India Access To Knowledge/Indic Languages/Tamil/Discussions/2011

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This page documents the discussions I have had with few Tamil wiki community members. For these discussions, I reached out to everyone I knew and tried to connect with some I didn't through Email-user facility/talk pages. I have created this page based on those interactions. Since then, some community members whom I couldn't contacted earlier have asked to share their views. I request you to share them directly with me personally at shiju@wikimedia.org. I request you NOT to post directly on this page. (In the cases below, I have removed personal details to protect privacy, any personal remarks to try and keep the learning focused and the discussions constructive.) And most important is, all the initial discussions that happened in 2011 were to get the community started sharing the ideas. This will continue in 2012 and in coming years also. Please post your comment/opinion/views regarding the below discussions on the talk page of this page.



2011 Assamese Bengali Gujarati Hindi Kannada Malayalam Marathi Nepali Odia Sanskrit Tamil Telugu Summary of discussions


Meeting[edit]

Place: Anna University Campus, Chennai
Date:2011 September 27
Primary participants: Tamil Wikimedians

I (Shiju) visited Chennai on 2011 September 27 and I had a meeting with few Tamil Wikimedians. Following are some of the important points from our disussion.

  • Recent efforts from Tamil wikipedians to expand the community. Recently many workshops and public outreach programs are rolled out. User:Sodabottle is taking an important role in this
  • Recently Suryaprakash with the support of User:Sodabottle setup a stall in FOSS conference at Chennai. And it won the best stall award.
  • Surya is trying to setup a Wikipedia Club in Anna University. Surya already spoke to some professors regarding this and they agreed to this. Since Surya is studying he has very limited time left for these type of activities. That is delaying the setup of wikipedia club.
  • User:Rsmn mentioned about the variations of Tamil across Tamil Nadu, Srilanka, and else where and how it affects Tamil wiki projects
  • User:Rsmn also mentioned about the existence of Madurai Project (http://www.projectmadurai.org/) This website has a huge collection of Tamil books that are in Public Domain and many of these books are in ASCII. The Madurai Project team is slowly converting these non-unicode books to Unicode. Most of these books can be reused in Tamil wikisource. In fact the existence of this project is affecting the growth of Tamil wikisource. But User:Rsmn informed that soon Tamil community will take some steps to revive Tamil wikisource.
  • Surya and Rsmn mentioned about the recent initiatives started in Tamil wiki (site notice for notable Tamil wikipedians) to attract more users.
  • Rsmn mentioned about few areas in which WMF can directly speak with the Tamil Nadu Government authorities to do various things for the outreach of Tamil wiki projects in Tamil Nadu.
  • Users mentioned about the slow progress of Tamil wiki CD project due to the extreme care given to the quality. I Informed them (from my Malayalam CD experience) not to concentrate too much on that. Main aim should be outreach and the results that it can bring while keeping the maximum possible quality.

Online discussions[edit]

To avoid sharing personal information, I have edited the answers but retained all the important points.

Comments from Editor3[edit]

Putting generic ideas for better outreach. These are not specific to TN, but might mostly likely work better in TN compared to others

  • We found that physical outreach programs - success conversion ratio was way too low for the investment(time & cost). We almost had very few success. Yes they help in making already newbie editors coming in into mature editors, but definitely the rate for a normal person to a even a newbie editor is low.
  • The digital outreach (sitenotice banner campaign) we are running has had much better success. There can be lot more done on them. We have plans to put introductory videos on youtube and link them on sitenotice. That would mean more measurable and quality outreach. These days people prefer to watch than read. Its in our long pipeline which has few volunteers. So we are constrained. :(
  • Targetting offline folks can be done much more effectively by print media / TV(esp after free TV,reach is as good as 100% theoretically, so conversion rate of viewers for specific program will be highest.) than meetups / workshop which are small scale. Apart from requiring man power this requires heavy budget. But I have seen the results. To give an example, for busroutes.in my friend gave a full page interview on Hindu magazine Chennai edition(we got free space, since project was a social effort to collect busroutes) and we got 14000 hits to the site when it was on print. Imagine this number for a well known brand Wikipedia, across editions even if we get 0.1% converts, its a great success and we would have double digit newbies coming out of it. I have no experience on TV,but assume it has much larger scale and its best way to reach folks who are outside boundaries of a city / town. We already have few people who contribute from rural side.
  • On the laptop scheme, the reach will be phenomenal, there are certain other individuals, we can try connecting and get links to even government if we have something solid. (Note: Offline CD project is stalled for n'th time)
  • One visible change i saw in Tamil wiki was mentoring by User:Sodabottle and few others. They have phone conversations to ease out talk page messages of violations by newbies and make them understand and handhold them and results have been spectacular.Few of them are regular contributors. At one stage, we even thought of "virtual Call centre" but dropped due to bandwidth issues. More than outreach, these activities are bound to produce effective growth in terms of getting contributors we all look forward.Outreach helps in only increasing goals of movement, readership, fairly does poor job when it comes to getting contributors. To give an analogy to "handholding" its more like what Campus Ambassadors are doing to pune students, normal wikipedians need to do to newbies. But sadly apart from few people like User:Sodabottle (who has 14 hours a day on wiki, inspite of power cuts, personal work), other editors will hardly have an hour or 2 and will spend that improving their own articles / watchlist / admin activities instead of doing this "handheld mentoring". Concentrated awareness and reaching out to senior community members might see a change here, but senior community members need to help to achieve this growth.

Comments from Editor4[edit]

1. How you reached Tamil Wikipedia?

I came from the Tamil blog community. First I was a reader of Tamil Ezines, then I started writing blogs (2004). The introduction of Unicode and on-line transliteration typing tool (http://www.jaffnalibrary.com/tools/) enabled this. In 2005 I interviewed Mayooranathan (Tamil Wikipedia pioneer) for a community blog, and that was when I realized the importance of Wikipedia. Even before Wikipedia we were thinking of collecting information sources in Tamil, and Wiki just made it easy. At that point, there were no tutorials or FAQ etc, so I joined the community by asking a lot of questions. Mayooranathan, Ravi, Sundar, Sivakumar and others made me feel welcomed and quickly contribute easily.


2. Why you decided you must contribute to Tamil Wikipedia?

I am actually a Sri Lankan Tamil, who immigrated to Canada when I was a teen (in Grade 8). Until I immigrated to Canada I studied all subjects in Tamil. And that is the basis of my Tamil learning. I was an avid reader, and had some inclination for writing. Those who were born in Sri Lanka are very passionate about Tamil language, because that is their main identity. We are very comfortable using our language in all fields including politics, commerce, accounting, law, medicine, and science. However, when I started writing in Canada I had a choice between English and Tamil. I chose Tamil with specific purpose of contributing to the "scientific Tamil". I felt that was my duty. Today, more than 90% of Tamil students in Sri Lanka study all subjects until Grade 12 in Tamil. Today, majority of Malaysian Tamils undertake their primary education in Tamil, including sciences and math (there was a big fight in Malaysia over this). While in Tamilnadu, a lot of schools are switching to English. This is pathetic and deplorable. English and Mandarin can be important subjects, but the education should be in the mother tongue. There are educational, social, political, economical and health benefits for learning using our mother language. We need to collectively fight this fight. In Canada, in Quebec where French is the language you can not use computers, not even anti-virus that is not French. In India, there is not even a basic requirement to provide a local language option.


3. How active are you? What kind of topics you usually edit? Why do you edit?


I have been very active on average. I usually edit technology articles, Tamil related articles, and less covered social subjects. In technology I cover electronics and programming, as they are my field of study and work. I write Tamil related articles such as folklore, traditional technology, sports, dances etc. I also try to cover subject matters that are not covered by main stream media such as sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, LGBT etc), atheism or non-violence resistance methods.


4. Have you attended or conducted outreach sessions?If yes, what was the outcome? What were the positives and negatives from these outreach programs?

Yes, I have initiated and directly organized several workshops in Canada, India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Most people still do not know such thing as Tamil Wikipedia or Wikimedia projects. So introducing these to a wider audience is the primary objective and result. We have had number of key contributors join Tamil Wikipedia through these initiatives. We need to reach out to more areas, that is the challenge. It is still challenging to convert these new users to editors, that is discouraging,.


5: Have you attended or organised community meet-ups? What was the outcome? What were the positives and negatives from these meet-ups?

I have helped organize them. These meet-ups help build solidarity and commitment. We are able to take on projects outside wiki due to these types of meetings. There had been few issues where some people try to leverage Wikipedia for personal promotion.



6. At Tamil Wikipedia we have done this with some success. We push Tamil Wikipedia as a primary platform for scientific Tamil. We have seen professionals from range of fields including mathematics, medicine and technology contribute to those subject areas. I feel this is key, because we have plenty of sources covering cinema, politics, and religion. But far few or none for science, mathematics, technology and social sciences. These are also by nature less controversial areas for Wikipedia and easy for users to collaborate.


7. How are the technical challenges/issues been for your language? Now, is it easy for a new user to start contributing in wiki easily. How about interface translation and other things.

Yes. Technical barriers have been significant. During the early days we had to work out several issues. But a major problem had been input methods. The javascript enabled input methods are great and wish we had them soon. But, we are still lacking at least one more that is widely being used(Bamini). The wiki syntax is also a barrier for a sizable portion of users. Another barrier is low Internet speed, which makes it hard to load and edit.



8. How is the interaction between Tamil wiki community members? Is there is enough interaction? Or, is it just users working in their own way by just creating articles and not having much interaction with other users? Do you benefit from the discussion with other community members?

We have a healthy level of interaction. We try to elect a new batch of admins every year, and try to pass the leadership over to them. This decentralizes the "control", while the core group can still monitor and provide guidance. We have had some heated discussion in regards to language, and there was some damage sustained. But, overall we have managed to find middle of the way solutions.



9. Can you share any and all ideas - small or big, sucessful & not-so-sucessful - that you think can help drive Indic language projects?

I do think different languages have different advantages and challenges. For instance, Hindi has a huge user base and potential. Malayalam has a highly education population, who are avid readers. Tamil's strength is its geographical diversity and literature.

  • For Tamil Wikipedia, we can easily convert Sri Lankan students into editors, because they study all subjects in Tamil at high level and they have a need for this information in Tamil. However, the Sri Lankan Tamil population is only a small fraction compared to TamilNadu. It is the case today that even in Tamil Nadu vast majority of students still study in Tamil. Thus, we definitely have to reach out to them. One way is to cover the text book subject matters in depth.
  • For Tamil Wikipedia and other Indic Wikipedias we need full-time outreach person (s) in Tamil Nadu/Other States. A person who can conduct workshops, field media inquires, and take initiative and collaborate with other organizations with similar agenda.
  • We need to do better job with social network outreach. We started Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube accounts but did not follow through. We have to pick that up.
  • As noted above, when possible we need to decentralize admins "power". I believe in expanding the admins to new people who are contributing well. This will ensure sustainability, and allow experience people to take up different projects.
  • We need to have a range of ways to recognize volunteers.
  • We need to make Wikipedia products available off line. We need to bring out publications, CDs etc. We need to have Wikipedia user groups!!!
  • We need to collaborate with other organizations with similar goals. In Tamil context, there are several groups promoting Tamil computing, FOSS, Blogs, Digitalization, IT Literacy etc, and we can easily work with them.
  • We need to consider hiring payed editors. I know this may be controversial, but we should consider this.
  • We need to build institutional support for each Indian language, similar to Wikimedia Indian Chapter.
  • Collect open-data for diseases, living things, places etc and share them so quality, diverse bot articles can be easily created.
  • Build sister projects, as each help each other. By some measure, Tamil Wikitionary is more widely used than Tamil Wikipedia, and Tamil Wikipedians rely on Tamil Wikitionary for writing articles. If we had enough material in the Wiki Soruces, we could have used that the same way.

Comments from User:Sodabottle[edit]

1. Why you decided you must contribute to Tamil Wikipedia?

The long answer is here :http://sodabottle.blogspot.com/2010/06/world-classical-tamil-conference-day-3.html Initially I went to Tamil wikipedia due to material reasons. I wanted a new laptop to replace my aging laptop and the Tamil Wiki essay contest held as part of the world Tamil classical language conference had a laptop as the first prize. Thus the reason i went to Tamil wiki - to get a laptop; the reason i stayed in Tamil wiki - i saw with my eyes, people wanting stuff in Tamil. In Tamil you would see "linguistic pride" and "identity" are the major reasons. The experience described in my blog post definitely made me stay :-)

2. What kind of topics you usually edit?

  • Tamil and Indian politics
  • Second world war
  • Tamil and English literature
  • History

3. Have you attended or conducted outreach sessions?

Yes. The outreach events are covered in ta wiki itself. I have been to four outreach events so far

  • the classical language conference stall
  • wiki 10 trichy / NIT trichy workshop
  • workshop at Coimbatore PSG Tech
  • Software Freedom Day stall at MIT Chennai

4. What was the outcome of these. Did Tamil wiki/community improved due to these? Did your wiki experience changed due to this?

Not really. In a sense, it is the tamil wiki experience that physical outreach is ineffective and resource consuming when compared to online outreach. I believe Ravi has sent a mail about this to the india list. But on a personal level it has brought me in touch with Ravi, Shiju, tinu, srikanth, surya etc which has led to networking and better planning for wiki projects. We dont have meetups in ta wiki - so outreach has served the same purpose instead

5. What has been your experience in adding content or encouraging content on specific topics?

There are few edits wars in Ta wiki, as we have a lot of admins and they are usually there to enforce decisions quickly. (We nominate an average of four new admins per year, this helps distributing the responsibility and authority) But our attempts to get topic specific contents have never worked out - people edit what they want. This is a strength as well as weakness for us. On one hand our article subject diversity is high and on the other there have been few collaborative editing wikiprojects in Ta wiki after 2007.

6. What are the technical challenges when it come to wiki and Tamil?

Tamil encoding in the web has a complex history. To my knowledge, there were atleast four or five competing encoding formats which had someewhat equal following till 2003-04. Unicode started pulling ahead of the pack, Only around 2004 with growth of blogs. It was adopted officially by TN govt only in 2010. So it was a challenge to get people to use unicode alone. We have a CSD criteria for non unicode entries - though it is rarely used anymore, it indicates the level of support that existed for non unicode formats. Once unicode got widespread acceptance a lot of issues have been solved. And with the Typing tool and Narayam extension i believe we have overcome most of the technical difficulties in contribution. Webfonts would be a added bonus (though working with the i18n team is not always easy)

The challenges are -

  • get bugfree opensource fonts for a webfont roll out (the current free fonts lack readability)
  • make the i18n team listen to community's needs. and act on them, instead of them forcing a solution on us, which is essentially a step backwards for ta wiki projects

7. Can you share any and all ideas - small or big, sucessful & not-so-sucessful - that you think can help drive Indic language projects?

  • Recognition beyond barnstars. In tamil wiki we do this by having a "wikipedian profile" in the front page where every two weeks a wikipedian is given a short profile. This is known as a major recognition in ta wiki and acts as an incentive / reward. Hand hold newbies, correct their mistakes quietly, praise their accomplishments publicly and make them feel responsible
  • convert anons into editors by displaying photos of current editors and banners saying "X is from Y place and edits Z subject. You too can edit" These are the successful home grown ta wiki solutions
  • Initiate community projects that gives the hands on “wiki experience” to potential recruits. Our essay writing contest in 2010 was a good learning exercise, in what works and what doesnt in such activities. Our 2011-12 media contest is bringing in more people from outside to wiki projects.
  • Decentralisation of power and authority - the more admins the better. I believe we have the highest number of admins (23) in indic projects. We elect a new batch of four admins every year. This helps spread the workload, prevents formation of power cliques and best of all we have 10 admins hanging around monitoring changes any given day. anti-vandalism and RC patrol are much easier because of the larger workforce.
  • Work with external orgs. Two largescale word donations to the Tamil Wiktionary have happened because of working with governmental and other organisations

The failures are many

  • Biting off more that we can chew. We are a bit highly ambitious for our own good :-)
  • The offline CD project has got stalled twice - because we were not realistic about what we can do and what we cant do

a small community has to acknowledge that we are small

  • the talkers to doers ratio is usually huge in any volunteer project. We should not let the talkers set the agenda, because they will set it big and beyond the reach of doers

so when it comes to project execution "small is beautiful"


2) Similarly for contests

  • Think small always
  • we wont be able to satisfy everyone
  • but having something done is always better than talking about something grand and never doing it

Comments from Editor5[edit]

1. How you reached Tamil Wikipedia?

I arrived at English wikipedia through google searches and being a serious Tamil blogger at that time, was introduced to Tamil wiki community by some bloggers who were wikipedians also like User:Ravidreams


2. Why you decided you must contribute to your mother language wikipedia (in your case it is Tamil)?

I had been already an active Tamil Blogger.I am intrested in Tamil literature and was reading and participating in Tamil lit forums. Hence it was natural progression to Tamil Wiki.

3. How active are you? What kind of topics you usually edit? Why do you edit?

I spend about an hour to two daily on wiki. I am a general editor on omnibus topics. I mostly translate from English, occasionally other wikis also, on current topics. I visit apart from English, French, Malayalam, Hindi and Marati wikis.


4. Have you attended or conducted outreach sessions?If yes, what was the outcome? What were the positives and negatives from these outreach programs?

Yes, I have attended two sessions so far. Not conducted any one, ofcourse. It was very refreshing. The positives are many native wikipedians are introduced to wiki concepts and that a lot of Indian content is put up. Also increasing the awreness of Indic content available and that it is easier to contribute in them also. Negatives are mostly the presenters are amateurs at pedagogy and facilities are impromptu.


5: Have you attended or organised community meet-ups? What was the outcome? What were the positives and negatives from these meet-ups?

There was a meetup at Chennai in November last year and none afterwards..Wikipedians are busy with their work and find les time to meet up itseeems. Perhaps a regular meeting venue and wikipedians concentration may help. The meetup surely helps consolidation of ideas and education of editing shortcuts etc. 6. Adding content in a Indic Wiki is very comfortable for most of the topics are virgin and you start from scratch. There has been no conflicts of interest. Getting referenced material for some topics is difficult and so they get no place in a wikipedia.

6. How are the technical challenges/issues been for your language? Now, is it easy for a new user to start contributing in wiki easily. How about interface translation and other things?

Initially one has to instal Tamil fonts and third party typing solutions. You may have to configure the Windows OS. All these require Computer exposure and stubborn determination. With latest OSes supporting Unicode and native rendering vailable now, with Narayam extension instaled, it is very easy for a new user to input his content. We are seeing the result for the past few months.

The interface translations are mostly done in Tamil and that is not an issue. Most of the contributers today are bilingual and can understand English. Leaving the language part, the collaborative concept is new to India where possessiveness and ego are the stumbling blocks for contributions. Many dont want their content to be edited by others and are not open to divergent views.



7. How is the interaction between Tamil wiki community members? Is there is enough interaction? Or, is it just users working in their own way by just creating articles and not having much interaction with other users? Do you benefit from the discussion with other community members?

There is a strong interaction between members in Village Pump (AAlamaratthadi) and on user pages. We help and encourage each other. However online meetups (irc chats), group mailings and offline meetups are occasional. May happen when the community grows.



8. Can you share any and all ideas - small or big, sucessful & not-so-sucessful - that you think can help drive Indic language projects?

