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Critical issues presentations/Why support of underage Wikipedians can make a change

From Wikimania 2016 • Esino Lario, Italy
Submission no. 156
Title of the submission

Why support of underage Wikipedians can make a change

Author of the submission
  • Martin Rulsch
  • Heiko Fischer
  • Kai Kleinheuer
  • Simon Schreckenberg
  • Florian Gräf
Country of origin

Germany; Germany; Germany; Germany; Germany


Governance, Outreach, Projects

  • youth
  • support
  • gap
  • community
  • future

Wikipedia just turned 15. With the majority of active editors participating in the projects for many years and only few efforts in engaging minors with Wikipedia, the average Wikipedian is no longer in his or her twenties. Accordingly, Wikipedia does not only lack female editors but also young editors who grew up in a more sophisticated technological field that can push Wikipedia to the next level. Hence, we do need more pupils and young people who are still open for new hobbies they can engage in.

Since 2007, the German Wikipedia has a club for Young Wikipedians, called „Jungwikipedianer“. Currently, it has 40 underage members who help each other with writing new or improving existing articles, for example with cleanup templates, or make image contests. But mainly they discuss topics related or unrelated to Wikipedia, on the project’s talk page, on IRC, WhatsApp, and beyond. For staying in the loop, they have a weekly newsletter. Everything they do relates to supporting each other but they weren’t much integrated in the German community in general.

In 2015, a dozen of Young Wikipedians met for the first time in real life, thanks to logistical and financial support by Wikimedia Deutschland. By taking their efforts seriously and valuing their engagement with the Wikimedia projects, a closer relationship to the Wikimedia projects could be established. Since then, communications with each other increased dramatically, joint photo tours were organized, and local meetups were attended for the first time. Most participants of this gathering also participated in the annual German Wikipedia conference, WikiCon, for the first time. Besides a presentation on their activities, they helped support the organizers and enriched the conference in discussion, with technical knowledge, and much more. In the end, on-wiki support turned into real-life friendship and full integration into the German Wikipedia community. With increasing frequency, current members of the Young Wikipedians as well as former club members take leading roles in the movement, for example, as ArbCom members.

In this presentation, Young Wikipedians, alumni, and their supporters look behind this success story and will raise the question of whether or not a closer focus by Wikimedia organizations on supporting underage contributors can make a meaningful, positive change to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects in general. Regardless of the outcome of the discussion, we want to motivate the audience to join us in supporting young Wikipedians. They are what Wikipedia needs in its next 15 years.


Not accepted