Kevin Gorman, who took on Wikipedia's gender gap and undisclosed paid advocacy, dies at 26
Kevin Gorman, a US Wikipedian active primarily on the English Wikipedia, has passed away after complications from a number of rare genetic disorders. He was 26.
Kevin joined Wikipedia as part of the 2010–11 Public Policy Initiative, a pilot project that tested the waters to see if Wikipedia could be adopted as a teaching tool in US universities. This initiative was later turned into the Wikipedia Education Program.
At the time, Kevin was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, taking a "Politics of Piracy" class in the spring 2011 semester, and it was probably from that classroom that he made his first edit, on 1 February 2011.
Kevin took to the site as a duck to water, making nearly 2500 edits in his first four months, and branching out into mushrooms, a topic for which he had a passion. By April, he had signed up to help facilitate a Wikipedia-oriented class that would be held in the following semester, and within two months had landed a summer communications internship with the Wikimedia Foundation. He came back to the WMF for a short time in 2013 to author a retrospective report on the organization's grants process, which took care to point out several significant potential risks in the process. In February 2014 he made international news headlines by becoming the first person to hold a Wikipedian-in-residence position at a US university.
As a volunteer, Kevin took on a heavy and often harassment-inducing load in combating bias in Wikipedia articles related to the men's rights movement—an effort that attracted coverage in the celebrity and pop-culture site Jezebel.
It was these experiences, according to the Feminist Philosophers blog, that persuaded Kevin to "attend the first class of Alex Madva’s feminist philosophy course, and ultimately led [him] to play an integral role in identifying and redressing the underrepresentation of feminist philosophy and women philosophers on Wikipedia." He later also became a moderator of the gendergap Wikimedia mailing list.
Some of those philosophers are listed in his userspace, and editors will note that many articles still need to be written.
Kevin continued to tackle paid advocacy right up until his 12,000th and last edit—a post on the harassment policy's talk page which read (in part):
||Last time I kept track there were at least 30 paid editing outfits. Any guess as to how many there are now that most of those who could take care of them and track them are gone, deliberately discouraged from doing so or no longer capable of doing so?
Kevin died in July 2016 from a combination of what his family described as multiple "very rare" genetic disorders, which had caused or were in addition to other serious illnesses that afflicted him—everything from sepsis to encephalitis. These ailments were a factor in a significant reduction in editing after August 2014.
Despite his health issues, he did try to turn his experience into a positive by contributing a significant amount of content to the article on immunoglobulin therapy—a treatment he himself was receiving. He wrote that he needed the treatment because he "never developed an immune system, and as a result, need[ed] frequent injections of antibodies pooled from y'alls blood plasma. ... the reason I got sick so often was because I had no immune system."
Kevin's generosity in death lives on through other people; with his prior permission, medical staff were able to use his liver, kidney, and heart for people in need. This kindness as a donor should surprise no one: he dedicated his life to helping others. It is a legacy that might cause us to be proud and grateful.
Community members are leaving condolences on Kevin's English Wikipedia talk page, and there are plans to work on the organ donation (see WikiProject Medicine) and Marfan syndrome articles in his honor.
His family has created a memorial on Facebook; according to his father, Kevin's friends in Berkeley are planning to hold a memorial service in the city on 21 August.
- The ed17 was the editor-in-chief of the Signpost from 2012 to 2015. He currently works for the Wikimedia Foundation.
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