interesting things about Wikipedia is that you can go into one article, that leads you to another and another and another. A Fulbright Scholar once told me never stop learning. Thisandthem 01:22, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia:The Planet's Encyclopedia

By Gullit Torres

Gullit Torres

Editor since 2009 - Tupã, São Paulo, Brazil.

My name is Gullit Torres Dias (known on Wikipedia as Gullit Torres) a Portuguese Wikipedian born in Brazil. I discovered Wikipedia by chance when I was searching an article about the Middle West to the school. When I saw the article, I discovered the Wikipedia’s World, full of information, connection, about everything (history, geography, bibliographies, music, art, languages, science, math, etc.) and everybody. Since then, I began to search more and more articles on Wiki about everything (not about school articles) but things that could improve my day.

I discovered I could be editor of Wikipedia, transforming, changing and creating the article late, in 2008. In December 2009, I created my first article about a geographical site. When I finished the article, my gladness was so great that I can’t explain in this text. I’ve known that article would be important because it would help other people to improve their intelligences.

Nowadays, I’ve been creating and contributing to the Wikipedia almost every day. 10th January is coming and I know the Wikipedia Project can’t finish. The Wikipedia brought to the world an easier way to know to the world, with a click, we can know about all information of all countries, all flags, all animals, all people (artists and scientists), all sites, everything.

My work is to improve and grow the “Wiki”, with good and constructive articles that show to the society the clear and the best information about what he/she wants to find and know that I'm not alone to the road for a best world and Wiki.

Thanks Wikipedia for all!

How Swedish Wikipedia got Tanzania

By Tanzania from Swedish Wikipedia.

The alias Tanzania conceals a 15-year-old boy from the small Swedish town of Huskvarna. I have been editing Wikipedia actively for the last one and a half year, and have during that time contributed with about 25 000 edits. How did I end up here?

Firstly, I have always loved knowledge. One of my previous interests, before Wikipedia started to consume most of my wake time, was to read encyclopedias and fact books. Now, I read Wikipedia instead. But I don't know why I didn't start here earlier. I had heard of the project, of course, but it had never occurred to me that I actually could edit.

My first edit behind this nickname, as well as the first article I created, was the article about one of my long-distance relatives William Anthony Granville, about two and a half years ago, and it looked really awful. Thanks to an understanding community, because it was really not beautiful. It did not take time though until I corrected that and learned how to use the simple wiki-code. However, for some reason, I did not do another edit until a year later, when I started to create bird articles. For what reason I had this long pause, I have no idea.

But after a couple of birds, I was stuck. I just couldn't stop editing. And the birds led to one big project after another, and after half a year or so, one of my articles, the one about "Hakarps kyrka", was featured. I started to participate actively in discussions, to correct other peoples' articles, and to do small things everywhere. That lead to me being nominated to an administrator in January 2010, and the nomination was promoted, and so I became one of the youngest Wikipedian administrators.

What I love with Wikipedia, apart from the fact that I love knowledge, is its liberality and tolerance of all different kind of people. I really like the system of meritocracy, where you are valued because of what you have done and not who you are or your age. I think that system is what makes a lot of youths liking Wikipedia.

So, now I have been here for quite a long time, have made an awful lot of edits, and have got eight articles featured. How does my future look? Well, I do not intend to stop editing here. I really want to be a part of the project that makes all human knowledge accessible. I want to keep on making featured articles, to edit others articles, to discuss and improve this project. So that one day, we have cleared our goal, so that all human knowledge is accessible for everyone everywhere.

Pinnacle of mankind knowledge

I am a college student in Indonesia, majoring at Chemistry Science. Born 0 years ago with much - much encyclopaedia from my parents, I grew love munching any information I can get. But the further I go, the more information I nee. Then I found those encyclopaedia won't adequate anymore. They gave me basic knowledge for my life, but not enough for me to step forward. Then I found wikipedia. As a (hopefully) researcher, it's my task to expand mankind's knowledge, particularly in chemistry science. But I have to get initial knowledge before starting my own research (literature research). here wikipedia comes to help. Or when I need some practical informations in laboratory such as this compound structure or that compound molecular weight or ths liquid density, I just need to pull out my cellphone and search for it in wiki. Wiki boosts my researches incredibly.

