Centre for Internet & Society

In March 2020, the whole world came to a standstill. What many deemed as a regular ‘flu’ turned out to be the pandemic that brought everyone to their knees. The things that we always did, we could no longer do them. We were all confined to our homes with no choice but to work online. Hanging out with friends, attending weddings, and being a part of the conferences and seminars suddenly became a part of the past. We started using the word unprecedented a lot.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!”

-          Wayne Dyer

For the last many months, we have been getting used to this new ‘normal’. Students and teachers are getting accustomed to the classes and tests happening online. What people thought was impossible, has now become possible. No one could have guessed that birthday parties, gatherings, even marriages would be conducted online. We have now got used to being part of webinars, sessions, and conferences online. A2K is not an exception to this. We planned and conducted a national meet named ‘Wikimedia Wikimeet India 2021’.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success!”

-          Henry Ford

Background: We, at A2K, have organised many such training sessions and conferences like Train the Trainer, Media Wiki Training, Advanced Wiki Training. But due to COVID restrictions it was not possible to organise such an event offline this year. So this year, we decided to organise a virtual meet for the Wikimedians of India. This meet was planned and conducted especially for the Wikimedians who are already working or are interested in working on Wikimedia projects that deal with Indian content.

Our main objectives behind organising this meet were to celebrate the work done by Wikimedians of India, to provide an online platform for wiki-learning and skill-share, to support discussions and interactions, to give training on important and relevant topics, and explore the medium of online training and wiki-event for future use.

After all the planning, our three-day event of Wikimedia Wikimeet took place from 19 February to 21 February, 2021.

Community Engagement: We decided to organise this meet as there seemed to be a scarcity in volunteer’s and user’s contribution. Moreover, we have always believed in giving back to the community. So, we took an initiative to keep the community engaged. Our goal was to encourage volunteers and users to come forward and take lead in Wikimedia activities. To make it easy for our volunteers and the users to select their area of interest, we started Request for Comments and Community Engagement. It is a forum where open discussions can take place about and where participants can share their knowledge, expertise, and experience. The tasks that were conducted under this were Logo Design, Translation, and Knowledge on Hybrid / Blended Learning Model.

Modes of Promotion: This event would not have been a success if not for our participants. We began promoting the event by using our India Mailing list. Our next step was to publicise the event on our social media channels and pages and also in messenger groups. We sent bulk messages on Indic Village Pumps announcing that the Wikimedia Wikimeet was about to take place. Our next step was to start a fortnightly newsletter about the event. It was started to notify the people of updates. We encouraged our users to sign up for the newsletter so they would get immediate updates. This way, our volunteers and users knew what was happening with regard to the event and they also came to know what was about to happen in the coming 15 days.

Another thing we did was to put up a blogpost on Diff about our event. Our blogpost stated the importance of organising such an event. We have also discussed the background ideas in the same post. Our next blogpost dealt with the ‘how’ of our event. In it, we discussed the ideas of designing the event. Total 5 blogposts were written and put up. Another article named Wikimedia Wikimeet and Beyond: Ideas and Opinions was written and posted a few months later.

Organisation Methodology: Every great journey begins with one step. With that in mind, we first decided on the organisation methodology. The team tried its best to maintain transparency from planning and organisation till the execution and the end of the meet. This was the first ever large scale meet that we were planning to organise. Thus, some of the resources came in handy in our planning stage. To mention a few, we took inspiration and guidance from Celtic Knot Conference, LD4 Conference, Wikimedia CEE Online Meeting, Creative Commons Global Summit, Italy Wiki Conference, Wikicite Virtual Conference, and Wikimedia Strategy Global Conversation.

Next step the core team took was to appoint a program committee. The main function of this program committee was to select important submissions and presentations. Following are the 5 members of our program committee:

Kiril Simeonovski: He is the founding member of Wikimedia Macedonia and Shared Knowledge and has been the president of Shared Knowledge since 2014.

Netha Hussain: She has been a volunteer in the Wikimedia Movement since 2010. Nowadays she mostly works in English WIkipedia and Wikidata, but she is also active in Commons, Metawiki, and Malayalam Wikipedia.

Shyamal: He is interested in the natural history of India, environmental consciousness in general, and history of science, especially biology.

Mahir256: He is an administrator on Wikidata, an administrator on Bengali Wikisource, and has a native understanding of English language.

Bodhisattwa: He has been a volunteer editor in different Wikimedia projects since 2012. He is mostly active on Bengali Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikidata. He is also a part-time coordinator at the Center for Internet and Society - Access to Knowledge.

It was necessary for the participants of this event to register prior to the event. A registration form was open and made available for the duration of a month. After the deadline of this registration form, another special registration form with criteria was given to the participants. The participants were then selected according to the criteria.

The event took place on Zoom. We used the official Zoom account of the Center for Internet and Society. The main reason behind registrations was to avoid zoom-bombing. The eligible participants were given the link to join the event.

Wikimedia Wikimeet was a three - day long event. We tried our best to accommodate all the presenters, moderators, attendees, and participants. Time was set according to them. This was a national level event but we were able to involve a few experienced international experts. So we had to take the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) as well as the Indian Standard Time (IST) into consideration so that the volunteers, participants, and experts could all attend all the sessions and could engage in fruitful discussions.

