Education/Newsletter/September 2016/"Writing a new article is a special experience that feels new every time"

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"Writing a new article is a special experience that feels new every time"

By Shai Katz (WM-IL)

Snippet: An interview with Yotam Svoray, a high school student who serves as an "official" Wikipedia guide to younger students.

Yotam Svoray (User:Yotamsvoray on Hebrew Wikipedia), a 16-year-old student from the Southern District of Israel, is a long-standing Wikipedian who took part in several projects led by Wikimedia Israel.

Yotam Svoray (second on the left) with Nimrod Rapaport, Danny Waks and Shai Katz, after a meeting between the mayor of Beersheba and students of the "Beersheba project" (June 2016).

His activity on the Hebrew Wikipedia started in 2013, and expanded a year later when he joined a gifted education program in Beersheba, which was part of the "Beersheba Project" for writing Wikipedia articles about the city and its surroundings, led by Nimrod Rapaport, Danny Waks, and other members of Wikimedia Israel, the local municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Education.

Yotam went on to write and expand articles about mathematics and other subjects, some of which are unusual and surprising. He started helping his classmates, who created many new interesting articles with his dedicated help.

Currently, Yotam is a "veteran" of the project, and served as an "official" guide to younger students who took part in a special editing workshop, in which they uploaded their newly created articles. He is a role model for other students who wish to become Wikipedians and sends an optimistic message that everyone has something to contribute to the online free encyclopedia, and can even enjoy it.

In June 2016, we e-mailed him a few questions, which he kindly answered elaborately.

Q: How did you arrive at editing Wikipedia?

A: I read Wikipedia a lot, and about how it functions. Then I decided I could contribute myself. I started as a "wikignome" with small contributions, such as adding links to orphan articles. Then I started to write articles, make bigger changes, and get more involved. Today, I contribute a lot to Wikipedia on a daily basis.

Q: Could you tell us about a special experience you had as a Wikipedia editor?

A: I think writing a new article is a special experience that feels new every time. Even though I've written many articles, I enjoy each time the process of research ahead of writing: finding sources of information, the process of writing and phrasing, and finally, wikifying and preparing the final version and uploading it onto Wikipedia.

Q: What is the funniest or most surprising article that you edited or wrote?

A: The funniest I wrote is the one called "buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo". It is one of the articles I'm known for. It's one of my favorite because it makes you laugh and you can also learn from it and its idea. Today it is one of the best known on Wikipedia, as a humorous article.

Q: Your user page indicates that you are a member of some interesting groups on Wikipedia. Could you tell us about that?

A: I'm a member of a group of people who write articles in mathematics. It's called the "Euler's Group". Together with the other members of the group, I expand the knowledge about mathematics on Wikipedia. But I also contribute to other fields, like science fiction and fantasy literature, geography and linguistics.

Q: You have recently won the fourth place in the Statistipedia competition for writing articles about statistics. How did you learn about this competition? What did you write about?

A: I was exposed to this competition on the World Statistics Day, when the community posted information about the first stage of the competition. I read a bit about it and decided I wanted to take part. I wrote the article [in Hebrew] about "triangular distribution", which is a well-known and important concept in statistics and probability. This article won me the fourth place in the competition.

Q: Last year, you took part as a student in a project of students writing articles. Could you tell us about it?

A: The project is meant to expose middle- and high-school students to Wikipedia by letting them write an article about a specific subject. Every team of two or three students chooses a required article in a certain chosen subject, and write it. In this process, they learn how to find reliable information, what the customary way of writing on Wikipedia is, what should be included, how the article should be written, and so forth. At the end of the process, the students upload the article onto Wikipedia.

Q: Last year and currently, you have been guiding youths who participate in this project. How do you help them? What motivates you?

A: I offer help and support in the process of writing articles on Wikipedia, in the process of "wikification", and I suggest corrections that make the article more suitable for Wikipedia. In addition, I also helped and guided students about Wikipedia itself and how to write there. My motivation is my wish to expose students to Wikipedia. Most of the students today use Wikipedia as a main source of information, but they do not know how it works and how they can contribute to it. In this project, students are exposed to Wikipedia and can contribute to it.

Q: Do you have any message to youths who consider editing on Wikipedia?

A: My message to the youths who consider editing is that everyone has something to contribute in the field they know and find interesting, no matter which field. Everybody can contribute somehow, so I strongly suggest that anyone who is interested in some field, who knows a lot about it and can contribute, will do so and enrich Wikipedia's repository of knowledge.

Read more about the Wikipedia Education Program in Israel here.