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Wikisource For A Social Justice:Story of Gujarati Wikimedians Helping the Visually Impaired

Story of Gujarati Wikimedians Helping the Visually Impaired

Gujarati Wikimedians have been working on the Audio Book project on Wikisource to help the visually impaired people. An Interview with the lead contributor Mr Modern Bhatt by Abhinav Srivastava with inputs from Sushant Savla. 

Gujurati Wikisource logo – image by Dsvyas CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported

Q.1) It is always said Indians love Wikisource, but, Audio Books ? That isn’t a routine. How did the idea come up ?

I am a regular visitor to a blind school in Bhavnagar which also happens to be my hometown. I help students with English and Mathematics and quite often on request by students, I used to narrate stories to them. It was then that the school director, who is also blind himself, proposed an idea of having pre-recorded books. 

The audio recording then started and there is no looking back. 

Q.2) Is there a specific thematic area where you work upon say a specific Gujarati author ? 

If I have to name just one, then it has to be Jhaverchand Meghani. Ever since my childhood till today, have fondness and admire his contribution to the Gujarati literature. He wrote on the history of the Saurashtra region of Gujarat from where I belong. He travelled from one village to another discovering facts and evidences. 

Q.3 ) The Open Knowledge Movement is for a better society, however, its end-merit remain incidental. Your initiative directly helps the visually imparied. What motivates you ?

Obviously those students from the blind school however it is also encouraging to know that normal people like you and me busy in daily routine for bread and butter are also the beneficiary. Audio books saves time. 

Q.4) Did peers from your community also join you in the initiative? Tell us how they read this? What kind of conversations happen around Audio Books ?

I am humbled with the support I receive from my fellow Gujarati Wikimedians like User:sushant_savla and others. We have an active Whatsapp Group where we regularly debate and discuss Audio books project. To share a more precise and latest update, we are sampling voice for Women authors and also selected few, to name,  Bharti Chavda.

Q5.) Unheard and unfound, there are a lot of challenges, efforts and struggle that go in with passionate Wikimedians ? Tell us something in brief

I was working on a book, ‘Saurashtra ma Rasdar’ which has 28 Chapters and roughly 350 pages. While working on that book, I was a victim of sore throat and had to consult a doctor. The doctor gave me a few medicines and I recovered my voice. 

That’s all. Otherwise, as they say in Gujarati, I have been in, ‘Majama’.

[laughs]……[laughs]

Q6.) Back in your mind, you would have done the maths on number of books which you wish to complete. There would a rational maths to say the number of books that are practically possible but there would also be a dream number. Tell us about that dream number and more. 

I would like to answer this differently. The Audio Books Projects still happens to be very new and we are learning and gaining experience everyday. Not quoting any number but having as many number of books is the aim. I retire from my job this July 2019  and would devote much more time to the project and make the maximum possible.

Q7.) India has Wikisource active in so many languages? Any message for them on Audio books ?

Gujarati Wikimedians have the highest regard for each and every Indian language , they show the diverse Indian culture. We all are always there to assist to the best of our potential.  A learning to share would be, struggle in finding volunteers. That’s an important area that needs to be contemplated. 

Q8.) Gujarati language has a very close connection with Kutchi language. Kutchi does not have a Wikimedia project and remain in incubation. Do you believe something like Audio books could provide a stimulus in their growth ?

Well, that needs to be seen but Yes there is a possibility. I can say there are a lot of material for Kutchi language to be worked on Wikisource. Necessary we find a group committed volunteers to take it up. Also, I would like to mention, Blind people association have shown support to host activities in the Kutch area of Gujarat.   

Q9.) Tell us something more, do you also edit on other Wikimedia Projects ? Briefly share your experience. 

At the moment, I devote all my time and energy to Wikisource. However, someday maybe definitely. All Wikimedia Projects are public goods for welfare. 

Q10.) Tell us something about your personal life? Where do you belong ? What do you do in your personal life etc ?

I stay in Bhavnagar, city of Gujarat and I am a banker with The Bank of India. India is a developing world and there are so many unbanked. My professional life deals with developing saving habits and promoting financial inclusion for a better India. 

