Wikimedia India Blog

Building Knowledge Society

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

Equipment Lending and Community Support: How it retained long-term users from declining activity

Back in December 2014, Wikimedia India’s started with its “”Infrastructure Scholarship program”. It is

an epitome of success, symbolizing Wikimedia’s stated objected of spreading knowledge. Ever since then,

the program has quickly gained momentum and is now been striving to become an impact-full

community-support program. It is the first community-aiding program ever structured by Wikimedia

India chapter. The agenda of the program as postulated in their project page states that:

“This [Equipment Lending and Community Support] is mainly intended at removing limitations in

contributing for user groups like students, unemployed and others facing financial constraints.”

From observation, they have been working hard to keep their works in accordance with their agenda.

Indic Wikimedian’s community is a colossal body, among which a small amount of user group suffers

from financial impediments which include students, unemployed or disguised unemployed. A small

number of long-term users with a good contribution history were considered eligible for scholarships. By

scrutinization, it is found that the procedure of selecting grantees are transparent; through community

endorsement and evaluation of their past contributions.

After surveying with the grantees, we perceived that at least four long-term experienced editors, who had

to decrease their Wikimedia-related activity due to technical limitation (lack of device or due to no

internet access) were helped by Equipment Lending and Community Support program. As a result, their

Wikimedia-associated contributions increased again.

Although it is an infrastructure scholarship program, according to their project page:

“Some purchases may remain community / chapter owned so it can be used by many contributors if one

goes inactive.”

which is an important aspect of the program.

As of January 2016, Equipment Lending and Community Support project had accepted 7 grant requests

from long-term users, including, User:Satdeep Gill, User:Titodutta, User:Bodhisattwa, User:Info-farmer,

User:Pranayraj1985 and User:Jim Carter. All these editors work in different Indic language Wiki projects

and at some point have faced problematic situations( financial cum resource constrtaint) which inclined

them to use Equipment Lending and Community Support program.

A Punjabi language article which was improved using the one of the books

Satdeep Gill, an experienced administrator at Punjabi Wikipedia, on March 2015, requested for a grant of INR 4,449 (US dollar $65.4891) to obtain three Punjabi language books to improve the integrity, verifiability and reliability of many articles on Punjabi language Wikipedia. In January 2016, we found that the books helped them to create or significantly improve over 45 articles (See the list of articles here and here). In an online interview of the grant receiver, Satdeep, told us that “[…] the books have been helpful” to them. However, Satdeep noted, “We have not been able to make the best use of the books as of now.” He further said that “We are planning some in-house edit-a-thons from March [2016] during which a bunch of editors will sit for one-two days once a week [sic] or a fortnight. We hope to put references in around 50 articles everytime we have an edit-a-thon.” He assured us that more articles would be started soon using those books.

Gill also concluded that Equipment Lending and Community Support program, “indeed is making a good impact”, nevertheless, he suggested that “the grantees need to make sure they know the exact way they will be using the grants.”

Few of the books uploaded by Bodhisattwa

Compare the difference between Bodhisattwa's past and present activity on WikiSource

We also interviewed, Bodhisattwa Mandal, a sysop on Bengali Wikipedia and Bengali Wikisource, who had requested for a grant to pay for the internet connection bills monthly. Living in a remote location where ethernet connection is unavailable, he was solely dependent on costly 3G dongle internet network connections. He received the grant from December 2015 onwards. Following that, his activity increased a lot, he started contributing on Wikimedia Commons with his full strength. As of January 2016, he has uploaded 67+ Books on Wikimedia Commons using the new data connection. Since he received the grant recently enough, “it is too early to declare any significant contributions from me”, he told us. But over time he assured us about quality contributions.

Info-farmer's editing statistics on Wikimedia Commons

Info-farmer's activity on Telegu Wikipedia

Infofarmer's Tamil Wikipedia activity.

We also contacted User:Info-farmer, who is an admin on tamil Wikipedia and on tamil Wiktionary. His response was not much different than the others. His outreach activity for the grant, which is a laptop, has increased very much. And from the statistics, it is evidenced that Info-farmer’s online activity has increased a lot.

Compare the activity of Pranay on Telegu Wikipedia from April 2015 and before April 2015

Compare the difference in activity on Wikimedia Commmons before and after receiving the grant

User:Pranayraj1985’s activity boomed just after they received the grant on April 2015. According to the statistics more than 70% of his total 68,611 edits were made only after he received the grant.

Natural World Edit-a-thon Bangalore

Wikipedians in Bengaluru and neighbouring cities with an interest in the natural world conducted an edit-athon in the city to improve articles on the plants, animals, geology and other aspects of nature on Wikipedia. Helping identify and obtain reliable sources, learning to structure an article, paraphrase, cite and polish up articles was also on the agenda. The workshop was aided by wildlife enthusiasts User:Chinmayisk  and User:Shyamal. Noted naturalists Dr.Subramanya and  Dr.Vijay Barve , Wikimedia Program Director Ravishankar and Wikipedian Dinesh Kumar interacted with the participants.

Excerpts of the Interview from the Hindu Article

Talking about the workshop, Chinmayi said, “The focus was on enhancing wiki articles related to the natural world. We discovered that most articles about flora and fauna are either faulty or have become outdated. In this workshop, we have bought together a host of naturalists and wiki enthusiasts. We hope that the workshop will help them learn more about using edit functions on Wikipedia and get a forum to share nature-related information and media. In this workshop, the participants are building new pages and updating older ones in real time. Most participants are regular users of wikipedia, but are editing articles for the first time.”

Wikimedia project manager Ravishankar contends, “We are also looking at popularising the use of Wikipedia in regional languages. In the realm of wildlife, we find that many Indian animals do not have much information uploaded on wiki pages. This anomaly is caused since English is not the first language of most Indians. If we make Wikipedia in local languages more popular, more information will make it to the public domain. The response to this edit-athon has been very encouraging. We want to conduct such events across the country. Having a broad range of contributors and content is necessary to achieve our goal. These events bring more contributors and help add more content ”

Wildlife enthusiast and one of the organisers of the event, Shyamal says, “Most people who participate in such events are motivated to learn about the natural world. We lack a lot of information on nature, flora and fauna. Wiki needs authentic scholarly information and these workshops aim at putting this information out in the public domain. Most of the information is available only in expensive and rare books or science journals. This is an attempt to ensure that a lot of this information comes in the public domain.”

Subramanian Sankar, an avid birder came from Chennai to attend the event. “It is very informative. I have learnt a lot. I think that these workshops will go a long way in improving the quality of information available on Wikipedia.”

The list of articles that were edited during the workshop

On the whole the workshop  had a positive impact and was well appreciated by those who attended it.