Filip Maljković from Wikimedia Serbia

Filip Maljkovic
Filip Maljkovic Photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg

How Filip and Wikipedia started to work together? Tell us your story 🙂

As with most people, I too was brought to Wikipedia through Google. I frequented the English Wikipedia main page as early as 2004, but I was not fully aware that there’s a community of people editing Wikipedia behind the scenes. Those days I was soaking up knowledge from digital encyclopedias such as Microsoft Encarta and Encyclopædia Britannica, but their content was limited in scope and especially depth. Wikipedia was beating them in terms of size and it was beating them fast. I remember losing many hours falling down the Wikipedia „rabbit hole“. At one
point, a sitenotice prompted me to think about who’s creating the content and soon I found out that there’s a vibrant community and that I can be a part of it. So, in September 2004, I tried to do some editing and I added some Latin phrases to the List of Latin proverbs and my
edits were immediately visible and they actually stuck. In the following months I did some smaller edits, but then I stopped. That is, until spring break 2005, when I started editing again out of boredom. I had just visited a car show in Belgrade and wanted to write about something
I saw there, and having noticed that there was no article about Toyota Aygo, I decided to create it. Soon I started adding photos I took on my previous travels in Europe to Wikipedia and I guess one Serbian Wikipedian noticed my edits on English Wikipedia and approached me, saying that I should „come over“ to Serbian Wikipedia, because it desperately needed editors. At first I was skeptical about it, but it quickly turned out Serbian Wikipedia was much easier to edit and improve, since it only had around 11 thousand articles back then. In a matter of days I started writing new articles, fixing existing ones and generally getting more immersed in the whole thing. Very soon I took
part in my first offline meeting of Wikipedians and I’m sure it helped that Jimmy Wales was visiting Belgrade in a week. Meeting him and many other local Wikipedians was, I believe, crucial in cementing me as a firm Wikimedia community member. Soon I became an administrator and then
bureaucrat on Serbian Wikipedia, and in December 2005 I was one of the founding members of Wikimedia Serbia, so I suppose the rest is history.

Which projects of Wikimedia Serbia you are most proud of?

Wikimedia Serbia has had a lot of projects in almost 14 years of its existence. One of its oldest programs and now one of its most developed is probably the Education program and it has a special place in my heart because I’ve been a part of it basically since its beginnings in 2005.
The first lecture/presentation I held about Wikipedia was in a private University in my hometown of Pančevo back in December 2005, when I was still a high school student. Even though the first fruits of our Education program labor were produced more than a year later, I believe these first steps were instrumental for us to determine that we really want to cooperate with educational institutions and all we needed was some time. Nowadays, the Education program works in basically all levels
of education and we have partnered with dozens of institutions throughout the years, creating millions and millions of bytes of content. At first, and in fact throughout most of Wikimedia Serbia
history, this program has been volunteer led and we’ve had tremendous success without any sort of financial help. However, we’ve spurred our progress with the introduction of the Education Program Manager position back in early 2015.

What is the best part for you prom being active in the Wikimedia movement?

I like getting to meet a lot of interesting people around the world. Having shown interest in international affairs, I’ve been (Wikimedia) Serbia’s go to guy when it comes to that and ever since my first Wikimania back in 2006 I’ve met hundreds of great people, some of which I truly consider friends. I appreciate the collaborations that these meetings bring about: the exchange of ideas and experiences, casual banter with like-minded people and long lasting relationships are just
some of the examples of this.

On the other hand, being the president of Wikimedia Serbia has also had some side effects: I’ve met the Mayor of Belgrade, appeared in many radio and TV shows and officiated many events, which are all nice things. Of course, there have been some bad things as well, like death threats, lawsuit threats and some stressful HR issues, but I suppose life can’t always be perfect. All in all, I think Wikipedia and Wikimedia for me have been net-positive experiences.

How do you encourage new people to join and become volunteers?

To be honest, I think I used to be a much better evangelist of our movement before compared to nowadays. But generally, I like to point out the positive sides: volunteerism, altruism, sense of community and belonging, widening of horizons and general knowledge, doing something useful with one’s time etc. Some people are more interested in offline (Wikimedia) rather than online (Wikipedia) work, so then I can show them what we’re doing in Wikimedia Serbia, hoping they might want to take part in some of the activities. Of course, most people don’t become volunteers, but most people do appreciate my work and the work of all the volunteers out there, lauding us for tireless efforts to make knowledge available to everyone.

Tell us a bit more about the CEE meetings and the one in October you organize.

CEE meetings are events that have taken place in the region of Central and Eastern Europe for years now and have been steadily growing in the number of participants, but also the number of external people interested in it. The first thought about creating such a conference happened in an informal meeting of Wikimedians from the CEE region during one lunch at Wikimania 2011 in Israel. There was a clear wish to organize ourselves as a region that has had a common or similar past
(communism in the latter half of 20th century, to be precise), since many things work in similar ways. The first actual CEE Meeting was held in Belgrade in October 2012 and I’m proud to have been one of the organizers of that conference. Of course, that was a smaller conference – about 40 people visited the conference throughout its two days of program – but the attendance and interest have grown quite well in recent years. This October, the conference is getting back to Belgrade for the first time since 2012 and this will be the 8th CEE meeting, with about 100 participants expected. This time around, we have 3 staff members of Wikimedia Serbia as well as some of us from the board and about a dozen other volunteers helping out with organizing this large event. I’m confident everything will go as planned, but the main worry our region has now is whether having CEE meetings still brings value and if so, where will Wikimedia CEE Meeting happen in 2020.

Your greeting to all wikipedians reading this interview? 🙂

Thanks for reading this far! 🙂 And thanks for contributing to this wonderful movement, because without people like you and me, this ecosystem of knowledge wouldn’t exist.