Research:Mobile Strategy Research/India

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The Research was conducted across Bangalore & Delhi to provide us the opportunity to cover several Indic language readers and editors (English, HIndi, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, perhaps Malayalam as well). A combination of face-to-face in-home/in-office ethnographic immersions, a blography (online pre-tasks and diaries) and a participatory co-creation workshop.

The Process

The Research ensured multiple touch-points with the participants – Readers (current mobile readers and potential mobile readers) and editors.

  • Pre-interview tasks through online diaries, activities
  • Face-to-face individual ethnographic interviews with a contextual, Show & Tell
  • Some post-interview online tasks, reports after testing out Wikipedia on their mobiles
  • A participatory co-creation workshop where we brought together readers & editors (mainly the Bangalore participants, with 1 participant from Delhi) plus some experts from the mobile space

Here is a copy of the recruitment screener.



A total of 31 ethnographic interviews were conducted across Delhi and Bangalore amongWikipedia Readers and Editors. We took care to ensure spread across gender, age, life-stage, as well as cover Wikipedia editors from both English and Indic languages.

Interview Script[edit]

Detailed Interview Script Available Here: English Moderator Script:

English Moderator Script


Section One: Introduction

Section Two: Who are they? What makes them tick? Objective: This section should provide a deeper understanding of the participants, beyond the Homework Tasks. We want to know more about their lives, dreams and frustrations, what they love doing, and their priorities and how they are changing. We’d like to capture an understanding of their online and offline behavior and how they intersect.

Section Three: Computing Experiences Across Devices

Objective: Understand what they use computers and mobiles for. You should plan this session to be show n tell. Be set up to capture screen shots where appropriate. In this section: Make sure you capture enablers and motivators. Why do they go online? Why use one device versus another. What are the pain-points or frustrations they experience? Do they have any barriers or hindrances relative to their online experience?

Section Four: Using Wikipedia Objective: How did Wikipedia enter their life and how is it used. What's changed over time? Detailed usability probes through show and tell methods

Section Five: Editing Wikipdedia: Objective: Understanding editing and how they see their role. What motivates them to edit? What standards are being used? (if reader only then this discussion should focus more on their understanding.... what would get them involved, and their current level of understanding.)

Section Six: Who Reads Wikipedia? Who do you write for? Objective: Understanding of their audience, importance of language, strengths and weakenesses

Section Seven: Wikipedia on the Mobile: Objective - Understanding of Mobile Content, Editing and Implications for a Mobile World

Section Eight: Wikipedia Wrap-Up

Research Report[edit]

Major Research Findings[edit]

Here is the detailed research report prepared by our contractor, Moscoi/Convo, for WMF.

Taking Wikipedia Mobile Final Report 01 06-2011


Summary of Findings[edit]


Across centres, we found that the Wikipedia Readers and Editors have different life positions, needs and motivations. They read/ use Wikipedia for different reasons which impact their usage patterns, involvement levels and expectations. They each represent different opportunities and challenges in both, engaging more with Wikipedia and in taking it mobile.

1. SHEETAL, 15 YEARS, STUDENT, READER, CAREFREE-FUN: “The thing I like about Wikipedia is that I get all my information there easily. The information is also quite dependable”
2. SATISH, 20 YEARS, STUDENT, READER, COOL-DUDE: “You get lots of information, so filtering the data which is your requirement is the biggest task. Its like to find a piece of diamond among the tons of stone”
3. AJAY, 25 YEARS, AUTOMOBILE ENGINEER, READER, UPWARDLY MOBILE: “I have notifications and automatic updates on my mobile from my Gmail, yahoo and facebook account. I am 24*7 online on facebook through my mobile.” (Piu is his female equivalent)
4. ANU, 35 YEARS, WORKING MOM, READER, EFFICIENT MULTI-TASKER: “Wikipedia to me is about reducing work. If I sit to write on it, my work will increase!”
5. MADAN, 42 YRS, ENTREPRENEUR, FUTURE EDITOR, SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS: “The best part of Wikipedia is that it gives you whole loads of information – and extra links to read as well”
6. PRANAV, 30 YEARS, SOFTWARE PROFESSIONAL, EDITOR, EMPOWERED: “I like the fact that people recognize me. When I get appreciation I like it very much.”

