På dagen för 10 år sedan skapades en sajt vid namn Wikipedia. Tanken var att hela mänsklighetens encyklopediska kunskap skulle samlas på en webbplats, tack vare frivilligas insatser. ”Av mänskligheten – för mänskligheten”, typ. I början gick det (relativt) sakta, men snart nåddes den kritiska massa som krävdes för att projektet skulle gå vidare av sig själv. Nya språkversioner skapades (engelska var först). Fler användare tillkom, både som skribenter och rena läsare (grejen med Wikipedia är att de två rollerna inte är skilda; alla som har en Internetuppkoppling och därmed tillgång till Wikpedia; det är bara att klicka ”redigera”-fliken, göra en ändring, och klicka ”spara”!).
Inför jubileet (om någon vill fira finns ett evenemang på Stadsbiblioteket i Stockholm idag klockan 12-16; iförrgår hölls en annan fest på Strand) skrev jag en text om mitt eget förhållande till Wikipedia, som jag lade upp på jubileumswikin (ja, det har skapats en egen wiki för julieet – där även andras spännande historier finns) och även skickade in till webbplatsen för EU-året 2011 för frivilligt arbete (där den nu lagts upp). Till TV4:s morgonsoffa imorse hade några wikipedianer (däribland jag) bjudits in, och jag hade tänkt kanske berätta lite om min historia; att 10-åringar kan börja skriva på Wikipedia säger nämligen (och får förhoppningsvis folk att förstå) a) att det verkligen är väldigt enkelt, och b) vem som helst verkligen får bidra. Men nu diskuterade de vargjakt istället (ironiskt nog var det därför SNF:s, en organisation jag hyser starka sympatier med, fel att vi inte fick medverka), så jag lägger upp min historia här på bloggen istället:
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?
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