Meet Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) electrical and electronics engineering alumnus Dody Ismoyo, one of the world’s top 200 most active English-language Wikipedia editors.
“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it,” said American journalist Margaret Fuller.
For one Dody Ismoyo, the candles are from people worldwide, thanks to his contributions to the well-known free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Founder and president of the Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia, Dody is one of the most active Wikipedia contributors in the world.
As of press time, Dody has created more than 2,200 new Wikipedia articles, uploaded more than 2,400 photos to Wikimedia Commons (photo database site for Wikipedia) and made over 200,000 edits in Wikipedia, making him the 180th most active English-language Wikipedia editor in the world.
For comparison, at last count, there are more than 123,000 active Wikipedia editors worldwide.
An international environment
Currently working as an application technology engineer in Johor, Dody was born in Medan, Indonesia, to a petroleum engineer father and a lawyer mother.
One of seven students selected to further his studies in electrical and electronics engineering under the Petronas scholarship, he applied for the scholarship after learning about it through a local newspaper, having heard warm reviews from his mother and cousins who studied in Malaysia years ago.
Like his predecessors, he thoroughly enjoyed his time in UTP.
“Learning in a more international environment at UTP taught me to be more adaptive when it comes to dealing and working with people from various backgrounds,” Dody shares.
“When I went to Sydney to continue my master's degree, I was more well-prepared in terms of social skills.”
UTP is also where Dody started to delve into the world of Wikipedia.
“I didn't have a full understanding about some particular theory for an assignment so I turned to Wikipedia,” he explains.
“I was surprised that each article in Wikipedia is so interconnected to each other. For every single difficult-to-understand terminology, you can always find a full written article just to explain that jargon.
“Wikipedia changed my thinking about learning. The more I read information from Wikipedia, the more I longed to contribute back to this free knowledge movement.”
Multiple topics, multicultural representation
Dody edited his first article in 2009 and created his first one in 2012. As he familiarised himself with navigating Wikipedia, he went on to explore topics beyond electrical engineering.
According to Dody’s profile page, he has tackled topics ranging from politics and energy in Taiwan to tourist attractions in Malaysia such as museums, forestry and religious places.
From there, Dody further expanded his coverage to subjects based on his own observations.
One topic that has become close to his heart is accessibility for people with disabilities, as he noticed a lack of accurate information about this topic in Malaysia.
To improve factual accuracy, Dody visited various public places around Malaysia and took photos of establishments that provided accessibility for people with disabilities, especially disabled parking lots and wheelchair ramps. He even organised a Wikipedia meetup at a disabled home in Johor in 2018.
He says, “All these efforts are done in the hope that the content can serve as a comprehensive database for people with disability to have ease in their mind, knowing which places they can comfortably go around Malaysia and that there will be special dedicated facilities to help them to move around.”
During the weekends, Dody and his team would teach students about the mechanism of Wikipedia and how to optimally use it with hopes that they will grow and continue to write and edit on the website, ultimately improving and creating more new articles in other languages besides English. These languages include Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, Tamil, the West Coast Bajau language from Sabah and the Semai language from the indigenous Pahang Semai tribe.
“Our group is trying to engage with the local community to get input contributions so that those language versions of Wikipedia will be made available one day to the public,” he adds.
Making knowledge available to all
Dody’s work for Wikipedia has not gone unrecognised. The group has been recognised by the Wikimedia Foundation and early last year, it was registered with the Registry of Societies Malaysia under the Home Affairs Ministry.
Personally, Dody has attended two Wikimedia conferences, in Germany in 2017 and Thailand in 2019, both with full sponsorship from the Wikimedia Foundation. He also had the opportunity to present his Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (IEEE) technical papers in Hong Kong and Japan, which were about Wikipedia in electrical engineering education, as he used Wikipedia heavily to build up the content database.
Most recently, he was a keynote speaker representing the Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia at a joint event (online-based due to Covid-19) between the user group and Swedish Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
Though the group has about 50 members, Dody said only ten are editing consistently now. Most people who are interested in becoming editors eventually drop off because of the lack of monetary reward.
As a non-profit, Wikipedia relies on donations from readers to run the site, as it does not host ads for revenue.
Volunteers do not get paid for their work, as the donations are mostly used for maintaining servers, legal services and tech support, but are united in a common desire to make knowledge available to every person on the planet.
Writing for Wikipedia is Dody’s way of teaching the whole world about topics that interest him.
Even from his high school years, he would tutor his sisters and friends whenever they needed guidance in certain subjects.
“I’ve always believed that life is more than getting a good paying job, having a family and retiring,” he points out.
“Even when life and work are doing well, I still want to contribute to society.”
“My Wikipedia experiences gained me many international friends, self-fulfilment and satisfaction that money can never buy.”