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A couple of days ago, an article was written in the NY Times on a couple of very diligent Wikipedia editors, including our very own @Union Tpke

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Ryan Ng is a 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College in Manhattan. He studies finance, lives at home with his parents in Queens and is a member of the college’s “League of Legends” video game club. But in the somewhat fanatical world of Wikipedia supercontributors, he is best known by his alias, Epicgenius.

As Epicgenius, Mr. Ng has made over 180,000 edits to Wikipedia and created more than 17,000 pages for the site. Most of his work is in the service of his particular fixation: updating the articles associated with all 472 stations of the New York Subway system.

“Sometimes I edit before I do homework, which is not a good thing,” Mr. Ng said. But he finds his hobby satisfying. “When I improve an article, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I see my editing as more of a mission.”

Mr. Ng discovered Wikipedia editing when he was 13. He recalled wanting to collaborate on the page for “Gangnam Style,” the hugely popular 2012 hit by the South Korean performer Psy. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ng decided to specialize in public transit, which he considered a somewhat more useful pursuit.

He knows his hobby can become obsessive because it’s happened before. In high school, teachers told him he was capable of getting A’s if only he would stop editing Wikipedia during class. Nowadays, he tries to maintain a better balance. He writes his college course notes by hand so that he will not be tempted by his laptop.

Currently Mr. Ng devotes at least two or three hours a day editing and maintaining transportation articles. He is not alone.

Mr. Ng may be the most prolific member of the WikiProject (as like-minded editors are known) dedicated to New York City Public Transportation, but there are roughly 20 others. And he is not the group’s only teenage leader.

Shaul Picker is a 17-year-old senior at the Academy of American Studies who edits under the username Kew Gardens 613 — after the Queens neighborhood where he lives. Like Mr. Ng, he began seriously editing Wikipedia in eighth grade. “Some of my edits at the beginning were not constructive at all,” he said. “I’ve become a better writer through Wikipedia, definitely.”

Mr. Picker hopes to become an urban planner and has spent the past five years improving Wikipedia articles about the subway. He has gathered information from a variety of sources, including listings of old subway timetables he has found on eBay.

Mr. Picker has been a railfan, as railfans call themselves, for as long as he can remember. His closet at home is stuffed with his collection of subway posters. Interestingly, his twin brother is not a railfan. Asked how the rest of his family feels about his transportation obsession, Mr. Picker said, “They bear with me.”

Both teenagers described their motivation to edit Wikipedia as a mix of personal enjoyment and a desire for public service. Mr. Ng said that editing at times felt like a video game, except that instead of getting a high score, the reward was creating a page that left the reader more enlightened.

Railfans also like to leave their signature in the edit history of popular pages. Last year the general article for the “New York City Subway” received an average of 1,750 daily page views. Mr. Ng admitted that it’s flattering to know that so many people read his handiwork.

Status among Wikipedia editors is largely determined by other editors working in the subject area. Mr. Ng’s and Mr. Picker’s user pages display their collection of “barnstars,” digital badges that colleagues have given them for their work.

The Wikipedia article for “Second Avenue Subway” is a good example of their collaboration. Two years ago, Mr. Ng noticed that the page dedicated only a single paragraph to the extension’s massive construction effort between 1968 and 1975. He added further historical background. Mr. Picker’s changes include rewrites and visual edits — adding photos of subway construction that were available from the public domain.

Their diligence paid off, and the “Second Avenue Subway” article was selected by one of Wikipedia’s impartial reviewers as a “Good Article” in 2016. According to Wikipedia, less than half of 1 percent of articles on the site are awarded with this recognition.

Despite having collaborated on hundreds of subway articles together, the two have never met in person. “I wouldn’t mind meeting him someday,” Mr. Ng said. “But that day is a little far-off right now because of all my commitments.”

There is some competition involved. There’s frequently a race among railfans to be the first to update a page. Mr. Picker said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority usually releases materials for committee and board meetings on the Friday before those meetings, but as a conservative Jew, he can’t edit on Shabbat. Mr. Ng usually beats him in the race to update the site.

Unlike most of their peers, Mr. Ng and Mr. Picker are not active on social media, avoiding Instagram and Snapchat entirely. “It’s not productive,” Mr. Picker said.

