Being smart, and being willing to learn new things, is respected. Whether you're an isolated nerdy kid or a public intellectual, it's hard to underestimate the power of a group people being willing and eager to seriously talk about -- not just ideas, but new things they've learned. I have never met another group of people anywhere (though librarians have this tendency too, which makes us kindred souls) who can get so excited about talking about what they were reading lately, or what they've learned, or some cool new thing that was discovered. Personal failings are trumped by having something good to bring to the discussion.
It's pretty fun.
Recognizing kindred souls in any circumstance:
I have been to hundreds of Wikipedia meetups over the years, on four continents. Here's what often happens:
- the participants meet each other, order beers or coffee or whatever, and then sit around somewhat awkwardly. Perhaps there are introductions. Everyone wonders why they didn't just stay home.
- Some common ground is found. "You worked on that wikiproject, too?"
- After the ice is broken, after an hour or two, you couldn't shut people up if you tried. Laptops have been broken out, to the bemusement of the other patrons of the cafe/bar/whatever. Someone has shown off some ridiculous page or discussion to much amusement. There has been (at least one) argument about an unfair banning/AfD/etc.
- Assuming the meetup goes on long enough, the probability of the discussion turning to copyright is pretty much 100%.
Everyone's a Wikipedian:
"Wikipedia syndrome" is what I call that sort of obsessiveness and un-ironical pedantic seriousness (about whatever) that many conflate with being nerdy. But here's the thing -- everyone's a Wikipedian. Some just express it more strongly than others :)
Think about it: you've encountered that kind of happy obsession before. Your uncle who collects stamps, your aunt who is a serious crafter, your second cousin who does community volunteer work, your other cousin who plays video games or listens to music -- whatever it is, everyone has something they're passionate about, and could certainly bring to the project with the right incentive. And that passion translates to long-term interest, to hanging out with others of like mind, to making things.
And this is meaningful: Wikipedians want to make things. They want to make an encyclopedia, a perfect article, a beautiful photo, even just a good process for doing these things. Making something great is our highest value, the end goal. Some people are interested in meta-making: a better world, a strong Foundation, a great meet-up. But all that energy harnessed in the service of getting something done? That's pretty powerful. Which leads me to...
It's never finished (but you can help):
There is a great collective sense that things aren't done, there's still more to do, and the energy that brings. Of course there's more to do -- have you looked at this crappy article, this broken process?! Let me get out my laptop....And yes, of course you can do this too. What are you interested in?