A passion for encyclopedias: interview with Italian Wikipedia editor Elitre

“When I was a child I was already very passionate about encyclopedias: the idea of discovering new things every day was very appealing to me. My neighbours had an encyclopedia, which was way bigger and newer than mine, and I went often to their house to read it.” Elitre, a long time Wikipedian and an administrator on Italian Wikipedia, told me this and elaborated on her story recently in front of a cup of hot cappuccino.

How did you begin to edit Wikipedia?

Italian Wikipedia editor Elitre

It was in late 2004. One day I read a page with the wrong information and I left a comment on the talk page, and someone told me that I could correct it by myself. When you understand that it works on a volunteer basis, you’re in.

And then what happened?

The real beginning was in 2006; I worked mostly on fixing copyright violations. After a couple of months I joined the OTRS team, the volunteer system used to handle information requests, complaints and comments about Wikipedia and related websites. These OTRS concerns are sent to the official e-mail addresses of the Wikimedia Foundation. I then became an administrator on Italian Wikipedia. After my administrator election I worked on several help and policy pages, making them easier to understand and keeping an eye on them. To me, an encyclopedia is a starting point, not an end point–it’s a very important tool– and this is why I like working to provide an easy understanding of the rules for the newcomers.

Lately I have been working on the rewriting of the pages about OTRS to better direct the destination of the requests. Since we’ve done it, life is much easier!

What led you to this kind of work?

I thought that we had some communication problems. I don’t like the idea that the person who blocked a user is the same person who will reply to his or her e-mail with requests for an explanation or an unblock. Furthermore, the OTRS system was always jammed…

And I know that you are also involved in outreach activities…

For a long time I had a blog where I tried to share what was going on in Wikipedia, but now I’m not able to follow it anymore, and I mostly use Twitter and Facebook. I try to work in this part of Wikipedia because it’s something necessary, and there are very few people doing it! I dream about an internet where Wikipedia is always the aim of our actions, and never the means: if you edit Wikipedia you have to do it for the good of Wikipedia, not for personal benefit.

Interview by Ginevra Sanvitale, Wikimedia Italia

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