Some observations around the Mobile Internet in India that help frame the discussion around taking Wikipedia Mobile for our Personas:

  • Remains slow and with poor connectivity. Only in the last few month have 3G services become more broadly available. While the market is full of 3G promotional trials – plans remain too expensive for the majority of users. Of the approx 40 million mobile internet users most today opt for a prepaid 99 rupee per month plan for up to 2GB of data.
  • Over the last 6 - 12 months 99 Rupee data plans have apparently resulted in an explosion of youth getting on the mobile internet, using Facebook – all the time, and embracing chat apps like WhatsApp and eBuddy. Thus social exchanges are driving mobile use and awareness today.
  • For this younger generation Facebook defines their mobile activity, including sharing, uploading pictures, chatting. Facebook rather than Google is the anchor for mobile computing. Thus Facebook provides a key point of reference for how a site should work.
  • Indians are constantly trading up and trading in their mobiles. Thus they are always thinking about their next mobile. Amongst our respondents almost all were thinking about an “Android” device next, which for most also meant “screen touch”. For youth, touch ’n swype is replacing point and click.
  • Mobiles are seldom shared and as their “online capabilities” increase users simply find them more engaging. Two personas – Satish and Sheetal - could be described as mobile centric doing the majority of their computing on their mobiles. Anu and Ajay are also heading there. Even when they have access to a laptop or PC they often prefer accessing the internet on their mobile.

Wikipedia on the PC and not on the mobile, continues to frame how people see Wikipedia and dominates their experience whether or not they have accessed it on their mobile. Generally, all our readers wished Wikipedia was more engaging:

  • For most, Google drives access to Wikipedia, which often means short fleeting visits for a “byte” of information.
  • Wikipedia impresses with content and provides a credible authoritative source for information. However, its depth can be intimidating even to readers who engage it often to find just an excerpt. For some, the language used may impact on comprehension.
  • A lack of multimedia content makes the site appear dated when readers want to be more engaged by it. Others comment negatively about the bland colors.
  • Most users are blind to key Wikipedia features and the opportunities that exist on related Wikimedia sites.
  • Downloads and printing features remain a big request item despite being available on
  • Many readers aren’t aware that they can edit – even among those who know, there is nothing warm and beckoning.
  • Editing is buried in mysterious complexity when compared to Facebook or Twitter where it is easy for them to contribute.
  • Languages remain underdeveloped tracing to both the type and depth of information sought. Often the English site contains more details and “English” fits with the aspirations of the readers. Readers commented that often the “Indic” languages were seen as using old fashioned grammar.

While we specifically recruited respondents who have used Wikipedia on their mobiles, we found that the instances of use were very infrequent. Interestingly, most of the editors were currently neither reading, nor editing Wikipedia through their mobile. The feedback from readers/ editors who had experienced Wikipedia on their mobiles was that it was ‘Cumbersome/ Irritating/ Unfriendly/ Very Inconvenient’. The reasons being:

  • The page did not render properly on many of the phones – you had to keep scrolling and often lost track of where you are on the page. This was the biggest issue with reading on the mobile, esp. for those on WAP.
  • For some, the page did not get re-directed to m.wikipedia [we found out later that not all devices were supported]. For others, even if they did get re-directed, the article was one long page and the sections did not come as collapsed (as it should, on the mobile version)
  • Small screen - Difficult to read. Given that Wikipedia was a text heavy site, readers said that it was difficult to read all of that on a mobile phone screen. The problem was bigger tor the older respondents. [one of readers with a Nokia 7210 had installed Opera on his phone to get a landscape view and hence more reading space].

Editors said that when reading itself was difficult, editing was bound to be even more difficult.

  • Could not cut-paste/ print/ save/download. – lowered the relevance of Wikipedia Mobile, esp. for persona types like Anu and Sheetal.
  • Could not read Indic languages on some handsets/ browsers – Ex: Android

Some other concerns expressed with respect to editing via Wikipedia Mobile: Difficult to type large amount of text via touch screens. Chances of error increase. Hence editing would be a pain (would be somewhat better on Qwerty but not as easy as typing on a PC/laptop) . This had negative implications for editing on Wikipedia Mobile.

The mobile provides two distinctively different opportunities for Wikipedia
1. Entry and Lower End Mobile: Address Mobile rendering limitations. These users will also benefit from “pithy” concise information suitable to their small screen sizes. This may also help pages load faster – particularly when connection are bad.

  • Wikipedia Mobile frustrates when a user is trying to download, copy./past, or print and it doesn’t make these tasks easy to do later (printing at a cybercafe, emailing to a friend or self etc.) The navigation on these devices is typically point n click.

  • Opera Mini provides the best experience for this segment of users, and many are using it to access Facebook and other services.

2. Higher Performance Touch Screen (Android): Users of Android phones (and iPhones) already have a richer mobile experience. This both changes their frame of reference and increases their expectations.

  • Despite advances performance phones like the Samsung Galaxy S had problems rending Indic languages

What opportunities exist in each of these quadrants to take Wikipedia Mobile?

Conversations: How can mobile help permeate more conversations? How can it provide the “facts” on the run in a world of faster, smarter conversations?

