Several among Wikipedia&’s 1,504 contributors from Hong Kong are very young. “Many Hong Kong Wikipedians were born in the 1990s, and even in the 2000s,” says Wong Ting-fung, president of Wikimedia Hong Kong. He notes the number of Hong Kong-based contributors might in fact be much bigger, as there are unregistered users contributing to the local community.
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who started what is today a massive online encyclopedia with a total of 35 million articles in 288 different languages, once described the Hong Kong team as the youngest group of Wikepedians in the world.
Kris Cheng, a former project coordinator of Hong Kong Wikipedia, said the young contributors from Hong Kong have more time on their hands and greater passion for the job than many of their adult counterparts.
Expert at 15
Gabriel Lee Chi-hong, 15, a Form 4 student from United Christian College (Kowloon East), has represented Hong Kong twice at the World Robot Olympiad Competition. He also co-created a model that showed how the terrain on Mars could be made habitable for astronauts.
Once when he was still in primary school, Lee corrected certain mistakes in a Wikipedia article on aerospace. Soon afterwards he had turned a contributor, creating pages on newly discovered stars, and tourist destinations with equal ease.
Wearing a sharp red pullover and glasses, the fussy-haired student looked wise beyond his age. He took a few seconds to mull over each question, and insisted on quoting precise figures rather than close approximations.
Lee says he has created 259 entries and edited 5,142 pages over four years until the end of 2015.
While most of his classmates do not share his interest in robotics, physics and astronauts, Lee has found fellow enthusiasts in the local Wikipedia writers’ community.
Japanese-born Yuuji Izumo immigrated to Hong Kong from Tokyo at age 4. He is interested in different forms of transport. Now 23, and a graduate of Chinese University of Hong Kong, Izumo has been contributing to Wikipedia in the last 10 years.
He remembers heading over to Lantau Island from his home in Sha Tin every weekend when he was about 11, just to watch the planes take off and land at the Hong Kong International Airport. He keenly watched the technical intricacies involved. Now he is a volunteer tutor with Hong Kong Air Cadet Corps, acquainting young people with the nitty-gritty of acquiring a private pilot&’s license, guiding them in flight simulators and the like.
Wong highly praised the contribution of Hong Kong&’s young Wikipedians, saying they did more than their adult counterparts towards developing the portal.
Lee had a role in starting the Chinese edition of the travel guide Wikivoyage, begun in 2012. He applied to Wikipedia&’s Language Committee to start a Chinese Wikivoyage, and has been its administrator ever since.
In 2013, Izumo and other representatives from Wikimedia Hong Kong went to Washington to bid for hosting Wikimania in Hong Kong, the official annual conference attended by Wikipedians worldwide.
“It was just like applying to host the Olympics,” he recalls excitedly. “Compared with other international cities like London, we didn’t have much of an advantage, but we were lucky that they wanted to give it to an Asian city. We convinced the committee about Hong Kong&’s importance as a telecommunications and travel hub. Although we didn’t have much resource, we were passionate and brave enough to travel all the way, knowing the odds to win were low.”
Surprisingly, they did win. In 2013, Wikimania took place at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, attended by more than 1,000 delegates from 88 countries and regions. Both Izumo and Lee were volunteers at the event.
They didn’t make any money but Kris Cheng, who worked full-time for the 2013 international conference, did. After the event Cheng went back to editing Wikipedia entries for free.
“I have always been grateful that as a Wikipedia user I could get so much useful information for free. When I have a chance to contribute I feel obliged,” Cheng said.
Carrotkit So, a Form 3 student in Hong Kong, is a wiki-expert in foreign affairs. She was drawn to the theme because of a family connection. Her grandfather worked as an interpreter for the Allies in World War II. Her grasp of the subject comes from extensive reading. The books were bought with book coupons, to secure which she had to consistently excel at studies and win scholarships.
When Izumo came on board, there were less than 100,000 entries in Chinese Wikipedia, compared with more than 1 million in its English counterpart. The number of articles in Chinese Wikipedia has multiplied by eight folds since.
Wong has written to more than 400 high schools in Hong Kong, trying to establish a close-knit relationship by launching seminars, teaching the students how to become a Wikipedia contributor. He wishes to see a bunch of eager kids, passionate about the job, join the force.