User:Johan (WMF)/On gratitude and love

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A short personal text.

On gratitude and love[edit]

I’ve always appreciated my fellow Wikimedians. But when I do my normal editing, in my spare time, I respect them as my peers. I’m constantly grateful for the work Tegel does to keep Swedish Wikipedia free from spam and vandalism. In awe of Yger’s ambitious projects related to Swedish geography and administrative districts. Impressed by ArildV’s illustrations. Still miss cooperating with Åsa L on the Swedish science fiction articles. But in my work for the Foundation, there’s a shift – a feeling of being privileged to be part of this project full time.

Take Tech News, for example. Most weeks I write Tech News, a weekly technical newsletter, in an attempt to make it possible to get a quick overview of important technical changes that will affect Wikimedia contributors. Every week it is translated and distributed in a number of languages, typically 15–20 and every week I try to use the thanks function to unobtrusively show my appreciation. The act becomes routine: open the history of every language, thank the person, go to the next translation, thank, thank, thank, thank, thank. But every week that action is fuelled by a profound feeling of gratitude. Years into writing the newsletter I still count myself fortunate to get to work with a group of people who, in many cases, week after week turn up to help Wikimedians be aware of how the tools they use keep being developed. There’s no simple way to tell a pseudonymous user – potentially someone you’ve hardly interacted with except through the thanks button – the deep affection you have for the usernames who turn up to make the translations for the various Wikimedia communities, how much you care about them. But as a collective, they remain one of my favourite group of persons in the world. Every week, I use the same words to thank them. It’s a copy and paste. I hardly read the words. But every week, I mean them. If someone goes on hiatus for a few months and comes back, it makes me genuinely happy, like seeing an old friend again.

I despair at times, of course, like almost everyone else who spends a fair chunk of their life thinking about the wikis. I sometimes think we fail to live up to our principles of civility and assuming good faith. I sometimes think we’re making it far too difficult to edit. I sometimes fear we’re not preparing for the world of tomorrow, given that we still edit in a desktop-first mindset when most of our readers access our information in other ways. It’s no fun being met with a lack of assumption of good faith when working on a project that’s crept into almost every aspect of my life and been part of me since my teens. But most of these things are normal parts of being a very small cog in a big machine. There are thousands and thousands and thousands of us, trying to make the wikis a better place. I’m just one of them.

It should become mundane, I suppose. I’ve been editing since 2004, been working for the Foundation since 2015. I’ve seen the good and bad parts of the communities, the beautiful and the ugly. The magic should fade. But it doesn’t, because Wikimedians don’t stop doing wonderful things in the name of creating a repository of knowledge, there to be used by anyone with internet access and even for some without.

And I continue to be grateful. Not always for specific details of my work, because the job is like any other job full of things one gets paid to do because one wouldn’t want to do it for free. But for being part of this. For working with the Wikimedia communities.