Growing Women Leadership In India : Eyes From Featured Wikimedian Of The Month Program

Wikimedians are a bunch of silent nobodies, tireless and restless in doing what they love doing. Silent nobodies who stand for their passion, silent nobodies who stand for their ethnicity. But is there equity and diversity amongst the nobodies. It’s no secret there isn’t. Endless discussions, deliberations, debates to communicate, coordinate and command do not boil down the problem of having a gender-neutral Wikimedia. There are undying efforts though to say the least, it’s a priority for most of us. Most of the nobodies, most of the affiliates, most of those who are leading the initiatives admit, accept, acknowledge and appreciate the need to articulate this as a principal priority problem.

We at Wikimedia India, have been documenting the success stories every month for these silent nobodies. The stories of those silent editors who are, lesser known to the larger Indian and global communities. Recording stories since 2011, Featured Wikimedian of the month is a storytelling exercise, where every month a Wikimedian is identified and a short story is blogged. The idea is not only to facilitate the person for efforts but to build the moving spirit and motivation for others to follow.

In this edition , Wikimedia India will  featured three Women Wikimedians.


Here is a small story on how they are doing today from the time they were made the featured Wikimedians.

Nitesh Gill during Train The Trainer 2016

Nitesh Gill : Nitesh is a Wikimedian on Punjabi Projects and she was featured last March in 2018. Either it be then, or it be today, there has been no change to Nitesh’s dedication and commitment  toward Wikimedia. She was featured last March after having completed 365 day challenge on 28th February where for each of those 365 days she had written an article on Women biography. Today, that score for Nitesh has reached more than 700 and she is still unstoppable. She has an aim to reach 1000 articles at the moment but who knows the scores may keep rising as the enthusiasm is indefinite.

Nitesh was previously pursuing her scholarship in Mphil for Punjabi literature and has now successfully attained it. She believes for equality and justice, women’s really need to know about their rights at the first place.

Ananya Mondal

Ananya Modal : Popularly known as the Butterfly Wikimedian. The passionate Ananya Modal with User Name: Atudu is a clinical nutritionist who works on Bengali Wikipedia, Bengali Wikisource, Wikidata and uploads pictures of butterfly, also snakes and other fauna and flora too. Ananya who was featured in September 2016 had then written 90 articles and had an edit count of 9,000 +. Today, she has written more than 250 articles, has an edit count of more than 38,000+. Till date , over 300 butterfly species and subspecies have been photo documented (with more than 100 images in Valued Category ) and near about 200 articles on butterfly have been contributed. The numbers are galloping any moment and let’s not miss her contributions to Wikidata and Wikisource.

Her Wiki Loves Butterfly Project which earlier had a geographical base for the state of West Bengal has now reached entire North-East India. Growth in her leadership skills has led her in hosting Wiki Loves Monuments in India 2018 and being on the International Jury for Wiki Loves Earth Photo Contest in 2018.

In some of her initiatives with West Bengal Wikimedians User Group, she has  included two female participants from Assam , made them wiki contributors and mentored them to take fore-front role and even lead different fieldwork operations and they have been given utmost importance among experienced and expert fieldworkers. As a result , those two female wikimedians are developing the necessary skill and motivation.

Pankajamala Sarangi

Pankajamala Sarangi : Ask anyone in Indian community about Pankajamala who has a User Name:Pmsarangi and they will tell you she one of the most active contributors on Odia Wikisource. Yes ! That’s correct and for that reason she was featured wikimedian in January,2016. But that’s not everything. Her passion for Wikisource hasn’t been restricted to just Odia, she also one of the most active contributor on Hindi Wikisource (which is under incubation). She is helping out today Hindi Wikimedians, training them on one-to-one basis and also participated in Hindi Conference to make them understand, Hindi needs a Wikisource. Today, Hindi has fulfilled the requirements of the Language committee and at any time they could get their domain. User:Pmsarangi is one amongst those who deserve appreciation for the same.

She dreams to have at least one women from every family as an editor on Wikimedia Projects.

