February 9, 2015

“The Original Barnstar”: 1 Wikipedia editor; 47,000 edits; 1 grammatical mistake


One Wikipedia editor is the definition of every Wikipedia editor, but more so.

One Wikipedia editor is the definition of every Wikipedia editor, but more so.

I hadn’t realized there was virtually no barrier to entry for editing a Wikipedia page. I assumed you had to at least create a username, maybe prove that you’re not a robot by transcribing a kind of stretched-out and nearly-unintelligible combinations of heavily-serifed letters and numbers. But anyone with access to the Internet can do it, and more than 76,000 people regularly do. (“People” or “IP addresses”: Wikipedia tells us “IPs are human too” and when I clicked “See here if you don’t believe us” it kicked out “Brooklyn” and what I assume are the geographic coordinates from which I’m writing this.)

But of these 76,000 people/IPs, Wikipedia editor Giraffedata is something of a legend. Giraffedata–or 51-year-old software engineer Bryan Henderson–is one of the site’s most prolific editors. Since 2007 he’s made more than 47,000 edits, and each and every one of them addresses a single pet peeve: the incorrect use of the phrase “comprised of.” His very amiable and edifying 6,000-word article on the subject is available here.

Henderson’s work, which he views as both a hobby and a public service, earned him an Original Barnstar in 2014. “This barnstar, the first on Wikipedia, is given to recognize particularly fine contributions to Wikipedia, to let people know that their hard work is seen and appreciated.” Other honors include “The Surreal Barnstar,” which recognizes “any Wikipedian who adds ‘special flavor’ to the community by a acting as a sort of wildcard,” and “The Special Barnstar,” for “when there is no other barnstar which would feel appropriate.”

Want to give a barnstar to the wildcard in your life? The complete list is available at Wikipedia:Barnstars. Note: WP:BS also redirects to this page. If you’re looking for “book sources,” see Wikipedia:Book sources; if you’re looking for “bull shit,” see Wikipedia:Complete bollocks.


Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.