Well sometimes a curiosity pops in my head, when I eat tiramisu or looking at strange words on an ingredients list and I say to myself "I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THAT!" Several years ago I had to run into a library or ask a "master" but now I simply type simple word(s) on wikipedia on my cellphone or computer, as long as there is an internet connection. Well I call wikipedia as a pinnacle of our knowledge, because it's where we can learn much about the world around us with an easy access and we can share our knowledge with the same ease. It's just like a nexus of mankind knowledge

Wikipedia is a summary of OUR knowledge

The efforts of the Earth born intelligent animal

From the beginning we had what we refer to colloquially as "caveman," who found fire and used tools to allow us to survive and adapt. The first man that found use in such tools passed on his knowledge to his children so that they can live in comfort beyond that of his own generation. Man knew the importance of knowledge, and he also knew that anything that promotes efficient transfer of knowledge will promote survival to man as a whole. Instinctively, we adapted the way that we transfer knowledge to facilitate the exponentially expanding compendium of it.

Wikipedia is evidence that the internet brings man, as a whole, together in communication for the purpose of transferring all of our tools as efficiently as possible to the next generation.

Just thinking about this makes me passionately in love with the human race and all that man has accomplished thus far. I personally believe that the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation do not scratch the surface of the potential this project has, but will introduce us to that potential nonetheless. I am lucky to live in the age of the genesis of communication that this project represents to us.

I am confident that as we progress as a species in communication, we will be able to easily counteract all of the greed and control that man has afflicted himself with. This is the first step, and we have Wikipedia to thank for that! Thank you Wikipedia for your outstanding contribution to mankind!

From the bottom of this man's thankful heart, I sign Josh Goskey.

Wikipedia is to me a BEACON for MANKIND

I always wondered why information was stored up, cached into research journals, in a Martian language. Why was it not useful for a person like me---not a high-end researcher but plain inquisitive? And then came Wikipedia....It transformed the dull material into comprehensible resource, ready to be explored, analysed, assimilated and used.

One could say what is great about that! Well, what makes Wikipedia great is that it has been the first to do so...a PIONEER in the Free Information Movement. It unchained knowledge and set it FREE...for everybody. Not under some stupid altruistic guiding force but as the upholder of the RIGHT to KNOW, as the champion of LEARNING, PROGRESS, and PURSUIT of HAPPINESS (of the mind and creativity of MAN).

I am PROUD to say that WIKIPEDIA belongs as much to me as To Sir Jimmy Wales, for I too UNDERSTAND what all went into making this a WORK of ART par excellence.

My thanks to all Wikipedians for this great HUMAN ENDEAVOUR. Wikipedia proves that where there is WILL, there is always a WAY. Cheers to the HUMAN SPIRIT for showing mankind WHAT ALL is POSSIBLE.

A fellow HUMAN :-)

I Understand and Learn

Wow, I feel so empowered to be adding to the Wiki.. the genius! It's so good and so resourceful to me; I have migrated from one continent to another and had to learn a whole new culture and Wiki greatly helpful to me in getting acquainted with the history, geography and the logistics of the area. Today, it saves me time from having to go to the library check out the books and read pages and pages of information.......not I have Wiki on the go, no matter where I am and what I might be doing, if I need to find out about a place, a new terminology or research and gather other resources related to the research.. all i have to do is Wiki it!!!! This wealth of knowledge is so useful especially in this global economy. Thanks to Wiki and its contributors for all their wealth of knowledge and time to keep this site going! Love you all!

External links

  • 10 anni di sapere, racconta la tua storia a Wikimedia Italia - tell WMI your wikistory