Selection of Presentations and Sessions: We received 44 submissions for this event and eventually after discussions 29 were selected to be featured in the event. A committee was given the task to select the submissions based on the topics that are crucial to Indic editors. We also had willing participants from the Wikimedia Foundation as presenters to acquaint the members of Indian community and volunteers with the important topics and issues.

We also invited international guests and experts to speak to our Indian Wikimedian community about the topics that are relevant currently and would be crucial for Indic writers and editors in future. We invited the experts from France to talk about their Lingua Libre project. We also invited the team to talk about Strategy. Our keynote speakers were also invited for this event.

Event: After taking all the submissions into consideration, our program committee made a program schedule for the three-day event. The tracks that were selected by the program committee for the presentations were: Growth of Wikimedia communities and partnerships, Information on technical Aspects and tools, Strategy of Wikimedia movement, GLAM & Content copyrights, etc.

Other than that, we tried to follow the Friendly Space Policy completely. All the rules of the said policy were cleared before the event. The team tried its best to remove the language barrier for our Non-English speakers. We urged the Wikimedians to translate their content in their language for their respective communities. This practice was followed by quite a few Indic Wikimedians.

30 sessions were planned in all. Every session had a separate Etherpad link. As this was a virtual event, this facility was provided for the participants as well as the experts to interact during and after the session. Due to shortage of time, the notes and questions were made on the Etherpad. Experts and presenters wrote their answers on the Etherpad as well. All the sessions and presentations were recorded and are now available to everyone on the Commons under the name Wikimedia Wikimeet India 2021.

During this three-day event, around 200 participants joined in at different times. Out of the 30 presentations, 18 presenters were from India and the remaining were international presenters.

Day 1 (Friday, 19 February, 2021):

There were 9 presentations on Day 1 of the event. After the introduction by Tito Dutta, the keynote speech was delivered by Asaf Bartov (Ijon).  This was attended by 86 participants.

After the keynote speech, Dipantshu Das shed a light on ‘Attracting experts to contribute to Wikimedia’. He highlighted that it was the need of the hour. And this work would greatly help communities in India. He talked about urging academicians to contribute to Wikipedia more openly.

Next presentation was made by Sudhanshu Gautam and Angie Muigai. They talked about ‘Growing Wikipedia’s reach in India with a new Wikipedia app’ in their presentation, they talked about the importance of making Wikipedia mobile friendly with the increase of internet users in India. They mentioned that there was an opportunity to provide ideas to increase the readership.

The next two presentations under the growth track were: ‘Help your community grow’ and ‘Introducing newcomers from Wikisource to Wikipedia: A case study from Hindi Wikipedia’. The first session was a 20 minutes long presentation followed by a conversation and it was beneficial to welcome and retain new users to Wikipedia and also increase the quality of new users’ edits. The second presentation shed some light on how to retain the new users and volunteers once they join the community after attending sessions and workshops.

On day 1, there were three presentations about the partnerships: ‘Engaging with partners in the movement! WMF's approach’, ‘GLAM Mapping leads to Wikimedian in Residence’, and ‘Discover Structured Data on Commons for you and your partners’.

In the first presentation, Praveen Das underlined the importance of working with various partners from different fields for mutual growth.

Next presenter Arya Joshi talked about the GLAM mapping research conducted by CIS - A2K and her work with Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune. She talked about offline and online documentation of work and creating new opportunities for research.

The final presentation of the day was Discover Structured Data on Commons for you and your partners by Alicia Fagerving. In this session, the presenter gave recommendations to make optimum use of the Structured Data on Commons (SDC) to improve workflow. This presentation was followed by a workshop where the participants edited SDC and then there was a discussion.

Day 2 (Saturday, 20 February, 2021):

Day 2 began with a special morning session and keynote speech by Katherine Maher and Amanda Keton. In her speech, Katherine highlighted how Indian community is important to the Wikimedia movement. She also talked about the growth of emerging communities. Groups and Wikimedians who have been doing good work were also recognised. She talked about relaunching the Grant strategy. It was a fruitful session with comments and question - answers.

After the keynote address, there were 3 presentations that dealt with the technical aspect and issues.

The first talk was about Gadgets and tools for a Wikipedia Editor by Ranjith Siji. He introduced and explained different kinds of scripts and tools required to edit and browse Wikipedia.

The second session was a 60 minute long workshop followed by a conversation about Transforming Data from the Web with OpenRefine. It was conducted by Gnoeee and Ranjith Siji.   This was a basic level training given to the new users of OpenRefine.

The last technical presentation was Writing UserScripts and gadgets by Jay Prakash. In his session, the presenter imparted basic to intermediate level training on writing user scripts and explaining how to use it as a gadget on Wiki.

The last 4 sessions of the day dealt with Strategy. The first presentation ‘An update from the Sustainability Initiative’ in this category was made by Gnom from Germany. He gave an update on the Sustainability Initiative. His talk consisted of an update on current developments around environmental sustainability in the Wikimedia movement.

