A Historical Glimpse of Konkani Wikipedia in Incubator
The incubation for Konkani Wikipedia was initiated in 2006 (it could be one of the few incubation projects in incubation for the longest period). During the past 7 years little progress can be seen on this incubator project as it has accumulated only 86 articles with very few editors. The project received maximum number of edits in 2007-2008 and since then the level of activity has been gradually decreasing with negligible edits in 2012-2013. There are only a handful of volunteers and they too seem to have lost interest/inclination to sustain their activity. There are only 16 editors who have a total of 10 edits or more on Konkani Wikipedia. In addition, no virtual/physical meeting of any kind has ever been organized by/for the volunteers. No outreach event had also been organized for Konkani Wikipedia until Dec 2012. See the below Fact-Sheet for more details.
|No. of scripts used in current incubation project
|3 (Roman, Devanagari, Kannada)
|No. of articles in Devanagari script
|No. of articles in Roman script
|No. of articles in Kannada script
|No. of system messages translated in Devanagari script
|126 (including 30 core messages)
|No. of system messages translated in Roman script
|No. of system messages translated in Kannada script
|No. of editors with more than 10 edits
|No. of editors with less than 10 edits
|No. of articles
|No. of redirects
|No. of revisions
|1113 (including 254 minor edits)
Given this historical backdrop of this incubation project, the A2K team tried to inquire into the larger challenges that may have hindered the progress of Konkani Wikipedia and based on that has developed the following Work Plan.
Some pertinent questions
Do we need to take the risk of taking up an incubation project that has not moved for the past 7 years? Are we risking a failure? Can the A2K or Wikimedia India community afford a failure? These were some of the questions that went through, when we began developing this Work-Plan. During our introspection, we felt that if we are successful (even to a limited extent with our plans) then we would have done a significant contribution to the Konkani community. But if we fail then there is no more damage we could do to either the Konkani Wikipedia or the community around it. Also, we felt that A2K has to be bold, honest and humble to take failures in its face and try to learn from these. The odds of success weighed more than the odds of failure and thus the A2K decided to go ahead and take up this rather complex incubation project.
A Brief Overall Konkani Language Context
Konkani is a language spoken primarily by people living in Goa and in the neighboring states on the western coast of India (also known as the Konkan belt) – some pockets in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala. All of these neighboring states are places where speakers from Goa may have migrated over the past five centuries (Garry, 2001). Each region has a different dialect, pronunciation style, vocabulary, tone and sometimes, significant differences in grammar.
Multiple Scripts: Konkani is one of the few Indian languages, which is written in multiple scripts. These are Devanagari, Roman, Kannada, Malayalam and Perso-Arabic. The state of Goa uses Devanagari as the official script and thus Konkani written in Devanagari is widely used in education and administration.
Religious angle to the script usage: The multiple script issue ties in with some religious aspects as well. The Goan Hindus use the Devanagari script in their writings while the Goan Christians use the Roman script. The Saraswats of Karnataka use the Devanagari script in North Kanara district and the Kannada script in Udupi and South Kanara. Malayalam script is used in Kerala, but now there is a move to use the Devanagari script there.
Splintered Population: The total number of Konkani speakers seems to have remained remarkably stable for over a century. This is borne out by the census reports over the years. The Census Department of India, 2001 figures put the number of Konkani speakers in India as 2,489,015. Out of these, around 6 lakh were in Goa, 7 lakh in Karnataka, 3 lakh in Maharashtra, 6 lakh in Kerala and rest live outside of India, either as expatriates or citizens of other countries (NRIs).
Other than these, the following issues often come up for discussion on Konkani Language.
- Fragmentation of Konkani into various, sometimes mutually unintelligible dialects.
- Strong bilingualism of Konkani Hindus in Goa and coastal Maharashtra with Marathi.
- Inadequate opportunities and venues to formally study Konkani in schools and colleges, especially for the Konkani community that lives outside of Goa. This is seen as a major cause for the decline of Konkani language among the new generation speakers and expatriate Konkani community.
Method: It is important to understand this complex context of Konkani language, as it will have a significant bearing on any work pertaining to Konkani language and culture including Wikipedia. Of these the multiple scripts issue has a direct relevance and bearing on the Konkani Wikipedia. It is important to explore a suitable solution that will address this issue. However, given the historically complex nature of this problem Konkani Wikipedia cannot be seen as the site to resolve this effectively. This is not to say that one will ignore the multiple scripts issue but rather take a balanced approach where on the one hand possible and feasible technical solutions for multiple scripts will be explored. On the other hand a more practical approach of developing the content on the Konkani Wikipedia will be focused upon. For this the A2K will look at generating content and build community around the official Konkani script – Devanagari. Thus the work plan will have two key components. These are:
- Catalyze the growth of content and community around Konkani Wikipedia around Devanagari script. 
