Steven Pruitt, Wikipedia's Unofficial King, Has Shaped a Third of the Site's Articles

iStock.com/tomch
iStock.com/tomch

For every Wikipedia article you've read about pop stars, historical figures, Star Trek races, or defunct fast food chains, there's been a writer behind it. And there's an outsize likelihood that writer is Steven Pruitt. The Virginia resident has made 3 million edits and authored 35,000 articles on the website over the past 13 years, meaning that he has helped shape up to a third of all English-language content on Wikipedia, CBS News reports.

Pruitt made the news back in 2017 when TIME magazine named him one of the 25 most influential people on the internet. Prior to that, he had been working for the site for more than a decade, writing under the username Ser Amantio Di Nicolao, an homage to his favorite opera character (from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi).

He wrote his first article while studying art history at William & Mary college, and his passion for history drives many of his contributions. His first Wikipedia subject was Peter Francisco, a sergeant-at-arms during the Revolutionary War (who also happens to be Pruitt’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather).

Today, Pruitt spends at least three hours a day researching, writing, and editing for Wikipedia, but he doesn't receive any compensation for his work. The time he devotes to the website on evenings and weekends is strictly on a volunteer basis. His day job is working for the records and information governance department at U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C.—a gig he believes he landed thanks in part to his experience with Wikipedia.

Pruitt is notable not just for the sheer number of articles and edits he has contributed, but for what he chooses to highlight. After learning that women were the subjects of just 15 percent of biographical articles on the site, he worked to fix that imbalance by writing hundreds of articles about influential women. That number has risen to 17.6 percent in just the past couple of years.

Learn more about Pruitt and his Wikipedia habit in the video from CBS below.

[h/t CBS News]

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Scope Out the Best Christmas Light Displays in Your Neighborhood With Nextdoor's Cheer Map

can72/iStock via Getty Images
can72/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, driving around the neighborhood to admire the gorgeous light displays (or laugh at the garish ones) is a beloved holiday tradition. But if you live in a big city or only want to check out the most impressive displays, you might not know where to look. That’s where Nextdoor’s Cheer Map comes in.

Nextdoor is a free and private social network that lets you interact with other people in your neighborhood. It’s used in more than 250,000 neighborhoods around the world, and if yours happens to be one of them, you can use the Cheer Map to find the nearest Christmas light displays in your area. The map is crowdsourced and voluntary, so your neighbors can mark their own homes with a holiday lights icon. And if you're eager to flaunt your own festive decorations, you can mark your home on the map, too.

The results will look something like this:

A woman uses Nextdoor's Cheer Map app
Netxtdoor

You can access the Cheer Map online, or via an iPhone or Android device. To get started, click the Cheer Map link, and you’ll be prompted to create a free online account with Nextdoor if you don’t already have one (signing up is quick and easy). Once you’re logged in, a pop-up window will ask whether you plan on decorating for the holidays; select “I will” or “Not this year,” then click "Continue." If you don’t want to participate, you can also select “Skip” to jump ahead to good stuff and access the map of decorated homes in your neighborhood. And that’s it! If you selected “I will,” a colorful light icon will mark your home on the map.

For those who live in small towns, there’s a chance you’ll be the first person in your neighborhood to join the site. Unfortunately, that means your neighborhood won’t be officially “launched” on Nextdoor unless you get nine of your neighbors to sign up. But even if you aren’t able to use the Cheer Map this holiday season, you could help spread the word (and holiday cheer) to get your neighborhood on the map for next year.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER