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The Impact of Wikipedia: Peter Coti

(This video is part of a series for this year’s Wikimedia Foundation fundraiser. You can support Wikipedia and free knowledge by contributing at donate.wikimedia.org. You can also view this video on YouTube.)

Peter Coti discussing Wikipedia and his work as an EMT.

When someone says they’re into “blood, guts, and trauma,” it’s not a stretch to think that they’re touting their favorite metal band, or maybe even Tom Savini. But Peter Coti is doing neither. He’s definitely into the aforementioned unpleasantness, but only as it relates to helping people in their most dire time of need—he’s an EMT.

He’s also 17 years old and a student at Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, New Jersey. “I never want people to get hurt, but I want to be there when they do,” he says.

Coti is also a die-hard Wikipedian. Sporting a Yeoman Editor Service Badge, Coti manages to be super active, creating, editing, and generally spiffing up medical articles, mostly pertaining to emergency medicine—a field Coti hopes to specialize in at med school.

“The process of editing Wikipedia is a great study technique in a way because I really need to know what I’m talking about,” said Coti, whose first article was on stab wounds. “I need to make articles that are exact and precise because I don’t want to give false information to other people. That requires a lot of research and a lot of thought to be put into a subject before I actually put something into an article.”

Coti acknowledges that he sees some pretty heavy stuff. Interestingly, he views his work on Wikipedia as a beneficial tool to help him deal with some of the more intense aspects of his job.

“By working on Wikipedia and striving to explain things clearly and factually, I’ve been desensitized in a way,” he explains. “I can look at situations in a more clinical way and not let emotions overcome me in a real life-or-death moment.”

He added, “It’s interesting to me because, you have this skin over you, and people don’t usually get to see what’s under it. Then one day, you see someone and their arm is cut off, or their whole foot is gone, and not only do I find that interesting from a medical perspective, but also, I’m given the opportunity to help them and keep them calm because, well, they just lost their foot.”

Making his first Wikipedia edit in the 6th grade—on the New York Yankees—Coti became “hooked forever.” And although he humbly says that he is just a middle class kid with too much time on his hands, his passion for Wikipedia comes from the same place as his EMT work, a place of helping people out.

“Wikipedia is a buffet of knowledge,” he says. “By working together with other Wikipedians, we’ve been able to do a lot of good and make articles more factual with more information to help users when they come and look a subject up. If you want to research something or get a better understanding of a certain subject, you can just go to Wikipedia, and it will show you basic information, but it will also send you to other places where you can learn even more. It’s exponential knowledge, in a way.”

Calling Wikipedia an “amazing tool,” he added, “Where else can you can learn and teach others for the price of nothing? That’s beautiful.”

Profile by Darrin Fox
Interview by Victor Grigas 

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