Reference: How could Wikipedia change to deliver content perhaps with higher frequency and more pithy abstract content more suitable for reading on the go?

Expertise: Will Wikipedia be able to leverage its editors during “in-between” moments? How can the mobile reach a new group of editors that are “mobile natives”?

Co-creation: What happens when or if communication within the community accelerates, or engages a broader group of people. How might location, picture sharing and requests for “on the spot” info build the community


Sheetal and Satish - Opportunities:
Though they are at slightly different life-stages, there are some key similarities between Sheetal and Satish in how they look at life and their computing behaviour. Both of them spend a substantial part of their days hanging out with friends. They and their friends are totally into each other’s lives, sharing even the most mundane details (“maid has not given me coffee”) via FB, chat or BB messenger. Sharing is a big thing for them. Both of them have low attention spans. They get bored easily and are always looking for fun things to do. Routine and sameness bores them easily. They do not like to read much if they can avoid it. They also do not want to write much per se. Their conversations on the Net/messenger etc., are frequent but short – one liners, a pic, link to a video etc. Both of them seek instant gratification. They do not want to wait for anything. For everything they do, they want instant feedback. They also do not want to put in much effort to get something. Expect things to come to them easily.

a. Keep it short, easy, quick: In keeping with their short attention spans + ‘don’t want to put in effort’ mindset, Wikipedia Mobile should

b. Enable Sharing on Facebook. Note / Caveat: While these two are heavy sharers – it’s more about pictures and jokes especially on Facebook. They might share a quote or a new word they learned from Wikipedia, or even media but they’re unlikely to share a serious article say on poverty or on Gandhi or which are typically the school projects.

Ajay and Piu - Opportunities:
Ajay and Piu like to be the Go-To-Guy among their peer group/ social circle. Thus they want to appear well-informed and also be The First to Know information as it happens. They thrive on the power of knowledge - that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. They are tech-savvy, power users of the Internet. They are also very proficient with their mobiles and are likely to have smartphones for both image + business reasons. Ajay and Piu want information on the go. They want anywhere access to information, which for them means a seamless integration of information across their various devices – be it mobile, PC, cloud, memory stick whatever. Their main interest is in topical news and information updates. They are low hanging fruits as far as editing Wikipedia is concerned, since they have no barriers to it as such. Their main issue is awareness that they can edit + the fact that they need some kind of reciprocal return on their time investment

a. Enable seamless integration across devices via dedicated apps

b. Quick information on the go with short updates via push

c. Enable them to be part of a mobile Wikipedia community

Madan Opportunities:
Madan is a person who takes his civil society role seriously and makes the time to be involved in social initiatives. He is respected in his social circle for his knowledge. He is the person people go to for opinions and advice. Curious by nature, Madan wants to remain sharp, knowledgeable, maintain his learning curve. He chooses to stay abreast of all the new things that are happening around him rather than be flustered by a rapidly changing world. In order to do so, he seeks information from various sources, Wikipedia being one of them. Madan wants information to come to him in real-time rather than having to go and look for it in various corners of the Web. In this manner, he can keep himself always updated on the events and changes that are happening around him. However, Madan is also not very comfortable reading long web pages on his mobile. Mails are what he reads the most on his phone.

a. Enable push notifications for topical issues and email articles of interest

b. Invite him to share his knowledge through targeted outreach

Anu Opportunities:
As a working mom, Anu has to cope with a lot of responsibilities and is trying hard to find a work-home-life balance. She is stretched for time and hence Time Management and Smart Efficiency are her core needs at this point. Being the Good Mom is very important for Anu. She remains highly involved in her children’s lives and their studies. She diligently takes the time out to help them cope with their studies and school assignments. In order to do so, Anu goes online to look for relevant content for their various school assignments. Currently she can only do it from home, on her PC. Thus, she has to find a dedicated Wikipedia Time, either on a weekend or at the end of a long working weekday - when she would rather be resting or spending quality time with her family. Currently one of Anu’s big problems with Wikipedia mobile is that it duplicates her task (less efficient use of her time) when she is looking for aids to simplify and ease it – Ex: she reads an article on the mobile and then has to go back home and read it all over again to select the necessary, relevant clips, since most often she does not need the entire article for her children’s school projects.
The only way Anu is going to see value in Wikipedia Mobile is if it can help her be more efficient with her time. So she should be able to read and select relevant clips, save them and mail them to herself. This would save her the trouble (& time) of having to re-enact the entire process at home again. Once she got home, she could quickly collate the clips from her mail and print them, which would save her a lot of hassle. This solution would also give Anu the flexibility of doing her research anytime, anywhere (say during a lean hour in the office, while travelling to/from work and even when she was resting on the bed). It would free up her time at home and help her enhance her efficiency.

