Grants:PEG/Anirudh Bhati and Ravi Kant - Wikimedians in New Delhi/Wikipedia 10 New Delhi/Report
The goal of this project is to make inroads for outreach and to establish a strong community of Wikimedia volunteers in New Delhi, NCR. The project volunteers intend to use the interest created by the Tenth Anniversary of the Wikipedia project in order to attract a very keen group of participants to the celebrations and to reach out to the general public through print and internet media.
This is a detailed report of the Wikipedia 10 New Delhi event organized on 15 January 2011. I have shared a number of experiences in New Delhi while working with volunteers. The event was made possible by the hard work and effort of new and old volunteers who came forward to make a contribution by giving their time for the successful execution of this effort. At the end of the event, I marveled at the kind of effort and energy that brought so many people together and drove these efforts under the umbrella of Wikipedia.
In this report, I will attempt to document the series of discussions and events that motivated me to take a shot at organizing the first ever large event in my life. It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and experiment with some soft skills including volunteer management. My sincere thanks to Salmaan Haroon and Noopur Raval who were by far the most active volunteers and without their help this event would not have been possible. Noopur Raval, who is a student of humanities in New Delhi, spent countless hours prior to the conference responding to queries sent by interested participants throughout the N.C.R. Salmaan Haroon, who is one of the smartest people I know, spent the entire two days before the conference running tasks with me. It was a great learning experience for me as I saw him haggle and bargain for best prices with the meanest of traders in the armpits of New Delhi. (-:
In December 2010, the Committee members of the India chapter and Bishakha Datta expressed their support to the idea of organizing an event in New Delhi. New Delhi is the largest city in Northern India and is home to some of the largest Hindi speaking communities in the country. I believe that it is important for the Wikimedia Movement to make inroads into this region so as to leverage the presence of an affluent and emerging middle-class which has had access to modern education. So far, New Delhi seems to have resisted Wikimedia’s call for volunteer participation and instead remained a passive consumer of the content generated by Wikimedians from the world over. This needs to change.
With this aim in mind, I approached the Wikimedia Foundation for support for the organization of the Tenth Anniversary celebrations of Wikipedia in New Delhi. The Foundation approved the grant request [link] and made USD 700 for the event. My colleagues on the Wikimedia India chapter Executive Committee supported us by approving travel funding for the event.
The Wikimedia Foundation additionally supported us by sending a single package of Wikimedia merchandise – some Wikipedia 10 t-shirts, buttons and stickers. The stuff was received very well by the volunteers and the audience. Thank you Steven Walling! (The man spent an entire month watching his inbox clog up with merchandise requests from several countries around the world. He deserves a rich applause for the hard-work, and for making the merchandise appear right in time for the event despite all the hankering emails.)
Call for Participation
The call for participation was made out on the Ten Wiki [link], which was specially created for organizing events and parties commemorating Wikipedia’s Tenth Anniversary around the world. The landing page for New Delhi attracted a large number of visitors largely due to the banner campaign visible on the English Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. Noopur and I received a large number of emails in the first few days of creation of the page. We decided that we will have to restrict participation due to the space constraints at the decided venue and also started looking for large venues to accommodate the ostensibly growing list of fans of Wikipedia around New Delhi. We received hundreds of emails from interested participants requesting information about the program, and we endeavoured to respond to each and every email as an attempt to get a general idea about their interest in Wikipedia.
Swapnil Narendra, who got in touch with us through the New Delhi Ten Wiki page, designed the banners and the standees for the event. He even helped Wikimedians in other cities with the design. Amit Choudhary was very helpful in terms of connecting us with contractors who could print the banners at the lowest possible costs.
The decision on venue was very critical in New Delhi as distances are large and it was essential that we decided upon a place which was centrally located and easily accessible to the largest portion of the population of New Delhi. Ravi Kant of Sarai-CSDS, an avid free culture enthusiast, was very supportive of our effort in New Delhi and quickly got us the permission to use the CSDS office as the venue for the celebrations.
However, Amit Choudhary called me up on 10 January 2011 expressing his interest in volunteering for the event. (I had listed my phone number on the landing page, and over the past five days I received almost 2-8 phone calls every waking hour.) He also introduced me to Himanshu Geed from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) who generously offered to host the event free of charge as a part of Tryst 2011, their annual tech-fest [link]. The available auditorium at the University could accommodate up to 200 people and was thus ideal for our purpose. The auditorium and seminar hall were wi-fi enabled with hi-speed internet access.
