Grants:PEG/Achal Prabhala/Oral citations

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Funded
This submission to the Wikimedia Foundation Grants Program was funded in the fiscal year 2010-11. This is a grant to an individual.

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  • This project has been funded, completed, and a project report has been reviewed and accepted by WMF Staff.
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Grant contact name
Achal Prabhala
Grant contact user-name or e-mail
Aprabhala / aprabhala-at-###(no spam: ###=gmail-dot-com)
Full project name
People are knowledge: Overcoming a lack of published material in emerging languages on Wikipedia
Amount requested (in USD)
$21,500
Provisional target start date
Dec. 1, 2010
Provisional completion date
April 30, 2011

Budget breakdown[edit]

Research costs
$10500
Travel costs
$3000
Film production costs
$7500

Project scope[edit]

Even if we were to convince every single person in the south with internet access to become an active editor on Wikipedia, there is still a problem that we are going to run up against. It’s a problem that currently bedevils everyone working in local languages in Asia and Africa, and it’s something we have no control over: the lack of citable, printed resources in these languages.


For Wikipedias in languages of the south, citations are not a problem when the articles being added are translations. (For universally important topics, reliable citations are already available in English or another European language). Assuming, however, that we all want the sphere of knowledge to be universally expanded – and not merely translated from languages of the north to languages of the south – there are two specific problems with finding citations for important local subject matter.


(i) Published, citable resources may simply not exist. This is not just true of Sub-Saharan African languages (many of which use Latin script, have a relatively recent written history, and small or non-existent publishing markets) but also of several South Asian languages (even though they have non-Latin scripts, a relatively ancient written history and thriving publishing markets in news and entertainment).

(ii) Even when published scholarly resources exist, they may be inaccessible and thus effectively rendered invisible to Wikipedians. Libraries and archives in India and South Africa are usually not electronically indexed. Furthermore, they are not always conveniently located, and often impose a massive bureaucratic burden on the user to search, see, borrow from or even enter.


Despite the problems that exist with published resources in local languages of the South, Tamil Wikipedia has about 25,000 articles, Malayalam Wikipedia has about 15,000, and Northern Sotho Wikipedia (in incubation stage) has about 600. In all these language Wikipedias, there are articles – especially when concerning subjects that are specific to a particular people or place – which lack citations.


The scope of the project is to investigate how one might compensate for the lack of (or difficulty in accessing) published material to cite on a Wikipedia article; how an alternative means of citation may be constructed; how this may be feasibly and easily deployed; and to film the process for present and future use.


What will be accomplished if the project is successful?

If we are successful, we will have a powerful means of growing small-language Wikipedias.


Non-financial requirements[edit]

Probably; but not at the moment. Findings will be presented, shared and discussed when done - at Wikimania 2011 for sure, and perhaps even before that.


Fit to strategy[edit]

A good fit: small-language Wikipedias (say, in India, North Africa, etc.) are a key part of the Wikimedia Foundation's strategy, and finding a means to grow them is the aim of this project.


Other benefits[edit]

In time, this project - if successful - will have universal applicability.


What measurable criteria will you use to determine that your project was successful?

I will consider that this project is successful if:

(1) the communities we work with (Malayalam, Tamil and Northern Sotho) find that the outcomes of this project help their work, and help them grow, and help them get beyond the lack of cited sources in the said languages

(2) there is, at the very least, discussion within the community at large on the solutions presented, and at best, more tangible forms of adoption across geographies/communities

(3) the project's outcomes have 'legs' - i.e. present a lasting solution, and can be applied to various contexts and languages and geographies outside of those studied.