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By Tinu Cherian Abraham
Monday, July 13, 2009 (12:21:53)
Tags : Wikipedian,editor, encyclopedia, Wikipedia, WikiMeetup, Jimmy Wales

Indian Wikipedians meet in Bangalore

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Bangalore: Wikipedians, the editors and contributors behind the free online encyclopedia - Wikipedia, had a meet last Sunday in Bangalore. WikiMeetups are face-to-face meetings of Wikipedians that takes place in cities around the world. The first meetup in India was in Bangalore in 2006, with the participation of legendary Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.

The Third Meetup last Sunday was hosted by Tinu Cherian Abraham - a software engineer working in an MNC, known in Wikipedia as User:Tinucherian - at his residence in Marathahalli, Bangalore.

Wikipedia (wikipedia.org) is a free web-based multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia's 13 million articles (2.9 million in the English Wikipedia) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone who can access the Wikipedia website. Launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it is currently the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet.

As Wikipedia grows with an unconventional model of encyclopedia building, 'Who writes Wikipedia?' has become one of the questions frequently asked on the project. Jimmy Wales once argued that only "a community - a dedicated group of a few hundred volunteers" makes the bulk of contributions to Wikipedia and that the project is, therefore, "much like any traditional organisation". Wales conducted a study finding that over 50% of all the edits are done by just 0.7% of the users (at the time: 524 people).

While most of the Wikipedians who were present were meeting each other for the first time, although known via Wikipedia over many years, the enthusiasm was obvious and blatant. While some had preferred pseudo usernames for anonymity (User:SBC-YPR, User:The Silent Contributor, User:Logicwiki), for some they matched their real life names, nevertheless, most people were energised to correlate the hitherto known Wiki user IDs to real faces. While there were people who have been Wikipedians for close to 5 years like User:Arunram and User:Gurubrahma while 'newbies' like User:Enlighting who had registered as a Wikipedian just a few days back. These Wikipedians came from diverse age groups and backgrounds - some in 12 grade, few others were IT professionals (User:Naveenpf, User:Tinucherian) and there was one 71-year-old Wikipedian, a retired bureaucrat from government service (User:Nvvchar).

Even the passions and expertise of these people were varied. Some had a passion for creating DYKs - Did you know articles (User:Nvvchar and User:Ravichandar84); User:Indianmagicians who writes on magic, User:Tinucherian who is a Bot Approval Group (BAG) member on English Wikipedia and maintains two bots running on Wikipedia, User:TinucherianBot and User:TinucherianBot_II; User:Naveenpf who creates and writes articles on Indian roads and Highways, User:Saneef, an NID student and an avid photographer: User:Shivku a blogger and avid tweeter; and User:PlaneMad, another NID student, who creates maps on Wikipedia. There were others who were administrators on Wikipedia like User:Gurubrahma and User:Shijualex (ml wiki). Passionate Wikipedians like User:The Silent Contributor came all the way from Chennai for the meet.

The meeting was kicked off with a round of personal introductions. Very soon the ice was broken and the conversations flowed smoothly and it went on to become a three hour meeting. A lot of interesting discussions took place related to their experiences in Wikipedia. Everyone stressed on need for greater promotion of Wikipedia in Indian languages. Many didn't know Malayalam language wiki (ml.wikipedia.org) reached 10,000 articles recently. User:Gurubrahma related his experiences in writing the Economy of India in other languages to get the English Wikipedia article to Featured article. User:Arunram, a senior IT professional in an MNC, proposed the need of Wikipedia advocacy and to conduct trainings and workshops across Karnataka cities to bring more Wikipedians into the fold. When some people complained of the lack of proper coverage of Indian personalities on Wikipedia, one observed that many at times it was the death of a personality that triggered the article creation.

Long time back, User:Ganeshk wrote a Wikibot that, with the help of the Indian Census data, generated basic articles on 5,000 towns on Wikipedia. User:Tinucherian who carried this forward to have already created 2000 villages in India, explained his plans to cover the approximately 6.5 lakh villages in India and thereby covering the information gap compared to other countries in the world on Wikipedia.

User:Rsrikanth05 and User:SBC-YPR explained their recent efforts along with User:GDibyendu in raising "Transport in India" to Good Article status. Some raised the possibility of getting the huge resource of images with Public Relations Department to be released to public domain. User:Nvvchar even citied his experiences in regional bureaucrats at the state level on lack of awareness of Wikipedia.

Some people emphasised the need of starting Wikimedia Indian Chapter and to bring Wikimania to India. Wikimedia chapters are independent organisations founded to support and promote the Wikimedia projects within a specified geographical region (country). Like the Wikimedia Foundation, they aim to "empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain and to disseminate it effectively and globally".