In 2005, a high school freshman from Clarksville, Maryland, named Kevin Li discovered Wikipedia. Kevin was amazed that anyone would spend the time to write detailed articles on such a wide range of topics. Today, Kevin is a college senior at Washington University in St. Louis, and he has joined the ranks of those who contribute to Wikipedia.
Kevin got his start with Wikipedia editing through a class project on chronobiology where he worked in a group to improve the article on scientist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle. They brought the article all the way to Good Article status, so Kevin was excited to enroll in another class, Professor Joan Strassmann’s Behavioral Ecology course, where he would be solely responsible for an article.
“I was surprised that some of the animals and behaviors we learned about weren’t on Wikipedia,” Kevin says. “The article that I am working on, worker policing, has been in the scientific literature for more than two decades and hadn’t been discussed. It’s fun to bring some of these concepts into the wiki community, since I feel that being a contributor is equally as important as being a consumer of information.”
Since the topic was not yet covered on Wikipedia, Kevin created a page that contained just the title of the article. Volunteer Heather Walls tagged the article for deletion since it had no content. Kevin came by two hours later and was surprised to discover that his page had been deleted by an editor named WilyD.
“I was contacted by the editor who had marked the page and I responded to her comments,” Kevin explains. “The misunderstanding was resolved and she was even nice enough to add a picture on the article.”
WilyD came back once Kevin had expanded it, and was impressed enough by Kevin’s work to nominate the article to appear on Wikipedia’s main page in the Did You Know section. Kevin’s article appeared on the main page on October 17 and received more than 1,500 views.
“The DYK reviewer asked me to work on the leads and to clarify some of the body paragraphs, which I happily did. Afterward, we were good to go!” Kevin says. “Many of the editors have been helpful with constructive criticism. It was really exciting to see the interest that people had for the article when it went up. I’m still working on making the article better. After some more edits, I hope to get it to Good Article status.”
Kevin is glad to see something he is interested in have more coverage on Wikipedia. That’s one of the reasons he prefers Wikipedia assignments to traditional term papers. He says while the research process is similar, he prefers Wikipedia assignments because of the large audience for his work and the collaboration that comes from work with classmates and other editors on Wikipedia articles.
“Working on wiki is like constructing a miniature classroom for yourself, where you can become an expert given the proper effort. It’s also a work station where I can collect my thoughts and organize them into a product that everyone can see,” he says. “Wikipedia is really one of those sites that I still love going to and exploring what’s out there. It feels nice to be a contributor.”
Wikipedia Education Program Communications Manager