The Bengali version of Wikipedia started its journey back in 2004 and has gradually become one of the largest Bengali content websites on the Internet with more than 88,000 articles on various topics. It surpassed 10,000 articles in October 2006, becoming the second South-Asian language to do so. With 1,560 active editors per month, the site has a total number of 281,372 registered users with a total of 4,232,303 edits from around the world. The site operates under the community leadership of 11 administrators, one bureaucrat and two checkusers. On 26 February 2015, Jimmy Wales noted that according to the article quality, Bengali Wikipedia is rated quite well. The community members usually come from Bangladesh and India's West Bengal. The offline and collaborative activities are conducted through ‘Wikimedia Bangladesh’ in Bangladesh and through the ‘West Bengal Wikimedians User group’ in India. In 2018, Bengali Wikipedia was viewed about 190 million times from all over the world. On average, the site was viewed over 500 thousand times a day. As of May 2020, Bengali Wikipedia is the only online free encyclopedia written in the Bengali language.
Back when the project started its journey, the people of Bangladesh had little interest in Wikipedia and there was no community. But it all changed in mid-2006, a Wiki team was created to popularize Wikipedia throughout the country. Soon, many Bengali-speaking people from Bangladesh and abroad joined them. This is when the project actually started to flourish in terms of content and policy. There were about 20 or so very active members. By then the English Wikipedia’s different policies were well defined and users in this project wanted to focus on the content creation. After a number of discussions, they all agreed that in general, bnwiki will adopt various behavioural and conduct policies from English Wikipedia and change them in the local context if necessary. The practice is still the same in Bengali wiki projects. Bengali Wikipedia has the following Conduct and behavioural policies including but not limited to:
Civility, Etiquette, Consensus, Dispute resolution, Edit warring, No personal attacks, No legal threats, Assume good faith, Biographies of living persons, Please do not bite the newcomers, Libel, Sock puppetry etc.
Most of those policies were translated from English Wikipedia and community members usually review them from time to time for changes. In the early stage, there were around 20 people participating mainly in the area of Civility, Dispute resolution, Edit warring etc. Over the years, more people expressed their interest in discussing the terms of harassment, undisclosed paid editing, canvassing etc. All policies listed here are also valid for Bengali Wikipedia and have Bengali pages.
A dedicated discussion page was created on the Bengali Wikipedia to discuss the possibility of UCoC. The community members were notified through various mediums such as community mailing lists, Facebook groups and chat groups. They also participated through personal level communications such as phone calls, messenger calls and 1:1 chats. Female editors were identified through a system quarry and mass messages were sent to them. In addition, Wikibarta, a Wikimedia news related to Bengali magazine, published a story about this process. Community members also took part in the survey. Users took part in the 1:1 discussions also gave their opinion, we have also heard from most of the regular voices.
The process took place in two stages. During the first round, participants talked about major challenges that they normally face with respect to behavioural issues and how they handled them so far and in the second round, they talked about the things that should or should not be included in the UCoC.
During the process, we also reached out to the chapter, user groups and regional communities to obtain their views in regards to the UCoC. These include the Wikimedia Bangladesh Chapter and its regional communities, the West Bengal Wikimedians User Group and the Santali Wikimedians User Group. The board of Wikimedia Bangladesh discussed the UCoC in the board's private mailing list and in one of their board meetings, noted that "there is a need to have such a global ethical guideline in any open-source movement to protect its volunteer communities". They believe that this will greatly reduce the inequality/harassment on the Wikimedia platform. The regional Wikipedia communities under Wikimedia Bangladesh such as Chattogram, Rajshahi, Cumilla and Chandpur Wikipedia community are also supportive of the UCoC.
The West Bengal user group, however, said they have no opinion in regards to UCoC. They complained, "We have inferred from the experience by observing or commenting on various issues in the past that The WMF may not value and/or listen to the opinions of the community". Apart from this, the recently formed Santali User Group discussed the UCoC among themselves and said that the directive would be useful in preventing harassment and rude behaviour in the projects.
User 1: Newcomers are often unaware of the numerous policies and guidelines of Wikipedia. After attending a workshop, I became interested in contributing to Wikipedia. I've seen multiple times that the regular/more experienced users are not so kind to them and often behave rudely. In some cases, the community even turns a blind eye to such rudeness as they come from more regular users. And, there is no central policy or guideline on the Wikimedia platform to address such behavioural issues. As a result, potential contributors feel that they are the outsiders and leave the project frustrated. That is why I believe such a global ethical/moral policy is necessary within the Wikimedia projects.
User 2: I have been a reader of Wikipedia since 2008. But I created my account a few years later. After creating an account, I occasionally tried to make minor edits to Wikipedia. I also mentioned in my userpage that I'm a female contributor. A few days later, I received an email from a user requesting to be my friend on a social media platform. The person also asked for my personal information. This thing frustrated me. In my opinion, such a universal code of conduct would change such a mindset.
During the process, most participants talked about aggressive/uncivil behaviours/personal attacks in the platforms, harassment, editor retention, edit warring, privacy issues, spamming and vandalism in general. All the participants were supportive of the project and said that if implemented the policy/guideline:
- will be able to address similar and/or regular aggressive/uncivil behaviours across multiple projects
- will create a respectful and harassment-free environment within the movement for everyone, regardless of gender, religion and culture
- may help with editor retention which is a long term problem within the Wiki projects
- help us make better decisions and it can be used as a reference. This will be especially helpful for users of small and relatively immature projects to understand wiki norms and practices
- will also reduce the unnecessary edit warring and helps us take the privacy issue more seriously.
- Sometimes less experienced users face difficulties in our projects, for example, there are cases where users force one's opinion on others. In such cases, this kind of guideline will be helpful.
The participants also discussed:
- Paid contributions undermine the volunteer efforts and put the community in a bad position. They should be banned altogether from the WMF sites and/or the ToU should be enforced more strictly and it should be mentioned in the UCoC,
- The local community should have the right to add/change the section of the policy according to their local and cultural context,
- UCoC should mention mutual respect and etiquette, consistent with one's religious and/or cultural traditions,
- While some behaviour may be viewed lightly in some community, others may find them offensive (disclosure of private conversations, etc.); the policy should mention these things,
- Maintaining tolerance in the social sphere and showing respect to the opinions of others,
- To create a healthier environment in any platform it is necessary to have some kind of ethical guideline but it should be an explanatory supplement.
Almost everyone starts contributing to Bengali Wikipedia and later they gradually become the contributors of other Bengali projects. All the participants took part in the discussion through different mediums are involved in the Bengali Wikipedia project in one way or another as this is the most active and largest wiki project in Bengali. So, most participants gave their opinion in the context of Bengali Wikipedia. They discussed different behavioural issues, for example, regular users mostly talked about personal privacy, civility, narrow-mindedness and harassment / personal attacks etc. Others talked about the content of the articles, edit war, and so on. But they all agree that such a Universal code of conduct policy will help reduce the misconduct/bad behaviour in various Wikimedia projects.