Volunteer co-ordination and collaboration
I arrived in New Delhi on 13 January 2011 and realized that there was still a lot of work to be done and lot of participation to be confirmed. My phone number being listed on one of the most visible web pages in India was not really helping me. The frequency of the phone calls had increased tremendously over the past two days and I found it difficult to concentrate. My ears were buzzing with the pain of having to attend to a large number of phone calls. In retrospect, it was probably not a very smart thing to do but I ended up connecting with a number of students who were very motivated to attend the event.[lesson] (-:
Salmaan and I organized a pre-event volunteer meeting on 13 January 2011 at Connaught Plc which was attended by Venkat K, Piyush Aggarwal, Himanshu Geed, Deepkamal Singh, Kiran Varma and Deepak Goswami. Himanshu and his friend from IIT Delhi assured us that the seminar hall was booked and ready for the event the next day. Kiran invited a few of his other friends who helped us brainstorm on ideas for food and beverages. Given that we were short on time and had an enormous task list before us, we decided to keep things simple by ordering something that would not require active volunteer care and attention. We allotted roles and responsibilities amongst ourselves for the D-day and bid adieu. I was very tired when I got to my friend’s place and had a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, Salmaan and I headed out to the venue at IIT Delhi. Himanshu and a few other volunteers from the institution helped us around the place. I transferred the event designs to the IIT volunteers so that they could have the Wikipedia 10 banners and standees printed in time for the event. Later in the day, we headed out to Friends Colony where Salmaan and I debated on our choice for the vendor and finally decided to place it with FX Foods because of quality and associated costs along with the fact that they were willing to have the stuff delivered right at the venue in the morning at a specified time. We purchased a wireless router in the evening so that external users could connect to the internet routed via proxy without the hassle of having to log in directly to secured local network at the venue. [lesson].
Meanwhile, Srikeit Tadepalli was packing his bags to catch the next flight to Delhi. He is a long-term contributor to Wikipedia currently studying Mass Communications in the city of Pune. Despite having exams in a week’s time, Srikeit decided to come all the way to New Delhi to support the event by being one of the speakers and a moderator throughout the sessions of the day.
Srikeit and I left for the venue early next day. Noopur and Salmaan arrived later with an SLR and WP10 merchandise. Soon we had other volunteers who helped us set up the computers, the banners, screens, check the audio system and the internet connectivity. Venkat K helped set up the registration desk and volunteered to manage the entry of participants. A few other volunteers from IIT Delhi got in touch with the vendors to ensure timely delivery of food and beverages.
By eleven o’clock, which was the scheduled time for the start, many people had started trickling in till the number of participants increased to sixty-five. Meanwhile, the IIT students were having trouble with the wi-fi.[lesson] We waited for a while but then decided to start up at 1145 hrs. The other speakers were already a part of the audience now – Ravi Kant, Savithri Singh and Piyush Aggarwal.
Srikeit and I took the stage and started off with the “Happy Birthday Wikipedia” video by Jimmy Wales, and then a brief introduction to the Wikimedia movement. The topics of discussion are made available below:
- Introduction to the Wikipedia project, Wikimedia Foundation and Mediawiki software.
- Introduction to Wikis – collaboration creation of useful content by multiple users, editable by anyone.
- Researching and teaching with Wikipedia.
- The Philosophy of being Free – free as in free speech, not free beer.
- Free licenses — Creative Commons and GFDL.
- Volunteerism in the Wikimedia movement.
- Support by Wikimedia Foundation – an international non-profit organization.
- Wikimedia projects – growth and statistics, comparison with other popular websites.
- Reliability of Wikipedia.
- Self-regulation by the Wikipedia community.
- Five pillars of Wikipedia.
- What Wikipedia is Not.
- Why contribute to Wikipedia?
- Wikibooks and Wikiversity.
The next track was by Ravi Kant who spoke on the nature of knowledge, the future of Wikipedia and the free culture movement. An interesting topic of discussion which he raised during his track was about how he envisioned Wikipedia being used as a tool for preservation of local cultures in India which do not have a tradition of documentation of their customs and rituals using alternate means of verifying information.
After the track, we moved outside for a lunch break of 30 minutes. Most of the t-shirts had already been distributed amongst IIT students, while some were kept with us so that we could give them to those who participated in the quiz which we held in between sessions.
Savithri Singh, who is a principal of an undergraduate college in the University of Delhi, discussed the potential and use of wikis in the sphere of education. She is one of the pioneers of the use of the WikiEducator project in India (which is not affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation). She explained how she has promoted wikis and other collaborative learning tools amongst her peers and students.
Piyush Aggarwal and Saumil Srivastava spoke about collaboration on Wikipedia and production of knowledge through active sharing of fragmented information.
These talks were very well-received and later Srikeit and I moved on to live demonstration and editing sessions, along with the history and the philosophy of Wikimedia projects. By this time, it was already five o’clock in the evening and some people had already left. There were approximately 35 very enthusiastic bunch of contributors left in the room. We all came together in one big group and continued our discussions around Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, making live demonstrations along with our explanations, bringing out interesting vignettes and anecdotes from the Wikimedia world of volunteers.
By six o’clock we had wrapped up and bid goodbye after receiving assurances that the last remaining participants will subscribe to the Delhi mailing list. We received a number of messages from the participants after the conference. I was very relieved that the event had come to conclusion at a positive note.
Needless to say, organizing this event with a number of other people was a great learning experience. (-:
A post-mortem exercise is very important because it can help us analyze and understand the quality of the total experience. After every event, we must make an attempt to predict the larger and long-term impact of such activities in the region, since the purpose behind this exercise was to generate public interest and subsequently more contributors to our projects and mission at the Wikimedia movement.
