Centre for Internet & Society

This is a brief report on the Wikipedia Indian languages workshop held on March 9, 2013 at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in partnership with Vaani, the Hindi bloggers' club at IIT, Bombay.

Vaani is a group of students at the institute who maintain personal blogs in Hindi language. They upload stories, poems and other original material in Hindi and hold regular meetings as a part of Vaani. Their motive is to conserve and promote the love for native languages, especially that of Hindi.

The A2K team had proposed a meeting and workshop to Vaani students earlier in February but it was eventually scheduled in March. The date also coincided with Women's day celebrations which gave us an opportunity to discuss questions of gender, access, knowledge bias on Wikipedia and more. It was attended by 17 participants and was coordinated by Apoorv Maheshwari from Vaani.

The participant group was diverse – it consisted of doctoral students from humanities as well as sciences and a few graduate students from different departments. Before talking about how to contribute to Wikipedia, we had a round of introductions and questions from participants about what they wanted to know. Most of the participants had seen the 'edit' button and had clicked on it but were clueless beyond that. They also wanted to know about the style guide to writing articles on Wikipedia. After initial discussions and a few edits on English Wikipedia, we moved to exploring Indian language Wikipedias. Surprisingly, only a few of them knew that Wikipedia exists in Indian languages. This led to questions of font support, readership and contribution – who contributes to Indian Wikipedias, why one should contribute and more.

Unfortunately, since the institute's IP address has been reported and blocked for vandalism, we could not make user accounts on the spot. However, they tried their hand at editing to understand the process itself. Another challenge while doing workshops with Indian language Wikipedias is font support for individual computers that participants bring. Perhaps there is a need to carry support documentation and tools (keyboard layouts and free fonts). Towards the end, they expressed an interest in a longer Wikipedia program for all the bloggers on campus in different languages.

We thank the members of Vaani for their support and participation and hope to build and sustain this relationship further.

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