Written by Abhinav Srivastava

Edited by Yohann Thomas

Fifth AGM of Wikimedia India Chapter

An AGM is an annual general meeting or General Body Meeting conducted once per year where members of Wikimedia India chapter gathers to discuss, audit and make report of the chapter’s functioning. Wikimedia India Chapter, which was approved by the Chapters Committee of the Wikimedia Foundation in 2010, is registered under the Karnataka Societies of Registration Act 1960 which complies the chapter to conduct an AGM along with audit of the accounts every year. A notice of an AGM is generally announced 21 days prior to the date of the Annual General Meeting and sent to all the members of the chapter.  During the annual general meeting as per Karnataka Societies Registration Act 1960, election of executive committee members of the chapter, submission of annual account reports and restructuring of rules and policies are generally agreed upon.

The 5th annual general meeting is scheduled to take place on 29 January 2017 at the chapter’s office located at

Work Adda, No.98/1, MMR

Plaza, 1st Floor, Above DCB Bank, Sarjapur Main Road, Jakkasandra, Koramangala 1st Block,

Bangalore

The meeting and discussion during the 5th AGM will reflect the chapter’s work during the fiscal year of 2014-2015 which includes,  approval of the report of the activities of Wikimedia India Chapter, consideration and approval of the audited accounts, consideration and approval of the results of the Executive committee elections conducted in November 2015. Draft budget (2015-2016) and appointment of auditors for 2015-16 will be considered. Discussion to extend the membership validity from 1 year to 5 years will take place during the meeting. Future projects and the learnings of the chapter from their past events will be summarized and any other subject will be discussed with the permission of the chair.

The World’s Largest Democracy Meets The World’s Largest Encyclopedia

Rear side of Taj mahal - The winning photogrpah of WLM 2012

One does not need to be quizzed on this, Wikipedia is unarguably the World’s Biggest Encyclopaedia both in terms of information and readership, its merits and endeavour remain unmatched. Similarly, India is also the world’s largest democracy promoting free speech, expression and voice. India’s rapid economic progression from curbing poverty to advancing towards digital literacy via technological advancements remain unparalleled. Recognising the potential amongst the two, when Wikipedia and the people of India come together something big is bound to happen, categorising, ‘bigger than the biggest’. Wikipedia’s parent organisation Wikimedia Foundation runs an annual international photographic competition, ‘Wiki Loves Monuments’ where participants upload pictures of Indian monuments its architectural heritage , ancient heritage and much more clubbed under India’s unique monumental diversity. Wikimedia India, the affiliate of Wikimedia Foundation will be hosting this program in India between (September 1st – September 30th), when you surf Wikipedia to gain information about something in September, you will find a Wiki Loves Monument in India banner at the top.

The basic concept is that people are invited to upload images of monumental objects under a free license for usage on Wikipedia. The participants images are subsequently uploaded on Wikipedia pages which not only gives their photography a global recognition but also at times convince them to contribute content on Wikipedia. That’s not all ! The journey is much longer, Wikipedia has a long list of sister projects such as Wikivoyage, Wikiversity, Wikinews etc. The pictures are subsequently used on these sisters projects as well. Next time there is some development in Ellora Caves, you may be reading about it on Wikinews with your photography attested to it. You may infact be planning to visit Ellora Caves for a vacation, your search results may be directing you to Wikivoyage, you may find your picture out there !

Home to several ancient cultures that date back to time immemorial, it should come as no surprise that India happens to be one of the biggest challenges in capturing as many historically significant sites as possible. India has a nice bend of monumental history stretching from ancient civilisations like Dholavira in Gujarat to Rakhigarhi in Haryana or Ropar in Punjab to Alamgirpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Photograph of the 9 stupas at Thiksey (Leh District)

With the help of the Archeological Survey of India lists who captures all of them, Wiki Loves Monuments team would concentrate their efforts on shrines of national and international importance.The 2011 version of WLM was accredited with a Guinness World Record for the World’s largest photo contest with 168,208 images being submitted during the contest, 2012 made way for bigger records with more than 350,000 photographs of historic monuments being uploaded by more than 15,000 participants. The 2016 contest plans to carry many more records with it, all five continents would go ahead in making this contest a success.