- This is kind of obvious but never put your telephone number on a high-traffic Wikimedia page unless you are completely willing to deal with a large number of phone calls from people who have a lot of questions about Wikipedia and the event you are organizing. It always helps to have a dedicated volunteer who is willing to attend to phone calls. But if you are short on manpower, it’s best to simply leave your email address.
- Internet connectivity forms the backbone of any technology event. In order to achieve maximum effectiveness and learning in the shortest possible time period with the audience, we need to ensure robust and fast internet connectivity at the venue. I cannot stress on this enough. Even though the seminar hall was equipped with wireless routers, including the new one which we had purchased specially for the outside guests, things did not work out as we had intended them to be. Thankfully, some of the students from IIT Delhi had brought laptops with them and were able to connect to the internet and set up ad-hoc networks for others.
- Possessing a data-card at the time of the event is generally a good idea. It gives you a lot of flexibility and independence from the existing infrastructure, especially if you factor in Murphy’s Law. My Tata Photon saved the presentation and facilitated the live Wikipedia editing sessions. So if you don't have one, ask someone to lend one to you for a short time.
- Local volunteers are equipped with local knowledge that is pivotal to the successful execution of the event.
- Never let the audience sit idle and have their mind wander away. Play interesting Wikimedia videos and slides while you are taking a break or changing the track.
- Educational institutes are always a better choice of venue over other available spaces because they are likely to attract more student participation which in turn would be more likely to produce long-term contributors.
- We must strive to be as entertaining and educative to the audience. An engaged audience is more likely to reflect upon the discussions of the day at a later point of time. The choice of speakers should ideally reflect both experience and rawness so as to offer something which everyone can relate to.
- Visibility is a very important part of the work that we do. In order to reach out to the members of the general public effectively, the organizing team must dedicate a volunteer towards soliciting media attention and handling the press.
- Ensure that the food does not go cold. No one likes to eat cold food. But if you get them hungry enough, they will eat it.
- Keep the receipts. Keep the receipts.
It has been over six and a half months since the event and this was one of the first few Wikimedia events which have been organized in New Delhi. This should ideally place us in a position to judge the tangible benefits derived out of having spent volunteer efforts and funding from the Foundation towards getting the attention of potential New Delhi Wikipedians.
The national edition of the Economic Times featured an interview of Sue Gardner and Barry Newstead. The feature also included a comment of mine on the next day of the event. [link]
A Hindi Wikipedia workshop was organized by a long term Hindi Wikipedian, Mayur on 12 February 2011 which was attended by over thirty Wikipedia enthusiasts. Apart from this event, there has been no other attempts at regularizing meet ups for the New Delhi Wikipedia community. After meeting and interacting with the participants at the WP10 event, I don’t feel that this is due to apathy. There is a large pool of enthusiastic and motivated volunteers available to the Wikimedia movement, however their interest and energies need to be channelized by the more experienced and long-term contributors of the project who are truly capable of bringing them together and nurturing their interest.
A wonderful example of a relatively new Wikipedian donning the mantle of an experienced Wikipedia contributor is Piyush Aggarwal who also spoke at this event. Piyush had recently volunteered to visit the OSSCamp 2011 organized at a college in Lucknow where he represented the movement and gave a talk on Wikimedia projects. He also posted a report on the Wikimedia India mailing list describing his participation at the event. [link]
I believe now that we have identified a sizeable chunk of potential Wikipedia contributors, and having them subscribed to the New Delhi mailing list, it is only a matter of concentrated efforts by a couple of volunteers that we can begin having periodic community gatherings in the city.
Detail of expenditures
Transportation: INR 3512
Volunteer expenses: INR 3241
Food and beverages: INR 10430
Wireless router: INR 1250
Banners and standees: INR 977
Grand Total: INR 19410 / USD 435
The Wikimedia India chapter supported Srikeit and I with a generous grant to cover our travel expenses to and from New Delhi.
[The wireless router is stocked by Salmaan Haroon at the moment, but it will be absorbed either by the Chapter or the local Wikimedia community in New Delhi if they have a requirement.]
Amount underspent in US Dollars
Will you be requesting re-allocation of remaining grant funding?
The surplus amount will be adjusted against expenses incurred by the Wikimedia India Chapter and deducted from the Chapter's account.
- Amit Choudhary
- Arjuna Rao Chavala (WMIN EC)
- Arun Ram (WMIN EC)
- Balasundarraman L.
- Barry Newstead
- Bishakha Datta
- Deepak Goswami
- Hari Prasad Nadig
- Himanshu Geed
- Noopur Raval
- Piyush Aggarwal
- Ravi Kant
- Salmaan Haroon
- Saumil Srivastava
- Satyakaam Goswami
- Savithri Singh
- Srikeit Tadepalli
- Srinivas Gunta (WMIN EC)
- Venkat K
- Winifred Olliff
Report submitted by: Anirudh Bhati.