- Work towards finding solutions that can effectively address the multiple script issue on Konkani Wikipedia.
The below detailed plan of activities are put together based on this methodology.
Since December 2012 A2K had periodic visits and events in Goa and in the process managed to cultivate few institutional partnerships, which could potentially contribute to the growth of Konkani Wikipedia. Thus the plans are more focused around these institutional partners.
1) Organize translation sprints
- organize translation sprints to translate MediaWiki system messages
- A2K team will tie up with institutes that could provide us space and resources in terms of computers/laptops, Internet connection etc. where we could organize these sprints.
- Use print/digital media to maximize reach and participation for the event. We could also invite new editors from recent Konkani Wikipedia workshops that have been conducted in Goa to take part in these events.
- The aim will be to finish translation of all system messages and help push Konkani as a live Wikipedia project.
2) Konkani Vishwakosh Digitization Project
- Plan: Konkani Vishwakosh is a four-volume encyclopedia published by Goa University, encompasses all the world information in a nutshell with special emphasis and detailed information on Goa, Konkani, Goan culture, folklore, history, geography etc. The Vishwakosh is about 1000 pages and could form a base for the creation of about 400 high quality articles on Konkani Wikipedia.
- Releasing Konkani Vishwakosh under CC-BY-SA 3.0 (or other Wikimedia compatible license). A2K team has already been in talks with the Vice-Chancellor of Goa University, about releasing the Konkani Encyclopedia under CC.
- A2K team will organize workshop for staff, administrators, and interested parties of Goa University to assist in understanding different Creative Commons licenses options available to relinquish the rights of Konkani Vishwakosh to be digitized on Wikimedia projects.
- Sign an MoA clearly listing out the expectations and deliverable between A2K and Goa University.
- Partner and run a program with the Konkani Department at Goa University to work with a group of people who will digitize the Konkani Vishwakosh in a time-bound manner.
- organize necessary training and assistance to scholars from Konkani Department at Goa University to make Konkani Vishwakosh a digital document file readily available that can be used on Wikimedia projects.
- Use re-released and digitized version of Konkani Vishwakosh as a readily available source to create high quality content on Konkani Wikipedia.
3) Cultivating new editors
- Partner with educational institutes in Goa to cultivate new editors. We have one such opportunity to work with Nirmala Institute of Education (NIE) Panaji Goa, a Secondary Teacher Education College. NIE is a respected institution providing pre- and in-service teacher education to thousands of teachers. A2K plans to organize one to two week certified 'Wikipedia editing program' where teachers will be trained to edit wiki and will be expected to add minimum of two Konkani related articles per teacher. This will be a short duration program with the expectation that these teachers will 1) add minimum 2 articles per teacher thereby generating more content on wiki 2) continue contributing to Konkani Wikipedia beyond the program and become long term editors 3) use Wikipedia as a teaching and learning tool in their classroom setup.
- A2K aims to assist/conduct minimum of 2-3 outreach session per month with the aim of touching base with at least 75 participants who could be potential long- term Konkani Wikipedia contributors. The level of activity in incubator wiki is a major criteria for WMF to approve the project.
4) Creating awareness
- Online editing videos: Creation of short online editing videos tutorial (in Konkani) to be published on Wikimedia commons, YouTube, Facebook and similar websites that could help us reach out to larger audiences. Production of videos in local language will avoid existing issues with global videos such as low comprehensions because of accents and relevance.
- Editing guide: Create Konkani Wikipedia Editing Guide that will help create awareness that anyone ‘can edit’ Wikipedia and also serve as a editing help guide for new editors. This could also be published on Wikimedia commons, YouTube, Facebook and similar websites that could help us reach out to larger audiences.
- Digital coverage: Use of digital outreach / PR / media / on-ground visibility to maximize participation. To illustrate, if an event is happening on a college campus, can the most popular social network pages for that college announce the event, can the most popular newspaper/magazine in that language cover the event and provide news before/after it's over. The digital outreach / PR initiatives will also serve to reinforce and motivate attendees of outreach sessions to edit.
5) Technical Support
- A2K team will liaison between Konkani Community and Wikimedia Foundation & Language Committee in finding effective solutions to the multiple scripts issue.
- Help community members report technical bugs relating to transliteration tools, input methods etc.
- Work closely with Foundation’s engineering team to close all the bugs at the earliest.
- Take timely inputs from the Foundation & its Language Committee to help meet prerequisites for approving Konkani as a live project and working with the community along similar lines. (Application procedure and per-requisites etc. to start a new wiki project can be found here.)
- Support community and Foundation in any and every way possible to bring Konkani out of its incubation stage into a live project.
