Centre for Internet & Society

Radha Krishna, an engineer, had always wanted to share information online so that people who wanted to learn more could just log in and benefit by reading his articles. Eight years ago he started his own website for this very purpose. But he found it hard to maintain the site. He then chanced upon Wikipedia, the largest open-source encyclopedia, which was then just becoming popular in the country.

The article by Svetlana Lasrado was published in the New Indian Express on July 29, 2014. T. Vishnu Vardhan gave his inputs.

He registered an account on the website and started contributing to it by editing articles and adding references. Krishna, who has contributed over 4000 articles so far, prides himself on being one of the first few Wiki editors from Bangalore.

Komal Khatokar, on the other hand, has not spent as much time on the site as Krishna.

This 19-year-old B Com student of Christ University had to contribute one article to the Indian language Wikipedia last year as part of her assignment in a language of her choice, Sanskrit. She says, “I wrote an article on G V Iyer, who was the first person to direct a movie in Sanskrit.”

But it did not stop there. Last May, she took up an internship project with The Centre for Internet & Society (CIS), which acts as a catalyst for the Wikipedia movement in India. She wanted to explore the world of Wiki writing.

“I took part in a project to add articles from the Kannada encyclopedia online. We uploaded over 1200 articles, which will go live on the main website in October.” Komal now edits copies on the site and despite her hectic college schedule, wants to continue contributing to Wikipedia in any way that she can.

Anybody with an Internet access can edit an article on Wikipedia. Globally, the English Wikipedia has over 4 million articles and there are over a million registered users.

And in Bangalore, from just 10 members five years ago, there are now over 100 registered volunteers who contribute to the website on a daily basis, says Vishnu Vardhan, from CIS and adds, “Now, the maximum number of Wikipedians from India are from Bangalore and majority of the founding members of the Wikimedia India Chapter are also from here.”

Apart from English content, world over Wikipedia has many regional chapters covering over 200 languages to increase representation of region-specific content. In India, the Access to Knowledge programme developed by CIS works towards the growth of Indian language Wikipedias. In this regard, Vishnu states that Bangalore has a majority of active Kannada Wikipedia volunteers and is the single largest location for active Malayalam Wikipedians. Bangalore is also the second largest location for Telugu Wikipedia community after Hyderabad, he observes. The strong volunteer community is involved in the Wiki movement in ways more than one.

Different ways to contribute

Jeph Paul is not a Wikipedian in the traditional sense of the word. Why? Because he doesn't contribute or edit articles on the website. What he does is very technical. He develops tools and gadgets for Wikipedia in India to enhance user experience. Jeph got involved when Wikipedia started providing grants of up to $30000 to people who wanted to improve the usability and functionality of the website. Jeph applied and received $500 for his project. His project was simple -- he created a visual representation of how an article evolved. He explains, “There are over 100 editors who pore over just one article and modify it — the edits can be a sentence that is rewritten, a reference link added or citations made. But the changes are a lot and minute. I created a tool where people could see what changes are made and how the article evolves over a period of time.”

Besides developing tools and software, Jeph points out that users can generate visual content. For instance, there are some topics such as historical monuments which require visual documentation. Users can submit their visual repository to Wikipedia to enhance text content.

Wikipedia Caveats

Wikipedia, globally ranked sixth among all the websites based on web traffic, has laid down a list of rules and guidelines which users are required to follow. For instance, when one edits articles, one should avoid personal opinions. Komal cites a recent furore when there were slanderous remarks made against actor Ambarish.

“Such personal opinions should be reserved for blogs. Wikipedia is a public domain website. Hence, when you become a contributor, you have a certain responsibility. You should refrain from portraying biased sentiments through your articles,” she observes. Contemplating on this, Komal adds that Wikipedians should not fabricate content. "They should only include what’s already published and authenticate it using a credible source," she adds.

Another rule that is of utmost importance is compliance with copyright. Radha Krishna explains, “If you want to include information from a website or article, you can't copy the text verbatim. You have to analyse the content and paraphrase it based on your own understanding, citing legitimate references.”

When in doubt, the Wikipedians assert, it is always best to take help from other editors and collaborators through the ‘Talk’ option on the website or through monthly meetings.

It's easy to be a Wikipedia contributor:

  • Register: Although a visitor can edit articles, it is good to register to keep a record of your edits. You will also get an access to Wikipedia’s enhanced editing features.
  • Start with editing: Click the ‘Edit’ tab on the article’s page to modify the copy -- check typos, grammar, sentence structure and add an explanation. For example, if it is a spelling correction, add 'Typo'.
  • Preview: After editing, see a preview of the modifications by clicking ‘Show Preview’.
  • Save: Then save the changes by clicking the ‘Save Page’ tab.
  • Format: Wiki uses a markup language called wikitext to format text. Acquaint yourself with this language by reading the online tutorial. For instance, you can change a text to bold or italics by surrounding a word or phrase with multiple apostrophes.
  • Link: You can add inline citations by linking a word to another Wikipedia page. To do so, put the word in double square brackets. You can also change the display text.
  • Categorise: Add categories near the bottom of the article by typing the topic using Category:
  • Add footnotes: You can add reference tags around your source using <ref>Your Source</ref>.
  • Add external links: To add a link to an external credible website, type the URL inside a single set of brackets, followed by a space and the text to be displayed.
  • Talk to other editors: Use talk pages to discuss articles or any issues with other Wikipedians.

For a detailed tutorial on how to edit an article, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Tutorial

Wiki meets and awareness programmes: Since 2010, the Bangalore Wikipedia community has conducted over 40 meet-ups, according to Vishnu. “This helps increase participation among all volunteers, improves engagement and understanding of the work that is being done on an ongoing basis,” he opines.

Apart from this, their main focus is to get more people to join the fray through ‘Wiki Academy’ which travels to different organisations in the country to get people acquainted to the website and give them hands-on training on editing articles. Radha Krishna explains, “We recently conducted a workshop at C-DOT and Don Bosco Engineering College.” He adds, “Wikipedia has a lot of sister projects too like Wikiversity, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wiktionary, which people are not aware of. We want people to make use of these tools too.”

Rules every Wikipedian should follow:

  • Register an account
  • Don't share unpublished results
  • Don't expound your personal theories or start debates
  • Respect other editors
  • If you spot an error, correct it
  • Write without using jargons
  • Do not violate copyright and attribute statements
  • Do not promote yourself
  • Do not be biased in your tone of writing. Always cover significant point of views

Don't be afraid to ask for help