My friend Brandon posted his love letter to Wikipedia, in honor of its 10th birthday. The reason he loves Wikipedia, and loves working for the Wikimedia Foundation, is because of The Mission: to make the sum of human knowledge freely available to everyone in the world. “Would [you] be interested in taking a massive pay cut in order to make the world a better place?” He likes the ring of that.
For me, for a long while now, the Wikimedians are the reason I love the project (and love working for WMF these last six months). They are the people who answer ‘yes’ to that question. Some are literally taking a pay cut, like Brandon and most of the Wikimedia tech staff, who could be making a lot more money working elsewhere. Thousands more make similar decisions, devoting major chunks of their lives to volunteering for The Mission. From the web designer who spends dozens of hours a week getting to the bottom of disputes and helping Wikipedia newbies on IRC, to the history student who organizes photo scavenger hunts and meetups, to the software developer who sorts through copyright issues on Commons every day, to the engineer who curates lists of the works of great artists, to biochemisty professor who makes videos and gives presentations about how to edit. And these are just a handful of the ones I’ve actually met.
That’s what drew me to The Wikipedia Signpost soon after I became a Wikipedian–I wanted to serve those people, to support our fragile community. That’s why I fill up my camera every time I go to a meetup. And that’s what makes my job—lolcat herder online facilitator—so rad. Wikimedians are weird, and they aren’t always easy to talk to or get along with. But they are also wonderful—generous, idealistic, kind-hearted, fierce.
For the 10th birthday in Pittsburgh, Wikipedians and Wikipedia fans fought their way through the teeming throngs of Steelers faithful during a playoff game, just to celebrate and be together. We walked through the crowd telling people about the Wikipedia celebration and giving away stickers and pins. The spontaneous reactions people had when Wikipedia was brought up were amazing. I’ve never been flirted with so much in my life. Talking about Wikipedia with people who don’t contribute just emphasizes how awesome the people who do are.
The Mission is still a long way off. But what keeps me going is the people working toward it along with me.