Addressing Multiple Scripts Issue
As noted above developing of Konkani Wikipedia faces a problem of usage of multiple scripts. Enabling the users to access and edit all articles in different scripts is the main problem faced by this wiki.
Similar challenge faced by other wikis: Similar problem was faced by Kashmiri Wikipedia which used Pasho, Sharada and Devanagari scripts. Punjabi has the Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts, of which the former is used in India and the latter in Pakistan. Chinese language has two major writing systems; simplified and traditional Chinese. Other Wikipedias that have faced similar challenge are Uyghur, Azerbaijani, Korean Wikipedia etc.
Possible solutions: Let’s look at what are the possible solutions to this problem of multiple scripts, how some of these language Wikipedias have tackled this in the past, and what might or might not work for Konkani Wikipedia in particular.
Possible Solution 1: Automatic conversion system.
- A plug-in could be built into the server end of the language Wikipedia to automatically transliterate content from one script into another.
- Other Wikis using this solution are Chinese, Serbian, Kazakh, Kurdish Wikipedias. To give an example, Automatic conversion system has been running successfully on Chinese Wikipedia since 2004 and has been well received by the community. In addition to Chinese Wikipedia, Chinese Wiktionary, Wikiquote, and Wikibooks also have the conversion systems.
- Automatic transliteration from one script to another might not work for Konkani Wikipedia, as there are differences in dialect and also there is no ready tool available for converting one script into another (transliterating between Roman to Devanagari or Roman to Kannada script etc.)
Possible Solution 2: Partial automatic conversion system.
- A plug-in could be used that can transliterate one script to at least another; out of all the writing systems used.
- Other Wikis using this solution are Tajik, Uzbek, Gan Wikipedia. To give an example, Tajik Wikipedia currently has auto-converting system for two of the writing systems (Cyrillic - Latin) but not into Perso-Arabic.
- This could be a possible solution for Konkani Wikipedia if the community decides that they’d like to have transliteration tools installed at least for the Indian scripts.
Possible Solution 3: Multiple writing system
- Have multiple articles in different scripts about the same topic. For example, have multiple articles about India in Konkani Wikipedia - one in Devanagari script, another in Roman script and yet another in Kannada script.
- Some of the other wikis considering to adopt multiple writing system in the near future are Korean and Javanese Wikipedia.
- This could be the short term solution for Konkani Wikipedia. It is something that is currently being used in Konkani Wikipedia in incubation and might also prove to be one of the best solutions for live Konkani Wikipedia project.
Possible Solution 4: Create separate wikis for each script
- Create separate wikis for each script, at least those which prove to be active.
- Separate wikis were created for Punjabi-Gurmukhi and Punjabi-Shahmukhi.
- This could potentially be the long term solution for Konkani Wikipedia i.e. to have different Wikis for each active writing system - Konkani-Roman, Konkani-Devanagari and Konkani-Kannada. If there is an interested active community to create content for a particular script; we could push that to a new project in due course of time. As things stand, the Roman script has been active in the recent past, followed by Devanagari and Kannada in that order.
Mitigation or consensus building: The community needs to reach consensus on how to deal with this issue. The best short term solution seems to be having multiple writing systems in the same Konkani Wikipedia project. However, in the long run we could evaluate the option of creating separate wikis for each script, at least those which prove to be active.
List of contributors
We are grateful for the support and encouragement received from the Goa University Vice-Chancellor Dr. Satish Shetye; Prof. Alito Siqueira; Dr. Gopakumar; and other staff of Goa University.
We are also grateful to the following list of Wikipedians who have engaged with the A2K Team and contributed to the development of this work plan with their ideas and inputs:
- "Incubator:Wikis". Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- "Generated statistics". Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- Garry, edited by Jane; French, Carl Rubino ; contributing linguistics editors, Adams B. Dodomo, Alice Faber, Robert (2001). Facts about the world's languages : an encyclopedia of the world's major languages, past and present. New York: H.W. Wilson. ISBN 9780824209704.
- "ABSTRACT OF SPEAKERS' STRENGTH OF LANGUAGES AND MOTHER TONGUES - 2001". Goverment of India. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
- There are some who propose technological solution for this socio-cultural problem, and expect that this will ensure the growth of the Konkani Wikipedia. It is essential to note that technological trouble shooting alone is not going to be the panacea for the challenges Konkani (or any Indian) Wikipedia faces. It has historically been proved that obsessively techno-centric approach has failed.
- Automatic conversion in Konkani language. Meta Wiki
- This is not to say that the A2K team will not support activities/efforts of other Konkani script communities as and when they emerge.
- We need system messages to be translated as a pre-requisite to develop Konkani as a live Wikipedia project.
- Since December 2012 A2K team has organized a total of 6 workshops at BITS, Xaviers, Nirmala Institute of Educaiton, 2 Departments in Goa University and a GLAM event.