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Senior Czechs refine Wikipedia as retirement hobby

PRAGUE (AFP) – A frail 80-year-old retiree does not fit everyone’s idea of a tech-savvy Wikipedia writer, but Jirina Kadnerova is a devoted contributor to the online encyclopaedia.

On a sunny Sunday morning, Kadnerova, a former librarian and bibliographer, snaps away with her cell phone in the village of Sobehrdy south of Prague.

She is gathering material on a local church for her next article, scuttering around the building with a curious look and talking to locals leaving a morning mass. That’s quite a difference from the average Czech Wikipedia contributor, whom chief executive Klara Joklova at the Czech unit of the Wikimedia Foundation, describes as “a man aged 15-35 with a tech background” – exactly what Jirina Kadnerova is not.

Kadnerova has been writing articles for the open-source encyclopedia since taking a course training elderly people under the “Seniors Write Wikipedia” project, a Czech initiative launched in 2013.

“Of course I used Wikipedia for many years, because librarians work with it, but I never thought I would like to contribute,” she told AFP.

After retiring as the head of a scientific library, Kadnerova never became a typical pensioner – a label she insists she hates.

Instead, she started attending university courses, took a bibliographer’s job at the Czech Academy of Sciences and does occasional stints as a tourist guide. Seven years ago, her grandson suggested she might contribute to Wikipedia.

“He said I had a decent expertise, that I can formulate pretty well, that I have written a few things and above all that I can find my way in databases and catalogues.”

Her first entry focused on a church in the small southern town where she is a tourist guide, one of around 100 articles focused mostly on historic sites that she has published since.

She has also edited more than 1,500 existing articles, often adding information about libraries in the region around her home city of Prague.

The Czech Wikipedia has over half a million entries and registers about 600 regular and thousands of occasional contributors – comprising an ever-growing group of Czech seniors.

Former librarian and bibliographer Jirina Kadnerova, 80, poses with a booklet with the title ‘Seniors Write Wikipedia’ in Prague. PHOTO: AFP