Annie Rauwerda is a neuroscience student by day and the curator of @depthsofwikipedia on Instagram by night. Since the pandemic, Annie has grown her Depths of Wikipedia Instagram page to 500,000+ followers. Amy Tom talks to Annie about how she grew her page, their obsession over cows, fun cows that have cameoed on Wikipedia, how she connects with her followers, and how she decides what to post. 🏋️♂️
On this episode of The HackerNoon Podcast:
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[00:00:00] Amy Tom: The other day I came across an Instagram profile, slash it was sent to me, and it was a post about bisexual lighting, which I am super into the idea of. And as I got further into this rabbit hole, I have discovered the depths of Wikipedia Instagram page, which is where that post came from. And I am very excited to have Annie join the podcast.
Hello, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
[00:00:30] Annie Rauwerda: Hi, I'm doing well. How are you?
[00:00:32] Amy Tom: Great. I'm doing good. This is the hacker noon podcast. And my name is Amy. Tom. Welcome everybody. Thank you for joining. So today I want to get into more about your Instagram page first. Can you tell me what the premise is? What it's about and when you started it?
[00:00:50] Annie Rauwerda: Absolutely. So I was a sophomore in college when COVID happens. And so staying at home left me with a lot of free time. And it was like the stage where everyone was baking bread, making projects like retailing, their bathroom. And I just decided to start documenting weird Wikipedia. Articles on Instagram.
It's been done before. Like there's a subreddit, there's like a small Facebook group, but I, I feel like finding things that are like short enough to be shareable and like weird enough to be super interesting. Hadn't really been done in this way on Instagram. And so I was super excited, like over the course of the pandemic, it really took off and now it's kind of my life.
So I just like every day we'll post. I don't know, I'm trying to think of some good ones, trout tickling, you can tickle trout and send them into a trance, the whole Wikipedia article about it, desire path when people like don't use the sidewalk and instead like make their own trails that are more direct.
There's a name for it. Um, there's a straw hat riot when people wore. Straw hats in 1922 past the day that they were like socially acceptable, um, and people died. So I really just like finding like weird corners of Wikipedia, like celebrating what I think is the best website on the internet. And I'm so glad that like 360 something thousand people on Instagram, like it too.
[00:02:15] Amy Tom: Yeah. Okay. This is a wild
cause you have grown the page so much. So
you start a posting early 2020 then. Yeah.
[00:02:24] Annie Rauwerda: April, 2020. Yeah. Okay. Wow. So it is
[00:02:27] Amy Tom: growing like crazy. Was there a particular post or moment that really accelerated your growth?
[00:02:34] Annie Rauwerda: That's a good question. I think that the early days of Instagram pages that eventually become viral are always like really interesting to hear about.
Um, cause I like now follow a formula. Like I post things that are very interesting or weird and then I just like let people comment and whatever, but back then I didn't really have as much of a formula. So I wasn't known as post things that were. Kind of more boring or dry. Like I just didn't really care.
I didn't really have an audience. I remember one post that did do really well was a picture of a cow and Emily who was famous for like escaping slaughter and running around in a newspaper reported that she was seen running with the deer. That one went around and then this influencer named Caroline Calloway shared some of my posts.
So I got a bunch of followers from that. And since then it's been like pretty steady exponential growth. Yeah.
[00:03:30] Amy Tom: Okay. That's crazy. I have so many questions about the depths of Wikipedia do you have a favorite page on Wikipedia?
[00:03:40] Annie Rauwerda: Okay. That's such a hard question. They're all my favorite. But, um, my favorite picture slash caption is this cow it's in the cow tipping article and the caption is a cow lying on her side is not paralyzed.
She can rise whenever she chooses. I liked it because it felt very like, like the epitome of the early quarantine mindsets. But there are so many good articles.
[00:04:05] Amy Tom: Wait, do you also love
[00:04:06] Annie Rauwerda: cows? I do. I mentioned the house twice. Like I do really, like, I
[00:04:13] Amy Tom: am obsessed with cows. This is great. I love cows. They're the best.
They're so good. They're so they're soft. They are really cute actually in person. I feel, um, they're they're, they're just the best.
[00:04:29] Annie Rauwerda: I love them.
[00:04:31] Amy Tom: What other exciting Cal facts do you have for me then?
