This article is initially published on Wikimedia blog on Nov. 10th, 2017.
On a random day two years ago, I was translating articles about East Timor from the English to the Chinese Wikipedia. The English articles were short and lacked information about the country—but on the German Wikipedia, there was an article for pretty much all the entries about East Timor.
While I don’t understand German, it was clear that the German articles had reliable sources, tables, and templates that I could re-use on other wikis. I opened the German version of “Barique Administrative Post”, called “Barique Subdistrict” at the time, and found an unexpectedly well-written and high-quality article with photos and customized maps. This and many other similar articles were developed by one editor: J. Patrick Fischer.
I have seen many Wikipedians with a passion for niche topics, but this was just way beyond my expectations. Unsurprisingly, I later found that some articles on the English Wikipedia, as well as the geographical articles on the Tetum Wikipedia (the official language of East Timor), were written by him too.
J. Patrick Fischer is a German Wikipedian who has been editing for twelve years. He is one of two Wikipedia Asian Ambassadors (recognized by several Asian affiliates), and was the most prolific participant in the Wikipedia Asian Month on the German Wikipedia in the past two years.
Wikipedia Asian Month is an annual global culture and editing event, held every November. It started in 2015, and last year 50 language versions of Wikipedia participated in the event along with more than 2,000 Wikipedians all over the world. Every year, the contest rewards one or two top contributors on each participating Wikipedia.
I went to Patrick’s talk page, and left a message to show how much I appreciate his wonderful efforts. It was my first time talking to him.
Unsurprisingly, when Wikipedia Asian Month started on the German Wikipedia, Patrick quickly became the most active German Wikipedian in the event. Nine new articles were contributed by him in 2015, and 58 more in the 2016 edition. However, Wikipedia Asian Month was not the first step in Patrick’s journey in writing Wikipedia articles about East Timor.
I learned that he had been to East Timor, one year after it had declared independence from Indonesia. The trip, only nine days long, kindled an intense interest in the country and helped drive him to contribute over 2,000 articles about it on German Wikipedia.
Outside Wikipedia, Patrick also contributes to Wikinews and Wikivoyage about East Timor. His work has inspired many German scholars and development workers who professionally work on East Timor using content that Patrick has contributed as the first point of the information.
Patrick told me about a Timor-Leste-Conference in Berlin that he attended where almost everyone could recognize him because of his Wikipedia contributions. In order to add to the content quality, he made many connections with locals—including one of the president’s advisors (at the time of the conference) and the photographer of Timor-Leste’s first lady. These have helped him obtain images for Wikimedia Commons about East Timor, ranging from politicians portraits to remote villages.
Meeting Patrick helps me envision how Wikipedia can make the world different. Nowadays, East Timor has gone from a country that you could find nearly nothing about online to one with more information than many other countries. Most of it has come from just one person’s dedication.
Wikipedians from around the world are now participating in Wikipedia Asian Month to help increase the continent’s presence on the world’s largest encyclopedia. You can join them now by registering your name and finding where your passion will take you to.
Addis Wang, Organizer
Wikipedia Asian Month