(Lee la versión en español aquí)

When Melisa Parisi began contributing to Wikimedia in 2007, she was only 15. Parisi, a native Argentinean, started by translating articles about the long-running cartoon The Simpsons from English Wikipedia to Spanish Wikipedia.

Melisa Parisi

Her first article was deleted because it didn’t have the correct formatting. That setback didn’t deter Parisi, however, and with the assistance of an even younger Wikipedia editor, she learned the the ins and outs of editing guidelines. “He helped me a lot, I was ready to quit when a sysop deleted my first article, I wanted to quit because it was so frustrating,” said Parisi. “Thanks to his help, I kept going.”

Once she got her footing, she began writing articles about American TV shows. With The Simpsons, she translated roughly 300 articles from English to Spanish, covering the many characters and episodes. “I was interested [in writing about The Simpsons] because we didn’t have a lot of articles about this program,” she said. “There were in the English Wikipedia but not in the Spanish, so I decided to bring them all, and I did — I brought absolutely everything to Spanish Wikipedia.”

As of 2012, she’s written more than 800 articles — including 40 Featured articles — and has made more than 27,000 edits. All that experience has helped her improve her writing and language skills. “Wikipedia helped me a lot because I learned how to write better,” she said. “It helps me in my professional career.”

Being a Wikipedia contributor even helped Parisi get a job. Since she didn’t have any professional experience at the time, she added that she edits Wikipedia to her resume and said that got her the gig. She’s now a professional text editor and translator, and is also pursuing a career as a flight attendant.

After years of contributing her own time and skills, Parisi hopes more young people will also contribute to Wikipedia. To encourage others in her community, she has taught classrooms full of students how to get started editing Wikipedia. With any luck, she’ll create a new generation of editors and contributors for Spanish Wikipedia and beyond.

Parisi is the first to tell anyone that all that’s required to contribute to Wikipedia is the desire to do so. You don’t need to be a genius or an expert on a topic, she said, you just need to have the drive to make a contribution. It helps if you love what you write about, but even the smallest changes in an existing article can make a difference.

“I realized that many people do not participate in Wikipedia because they don’t know they are able to do useful contributions,” she said. “By correcting a comma, an accent or a misspelled word you are improving an article and helping the reader who will consult it.”

Sarah Mitroff, Communications Volunteer, Wikimedia Foundation
Interview by Victor Grigas, Wikimedia Foundation Storyteller