[00:04:34] Annie Rauwerda: Oh my gosh. Off the top of my head. You're really putting me on the spot here. Oh my gosh. Um, okay. Because I told you about the content, the article, which is really interesting, Emily, the cow who escaped slaughter was really cool.
Shoot. I don't have anything great off the top of my head, but give me, give me another topic and I can try my best.
[00:04:59] Amy Tom: Yeah. I mean, I just think that there's probably like so many Wikipedia pages about cows that exists. And this is why, like your Instagram page, like really blows my mind because like, when you just really think about this, like the amount of Wikipedia pages that exists, it's really blowing my mind.
It's crazy. Do you know how many.
[00:05:20] Annie Rauwerda: So there is a page that's called list of individual bovines that describe like list all the individual cows that were important enough to get their own Wikipedia page. I'm looking through them right now. And it's crazy. Like there's this one named code blue who was a bucking bull.
There's a Grady, the Kyle who was stuck in a storage silo on a farm and gotten the news for that. Here's one with a funny name, Elm farm Ali, the first cow to fly an airplane. Oh my gosh. Oh, wow. This is like, kind of. An amazing page elicit individual bovines cows are the
[00:06:04] Amy Tom: best, man. Yes. So I wanted to ask you then about like creating a niche, Instagram page, how niche do you think would be to new.
You know what I mean? Because your Instagram page is like, it is pretty niche in sense of like Instagram pages, like what kind of content you're posting, but it has so many different facets of like interests that you can target. How do you decide what is too specific or, you know, are, do you know what I'm trying
[00:06:35] Annie Rauwerda: to say?
Yeah. I think that like deciding what to post is, um, something that I've definitely. Gotten better at over the year and a half. Um, because for things to be like appealing for, for a viewer, they have to be at least in some sense, relatable to their life. Like people aren't going to share something on their story if it's just like a mildly interesting fact, but people do really like to share things that allow them to say like, this is so me.
So like the desire path, the idea of. It's just, that's such a human thing. Like you don't use the sidewalk because there's a faster way. And eventually you make your own trail. Like there's something kind of poetic in that. And I think people like that aspect, like, um, there's like this like relatable, um, part of it also posts with animals tend to do really well, like things that are like charming and elicit emotions.
Those are good things that I don't really post very much, uh, Are things that are like, just not really broadly relatable, like
[00:07:46] Amy Tom: too dark or too political or stuff like that.
[00:07:50] Annie Rauwerda: There's yes. Like there's that, and then there's also things where it's like, people send me, like in my DMS interesting facts and it's like, okay, like, this is sort of interesting.
Yes. But like, it's just not interesting to people who don't have prior knowledge about the topic. I got to think of some examples.
[00:08:07] Amy Tom: You really have to like, know your audience so well then, so how do you engage with them? How do you get to know them? How do you get to understand what people are most interested in?
[00:08:20] Annie Rauwerda: Definitely by like Instagram's metrics. Um, I can do people comments, um, I can see, like, you know, if people like DME things afterwards or how much they like them and how much they share that. So that's always pretty interesting. Like the real glory is not the curation, but it's like the people that actually are writing these articles and I'm like, I edited like a PDF, but I'm not like, like a die hard editor.
Like there are some amazing, like super, super experienced Wikipedia editors that are just doing such good work. And like, yes, I like we'll add sentences here or there, or like fix a citation or whatever. But like, I feel like the real beauty of the page. The Wikipedia editors that are writing all this stuff for strangers to read.
[00:09:05] Amy Tom: Yeah. Then let's talk about how it works more because like, in, I guess I don't have like extreme knowledge of, uh, how Wikipedia works in my mind. It's like an online directory that anybody can edit, right? Yes. So there are like specific people who are like diehard, Wikipedia editors that like don't get paid, but just like, like to edit page.
[00:09:27] Annie Rauwerda: Like there it is by a few years ago, an estimate was that the biggest Wikipedia editors were like the small group of three to 5,000 people, which is a lot. But considering that it's global is really not as many as you might expect. Um, there are like many more casual editors. Um, and then if you count everyone who's ever edited Wikipedia article, it's probably a lot bigger.
