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Stateside Podcast: The depths of Wikipedia

Design by Rachel Ishikawa, Michigan Radio / Queen Elizabeth: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives from Canada, CC BY 2.0 | Benjamin Harrison: Public Domain | Snail: Zachi Evenor, CC BY 2.0 | Wiki logo: CC BY-SA 3.0 | Pizza funeral: Public Domain

The global pandemic made many of us into hobbyists.

Some took up knitting. Bread making. Photography.

Or, in the case of West Michigander Annie Rauwerda, Wikipedia page editing.

A few years ago, Grand Rapids-native Rauwerda was a sophomore at the University of Michigan and her classes were online because of COVID. Like so many others during that terrifying yet aimless moment, she picked up a new pastime to fill the extra space.

“I found myself reading these Wikipedia articles about things like fictional worms or, like, learning exactly how it is that snails reproduce or, I don't know, the early life of, like, Benjamin Harrison,” said Rauwerda.

Rauwerda started screenshotting her favorite Wikipedia entries and posting them on social media. She found entries like “List of informally named dinosaurs” and “Hotel toilet paper folding.” The result: a grid of joyful bitesize trivia.

Thus was born, the Depths of Wikipedia, her online project showcasing her fun finds.

Rauwerda has since graduated college, but her COVID pet project is still very much a part of her life. Over the course of the past several years, The Depths of Wikipedia Instagram account has amassed 1.2 million followers.

Rauwerda has taken the project on the road. She tours the country with her Wikipedia-themed comedy act — a rapid fire trivia-like performance.

“It's really fun for me because most of the people that come to the show are Wikipedia enthusiasts and they're interested, but not all of them are Wikipedia editors,” Rauwerda said. “I think the live experience has been fun because I get to meet these people in real life and they're really cool and fun. But also, I hopefully inspire them to contribute to the site that they love so much.”

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Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.