For his Wikipedia articles on Snohomish County places, Bruce Englehardt of Marysville, aka “SounderBruce,” spends many hours researching local history at the Everett Public Library and Allen Library at the University of Washington. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

For his Wikipedia articles on Snohomish County places, Bruce Englehardt of Marysville, aka “SounderBruce,” spends many hours researching local history at the Everett Public Library and Allen Library at the University of Washington. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Meet Marysville’s Wikipedia workhorse

Bruce Englehardt spends about 40 hours a week working on the online encyclopedia. He has more than 80,000 edits.

MARYSVILLE — Wikipedia: It’s that website your history teacher told you never to cite.

The internet’s free encyclopedia houses more than 6 million articles in English, all written by volunteers around the world. And if you click on a topic related to Snohomish County, chances are you’re reading the work of Bruce Englehardt.

Under the username “SounderBruce,” the 24-year old Marysville resident edits Wikipedia articles related to his interests — soccer, public infrastructure, and especially, Washington towns. His current project involves filling out and improving all the articles on municipalities in Snohomish County.

“I just want to see things here covered appropriately,” Englehardt said. “Because before I started editing, it was a crapshoot whether or not you got good content about Washington.”

Englehardt scours libraries for the latest newspapers and local history books. He takes any worthwhile information he finds and adds it to Wikipedia. Did you know about the deadly 1969 train wreck that destroyed Marysville’s depot? Ever hear about the influx of Appalachian transplants to Darrington? If you read about it on Wikipedia, you have Englehardt to thank.

On a good week, Englehardt said he spends about 35 to 40 hours writing, editing, researching and photographing for Wikipedia. His 80,000 edits, or changes to entries, range from fixing typos to rewriting entire articles.

“It’s pretty relaxing most of the time,” said Englehardt, who works as a delivery driver for Amazon and several food ordering apps. “But also you have a feeling of accomplishment, and you can get things seen by millions of people.”

Not all Wikipedia articles are created equal. Each one is ranked by editors on a quality scale. Well-written articles with accurate and verifiable information are certified as a “Good Article.” Only about 10% of English articles meet the criteria. Englehardt said he wants to get all articles on Snohomish County towns up to this rating, and he’s about 65% of the way there.

He currently has 183 articles rated as “Good Article” and another 14 as “Featured Article,” the best of the best. A “Featured Article” has been reviewed by multiple editors and meets Wikipedia’s highest standards. Only a little over 6,000 of Wikipedia’s 6 million English articles have made the cut.

The first article Englehardt elevated to “Feature Article” status was the entry on Arlington. He made a custom map for the page, took photos of the town and did extensive research at his local library to earn the coveted label.

“And I’m still pretty proud of that one, too,” Englehardt said. “It was a pretty big achievement for me.”

The ranking system can help determine the accuracy of an article. If a page has plenty of sources from credible books and news outlets, chances are it’s reliable. But Englehardt said the site does have its limits.

“It’s like a regular encyclopedia,” Englehardt said. “You can’t cite it for academic purposes, but there are plenty of sources that we provide that are great for jumping off to further research.”

Englehardt doesn’t just write and edit. He is also an amateur photographer and has uploaded a few thousand photos to Wikimedia Commons, the website hosting the images used on Wikipedia. He likes to photograph public places such as streets, signs and storefronts.

Sometimes this leads to trouble when people mistakenly think he is photographing them or their homes. People have yelled at Englehardt and called the police. He was even assaulted one time while photographing a sign at a subway station in Los Angeles.

“People get very antsy about the photograph,” Englehardt said. “And it’s not for nefarious things. I’m just here to capture a moment in history.”

Not only does Englehardt get a sense of satisfaction from his work on Wikipedia, but he has also made many friends who share his passion. Englehardt is a board member of the Cascadia Wikimedians User Group, a club for Wikipedia enthusiasts living in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. The group attends Wikipedia conventions together and leads “edit-a-thons,” workshops teaching people how to edit the site.

Englehardt said there is a common thread among the many editors he has met. Englehart first contributed to Wikipedia at age 10 after he noticed a lack of information on his elementary school and local area. He felt the need to fill in the missing history and found the task liberating compared to school assignments. It’s a feeling Englehardt said he shares with many other editors.

“We see this big piece of information that we can add in. And there’s no one telling us not to do it,” Englehardt said. “We are respected on (Wikipedia), regardless of age, and there’s no authority saying, ‘Hey, you can’t do that.’ Except for some site-wide rules, you’re free to do what you want to do.”

Englehardt doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. His dream project is to rewrite the article on Washington state.

“I just want to completely bulldoze it and rewrite it from scratch,” Englehardt said. “It is a mess right now. Half of it is unsourced. The paragraphs are choppy. It just doesn’t flow well.”

But that would require an extensive amount of time and effort, he said. So for the moment, Englehardt is content with improving the Snohomish County articles. It’s the kind of work that won’t be seen by millions of people, but for Englehardt, it’s gratifying and rewarding.

“I see it as a hobby and a way to leave something behind online,” Englehardt said.

Want to contribute to Wikipedia? Visit wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Introduction to learn how.

Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; eric.schucht@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.

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