I guess what's surprising to me is that anyone can edit, but not a lot of people do edit. And the way it works is you make an account, but you don't even have to, you could just edit from your IP address and you don't have to have an account. Um, and then like, if you're really brand new, like there's increased scrutiny because it's like, if you're going to be vandalizing a page, like, I dunno, people will want to like, you know, be careful if it's a brand new person.
And then once you make more and more edits, you get more and more privileges. There are certain topics that are very like controversial, for example, Donald Trump abortion, like just hot topics where you might have people trying to push an agenda and Wikipedia should not be a place where you can push an agenda.
So pages like the, like that are locked for new editors. And so you have to kind of prove yourself and then you can edit. Okay. And one big issue that I should mention in terms of Wikipedia. The fact that the editor base is largely white, largely English speaking, largely male. And so there are some current efforts which are really amazing to try to get more female editors, more POC editors, more like international editors that have.
In like amazing knowledge about these like very specific things that we can put on Wikipedia and different languages. So overall, like it's just this like machine that works on the power of like very smart, very dedicated, um, just like extremely diligent volunteers, which is so amazing. I feel like it's like the way the internet was supposed to be.
[00:11:29] Amy Tom: So yeah, I just find it really interesting that everybody volunteered. Wikipedia as an organization, do they pay people? Right? They do. Right.
[00:11:41] Annie Rauwerda: They have the Wikimedia foundation and there are full-time employees, but the editors are.
Um, okay. And how would you, what would you describe your editorial status as a cow?
Yeah, I would comment up like a casual editor. Like I fix typos here and there I'll like have a passion and I'll like, look on Wikipedia and I'll be like, oh my gosh, I cannot believe they didn't mention this. And then I'll look at the talk page and I'll either like, say like, oh, we should talk about this.
Or I'll just. If it's something chill and like simple, I'll just directly edit or add a citation. Sometimes citations don't work. Like you'll click on the citation. They'll be like, oh my gosh, this is a dead link. Like this doesn't work. And so I'll sometimes like clean stuff up like that. Um, I think it would be amazing if I were like hardcore and like, started doing like really like media edit, like making a bunch of new pages and like cutting a bunch of random fat.
Right now just based on like my time availability and stuff. I, um, I do more small edits.
[00:12:43] Amy Tom: Yeah. What kind of people are the people that do these big edits?
[00:12:49] Annie Rauwerda: Um, I don't know. It's really hard. Cause like Wikipedia, isn't an organization where. You're altogether very often. Like it's just people at their computers, like remotely.
[00:13:01] Amy Tom: What, what is your experience like with the culture of Wikipedia? Cause you're like in it.
[00:13:06] Annie Rauwerda: Yeah. Um, Wikipedia, like they have, they like me as far as I know, like they're definitely not angry that I have like, kind of like made an Instagram and tech talk about them. Um, like if they have like new initiatives or like Wikimedia foundation events or like a new filter or whatever, they'll sometimes be like, Hey.
Post about this. So I'm all about it. I hadn't, I hadn't edited on a couple of months ago, um, which was exciting to get more people editing. So yeah, I love, yeah.
[00:13:36] Amy Tom: All right. Exciting.
Let's go back to the Instagram page then, cause I have some more questions about like how you grew your audience. I'm not very good at growing an Instagram following.
I don't think like it's not really my strong suit. So what do you think that your secret to success.
[00:13:52] Annie Rauwerda: Oh, my gosh. Um, I don't know if there was like a single secret. Um, probably the fact that it was quarantine. I had a lot of time and my summer internship that canceled. So I just spent like a lot of time on Wikipedia.
And then additionally, additionally, I would like follow people that I thought would like the page. So I was just like, okay, like irreverent, young people who like to learn. So I would go to like college pages and like, see like who are really active users who appear to be in college. And I would follow them.
And a lot of times they would fall back. So I would do that when I grow the page. Um, I DMD a lot of people that I thought were cool and a lot of people that like, I think are cool. Probably are like, sort of aligned with like the vibe of the page. So some of them would follow back and like if they had big platforms and started resharing the posts, then you start reaching a lot of people.
So I don't know if there's like a secret side. I know a lot of people, a lot of people on Instagram will grow. Really weird ways. Like they'll have post notifications on like main pages and then immediately comment. And then they'll comment, will their comment, or like get a lot of attention or people will like, um, tag a lot of people in posts, like tag, famous people to try to get them to notice.