The year 2016 has already brought success to India. In June, this summer, Wiki Loves Earth a photography competition to record India’s flora and fauna recorded an unprecedented 32,000+ images from more than 6,000 contributors across India. Stretching from Ladhak in Kashmir, Jim Corbett in Uttrakhand, Western Ghats in Maharashtra to the backwaters of Kerala. Everything was captured !

Wiki Loves Monument is another such attempt, to capture India’s heritage digitally. This time, even bigger !

Written by Abhinav Srivastava

Posted by JimCarter

How a Project united the Indian community

India is well known throughout the world for its diversity, and even in the Wiki world, this diversity exists. In India, there are a total of 22 Indian language projects including the latest Konkani Wikipedia which came out of the Incubator just last year. One of the major activities which had taken place at the national level was the Wiki Conference India, way back in 2011  . That Conference indeed gave a major boost to the Indian Wikimedia Community as a whole. But since then, there has been no major Community led event which has had a huge impact.

When you look at the usual “Wiki Loves” type of photo uploading competitions which are organized in India, there have been a few happening every year like Wiki Loves Monuments – 2012 ,2013 & a  very humble Wiki Loves Earth in 2014. All these very limited to a few organizers & volunteers. There was obviously a good Social media outreach for all these competitions which saw a very good turnout amongst the Public. But, never did the Indian Wikimedian Community ever feel that they were part of this.

In February 2015, when we at Wikimedia India decided to launch a “Wiki Loves” type event, we had already zeroed in on the topic of food. India due to its diversity also has a similar diversity in its cuisine. It was also observed that there was a dearth of good images of Indian food & drinks which was the original plan behind running our first Pan-India Photo uploading competition called “Wiki Loves Food”.

We were very clear that this should be a community run competition. This was in fact the situation where there was no major collaboration of volunteers on a National level . As always, next came the difficult task of pitching the idea to the community on the India mailing list. As usual, there were a lot of initial apprehensions and doubts, not forgetting the friction in community engagement, which was quite expected anyways. Most of the volunteers who signed up were just curious about the competition but felt that this project had potential. The real good part of this was that the volunteers were not from one region but were spread across the different language communities and  regions. Without any doubt, we can say that Wiki Loves Food was the first major program from Wikimedia India after a long time that actively involved  the pan-Indian community.

The  first ever edition of Wiki Loves Food started on 15th May 2015 and ended by June 15th. The competition saw 15+ volunteers work day and night to make this possible. By the time the competition was over and results were announced, the team of volunteers were elated that they pulled off such an campaign with 10,000+ images uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. As mentioned by Bodhisattwa Mandal of Bengali Community – “The event helped to bring together active members from all Indic communities discuss, plan and successfully execute the event in a coordinated way. It also deepened the relationship with Wikimedia India and the Indian language communities, which was a great achievement according to us”

The Impact of having such a campaign has had an enormous impact of how the Indian Wikimedian community has worked. This is one of the stepping stones for the planning for the WikiConference India 2016 . Most of the volunteers who were active for Wiki Loves Food are now involved in the planning of the conference.

This level of inter community partnerships amongst the different  Indic language Wikimedia projects is a new chapter in the growth of the Indian Wikimedian Community, I  look forward to the continuation of similar acts. Who says diversity can be an obstacle,  in this case diversity was a huge asset,  which we as Indic Wikimedians celebrate and  will always be amongst our strengths.

Written by Yohann Thomas

Posted by JimCarter

Anonymous registered users on Indic Wikimedia projects

Wikipedia is made and contributed by one of the biggest communities on the internet, yet, 79% of the total community members are identified by only one name,”Wikipedian”, apart from their respective usernames. They don’t identify who they are, where they are from, what their gender maybe, yet Wikipedians are one of the kindest and welcoming community on the internet and there are not a single question in the planet that cannot be answered on a Reference Desk of English Wikipedia by “Wikipedians”. Though some Wikipedians provide information about themselves on their Userpage and sometimes some users have their username resembling their real names but most the time, those are just so little information that nothing can be deduced about who they really are. That’s the nature of how Wikipedia works, Wikipedia does not need anyone to disclose their identity, everyone is treated in the same way without any discrimination.

