Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Why Digital Volunteering is Important

Name: Edward Orde
From: Wilmington, North Carolina
Grade: 12
School: John T. Hoggard High School
Votes: 0

I contribute to
many public service projects, both locally and internationally. One
of the most unique and meaningful public service contributions I have
made however is my contributions to the online encyclopedia known as
Wikipedia. Over the past two years I have made over 10,000 edits to
the English Wikipedia, on articles including technology, people and
even the most obscure of topics like “Neutral density filters”
and “Butterflies”. I have written several articles too, including
topics ranging from biographies to articles about ships. I have also
made over 3,000 edits to the free media component of Wikipedia known
as Wikimedia Commons, including uploading over 60 of my photographs
that are now available on the internet for anyone to use for any
purpose. On English Wikipedia I have written, copyedited, patrolled,
reviewed new articles, fact checked, and controlled vandalism. I have
also participated in the community in discussions to resolve a
variety of disputes that arise about the articles and content on
Wikipedia. Contributing to Wikipedia has several challenges that come
with it. The most apparent immediate challenge is the code and
interface, Wikipedia is written in a code form called Wikitext, a
hard to read and understand jumbled mess of text brackets and bars.
Over the first month, much of my time contributing was spent learning
the nuances of the code and learning to apply various tools
experienced editors use such as “templates” and “Twinkle”,
the anti-vandalism tool. After I had overcome that hurdle, the next
was learning to understand the complex system of rules and the large
argumentative community of editors that made them. While everyone
editing Wikipedia has the common goal of making more and better
information available to the public worldwide, everyone has different
views of how to do this and what the information should be. It took
months before I became equated with most of the rules and learned how
to not accidentally break them. The last challenge is ongoing;
getting along with everyone else who edits Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia
is editable by everyone, it attracts a wide variety of people and
ideas. Sometimes people have conflicting views on a subject,
particularly politics, and you must be extremely careful not to
irritate another editor. This project is meaningful to me because
Wikipedia is used universally by millions of people and my
contributions are viewed worldwide by these millions of people. It is
an amazing feeling knowing so many people are able to benefit from
our work. I’ve grown in many ways doing this too; I’ve learnt the
intricacies of a form of computer coding, I’ve improved my writing
skills drastically, I’ve learnt an incredible amount about a
massive variety of topics when researching to write or fact check
them and I’ve learnt how to coordinate and coexist with a community
of helpers with different ideas working towards a common goal.

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