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Who’s the best Yoruban Wikipedian of them all?

By Gregory Kohs

Wikipedia has some problems with diversity. Something like nine out of ten editors of Wikipedia are male. About three-quarters are under the age of 30. And the vast majority are white. So, probably as an effort to make Wikipedia appear more “global”, the project’s co-founder Jimmy Wales invented an annual prize called the “Global Wikipedian of the Year” award.

In its inaugural year, 2011, the honor was bestowed by Jimmy Wales on a Kazakhstan government-supported official named Rauan Kenzhekhanuly.

The prize included a $5,000 grant, personally from Jimmy Wales.

We certainly hope that Jimbo cleared his $91,679 in 2010 personal debt obligations before he gave $5,000 to a former Kazakh government agent. In all, the award to and interest in Kazakhstan proved to be highly suspicious, as first reported here by Andreas Kolbe of Wikipediocracy and by my own Examiner report. The story was then picked up by The Telegraph and other world media. It certainly put a retroactive blemish on the 2011 Global Wikipedian of the Year award.

Come 2012, Jimmy Wales surely was thoughtfully thinking about who would receive the honor of that year’s Global Wikipedian award. In March 2012, Jimbo would notice the Yoruba Wikipedia (covering content in a native African language spoken mostly in Nigeria) and acknowledge the work of its most prolific editor. A further hint would come in April 2012, when Jimbo began to drum up PR for the Yoruba language Wikipedia, which he called the “most popular African language for Wikipedia”, at 29,000 articles. This surprised some people who noted that Swahili has more speakers than Yoruba. Well, working behind the scenes on the Yoruba Wikipedia was one User:Demmy who had written a “bot” program that would automatically copy into Yoruba Wikipedia the translated versions of 15,000 short, stubby articles — basically a simple way to artificially boost article count, without the need for human editors or critical thought. (Indeed, it was reported that Demmy’s activity inspired a doubling of active Yoruba editors — to a total of “about four” people.)

As the 2012 Wikimania conference in Washington, DC reached its height, Jimmy Wales was there again to issue the annual Global Wikipedian award, although this time, it seemed to be called the “Jimbo Award”, perhaps to distance the more formally organized Wikimedia Foundation from the whimsy of one of its trustee’s personal prize. The issuance of the 2012 Jimbo Award was disorganized, to say the least.

While the award winner — User:Demmy, as nobody seems to have learned his real name — was announced, one person taking notes at the conference wrote:

Jimbo Awards given to User:Demmy for his work June 2011 to July 2011 on the Yoruba site.User:Demmy has no idea he has won this award. Jimbo asks people to update his talk page.

Afterwards, further criticism of Jimbo’s 2012 selection process emerged, when Hungarian Wikipedian Oren Bochman described Jimmy Wales as having appeared in “a dilapidated outfit” and having “ad libbed his presentation.” It was claimed that the award “had not been researched well and that the bulk of the work had been done by someone else anyhow”.

Six months after making the award, Jimbo was still trying to track down User:Demmy. After a day or two, Demmy acknowledged his contact with Wales. Who knows what mysterious conversations are now taking place privately between Jimbo and his latest award winner?

And what can we look forward to in 2013, when Wales presents this year’s Jimbo Award at the Wikimania summit in Hong Kong? Given that Kazakhstan and Nigeria are known primarily for their production of petroleum, natural gas, and minerals, the inside line points to the winner being someone from Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, or Brunei. Jimmy Wales may be disorganized, but he’s not stupid.


Image credits: From Wikimedia Commons, released into public domain

3 comments to Who’s the best Yoruban Wikipedian of them all?

  • As it turns out, even as late as April 2013, Jimmy Wales still hasn’t paid the promised $5,000 prize to the 2011 Wikipedian of the Year, Rauan Kenzhekhanuly:


    Jimmy Wales may not be Welsh, but he sure looks like a welcher from here.

  • And Jimmy Wales has not paid the Yoruban winner either, apparently. I asked Demmy on his talk page:

    Demmy, Jimmy Wales said the other day in English Wikipedia that even though close to two years have passed, he still has not paid the 2011 winner of his Wikipedian of the Year award the promised $5,000 in prize money. He says the delay is because he wanted to travel to the winner’s country and make a ceremony of it. How is it in your case? Have you received the prize money from Jimmy Wales, and/or has a similar ceremony been planned, or already taken place? Thanks for any info you can give me on this. Best wishes, Jayen466 (ọ̀rọ̀) 07:01, 24 Oṣù Kẹrin 2013 (UTC)

    His reply was:

    Jimmy Wales contacted me in January but I haven’t heard from him since. He told me then that he was going to Davos and when he return he would process the paper work and send me the prize money but he is yet to contact me so I am really not sure what the delay is. He didn’t say anything about holding ceremony. Demmy (ọ̀rọ̀) 15:57, 24 Oṣù Kẹrin 2013 (UTC)

    Thanks Demmy. I wish I could say that surprises me, but it doesn’t. I’ll talk to some journalists and get back to you. Best wishes, –Jayen466 (ọ̀rọ̀) 19:41, 24 Oṣù Kẹrin 2013 (UTC)


    The notion that Jimmy Wales should have created this Global Wikipedian of the Year Award merely because he wanted to reward outstanding members of the global Wikipedia community out of his own pocket seems preposterous to me. Nobody who truly cares about people makes a big showy announcement about how they are giving $5000 to a Wikipedian in a third-world country, then forgets to tell the winner until reminded by “dishonest” critics half a year later, and then STILL welches on his debt.

    Understand the contrast between how the Global Wikipedian of the Year Award was announced and received in Kazakhstan – umpteen mentions in Kazakh state media, on the prime minister’s website, on embassy websites, public announcement of a state visit by Jimmy Wales, etc. – and how it was announced and received in Nigeria (zero press coverage, zero government involvement or awareness, the winner not even contacted by Jimmy Wales).

    There was a very clear intent on Jimmy’s part to publicly reward Kazakhstan, and a lot of awareness of the matter at the highest levels of the Kazakh government. His intent to reward the Yoruban effort seems to have been far smaller, almost an afterthought, and if we are to believe the proudly announced winner, he welched on it. Pathetic.

  • […] Peu de wikipédiens ont ainsi été récompensés, citons seulement Rauan KENZHEKHANULY, un wikipédien "ex-agent du gouvernement kazakh" d’après notre confrère Wikipediocracy. […]