The army of volunteers that keeps Wikipedia running is comprised mostly of men, many of whom are often obsessively devoted to its upkeep. One such man is Bryan Henderson, known on the encyclopedia as Giraffedata, who would take strong issue with the way he's introduced here.
Henderson, as detailed in a delightful profile by Andrew McMillen at Medium, is among Wikipedia's 1,000 most active editors. He got there by zeroing in on a single innocuous grammatical error and working tirelessly to exorcise it entirely from the site. So, with apologies to Henderson, let's start again: The army of volunteers that keeps Wikipedia running is composed mostly of men, and surely Bryan Henderson is among the encyclopedia's most obsessive devotees.
According to McMillen's profile, Henderson has made 47,000 edits to Wikipedia, and nearly all of them are meant to fix instances of "comprised of," replacing it with a more acceptable variant like "consists of" or "composed of." If you didn't realize that "comprised of" isn't strictly correct, fear not: Henderson wrote a 6,000-word essay about it on his Wikipedia user page to educate you.
The "comprised of" project began in earnest in 2007, and now Henderson spends every Sunday night working on it. McMillen reports on the editor's process:
He begins by running a software program that he wrote himself, which sends a request to Wikipedia's server for articles containing the phrase 'comprised of.' His program parses the HTML code from the search results page to extract a list of dozens of article titles: 'PlayStation 4,' for example, in addition to 'High Court (Ireland),' and 'British Armoured formations of World War II.' The program then compares these titles against an offline database of articles that Henderson has edited within the last six months. Any matches get removed from the list. (He does this to avoid hitting the same article too often and pissing off overprotective editors who claim 'ownership' of certain articles.)
Next, a simple Web page is generated on the giraffe-data.com Web server, which contains a list of links to the edit page for each remaining article. Henderson can now easily click on each entry and make the necessary changes. Finally, the program updates the database of recently edited pages. "An edit typically takes about ten seconds, but that's because I've gotten really, really good at it," he says. "I'm actually putting a lot of thought into those ten seconds. Some of them take a lot longer; some of them take minutes."
You can visit the web page Henderson's software generates to pinpoint instances (next articles on the docket: American Chamber of Commerce in Turkey, apportionment in the European Parliament, the band Animals as Leaders) and his edit history is indeed filled with fixes to the error.
The profile is useful both as a window into a strange personality and a reminder about Wikipedia itself. Though it has the appearance of omniscient authority—and that appearance isn't wholly undeserved—the site is created by human beings, each of whom is biased and fallible just like everyone else.
And most of them are weird as hell.