Özkan Poyraz has been contributing to the Wikimedia movement for over seven years, during which he has been striving to both expand Wikipedia online and promote the culture of free knowledge offline. This has always been a challenge, but barriers only motivated Poyraz to discover new areas of participation.
Özkan Poyraz (User:Rapsar on Wikipedia) is a recent civil engineering graduate and a native of Istanbul, Turkey. He is currently utilizing his experience with Wikipedia to help guide new users and set up initiatives to engage others.
Poyraz came across Wikipedia for the first time when he was a secondary school student. Like many other students, Poyraz considered Wikipedia to be a primary resource for his school research. “I shared this website with my close friends,” he recalls, “and then, soon after that, most of the students in my class became aware of Wikipedia.”
In 2009, when Poyraz started an office job, he wanted to use his free time at work to learn something useful and interesting. Though he first used Wikipedia to learn, his sole purpose for use of the website has shifted toward a more constructive role.
“I was reading an article on Wikipedia, when I found a little mistake.” Says Poryaz, “I saw the edit button which meant that I could fix it, and I did. I did more corrections and little changes. Then, a few days later, I discovered that I could start an article. I created a stub article and made some mistakes, like adding copyrighted text to the articles, but with the help of experienced users, I became better and better.”
Along with five other editors, Poryaz was banned from editing the Turkish Wikipedia for six months in 2012—an incident known within the community as “the memorandum of five.” That might have been reason enough for Poryaz to quit editing Wikipedia; though sanctions on Wikipedia are not aimed at punishing editors, it is common for a veteran contributor to get frustrated over an editing ban. However, Poryaz used this time to explore other projects.
“Most of my edits on Wikimedia Commons came during that period,” Poryaz explains. “I migrated many files to Commons from the Turkish Wikipedia, categorized Turkey-related files and nominated lots of files for deletion. During that period, I started to edit some Turkey-related articles on the English Wikipedia, too.”
Poryaz made over 43,000 edits on Wikimedia Commons and 6,000 edits on the English Wikipedia in addition to his major contributions to the Turkish Wikipedia with over 320,000 edits.
If you happen to be a native speaker of the Turkish language and like to read about football, the World Cup, or the Olympic Games on Wikipedia, then you must read some of Poryaz’s 43 intriguing featured and good articles. Or you have very likely seen some of them featured on the Turkish Wikipedia homepage.
“I feel that I’m part of this encyclopedia and part of this community,” Poryaz says. “The idea of sharing free knowledge, building a free and really ‘neutral’ encyclopedia is what inspires me to keep going. I love to explore other people’s ideas, thoughts, and work together with people I haven’t met.”
Poryaz works on different offline initiatives with a small community of active Wikipedians in Turkey. The Turkish Wikipedia community, being a “small village,” as Poryaz describes it, is a double-edged sword because while the active users in the community know each other and can understand and communicate with each other, they face a lack of community support when it is needed.
The community has recently established Wikimedia Community User Group Turkey. They are planning to launch the Wikipedia Education Program in their country in order to integrate students into the editing community. The Wikipedia Library is another project that will be hosted by the user group to provide useful resources to editors. There are many other projects on their agenda.
Poryaz’s dream for the future is to lead a project for elementary school children that trains them on how to edit Wiktionary. We should all prepare to meet an inspiring new generation of Wiki lovers soon.
Interview by Syed Muzammiluddin, Wikimedia Community Volunteer
Profile by Samir Elsharbaty, Digital Content Intern, Wikimedia Foundation