This is a letter I wrote to on the eve of my third anniversary of the day I created my account. Which was on the 26th of July, 2011, in case that matters at all.
So… tomorrow is my third wikiHow birthday. It feels really strange to look back on the journey that it has been. I was such a silly sixteen-year-old when I created my account. Something about the username should tell that to you… Writelf. Yes, that is a lower-case ”l” in the middle, not an upper-case ”I”, so don’t ask. In a way I don’t like it anymore. The username, not wikiHow, that is! But it is also now a part of me, just as my wikiHow journey is part of me. Therefore, I will not change it. I had to think up that username when I created my Wikipedia account (which has about 7 contributions on it, I think), because every single thing that I tried was already taken (much like my more recent struggle for a Twitter username). It is SO difficult to get a username on there! So I had to take what was partly the nickname my friends had for me at that stage and changed it a little. I dropped the double ‘E” that it used to have in the middle because it bothered me. If only I had though about it at that stage… I should have noticed that by doing it I was giving myself an unpronounceable username. But I didn’t and now, whenever someone asks me what my username is, I am forced to reply, “I will write it down for you, as I cannot say it.” Is it weird, if one does not even know how to say your own username? I suppose it is. Ah well, I am a weird person. Everybody who knows me knows that. In some ways, the silly sixteen-year-old that I was is not gone, but I hope that these days it is mostly under control. Do you think it is true what people say? About how it is not important how mature your thoughts are, or what stupid things you still manage to do, but how well you handle that inside voice. Yes, I will admit it: sometimes I enjoy the nfd|jok articles immensely, and I am extremely loath to press the delete button, but I also know that these articles have no place at wikiHow, and I will press that delete button when necessary. I remember there was once an article on how to walk down the sidewalk. It was hugely detailed and full of practical warnings, but it still needed to be deleted. I was laughing so much as I read it!
To look back tonight at the journey I have made, it feels as though those first days are so far behind me that they have disappeared from sight. I still remember how scared I had been to make my first edit. That was weeks after I had created my account — all that in-between time I had just been hanging about, trying to figure out how this wiki-thing worked, and how on earth “they” could just allow anyone to edit. I was sure that there must be a catch there somewhere. Well, there was – Recent Changes Patrol, but I just didn’t know about it at that stage. I was wondering how any site creator could place that much faith in completely unknown and uninitiated editors. I was very new to the idea of independent internet usage at that stage, so I really knew nothing at all about wikis. I knew a lot less about the internet that I know now. And that I was extremely shy and scared of contact with any unknown people did not help my hesitancy in editing here. I still am both those things actually — I just hide it better these days! I was far too shy to ask questions or ask for help. But finally I decided that I have to do something or I will never know. I picked my article carefully – it was an article about folding origami frogs, I seem to remember – and added a tip to it. I checked back again next day, and was amazed to see that my edit was still there in place. I had been fully convinced that it would be gone, but it was not. That day I got a terrible affliction: it is known as the wiki-bug. When you have it you feel a constant urge on the internet to correct other people’s writing – it does not matter on which website. Some days this gets so bad that I have to go blow off steam on my blog or in my journal.
So, finally to my point with this open letter. Thank you wikiHow: it has been a great experience. It is still is everyday. I am nearly 20 now (okay, okay, in a few months, but I just like saying it!), I am not a teenager any longer, and so much has changed. Even on the site lots of things have changed. But the people have always remained the same. Without the people, I would never have stuck on here. Without wikiHow’s people, I would never have gained control over my fear of speaking to strange people. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I will now say that without my wiki-experience, I would most probably now have been stuck in the wrong degree-direction. Law — ugh! Languages — YES!
Thanks for everything. I think you will be stuck with me for a long time to come still.