Centre for Internet & Society
Kolkata: Tasting the Sweetness of Wikipedia!

Wikipedians Subhashish, Deepon, Jayanta and Ashwin in Kolkata

Recently, Access to Knowledge team member Subhashish Panigrahi spent some time with wikipedians in Kolkata. Through this blog post he shares his experience and learning from the interaction. This post explores the journey of three wikipedians — Jayanta Nath, Deepon Saha and Ashwin.

Jayanta Nath and Deepon Saha — Lecture on Bangla Wikipedia

Jayanta is one of the active contributors in Bangla Wikipedia. He has supported community building for Bangla Wikipedia in India. Apart from contributing articles Jayanta supports many wikipedians for fixing technical issues on various language wikis. Deepon is another active wikipedian from Kolkata who contributes mostly to English Wikipedia besides contributing to WikiCommons and Bangla Wikipedia and taking active part in community building in Kolkata and other places. I met both Jayanta and Deepon recently in Kolkata and discussed about Bangla Wikipedia and the role of contributors from India.

Over the last few years Bangla Wikipedia has seen enough growth — growth in number of articles, growth in number of outreach, growth in number of contributors and lot more. However, there is something missing in this list, and that is the growth in number of Bangla editors from India. Sadly, though Bangla speaking people constitute a major part of the intellectual sphere. Bangla Wikipedia has not seen many new faces in the recent past from the Indian subcontinent. "English has become like a mother language of most Bengalis in Kolkata and Bengalis residing in other major cities", expresses Jayanta with grief. "Most of the Bengalis speak and are adhered to Bengali language but the use of language is limited only to speaking. And they no more use Bangla in writing. That is what makes it more difficult to tell them about Bangla Wikipedia", adds Deepon. Bangla Wikipedia in India is facing one more major challenge: media coverage. There is not much coverage about Bangla Wikipedia in Bangla media, especially print media. "I was interviewed by the Times of India, Hindu, Telegraph and few other English newspapers but, surprisingly there was not much coverage in Bangla media. There are almost 12 Bangla newspapers being published from Kolkata and in spite of our efforts the outcome is far below expectation", explains Jayanta. Jayanta feels there is much scope for community building for Bangla Wikipedia in rural West Bengal. Unlike urban Bengal, Bangla is the primary medium of both verbal and written communication.

Computer literacy might be a big hurdle when it comes to spreading words about editing Bangla Wikipedia. But it is difficult to predict about the status of government schools, computer and internet penetration before initiating outreach for rural places. Deepon also suggests about making a small survey in Bangla medium schools in Kolkata to understand the scope for any Bangla education program in those schools. We discussed about the internet penetration to measure and assess the state of Bangla on internet and its public usage. Out of the ten Bangla newspapers only two are available in unicode for their online edition. The state of unicode and online usage of Bangla in unicode is much better in Bangladesh which also explains that Bengalis in Bangladesh are using Bangla to a great extent including reading, writing and upon internet.

Typing is another challenge to be tackled. DTP operators, government offices where Bangla typing is used normally use a different typing scheme and non-unicode fonts (mostly old ISCII or ASCII fonts). "We could bring many Bangla enthusiasts to Bangla Wiki projects by simplifying the typing solution and making people aware about the available typing tools. Simple video tutorials and smaller help pages with easy-to-understand guidelines will be helpful and these should be linked from other pages so the new editors will find them and make use of them to learn editing", adds Deepon.

The Full Story Began with Loads of Curiosity and a Small [Edit] Button!

Deepon was searching for some information online while he discovered the available information on wikipedia is incorrect. He was searching for a help desk to ask to correct it. Suddenly he discovered the "Edit" button, when he clicked on it a new page opened up with a warning: "You are not logged in. Your IP address will be publicly visible if you make any edits. Please log in or sign up to have your edits associated with a user name, among other benefits."  He clicked, signed up and created a new account and corrected the mistake. That was the first time Deepon made his first edit on Wikipedia and never stopped after that.

Ashwin (User:AshLin): Passion to Contribute to Wikipedia still Flying like Butterflies

There was no book available in the early 80s when Ashwin wanted to know more about Indian butterflies. There was no article on Wikipedia about Indian butterflies and there were very less available resource on Indian butterflies. Ashwin along with Shyamal and other enthusiasts collaborated to start working on this project which brought many other contributors. The other project he was quite involved was about Indian snakes. One of his key motivations for contributing to Wikipedia was making the resource about Indian butterflies available for others.

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