Digital volunteers heed Wiki’s call

Thursday, 26 November 2009 - 9:24am IST | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA
Bangalore provides the online encyclopedia with more volunteers than any other part of the country.

A recent study by a research group claims that the free encyclopedia Wikipedia has lost 49,000 of its contributors in the first three months of 2009. Since then, speculation has been rife in the media about how the website is dying. Tinu Cherian, one of the 20 Wikipedia administrators in the country, say that things are not as bad as they appear to be.

“A lot of users register on the site and leave after a few weeks. It’s very common as people tend to get bored of things pretty fast. Nothing to be alarmed about there. Then there are users who have been editing the site for years now. In fact, we have been seeing more members join in Bangalore,”  Tinu says.

The research was conducted by Felipe Ortega at Libresoft, a research group at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid. He created a computer system that analysed the editing history of more than three million active Wikipedia contributors in 10 languages.

The research found that in the first three months of this year the English-language version of the site suffered a net loss of 49,000 contributors, compared with a loss of about 4,900 during the same period last year.

In the latest period for which there are figures, across March and April this year, it lost about 23,000 of its 100,000 English-language editors. Ortega said early indications had suggested that the downward trend was continuing. Tinu is one of the top editors of Wikipedia in the city and one of the few Wiki administrators in the country. In three years, he has edited countless number of articles while creating around 2,200 new pages on the site. He was given administration rights a few months back after a few administrators nominated him for the position. He got it with almost 99 per cent approval rating.

“We have been holding Wikipedia meetings in the city and over the past few months, there has been an impressive response from people who’re editors. We also see more new members in each meeting,” he adds.

According to the study, the exit of so many volunteers has been blamed on the increasingly strict rules of the website. Last week the page dedicated to the French footballer Thierry Henry was locked after his handball during the World Cup play-off match with Ireland. Incensed fans left obscenities on the site, as well as a flood of criticism. Other rules have been introduced to reduce infighting and clashes between writers.

Tinu has seen his own set of clashes on the website. “When Muthalik had attacked women in Mangalore pubs, there were a lot of edits on his page. People who supported him made changes according to their agenda, while those who opposed it twisted the edits to suit their convenience. According to our policy, if anything is posted without factual proof [link to a story in the media or any authentic source] we revert and that’s exactly what we ended up doing,” Tinu says. The city has around 50 active editors, the most compared to any other Indian city and to increase the number, they’re also planning to start an Indian chapter of Wikimedia Foundation. Wikimedia foundation is a non-profit organisation and runs the Wikipedia website.

Tinu Cherian reveals why he joined Wikipedia
“Whenever I ‘Google’d something, Wikipedia pages appeared among the top results. I got inquisitive and decided to register as an editor on the site.  Recently, I was at Devanahalli. When I returned, I updated the page with inputs and pictures. That’s how Wikipedia works. It also has a global outlook.”


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