Justin Knapp / Credit: Priceonomics

Priceonomics has a fascinating profile on “The Most Prolific Editor on Wikipedia.” Justin Anthony Knapp edits as the user koavf. Knapp is no longer the most prolific editor as of January 2018, as his position has been usurped by Sir Amantio di Nicolao.

Still, knapp’s 1,843,600 edits is nothing to sneeze at. The Priceonomics piece chronicles the reasons he began editing on the site back in 2003:

At the time, Knapp was three years into a college degree at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and had an insatiable appetite for new knowledge. To the young intellectual, Wikipedia was a treasure trove of accessible information. “I didn’t have Internet, or a computer, at home,” he recalls, “so I’d print out Wikipedia articles on campus, then read them at home.” [. . .] The following winter, Knapp realized that if he started making edits, he could “play a substantial part in creating and maintaining the site’s content.” From an anonymous IP address, he made his first contribution: an addition to the “Political Status of Taiwan” wiki. Shortly thereafter, he created a username, “koavf”, and devoted himself to a life of Wikipedia martyrdom.

Although Knapp has made the sacrifices common of many top Wikipedia editors, his efforts have not gone unnoticed by his fellow Wikipedians. In fact, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales gave Knapp a very special accolade back in April 2012.

Greetings everyone! I hereby proclaim, in my usual authoritarian and bossy manner, that today (April 20) shall forever be known as Justin Knapp Day. Wikipedians of the distant future shall marvel at the first person to ever make 1,000,000 edits. Tonight at dinner, every Wikipedian should say a toast to Justin and his many edits. In countries which celebrate Easter, which is sometimes at a similar time of year, and indeed will fall on Justin Knapp Day in 2014 for both the Eastern and Western traditions, children will be allowed to eat up to 1 million candies each.

Like many other Wikipedians, Knapp edits for internal reasons and does not believe he should be compensated:

Everyone should do work that is not for money. I believe that when you have free time, you shouldn’t spend it idling. I’m able bodied; globally speaking (though not at all locally speaking), I’m rich. I have a lot of resources other people don’t have — an internet connection, free time, the ability to speak English — and it’s incumbent upon me to use them to make the world a better place.

Read more about koavf at Priceonomics or on his fascinating Wikipedia user page.