  • Outreach through their language bloggers.. it brought me here. Bloggers are passionate with their language and equipped with Computer skills. Converting a blogger to a Wiki user is easier.
  • Articles on successful wikipedians / articles in Native language journals/News media
  • Banners on Wikipedia pages inviting them to edit a mistake or content addition
  • This is a wishlist..English wiki pages, atleast that is retrieved in Indian IP addresses, can carry a message that you can see it in Indian Lanuage article also and improve it.
  • Calling all college students and school students to write about their native palces, Alma Mater etc... A compedition can be arranged.
  • Talking to Ministry of Home, Official Language Implementation department to propagate as part of their program. They have considerable budget.
  • Calling all Govt. departments to create info on their pages on creative commons licence.

Discussion with Ravidreams[edit]

1. How you reached Tamil Wikipedia?

My professor from Germany told about Wikipedia in 2005. I first visited En.Wiki, then landed in Ta.Wiktionary somehow. I contributed there before joining Tamil Wikipedia.


2. Why you decided you must contribute to your mother language wikipedia (in your case it is Tamil)?

No Tamil guy has asked me why I contribute in Tamil as we have a history and tradition of language growth movements. I have only got appreciated for being proficient in Tamil and doing this. Wiki is only a tool for me to contribute to Tamil language. So, for me, Tamil is the primary motivation than the Wikipedia movement. I don't edit English Wiki projects even though I know how to do it :) There are so many to work there and our resources are best focused for our own language.


3. How active are you? What kind of topics you usually edit? Why do you edit?

I was very active online during 2005-2008 while I was a student living abroad. Then, I had a lot of time. After coming to India, my online activities reduced but I took more outreach activities. I almost sacrificed my work for 2,3 months while we did the Tamil Wikipedia essay contest with the Government in 2010 as there was a lot of offline coordination done.

I started my edits with Tamil culture and cinema based edits. I really don't have any specific field. Mostly stubs. I also added more than 2000 words manually to Tamil Wiktionary.

I was very active in Talk pages and helped shaped most of the Ta Wiki policy related things.


4. Have you attended or conducted outreach sessions?If yes, what was the outcome? What were the positives and negatives from these outreach programs?

I have done almost 10 outreach sesssions across varios cities in TN. I also did print media based outreach. I don't see any negatives but we should not have high expectations for immediate results. Mainly, it helps to register a human and physical presence for Wiki brand and helps to build rapport between existing Wikipedians.

5: Have you attended or organised community meet-ups? What was the outcome? What were the positives and negatives from these meet-ups?
  • Organised one meetup in Hyderabad. If we do the same thing often without any agenda, then it is not much useful.
  • Organised one wiki marathon in Chennai. It is hard to distinguish between outreach and meetups.



6. How are the technical challenges/issues been for your language? Now, is it easy for a new user to start contributing in wiki easily. How about interface translation and other things?

Technical challenges are there. But, ultimately if the user is not self motivated to contribute nothing helps. We have almost 100% translated interfaces from 2004 itself.


7. How is the interaction between Tamil wiki community members? Is there is enough interaction? Or, is it just users working in their own way by just creating articles and not having much interaction with other users? Do you benefit from the discussion with other community members?

I am very proud of our Tamil Wikipedia community. Many have become personal friends and we work together in many other Tamil related spheres. Tamil Wikipedians are recognised as one cohesive unity across many forums.

We discuss everything in Ta Wiki village pump and project pages. We have VEry VERY high interaction and a friendly atomosphere. Could you share any and all ideas - small or big, sucessful & not-so-sucessful - that you think can help drive Tamil and other Indic language projects?

Slow and steady will win the race. Build the basics. Nurture the community. Don't encourage hierarchy. Don't chase numbers. Always build organic content. Do things in a phased manner. Everything will follow.

Ideas:

  • Keep trying different things besides regular edits. This will keep both community and attention from outsiders active.
  • Highlight and recognize the community members. Will motivate them and new Wikipedians (Ex: Featured Wikipedians).