Centre for Internet & Society
Celebrating the 13th anniversary of Kannada Wikipedia

Image by Pavanaja / CC-BY-SA 4.0

The Kannada-language Wikipedia, arguably the largest online encyclopedia in Kannada language, celebrated its 13th anniversary on February 14, 2016 in Mangalore.

To celebrate the journey of the project and the community, Kannada Wikipedians gathered at St. Aloysius College Mangalore, Karnataka. The larger Kannada Wikimedia community including long time Wikipedians and new members like the students, faculty involved in Wikipedia Education Programs gathered, participated in a day long edit-a-thon and chalked out plans for the future. The event is organised by the Kannada Wikimedia community and Dr. Vishwanatha Badikana, Wikipedian and Assistant Professor of Kannada department at St. Aloysius College coordinated the event locally.

117 people gathered in the event out of which 96 were active editors of the Kannada Wikipedia community. Noted Kannada-computing researcher Kinnikambla Padmanabha Rao (widely known as KP Rao) addressed the public event and engaged with the audience about defining Kannada Wikipedia’s role a large role in widening Kannada’s presence on the Internet. The local organisers also took the event participants through a heritage walk in the heritage village of Pilikula Nisarga Dhama, an open library of the rich cultural heritage of Karnataka. The heritage walk resulted in over 300 image uploads on Wikimedia Commons ranging from the life and culture of coastal Karnataka to select rich heritage of the state. 20 new editors also participated in the event and they were oriented on basics of Wikipedia editing and Creative Commons licenses.

Triveni.K, one of the participants who is now pursuing her MSc. at Christ University, explains this event as a great learning platform for even core Wikipedia policies in details apart from many other Wikipedia policies she learnt here. “I’m little occupied for my exams but when it is over, I will be back on Wikipedia”, shares Triveni.

Prior to the event, four edit-a-thons were organised in four different cities of Karnataka. Themes chosen for the cities were Kannada literature in Mysore, Mechanical Engineering in Sagara, Science-related articles in Bangalore and article on notable female of the coastal Karnataka region in Mangalore. Follow up edit-a-thons were organised after the anniversary celebration with the same themes that were there in the previous session for the first three places where the follow up edit-a-thons in St. Aloysius College and St. Agnes College were both on medicinal plants.

The first ever edit on Kannada Wikipedia was made on 12 June 2003 with a message “Kannada Vishwa Koshakke Suswaagatha!” (meaning “Welcome to the Kannada encyclopedia” in Kannada). However it took over a year -- on July 12, 2004 the first article about a city Shimoga was created. Over the last decade Kannada Wikipedia has been a great gamechanger for the Kannada language where the Wikipedians have played a great role in making it a household name -- needless to say that 705,199 unique visitors read the articles every month as per the December 2015 statistics. The annual average of active editors for last year was 48, 91 (February) being the highest and 22 (May) the lowest and 80 being the count in last December. The peaks and valleys also signify that major outreach like Wikipedia Education Program at Christ University Bengaluru could have boosted the total number of editors during the months when the program was being rolled out. The project since its inception has gone through many ups and downs over time, the major one being a small community to edit and curate such a high level task of creating new articles in Kannada, editing and enriching them with more information and citations, and cleaning up many articles. The biggest hurdle, as explained by Wikimedian Hari Prasad Nadig, has been cleaning up the articles created by paid translations of Google when Kannada Wikipedia along with many other Indian language Wikipedias were used as testing grounds for improving Google Translate, a multilingual machine translation tool. Vasanth S.N., a Kannada Wikipedian who has cleaned up over 60 such articles prefers to use an existing good quality encyclopedia like the 14 volume Kannada Vishwakosha, published by Mysore University and relicensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0 by the university, as a resource to create and improve articles.

The 14th anniversary of Kannada Wikipedia was another milestone in the long journey of Kannada language and there are many more to come. More about the event could be read on the event page on Kannada Wikipedia.

Ananth Subray, Programme Associate, CIS-A2K contributed to this blog.

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