Meet Olatunde Isaac; Nigeria’s Superstar on Wikipedia

Olatunde Isaac

I caught up with Olatunde Isaac, the guy believed to have the most number of articles by a Nigerian on Wikipedia. He certainly has so much to share about Wikipedia. Enjoy!

Q: Can we meet you?

A: My Name is Olatunde Isaac, a Nigerian biochemist and Wikipedian. I’m an editor of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Olatunde Isaac

Olatunde Isaac, a Wikipedian Editor of Nigerian Origin


Q: We understand that you have the highest number of articles by a Nigerian on Wikipedia, how were able to achieve that feat?

A: Thank you very much! I achieved that feat as a result of my passions for Wikipedia project. Besides, my professional goal is to contribute knowledge and skills to help others and that I can’t achieve through scholarly publications in academic journals alone. I see Wikipedia as a medium to achieve these goals being an openly editable encyclopedia. Contributing to knowledge building through Wikipedia gives me a sense of accomplishment and it’s something that I can look back on and say “I achieved that”.  for example, when I wrote an article entitled “Yoruba Tribal marks”, I got a sense of accomplishment from knowing that over 5 million people would read it.

In addition to my professional goal, I discovered that Nigeria-related articles are poorly represented on Wikipedia. I’m not really comfortable with this poor situation and that is why I took it as a point of responsibility to improve the coverages of Nigeria-related articles on Wikipedia and within few weeks, I discovered that I had written enormous number of articles.

Q. Why is it so difficult navigating Wikipedia?

A: I admit that navigating through wikipedia is difficult but these difficulties are often experienced by new editors who are yet to understand the basic guidelines and policies of the encyclopedia. Repeated violations of Wikipedia guidelines and policies often lead to a block by administrator or ban through a community consensus. Spamming and all forms of disruptive editing on Wikipedia are prohibited and anyone who get blocked for any of this misconduct will definitely believe that Navigating through Wikipedia is difficult.
Blocks serve to protect the project from harm, and reduce likely future problems.

Blocking is different from banning, a formal retraction of editing privileges on all or part of Wikipedia. Blocks disable a user’s ability to edit pages; bans do not. However, users who are subject to a total ban, or who breach the terms of a partial ban, will most likely be blocked to enforce the ban.

Q. How long have you been a Wikipedia editor?

A: I’ve been editing wikipedia anonymously since 2005 but I became an established editor in 2014.

Q: What are the lessons you have learnt from the platform?

A: Wikipedia articles are written collaboratively by largely anonymous people who writes without pay. As of July 2015, there are about 73,000 active editors on Wikipedia. Through Wikipedia, I’ve learnt to Collaborate with people to do a task and to achieve shared goal. It gives me the privilege to know different people across the globe. Contributing to Wikipedia has also improve my communications skill as well as broaden by knowledge.

Q: How can more Nigerians get involved with Wikipedia?

A: More Nigerians can be involved if they are aware that Wikipedia model is based on openly editable encyclopedia. That is, anyone can get involved, edit and write articles on Wikipedia. I’m an Ambassador of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) and Outreach Coordinator of “The Wikipedia Library” as well as Coordinator of the “Wikipedia Education Program” in Nigeria. I and my teammate are currently recruiting volunteers from Nigerian Universities and we are also working with tertiary institutions in Nigeria because we believed that is where we can get millions of contributors from Nigeria.

Our education program will focus on students and academic staffs. Students come to libraries to create research projects every semester, but more often then not that work gets thrown away at the end of the semester, seen by only a few sets of eyes. The Wikipedia Education Program seeks to abate that deluge of lost research, by empowering students to share it on Wikipedia. The Wikipedia Education Program provides faculty and support staff the tools to design assignments that improve students skills in reading, writing, researching, critical thinking, translation and collaboration; gain information and media literacy; and deepen their understanding of copyright, plagiarism, citation, and digital citizenship. In most settings, students write Wikipedia articles as substitute for a traditional research paper, taking the pedagogical position of literature reviews.

We will also work with Nigerian libraries because I believe that Libraries, especially in a university setting, have a significant investment in improving the state of research and literacy on their campus and in their communities.

Q: Isaac Olatunde, tell me are Nigerian editors treated with the same degree of respect?

A: Sure! All editors are treated equally irrespective of their country, age, race and educational background. Although, sometimes Wikipedia editor could be biased in their judgment of content dispute. Most non-native contributors to Wikipedia are European, which leads to a strongly pro-Europe perspective; in addition, even many contributors from non-European Anglophone countries are likely to be more familiar with Europe than other parts of the world. This leads to, for example, a recent version of “Demonym” (an article that ostensibly is on all demonyms for all peoples across the globe) listing six different demonyms in the article lede, with five of them being western or central European nationalities, and the other being Canadian.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, in 2015 explained to a professor that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that has a systemic bias in favor of white, male, young, and educated individuals.

Q: Since you are Nigeria’s MVP on Wikipedia, how many more articles do you hope pioneer?

A: I hope to create 5000 articles on Nigeria-related topics and I believe I will achieve it. If I can create 1000 articles in one year it means I can create 1500 articles in the next year, meaning that I can achieve this in three years.

Q: Can one make money from being a Wikipedia editor?

A: Paid editing is strongly discouraged.  Many, but not all, types of paid editing are forbidden. For example, paid editing of a talk page is generally acceptable, but undisclosed paid editing of a policy page is forbidden. All paid editors are required to disclose their paid status on both their user page and on the affected article’s talk page.

Paid editing is a type of conflict of interest (COI) and paid editors must follow the guidelines on COI very carefully. Advertising for paid editing services is prohibited. This includes: advertising services as a Wikipedia editor, administrator, or bureaucrat and bidding on advertised jobs to edit on behalf of, or to advocate for, the benefit of the employer, or actively seeking payment for taking on a particular position in any editorial decision, or policy dispute.

Any of these activities may result in an “indefinite block” or sometimes “ban”.

Q: Any words of wisdom for those who want to start out on Wikipedia?

A: I’m glad to say that Wikipedia is a knowledge building community. It is a community in which the primary goal is knowledge creation rather than the construction of specific products or the completion of tasks. Wikipedia is a place that ones can impact millions of lives. Life’s all about moments of impact and how they change our lives forever.

Q: Should we expect to see any local events in the nearest future?

A: Sure! I and my teammates in Nigeria are currently planning to organize an elaborate event that will bring thousands of Wikipedia editors across the globe to Nigeria as part of the Wikimedia Foundation movements.

Q: Your final word, Olatunde Isaac

A: Money is a very powerful thing, it builds empires and breaks down kingdoms, it allows for dreams to come true and it takes others away, it makes some people happy and others completely miserable. No matter how much money you make, nothing will help you overcome the feeling of doing something you hate. I love to contribute knowledge, it gives me happiness!

“I care deeply about the integrity of Wikipedia, and take very seriously my responsibilities as a member of the Wikipedia community. I would never knowingly do anything to compromise that trust.”