Adam started editing Wikipedia anonymously in elementary school, making minor copy edits. In 2017, over winter break from high school in Novato, California, he started experimenting more seriously, creating a user account (User:KidAd), improving the writing on a variety of articles, and tackling articles on movies, albums, and politicians.
Three years later, he’s racked up nearly 20,000 edits. Now a junior at the University of Puget Sound majoring in communication studies and minoring in politics and government, Adam decided to treat editing Wikipedia as practice in professional writing.
Editing Wikipedia is a daily hobby for Adam, but he’d never heard of Wiki Education or even the idea of students editing Wikipedia as a class assignment before the professor in a biology class he was taking this fall told students they would be improving Wikipedia articles. He admits he was “dubious” when he first heard Wikipedia editing would be a big part of the class.
“Editing for this assignment was disparate from the daily editing I do as a hobbyist,” he says. “Working through training sessions provided a wholistic overview of basic editing concepts, and I found myself wishing that I had access to those introductory modules when I was starting out. I certainly had an advantage over my peers as an editor with experience, so I knew where to look for possible pages and was confident about implementing new edits.”
Adam found the process of hearing about Wikipedia from his classmates particularly interesting. As peers, his fellow student editors shared their thoughts and feelings about Wikipedia with Adam in ways he suspects they wouldn’t share with their professor.
“I think a lot of them became more open to Wikipedia editing after hearing me talk so glowingly about it,” he says. “Many were unaware that a community of editors work to continuously expand Wikipedia, and that the pages they read when they Google something are written by volunteers. I think hearing from me allowed them to associate a real person with a previously-unfamiliar community.”
Adam had mostly previously edited in politics, academic administrators, and geographic locations. His class was on the Evolution and Biology of Sex — far afield from his usual editing. For class, Adam improved the article on Eichler’s rule. Throughout the term, though, he continued editing articles in his area of interest outside of the biology class he was taking, including many related to the 2020 election in the United States.
“I like editing Wikipedia for many reasons. In addition to providing a venue to practice my writing and research, contributing to an online project with such broad influence is always exciting. Whether a page I create earns 300,000 page-views or a couple dozen, I feel like I’m contributing to the spread of neutral information,” he says. “Additionally, Wikipedia as a social platform acts as an equalizer for participants due to its anonymity. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with editors who hold advanced degrees, and I’m not even old enough to buy alcohol.”
Now that he’s finished the term, Adam thinks more college students should contribute to Wikipedia.
“There’s something for everyone, and building upon writing and research skills through regular editing has occasionally felt like more productive preparation for my future than college classes,” he says. “Writing about a diverse range of topics and completing daily research projects has allowed me to practice my craft and expand my skills.”