What I'm doing on Wikipedia
I am something of a Wikiholic and have made more than 100,000 edits to over 60,000 unique pages. This makes me one of the 500 most active editors of all time. I have had two periods of feverish activity on Wikipedia. In the first, from January 2004 through January 2007, I ran up some 25,000 edits. Towards the end of that period, when my edit count had just passed 20,000, Daniel Bryant awarded me the Tireless Contributor Barnstar on 14 September 2006. My second "term" on Wikipedia started in May this year, and I have since performed over 60,000 edits - mostly janitorial-type maintenance edits, although I have created about twenty-five new articles in that period also.
I have been a registered member of the Wikipedia community since 2 January 2004 - when the total article count was still under 200,000. I actually discovered Wikipedia late in 2001 or early in 2002, curiously enough through the Esperanta Vikipedio, while searching the web for Esperanto resources, which were then scanty. I did not sign up, however; I was a slow starter in recognizing the value of the project. I rediscovered Wikipedia in late October 2003, while doing a Google search for materials relating to Soong Mei-ling (Madame Chiang Kai-shek), following her recent death at the age of 106. This time, I began to rate the project a little more highly. I made a few anonymous edits here and there, before deciding to "commit myself" by registering formally on the second day of 2004.
I joined Wikipedia back in the days of heady excitement. I suppose I could say that I was one of the pioneers — although not a part of the earliest group that laid the foundation, I was part of the second wave of editors who got the project off the ground. In the three years in which I was most active, the English Wikipedia grew from fewer than 200,000 articles to almost two million, and its Alexa ranking, which had just broken into the top thousand, soared to the top ten. I was far from being the only Wikipedian who stayed up all night to finish articles and start new ones; we competed with one another to mass-produce articles and proudly called ourselves Wikiholics. Those days are over, and a generation has grown up that takes Wikipedia, the largest repository of information on the planet, for granted. I am proud to have been part of the generation that turned what sceptics called an impossible utopian dream into reality.
Over 70 percent of the articles to which I have made a significant contribution are connected with the Fiji project I first undertook in February 2004. Almost 95 percent of these articles are either original contributions, or articles that I more or less completely rewrote; when I joined Wikipedia there was so little material on that topic that I had to start almost from scratch. ticles in the future will not have that problem!
I had two main reasons for undertaking the Fiji project. First of all, I have a passionate interest in that country, although I have yet to visit it. Secondly, it was often said that the English Wikipedia had a built-in bias towards countries with a high number of internet users, among whom English is natively or at least competently spoken, although this charge is less common now than it was when I was new to Wikipedia. Wikipedias in other languages reflect a similar bias towards countries where they are widely spoken by a large population with internet access. Every Wikipedia has a dearth of articles about small nations, especially of those that do not use the language of the particular Wikipedia project in question. The only solution to this imbalance is for Wikipedians to take an interest in smaller nations and adopt them. As of now, the project is still far from finished, but it is now up to others - principally Wikipedians from Fiji itself - to take the project to the next level, though I may still be able to lend them a helping hand. At the moment I'm going through Fijian articles with AWB, fixing the thousands of redirects that have been created as a result of page-moves.
Even now, I would estimate that 60-70 percent of Wikipedia's Fiji-related material is my own work, but this figure is decreasing. I am delighted that a significant number of articles have been added by other contributors. Laulad (formerly Sanaya) has submitted and edited articles on Lauan chiefs, while Girmitya has put a lot of research into the history of the Indo-Fijian community and has written articles about some of its leading personalities and organizations. Xorkl000 (who kindly awarded me the Barnstar of National Merit on 25 September 2005 for my work on Fiji) long kept an eye on Fiji-related topics for factual inaccuracies and POV. In addition, a number of users made anonymous contributions, and I see quite a number of new articles have been added by various users over the last eight years. So, the Fijian "department" on Wikipedia is no longer such a lonely place to work.
Of course, there were a number of other topics to which I turned whenever I needed a wikiholiday from my Fiji project. Most of these concerned political affairs and biographies. In the second half of 2004, I took some time out to cover the Pitcairn sexual assault trial of 2004, which shook the tiny island to the core, and of necessity added some touches to related articles as well. In addition, I spent quite some time in early 2005 updating a considerable number of Lebanese-related articles, and also contributed some of my own, as the national uprising known as the Cedar Revolution stimulated worldwide public interest and brought about an urgent need for a comprehensive, reliable, and up-to-date resource. Unfortunately, I found that many of the articles concerning Lebanon were two or three years out of date, many were biased towards a particular POV, and some were downright inaccurate. Worst of all, many significant political figures and movements in Lebanon were not documented in Wikipedia. I decided to play a part in rectifying that situation. By the end of 2005, there were over 40 Lebanese articles that I had edited significantly; of these, about 25 were mostly my own work.
I also helped out on the Multilingual statistics page. I designed one of the tables found there and redesigned two of the others. I helped to keep an eye on the monthly statistics for the 200 or so languages in which Wikipedia operates. At first, I updated the statistics every month, but as the number of languages that needed checking grew, the sheer volume of work forced me to cut back. For a couple of years, I updated it twice a year. For several years now, that "project" has been moribund, but it is now redundant: the various Wikipedias are now counted electronically.
