The people behind Wikipedia: “My wife watches Netflix, I’d rather do it”

Numbered field of flowers.Getty Images

What did he write about? Not about what the best question is. Regional dishes. stage. energy transmission. Bread history. A few years ago, it turned out that the national parks of Brazil do not yet have their own page. I will also add some. I believed. I miscalculated, and it turned out that there were fifty of them, and there was almost no information about some of them. But they are all doing well now.”

Henry Duvent of Wikipedia (not his real name) has been writing articles for the world’s largest online encyclopedia since 2007. He works on it almost every day, and has written or edited several thousand articles. “It’s a tight-knit group, active Wikipedians. This week I was asked if I’d like to look at some articles on birds in the Wadden Sea. I’ve studied biology, so I know a lot about it. Then it helps.”

The first Dutch wiki article was published on June 19, 2001, six months after the English version of the encyclopedia was published. Since then, more than two million Dutch articles have been published, with about 200 additional articles being added every day. “Half of it is schoolboy bullshit, it was immediately removed,” says Edo de Rou, an IT specialist in everyday life who has been on Wikipedia for the past sixteen years. “I work on it every night. And in the morning before I go to work. And on weekends too.” He calls it a hobby that got out of hand.


De Roo earned a tape this year for his contributions to Wikipedia, describing his work as more important than fun. “I totally enjoy it, but the purpose of Wikipedia is to make knowledge freely available. Education is not taken for granted everywhere in the world.”

And so De Roo has already written 4,000 articles, and edited about 200,000. And there are still mountains of work ahead of him. “I want to add all the Olympic athletes, there is still a huge backlog. An Afghan athlete who competed in the 200 meters in 1936: there is certainly information available about him, but you have to find it.” Because that’s the standard for everything that appears on Wikipedia: it must be based on verifiable sources.

In principle, anyone can add or change something, but the rules apply. An estimated 14,000 people contribute to Dutch Wikipedia, of which 2,000 volunteers make up the hard core. They write, check and expand articles, check for commercial or ideological expressions, and set rules about what is and isn’t allowed on Wikipedia. Mediators, numbering about sixty of them, have an important role in this. This could turn into a fight. “Sometimes I go in with my legs outstretched,” says de Roux, who has been a supervisor twice.

Some IP addresses, after being warned, are temporarily blocked due to “subversion”. Then they are not allowed to make contributions for a certain period. It’s basically schools, where kids create a page to make fun of their teacher, or misuse their wiki for mutual bullying. But the House of Representatives and Media Park in Hilversum have also been banned for some time, after politicians and television workers in vain painted a somewhat positive picture of themselves on their own pages.

Disagreements escalate

There are well-known liberation wars on topics that also divide the “real world”: for example, wiki entries on the Armenian Genocide, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or conspiracy theories about crop circles. But even trivial matters can lead to heated disputes within the wiki community.

For example: When is a Wiki Politician title worth? What is recognized as an official source? And who are the athletes who deserve a page? “We have decided that every player who has played one minute in the Eredivisie will get an article. I follow the Women’s Premier League and so I follow who is being recruited every weekend. I spend an hour on it after every round.”

Wikipedia is never finished. In fact, even with 2 million Dutch articles, there are still a few gaps, says Henri Duvent. “Suriname, art, science, history – and especially women who played such an important role in this – a lot can be written about it. You can find everything about Pokemon and all kinds of TV shows on Wikipedia, but very little about the theater.”

Thank you all

This once again proves that Wikipedia gesamtkunstwerk was never finished. “everything The wisdom of the crowdShe is the director of Wikimedia Netherlands, the organization that supports Wikipedians. “This is a diverse group: ranging from a physicist with a PhD who prefers writing about the history of medieval England to people who know all about garden plants. But there are still underrepresented groups, such as women and people from other cultures.”

Wikimedia helps the wiki community, for example with royalty-free images. “Sometimes a museum comes close to us, making the entire photo archive available. This is of course a tremendous enrichment of the site.”

Wikipedia remains ad-free, primarily funded by donor funding and substantial contributions from volunteers. Sometimes they are thanked for their services. For example, the Permanent Center from Dutch Wikipedians received a keynote this year to celebrate the site’s 20th anniversary. And now and then a drink or a barbecue is organized, which usually attracts about twenty people. Because most Wikipedians feel more comfortable behind their computers, where work is always waiting for them.

De Roux: “Soon there will be hundreds of other Olympic athletes. If I work during the evening, I can write twenty new articles, so I’m still busy. Anyway, my wife watches Netflix, I prefer to do it. Everyone has their own hobby.”

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