What is The Wikipedian?

The Wikipedian’s mission is nothing more or less than to explain how Wikipedia works to anyone who is curious about this ubiquitous but curious website. Wikipedia is one of the most visited sites in the world and one of the most influential entities in human history. At its best it’s amazing, at its worst it’s scandalous, almost by very definition it contains everything imaginable in between, and it does so across millions of articles in more than 300 languages and it’s done so since its humble origins on the server of a bumbling entrepreneur and his weirdo philosopher frenemy near the beginning of this millennium. It has more nooks and crannies than can be covered in a lifetime, hence the not-as-clever-as-it-wants-to-be tagline on social media accounts associated with The Wikpedian: Explain Wikipedia or die trying.

From 2009 to 2020, The Wikipedian was a blog, and today it is a Substack newsletter… and also a blog, really, I mean what’s the difference? Following an unannounced but still very real hiatus from 2021 through most of 2023, the Wikipedian is back. We’re back, baby! And better than ever? Well, why don’t you smash that subscribe button and find out for yourself.

Over the years, The Wikipedian has covered Wikipedia’s internal power struggles, appearances in pop culture, struggles with self-referentiality, response to the George Floyd protests, coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Wikimania conference, the unbearable lightness of being Jimmy Wales, and much more, including an annual summary of the most influential events in a given year, the most recent being “The Top 10 Wikipedia Stories of 2020”.

The Wikipedian is written by William Beutler, a Wikipedia editor since 2006, as well as a writer, filmmaker, podcaster, and founder of Beutler Ink, a digital agency specializing in Wikipedia consulting. The Wikipedian is the opinion of William Beutler alone (possible guest contributors, too) and does not represent Beutler Ink and certainly not that of any clients.

And because I am sure you were wondering, he title is an homage to the author’s hometown newspaper, The Oregonian. And yes, The Wikipedian is given to switching between first and third person on a moment’s notice. Buckle up.

(Curious how this blog explained itself during its first run? A 2016 version of the about page can be found here.)

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Subscribe to get full access to the newsletter and publication archives. All 11 years of The Wikipedian’s initial run are now on the Substack platform.

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Explain Wikipedia or die trying

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Explain Wikipedia or die trying