When I returned to Wikipedia in 2015 after a virtual absence of eight years, I decided to turn my attention to religious articles. I began by reorganising, updating, and rewriting articles related to the Plymouth Brethren movement, one branch of which I once belonged to. I found a lot of the existing information inaccurate, incomplete, and very biased. I've reworked the major articles, but there are still many gaps to fill, which will require new articles. At some point, too, I will probably turn my attention to the Pentecostal movement, to which I belong now, but my current involvement in it makes it somewhat harder to maintain a neutral point of view, so I will tread cautiously there.
One topic about which you might have expected to find material written by me is New Zealand, but there are a mere handful of New Zealand-related articles that I have had anything to do with. This is not for lack of interest in my homeland, but mostly an acknowledgement that there are a considerable number of eminently qualified Wikipedians from New Zealand working in that department. As my own time is limited at the best of times, I prefer to leave it to them pursue what they do so well, while I concentrate on filling gaps in the content in which fewer writers are taking an interest.
I became a sysop, otherwise called an Administrator, on 3 July 2004 - six months and a day after I became a Wikipedian. I expressed my thanks here to the 23 people who recognized my passion for this project and voted for me. I feel honoured to have a role in building this incredible online resource, which I envisage as ultimately consisting of literally billions of articles worked on by millions of editors in the world's 6,500 languages. As of 29 May 2015, the total Wikipedia project consists of over 35 million articles in 288 languages. That is indeed a great achievement that all of us should be proud of, but the time will come when we will look back and see it as no more than a small stepping stone to something that will have grown so huge that we cannot presently conceive of it.
A certain creative tension exists among Wikipedians who describe themselves as inclusionists and deletionists, respectively. I long avoided taking a stand, concurring with Australian evangelist John Smith's summarizing of his own political inclinations as a bird that has both a right wing and a left wing. I would now say, however, that with the passage of time, I came to lean more towards the inclusionist position, though not rabidly so. Even now, I have a few "deletionist quirks," especially when it comes to material that I consider to be pornographic. I take a negative view of editors, whom I consider vandals, who insist on uploading reviews (euphemistically code-named "articles") on every latest pornographic movie that hits the video industry.
Sister projects and other projects
I have a passion not only for Wikipedia, but for its "sister projects" as well. Time constraints have prevented me from playing as active a role in them as I would like; I never have enough time to do everything I want to do for Wikipedia, let alone for the sister projects. Nevertheless, over the years I have made more than 500 edits on Wikiquote, where I have compiled quotes for about 50 individuals, and have also uploaded a number of documents to Wikisource. In past years, I contributed 3 reports to Wikinews. I also made the odd contribution to Wikipedias in other languages, but gave up submitting electronically translated articles when I found that machines produced too many errors. One Italian kindly told me that the translation device I used was a "terrible fish."
A multitude of wiki projects now dot the internet, many if not most of them using Mediawiki software and emulating the administrative structure pioneered by Wikipedia. I welcome that, and participate in a number of them, including Wikimapia, a project to annotate Google Maps with notes contributed by users through a wiki interface. I am sceptical, however, of projects whose stated aims are to supplant Wikipedia, such as Larry Sanger's Citizendium project, a proposed fork and supposed "improvement" of Wikipedia. In 2007 I wrote: “Its restrictive editorial policy is likely to stifle development, and the abolition of categories is a retrograde step. What the organizers of Citizendium are forgetting is that an encyclopedia is written by editors, but for readers, and their proposal to abolish an invaluable aid to navigation, thereby making each article its own stand-alone category (as they put it) will do nothing to create a user-friendly interface.
“But perhaps the most serious oversight on the part of the Citizendium people is that initial perfection rarely wins in the market place. The now-forgotten Beta video system and the Apple computer were superior to the VHS and IBM models, respectively. Endless fine-tuning tends to create projects that are artistically beautiful, but unworkable, and I suspect that Citizendium will be no exception. Its greatest weakness will be its initial inability to attract a large pool of contributors. A larger number of lurkers from Wikipedia will, however, peruse the newly created articles on Citizendium and scavenge them. Given the public profile of Wikipedia, readers are far more likely to find the articles on Wikipedia than where they are originally posted, and Citizendium editors will be left wondering what they are working for and why.
“I mean no ill will towards Citizendium or the people involved in the project. But my doubts are real, and, I think, well-founded. I feel differently about projects like Wikinfo, whose editorial policy is designed to allow points of view not permitted on Wikipedia, thereby providing an alternative resource that complements Wikipedia without attempting to replace it, as is seen in the continued participation in Wikipedia by Fred Bauder, Wikinfo's founder. Larry Sanger, by contrast, has severed his links with Wikipedia. All the best to him - but I honestly think the best for him is to go back to the drawing board and redesign his project fundamentally.”
Update — 30 May 2015: I made that judgement eight years ago. I don't mean to sound uncharitable, but I think time has indeed shown that Citizendium was a lost cause, stillborn from the very beginning. Sanger himself withdrew from the project in 2009. Almost a decade old, the site — when it operates at all(!) hosts under 20,000 articles, less than one percent of which have passed the absurd vetting process. Looking for information on Citizendium is like picking up a random shell on the beach on the off-chance that it might contain a gold coin. In short, Citizendium is a total joke. I remember getting letters from some of the Citizendium guys inviting me to join the project; I'm glad I didn't waste my time.