Yeah. So I don't know if there's any single way.
[00:15:14] Amy Tom: I know that's the problem. I'm confused about the algorithm. How do I master the algorithm? Do you think that is the hashtagging that you do? Is it your
[00:15:26] Annie Rauwerda: engagement? Like, I don't know. I know I ever do hashtags. Um, so I can't really speak to hashtags. Like I'm
[00:15:34] Amy Tom: sure they've never, ever done hashtags or you don't do it in.
[00:15:37] Annie Rauwerda: I'm sure I've done some here and there, but that's just not been a part of your strategy. It's just not part of my strategy, I say. Yeah. Okay. And
[00:15:46] Amy Tom: what is your engagement like with your audience? Like how well do you know them?
[00:15:51] Annie Rauwerda: That's a great question. I think I like that people
[00:15:54] Amy Tom: that like comment regularly and you see their name all the time or whatever.
[00:15:59] Annie Rauwerda: There's a lot of people that I feel like I'm friends with because they'll respond a bunch or comment a bunch. But then in reality, I'm like, okay, we're not actually friends. Like we just have been having this like online comradery for a year. But I think that there are definitely people that will comment on like almost every post.
And to see that there's a community, even if it's a kind of small, like just commenting community. That is so, so, so fun for me. Um, girl, your community's huge. What are you talking about? I think that's true. It's like, you know, hundreds of thousands of people following, but then the, or is like, like, you know, like the tight core of like really, really frequent commenters like that probably in the hunt.
[00:16:39] Amy Tom: still amazing. You're doing great. I wanted to ask you too, about your website and how you have
[00:16:48] Annie Rauwerda: merged. Yeah. So I started selling mugs to pay for my college. Um, cause I was just like, wow. I spend literally all my time working on this. Yeah, Instagram page. And I also have like, you know, thousands of dollars to pay for college.
So I'm not in it to like cash out in any way, but it's just like great that I could sell mugs with funny Wikipedia articles, give a big portion of profits back to Wikipedia, and then also like pay off college.
[00:17:20] Amy Tom: That is so amazing. And like that really gives power to the fact that you have done such a good job of growing your audience and that they are like willing to spend the money and to support you.
Um, which is like, so, so great. Yeah. That's super cool. What do you have planned next for dumps of Wikipedia? What's coming up?
[00:17:40] Annie Rauwerda: That's a good question. I've been making tech talks more. I feel like tech talk is like exciting to me because. The reach can be so big and the growth can be so fast. So that's really fun.
How has your experience been growing on that platform? It's so different. It's so different. Um, I don't know. It's like sometimes I'll post something that I think is really good and it will get a thousand views and then sometimes I'll post something that I think is really dumb and they'll get a million views.
So it feels very unpredictable. I also don't really know my audience. And people that are commenting, like they, it's very likely that they just saw it in there for you page. And don't really know what it is. Whereas Instagram it's like, if you're seeing it, it's pretty likely that you're already falling.
Yeah, so they're definitely different. Um, but to fix them fun. One other thing is that I have a newsletter now. it's been really fun every week. I send out like a bunch of trivia about a specific topic. So a lot of the trivia comes from Wikipedia and then I'll be like, okay, if you're in the mood for some rabbit holes, like here you go.
So it's fun to like talk about things in more depth. Then Instagram really lends itself to. So, yeah, those are like the biggest things right now. Yeah. How
[00:18:50] Amy Tom: long, how much time do you think that you spend on Wikipedia?
[00:18:55] Annie Rauwerda: Okay. Actually on like wikipedia.com, like, yeah. Um, I don't know, like a half hour a day, maybe really not too bad before.
It was more like before I would spend, a while, like I would really be searching for like the best. The best Wikipedia articles for awhile. But now I don't know. I feel like I have like a good repository of like good posts in my head and also people will send me, send me, so yeah, that makes it easier.
Yeah. That's super cool. And have
[00:19:28] Amy Tom: you ever put any monetization into your project?
[00:19:33] Annie Rauwerda: Oh, I've never paid for ads or anything. Like I've never done that. but I do sell the merge and then occasionally I'll do a brand deal. Like if a brand that I really like is like, we want to pay you to mention us. I'm not like closed off to that. I just feel like. I dunno. There's definitely pages that you just feel like advertisements, like it's just like a pay all these posters, just dumb ads.