Pranav Opportunities:
Pranav is already passionate about Wikipedia and spends about 3-4hours on it daily. Presently he does not feel an overt need to access/ edit Wikipedia on the mobile, esp. because his overall involvement with Internet on the mobile is pretty low at the moment. He does not see it as being an effective production device. Also, one of the reasons why Pranav feels that editing on the mobile is not feasible is that he is deeply concerned about the quality of inputs that would result from editing the main site via the mobile. He feels that the current site does not lend itself to being edited in such a manner for the lack of wiki markups and other editing tools; error-free typing on the mobile keypads; small screen making it difficult to see what is being edited. Furthermore, Pranav feels uneasy with the fact that while random editing via the mobile may clutter the site with poor quality inputs, he will have less control over it, esp. if the volume of input is high

a. Reassure him of his control over quality. Enable mobile watchlist

b. Allow him to make small, quick edits/reverts on the go

c. Enable him to take the lead in the mobile Wikipedia community

Overall Recommendations[edit]

It is our view that it is critical to get more Ajay's and Satish’s into the Wikipedia editorial circles, as they are leading-edge mobile users and Ajay in particular has clear recognition needs that Editing Wikipedia can fulfill. Finding ways to engage them now, with short pithy editorial jobs, may turn them into more comprehensive editing experts in the future. Engage them with their tools, and we can keep learning how to take Wikipedia mobile from them. Two other segments - Anu and Sheetal are using Wikipedia as a source of education and reference material – could we do more interventions in Schools and more outreach that way. Get teachers to ask students for 140 character abstracts of long articles as a training tool!!

Here are some overall suggestions across segments

1. Better mobile UI, Improve reading experience, make it easy to use. The mobile site should render properly on every handset, even the lower-end WAP/GPRS enabled ones. The home page should be clutter-free. Prominent search box and list of categories [since a section of mobile readers come to the homepage and then search for content, this would be very important]. A drop down menu with language options could be useful if Indic fonts are enabled (type in English and it converts to Indic or use a virtual keyboard that appears as you select the language)

2. Information on the go/ Instant Information. The mobile version could offer a word meaning or definition, short concise paragraph (abstract) on the topic – basically an information capsule for quick reference. Everything else could be collapsed, with a ‘know more’ link. Would prevent the first page from looking cluttered and cumbersome. Would also make reading easier on smaller screens.
Partner with service providers/mobile operators and offer to bundle Wikipedia as a FREE ENCYCLOPEDIA on the mobile.

3. Be interactive and, engaging - alleviate the ‘cold’ image of Wikipedia. Allow readers to share from within the article on FB/Twitter. Have ‘Like’ buttons so that the reader knows if anyone of his/her friends have Liked the article on Wikipedia. Likely to drive traffic. Let readers stay connected to Wikipedia. Let them ‘follow’ articles of their interest. Push notifications regarding updates/ discussions/ articles of topical interest via SMS/ email. Make it easy to upload pictures and short videos to Wikipedia (WikiCommons) and then again share the same on FB/ Twitter etc. Could think of using location based services to prompt people to take a picture & upload – on the lines of ‘Wikipedia loves monuments’. Could generate an initial buzz by launching a photo contest.

4. Convenience. Have dedicated apps for the different mobile devices – Kindle, iPad, Androids, iPhone etc. However, to be relevant to the bulk of the market, it is essential for Wikipedia to have J2ME apps which would be compatible with any phone that has Java and GPRS. Features like Save Clip, Bookmark, download as PDF, send to mail etc., would all be very useful for Future reference/ Reading Later/ Reading offline. A print solution would be very handy since Wikipedia articles are generally used for educational projects.

5. Editing Articles:While editing full articles may not be feasible on the mobile, small edits may be possible, esp. by experienced editors.

  • An editor selects the line he wishes to edit and on clicking it a pop-up box opens up which allows him to edit and save.

  • There could perhaps be a solution whereby the editor emails the short clip which he wishes to edit, to himself Then he could edit on mail and send it back to the site for upload.

  • Editors should be able to follow their most active watch-list on the mobile to track the article.

6. Read/ Write Indic: Partner with handset manufacturers & ensure that web fonts are enabled on their browsers. Would be especially helpful in reading Indic. Also, see if virtual keyboards for key Indic languages can be pre-bundled with the device.Also smaller, Indian handset manufacturers like Micromax, Lava etc., are looking to differentiate their offers and maintain excitement around their brands. Partnering them to bundle Wikipedia as a dictionary/ encyclopedia/ learning app could be an opportunity esp. to reach out to smaller towns and even perhaps villages.

Video Highlights[edit]

Coming Shortly - we will put up video snippets from our actual Interviews

WMF Report[edit]