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Wikipedia's race to cover the queen's death

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

To many around the world, the death of Queen Elizabeth meant the end of an era. But for Wikipedia's volunteer editors, her death meant it was time to get to work. Immediately after the official announcement, an army of editors rushed to update her page.

ANNIE RAUWERDA: Seconds after the news came out that Queen Elizabeth had died, the edit conflicts on the article for her just absolutely spiked.

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

That's Annie Rauwerda. She's a Wikipedia editor and runs the Twitter account Depths of Wikipedia. At the peak of the chaos, more than 300 versions of the article were being saved simultaneously by different editors. But they were editing more than just Elizabeth's page. They also had to figure out what to call Charles. The title of his article saw a similar spike in edits.

RAUWERDA: It went from Charles, Prince of Wales to Charles III to Charles, King of the United Kingdom back to Charles III.

MCCAMMON: This scramble to update Wikipedia after a celebrity dies happens all the time. Some even call the editors who make these changes deaditors (ph), and they're the subject of a bunch of memes.

RAUWERDA: People have said that Wikipedia editors are the - you know, they can make the fastest past tense in the west or, you know, X is fast, but Wikipedia editors, when someone dies, are even faster.

BRUCE ENGLEHARDT: It's definitely a little bit of honor to be the first one to get to a biography of a famous person and start editing that.

SUMMERS: That's Bruce Englehardt. He's a Wikipedia editor and a deaditor. He was the first to update Stephen Hawking's page after he died. He does it for the bragging rights.

ENGLEHARDT: It's pretty much meaningless in the long term, but it's just a nice little ribbon in your - feather in your cap to have that on your so-called Wikipedia resume.

MCCAMMON: And thanks to editors like Englehardt, you can be sure the next time a famous person dies, they'll be memorialized on Wikipedia in the correct tense. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kai McNamee
Sarah Handel