I would never want to be like that, but I think like occasionally slipping in like some brands, but also provide some content that can like, yeah. I feel like that's the type of thing where it's like, like, I'm sorry if you don't like it, but I'm just going to do it. Yeah. That's so
[00:20:12] Amy Tom: cool. And I truly think that it's so cool that you have like, Made money off of this and are supporting Wikipedia and are supporting your school and education because yeah, this is like was a quarantine hobby that you have like really turned around and it's like super exciting.
It's super cool.
[00:20:27] Annie Rauwerda: It's been super fun. Yeah.
[00:20:29] Amy Tom: Um, what has been the biggest surprise for you running this Instagram page?
[00:20:34] Annie Rauwerda: Oh my gosh. Definitely. Getting the attention of people that are like famous, like John Mayer follows and likes it. And like, um, I'm trying to think of other people. There's just like some, like our Troyce Yvonne followed from a really early time.
I think that's the crazy thing for me. These people that are like, so untouchable, like they're like looking at the stupid captions I write like that really crazy.
[00:21:04] Amy Tom: Yeah. That's awesome. That's so cool. And yeah, I bet like. Every time someone shares your content. That's like, even, cause I famous, you just kind of like get a nice little boost.
[00:21:16] Annie Rauwerda: I know. I'm just like, whoa.
[00:21:18] Amy Tom: Okay. Yeah. Cool. Um, has there been like a particular effort or thing that you've done that you found that paid off the most
[00:21:28] Annie Rauwerda: paid off? I think just like frequent posting, like Instagram, just really rewards accounts that post like every day and even more. So it ticked off just like pushing content, like.
I think good in terms of getting a lot of followers. Um,
[00:21:43] Amy Tom: yeah. When you are a content creator to continuously push out content, um, do you ha you're you're a student, right. And did you go to school full time?
[00:21:55] Annie Rauwerda: Yeah. I'm like pretty busy. Um, and like, this is not my number one priority. Like, I mean, I mean, it kind of is I guess, but I still have like a full-time job basically of classes, um, for this neuroscience degree.
And even if I, I'm not sure, you know, if I'm really gonna traditionally use it, like if I'm going to actually be a neuroscientist, um, probably not, but, but still it's like, This like social media hobby is still kind of a hobby. Um, I feel like I could turn it into a job, um, or I could use it as like a launchpad to do something else in media.
Um, so I think like while yes, like there are days where I'm not very inspired to put anything out there. Um, I have enough like, ideas. Saved up, or it's not really that big of a deal to like, I don't know, just like push something out there. Um, when people send submissions in that makes it really easy to cause like a lot of the time the things they send are in fact, like really interesting.
So. Yeah, that makes easier. That's
[00:23:00] Amy Tom: awesome. That's great. It's amazing that you've grown your audience in this way. Uh, perfect. Okay. So if we want to find this Instagram page, what do we do? Where do we
[00:23:11] Annie Rauwerda: go? Okay. Open up your phone, go to Instagram. Depths of Wikipedia. Um, there's also depth with Amazon for funny Amazon product accepted Craigslist for funny Craigslist posts.
Um, I'm also in Tech-Talk, um, sign up for my newsletter and. I think that's every, that's all the big stuff. All right. Sweet. I
[00:23:33] Amy Tom: will put all of those links in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really appreciate it. I love to chatting with
[00:23:40] Annie Rauwerda: you about Instagram.
[00:23:41] Amy Tom: I have still a hundred thousand questions about how the algorithm works, but that's all right.
I'm going to get there one day.
[00:23:48] Annie Rauwerda: Yeah. Someday. None of us know we're I know. I feel like I'm subject to. Zach's whims like
[00:23:58] Amy Tom: you. Yeah, you let, he's like,
[00:24:00] Annie Rauwerda: I'll let you know how it's going to go. Good luck out there. But
[00:24:06] Amy Tom: anyways, this has been the hacker noon podcast. If you liked this episode, don't forget to like it, share it and subscribe to it.
You can find us at hacker noon on all the socials and stay weird and I'll see you on the internet. Bye-bye.