Next presentation named ‘Grants in 2021 - What is the process?’ was by Tanveer Hasan. As a part of the Community Resources team, the presenter shared a process update and gathered feedback on how to improve the strategy relaunch process.

Next presentation titled ‘Movement Strategy and South Asia’ was done by Anna Torres, Hillun Vilayl Napis, Kayode Yussuf, Tanveer Hassan, Mehrdad Pourzaki, Ryan Merkley, and Kaarel Vaidla. In this session, all the presenters talked about the initiatives that are most relevant and important in 2021 in communities of South Asia.

The last session of the day was ‘Distributed leadership and global decision-making - the Interim Global Council’. It was delivered by Mehrdad Pourzaki, Ryan Merkley, and Kaarel Vaidla. They talked about global decision making and distributed leadership. Their aim was to acquaint the South Asian communities to the conversations, possibilities, and updates.

Day 3 (Sunday, 21 February, 2021):

The last day of the event was dedicated to ‘International Mother Language Day’. The day began with 2 consecutive sessions by Dipantshu Das named ‘Copyright, Copyleft, and Wikimedia movement’ and ‘Building a diamond open access journal on Wikimedia platform’. In the first session, the presenter talked about the importance of intellectual property rights and copyright to the Wikimedia movement. In the second session, the presenter talked about the importance of having diamond open access journals especially in India as the article processing charges for open access journals can be very high in India due to conversion rates.

Next session was a workshop conducted by Jayanta Nath on Wikisource. Another workshop was conducted at the same time by Rangan Datta on Wikivoyage.

Next 4 presentations on Day 3 were community based. The first presentation in this series was titled ‘Internship Program in Tamil Wiki Projects’ and was delivered by Neechalkaran. It was a knowledge sharing session on the internship program for college students.

The second presentation was made by Subodh Kulkarni and the title was ‘Re-licensing and Digitisation process in Maharashtra’. The presenter explained the relicensing process taking place in Maharashtra Marathi community, authors, copyright holders, and organisations.

The third session was conducted by Ziko and was named ‘Rules that every wiki needs’. In this session, the presenter introduced the topic ‘law and rules every wiki needs’.

The last session in the Community category was ‘100wikidays’ and it was conducted by Sangram Senapati. In this session, the presenter shared his story of writing an article for Wiki each and every day for 100 days.

The last four presentations of the day were dedicated to language. In the session titled ‘Servants Of Knowledge initiative for Digital Archiving Kannada & other Indic language content’, Omshivprakash talked about the impact of digitisation of art, history, and culture on language preservation. He primarily talked about the Kannada language.

Next session was on ‘Spell4Wiki - Audio upload tool for Wikimedia commons & Multilingual dictionary based on Wiktionary’ by Manimaran. In this presentation, he introduced the Spell4wiki app. He also described the features and benefits of using the said app.

Next session was conducted by invited guest experts from France. The session was about ‘Lingua Libre - record your language’ and ‘Lingua Libre bot and recording wizard’. It was conducted by Adélaïde Calais, Poslovitch, and Yug. Lingua Libre is a website created by Wikimedia France to record vocabulary. Its aim is to build a collaborative and multilingual bank. In the session, the two tools used in the Lingua Libre project, the Record Wizard and the Lingua Libre Bot, were also introduced.

The last session before the closing keynote speech was ‘Section Translation: New Ways to Contribute on Mobile Devices’. It was presented by Amir Aharoni, NGkountas, and Pau Giner. The presenters talked about the content translation extension. Further, they talked about two new features that are to be deployed that can be used by more people in many countries and languages.

The closing keynote speech was given by Tarunno. He spoke about ‘International Mother Language Day - The love for Language and a sound of silence’  The event ended with a closing session by Tito Dutta.

Hurdles we faced: At the beginning, we found it difficult to form a team to organise the event. Due to the pandemic, we were unsure about approaching the wikimedians and were also worried about the participation. As it was a virtual event, the internet was the most important factor in it. Many participants and volunteers faced problems due to low internet connectivity.

Our achievements: This was the first ever national level virtual event conducted in India by A2K. We were able to create a platform for the wikimedians to interact. Though it was initially a national event, we were able to get international guests as well.

We received positive feedback and precious suggestions from the participants. Following are some quotes:

“Productive, helpful sessions. Was very helpful to me personally. Good effort by all involved. If I were to suggest improvements, Would have liked slots for conversations,  and networking sessions. A "state of nation" like updates by projects would have helped too. “

“Thanks a lot again, this was a very good event.

Online events are not the same as physical ones but it was still very interesting and useful.”

“I was a presenter and presented a workshop on Wikivoyage. It was a nice program and I'm looking forward to more such virtual and physical events.”

We also received some feedback videos that were an appreciation for A2K. Following are a couple of links:

Manavpreet Kaur

Mehrdad Pourzaki

We also received audio feedback from Ashwin Bandur.

What’s next?!: After all the stumbles and hurdles and achievements we had in Wikimedia Wikimeet India 2021, we have already started planning for Wikimedia Wikimeet India 2022. Tito Dutta has written about the planning for next year’s meet.

“It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.”

-          Carl Friedrich Gauss

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