Unlike English Wikipedia, Indic language Wikipedias are made by much smaller communities and due to the concise nature, each member knows everyone from their community in real life, perhaps they all gathered in a conference?  In July 2016, during the WikiConference India, Indic wikipedians gathered in Chandigarh, which brought almost everyone in one place, however, their are some people even in the Indic community who are truly anonymous. What we know of them are just their usernames and contributions. They are the unsung heros of Wikipedia. Recently, in March 2017, we finally had a recognition of one such unsung hero who goes by the username “User:SM7”. SM7 is a Bhojpuri and Hindi language Wikipedian who has been contributing on Wikipedia for over 6 years. There are other such registered editors on Indic language Wikipedias who are like SM7.

On Punjabi language Wikipedia there are two such editors. User:Malwinder25 is one of them, registered on 2015, they have since made over 16 hundred global edits; significantly on Punjabi Wikipedia. Apart from their username which indicates their Indic origin they are totally anon, according to Malwinder 25’s userpage, they are just “An avid Wikipedian….”.

The other Punjabi Wikipedian, “User:Balvindra Kathuria” is another such editor who have not revealed much information about themselves,* they may not even live in India, we don’t know, their contributions may not be in thousands but their little contributions helps the project to grow.

On Hindi Wikipedia, apart from SM7, there is another such anon-registered user who goes by the username “स”. स is a Hindi alphabet. The userpage of the user does not give any information about the user, neither their contributions give any geographic indication of their location, however, their contributions signifies that they are working for the betterment of the Indic-projects, making them a member of the Indian community. Since registering on September 2016, they have contributed on more than one Indic-language Wikipedia. In just seven months they have made over 2100 edits, as of May 2017.

Bengali Wikipedia, being contributed by people from distinct geographic locations, the number of unsung heros are more than any other Wikipedia. On a cursory look we have found at least three established editors, “User:আদিব এহসান”, “User:খালিদ সাইফ” and “User:Parvezahmed” who chose not to reveal their identity.

“User:আদিব এহসান”, editor with more than 2,400 edits on Bengali Wikipedia appeared to be based somewhere in Bangladesh. Though “User:খালিদ সাইফ” has over 1,700 edits, they don’t have a user page. “User:Parvezahmed” has a very interesting user page, where we saw Jimmy Wales peeping out from one side of the page and a bouncing Wikipedia logo in the bottom. The editor appeared to be from somewhere in Bangladesh who has over 1500 edits on Bengali Wikipedia. This people are unknown to the local Bengali user-group, but their contributions make them a significant part of the community.

“User:Malikaveedu” who got so much recognition for their good contributions as evidenced on their user-page, has never revealed their identity among the Malayalam community members even after registering 7 years from now (2017). They have made over 4,100 positive contributions on Malayalam Wikipedia and is still actively working to expand the scope of the project.

“User:Praveenp” another Malayalam Wikipedian who is believed to be anon-registered user. Not many people on the Malayalam community knows the person in real life. However, they are a highly respected and established Wikipedian. Registered over 9 ago, they have made over 22 thousand global edits and has been a bureaucrat on Malayalam Wikipedia  for a very long time. According to their Wikimedia Commons’s userpage they identify themselves to be something like this: Credit Praveenp or this:  Credit Praveenp

 

Jokes apart, he has been an awesome contributor, though unsung, in both Commons and Malayalam Wikimedia projects.

 

Sysop on Malayalam Wikipedia and Malayalam Wikisource, we know the guy by only their username – “Manuspanicker”. They have been actively working on Malayalam WikiProjects for over 5 years now but they are widely unknown like User:Praveenp. As an unsung hero, they made over 28 thousand global edits.

In some Wikimedia projects like Odia language Wikipedia, there aren’t any anon-registered editors. But on the whole Indic-community there is an estimated 6% registered editors who prefers to stay hidden. We should not try to deduce their identity if they feel bothered but we should recognize their good contributions with barnstars and kind messages.

If you’re aware about any such unsung hero, please help us give them the recognition they deserve.

Please nominate them here.

*However, someone from the Punjabi Wikipedia community may know them.