What would the world do without Wikipedia, “the saviour of high school students everywhere and a project to create the most accurate and complete free-content encyclopedia on the Internet,” as UrbanDictionary put it? Notwithstanding our dependence on its collaborative wisdom, as Wikipedia celebrates it’s sixth anniversary on Thursday, a few Bangalore-based contributors to this mega-wiki say there’s still a lot to be done.
Arun Ram, a techie by profession and Wikipedia contributor post-work, has been a contributor to Wikipedia for more than five years now. “I have a habit of signing up everywhere online and I did create an ID at Wikipedia too. But it took an earthquake and a tsunami for me to understand its power,” Arun says.
“Post the Indian Ocean tsunami, I contributed in whatever way I could to these pages and I was surprised to find that almost a hundred people were adding information simultaneously,” he says.
Tinu Cherian, the only Wikipedia editor in the city, has a similar story to narrate. “Since news gets updated so fast on Wikipedia, netizens turn to it for the latest. The death of Vishnuvardhan was updated by an IP editor (no username) early the morning the actor died. All I had to do was attach an online news source for its credibility. While rumours were spreading recently on social media regarding the ‘death’ of Jyoti Basu, people started adding “the death date” to his Wikipedia article. Initially we tried to redo these edits made by multiple people, but as an admin, I had to finally lock the article to prevent further spread of rumours. Then I realised that editing Wikipedia also comes with great responsibility. We avoided rumours from being spread with this action,” Cherian says.
Ram been quite active on the site since the tsunami, but feels there still remains a lot of work to be done as far as pages in Indian languages are concerned. “We are trying to speak to a lot of groups who are working on popularising various languages and work with them to develop Wikis in their language. For example, there is this village Mattur in Karnataka, where everyone speaks Sanskrit and as far as the Sanskrit version of Wikipedia is concerned people from across the globe make changes to it. There are people from Germany and US who understand the language very well, and help improve the stories,” he adds.
To celebrate the sixth anniversary, Wikipedia enthusiasts and contributors will be organising a meet-up this Saturday. “It’ll be a get together, where we’ll share facts about Wikipedia in India and how it’s doing in Indian languages. We’ll also try to introduce new people to Wikipedia and encourage them to start contributing in other Indian languages and help them with it,” says Ram.