The two teenagers independently emphasized that they are part of a community, but it is clear that they are a breed apart. Thomas Dorante, a 23-year-old graduate of the urban studies program at Fordham University, shares the same devotion to mass transit, having edited several Wikipedia articles while conducting research for his senior thesis, “Improving Transit in Southeast Queens.”

His productivity, however, usually can’t approach Mr. Ng’s and Mr. Picker’s, and the reason is simple, he said. “In high school and college,” he pointed out, “you have a lot more time.”

And yet youth can present a different set of challenges. A few weeks ago, Mr. Picker wanted to take a research trip to tour the East 180th Street Yard in the Bronx to see where a fleet of IRT cars are repaired and stored. Because he was not yet 18, he needed his father to accompany him. “He doesn’t really like the subway,” Mr. Picker said. “He only does that because I’m interested.”

 

Congratulations on the feature and thanks for your hard work.

 

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@Union Tpke thanks for your hard work. You're one of the best members that has ever joined this forum, and you are one serious railfanner. You contribute to discussions a lot, and your bio on this forum/wikipedia is very constructive and formal. While I tend to just photograph the subway, but you're more into the planning side of the MTA. On Flickr, you literally have a lot of pictures of vintage MTA brochures, articles, slides/pictures, everything. You think things out carefully, and develop ideas with a sense of thought. Being supplied with a vast collection of MTA merchandise shows that you have a strong advocation for trains, even moreso than any other person on this forum. I mean, I'm also heavily interested in subways, but I don't go above and beyond like you do. I bet you will have a good life after college, and even retirement. Working for the MTA is practically everyone's dream on this forum, I wanna also be a transit planner for MTA, @LGA Link N train wants to be the MTA chairman, and so on. 

I am currently 13,  and that's when I joined the forums, which was the same age you joined + many others on this forum. But discovering this forum literally changed your life. I mean, this site is a home, but you got to also meet new friends. If you collaborate with Mr. Ng, be sure to tell him to come to this forum. He'll also be a contributive member like you. You actually got the chance to open yourself up to everyone, and it gave you more motivation. And you know you have motivation because everyone is complementing you for being featured in this NY Times article, including myself. But the school you currently go to signifies that this forum + wikipedia actually contributes to your learning experience. I mean, I'm trying to develop this response with a sense of constructivity/thought. It's just as how you develop ideas and such. And if "wikipedia makes you a better writer," you'll get high grades in school, and possibly even scholarships. And that's really heartwarming and significant.

You know everything about the subway, from the most random track you can think of to 76 St. You know every station, every car type, every subway line, and just plain MTA. I honestly think that your hard work deserves a double plus in rating. But in outside of school standpoints, I think you deserve an 11/10. The MTA will be glad to have you work for them, and you'll maybe get an executive role because of your knowledge of subways learned from here, wikipedia, subchat, etc. You are vast, capable, and intelligent. You're not a tiny mouse afraid to eat the moldy block of cheese, but you're a wise person, who is only a senior in high school. You grew up with subways since you were little like everyone else on this forum, and you will continue to like it, even after you retire. I can go on and on, but I honestly know like, infinite characteristics of yours, so I sadly can't rattle it all. Aw man, I think you'll tear up with joy after seeing how much everyone supports you. 

But I do have one final word to pat you on the back...

"You continue to support that subway hobby of yours and keep up the hard work!"

- (C)(JFK)(A)

 

 

Edited by Coney Island Av
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@Coney Island Av My advice for you is to think more before posting something. Don't create useless threads like the NYCTF vs. Subchat thread. These type of threads are not productive and don't accomplish anything. Think about why you are on the forums. Are you here to learn more about the history/operations of the transit system, are you here to share your photos, are you here to propose ideas, are you here to inform others of updates? Think about why you want to post a specific thing.

This advice isn't just for you, but for the younger users of the forums. Try to follow proper forum etiquette. If you don't think something is allowed, it probably isn't, and if you are still unsure, ask. Try not to inflame others with your opinions, and try to keep discussions civil. Keep posting.

Also, most of the brochures on Flickr aren't mine. I just take those images from eBay. However, I do have a large transit collection.

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