Awesome, Bala! Seems like a wonderful workshop.
Thanks to all those who helped.
"That language is an instrument of human reason, and not merely a medium for
the expression of thought, is a truth generally admitted."
- George Boole, quoted in Iverson's Turing Award Lecture
From: Bala Jeyaraman <sodabottle(a)gmail.com>
To: Wikimedia India Community list <wikimediaindia-l(a)lists.wikimedia.org>
Cc: Nivash S <balanivash(a)gmail.com>
Sent: Mon, February 21, 2011 9:34:19 PM
Subject: [Wikimediaindia-l] A report on the Trichy wikimeetup/workshop
The NIT-Trichy Pragyan Workshop report:
Just got back from an awesome two days at NIT Trichy. This is only my second
evangelism/outreach event. I have been uncomfortable shedding my semi-anonymity
and showing up in public for a long time, but these two days have taught me what
i have been missing. The following report is written in an anecdotal first
person perspective and naturally feature me prominently :-).
On day 1 we (Tinu and me) opened the Wikipedia stall at around 11.30 AM.
Srikanth joined us sometime later. We had been allotted a 12X10 Ft stall.
Students started trickling in soon after. The first day we made our pitch to
around 100 students or so. We also met four or five guest speakers / panelists
like Ajay Agarwal, CMD of Maxx group, Narendra Shenoy, director at Unimold, Vice
Admiral SKK Krishnan and Stefan Engeseth of Detective Marketing. The response
was overwhelmingly positive with students saying that they will edit in the
future. Most of the students we met claim they a) know they can edit wikipedia
and b) have made some minor edits. Some admitted they didnt know they could edit
and some believed they contribute only to articles on academic subjects etc. We
gave them the standard - give back your knowledge to the world + participate in
an exciting world wide project pitch. Except one wikiskeptic who cribbed about
the 16 million dollar budget, rest were appreciative of Wikipedia and its work.
We also distributed a flier (attached as an odt file - commons doesnt support
office office documents) to the people visiting the stalls. The flier was
designed by me and Srikanth and. I believe it will work well for other indic
wikis ( a small customisation effort is required to replace Tamil with the
The day wound down and we were thinking about packing up around 6, when we met
the guy who made our day. We saw this bespectacled kid staring at us curiously
and pointing out our banner excitedly to the adult who accompanied him. We
beckoned him to come over and asked him patronisingly has he heard of wikipedia.
The kid says yes. Have you edited wikipedia, we ask. He says yes for that too.
We look at each other meaningfully and say.. "what did you do? correct spelling
mistakes?". "No", he replies seriously, "i correct wrong facts".
He is an
eighth standard student from Coimbatore and has been editing wikipedia for a
couple of years now. It took some time to get over our shock and get his user
ID. He says he does not use it much and edits logged out most of the time. He
was also not aware of that a talk page exists for each user id and people can
communicate with him. We showed him how talk pages can be used and asked him to
edit logged-in in the future.
And thats the story of our run-in with [[en:User:Bvajresh]] and the youngest
(serious) Indian wikipedian, i have come across. Here's picture of us with him
) There was
one more surprise on day 1. While we were having dinner at the hotel, a father
and son pair wandered up to our table and introduced themselves. They had seen
our T-shirts and said they liked wikipedia very much. (Brand appeal!) We invited
them to next day's workshop, but they were leaving Trichy the very night and
couldnt accept the offer.
Day 1 had definitely ended on a high.
Day 2 began at 10 with the workshop/presentation in the NIT computer lab. It had
a seating capacity of around 100 and was filled up completely. Apart from NIT
students who had registered and were selected to attend the session (yes they
had more people registering than there were seats!), there were also students
from other colleges around Trichy who showed up for the session. Three middle
aged wiki enthusiasts also attended to hear about Tamil wikipedia. One of them
was a HOD of the Computer science department at an arts and science college near
Trichy. He was impressed with our workshop and said from now on he will
encourage his students to edit wikipedia.
Tinu started the presentation with a general introduction to Wikipedia, the
foundation, its history, the various projects languages etc. In the Q&A session
that followed, someone asked how someone without paypal/credit cards can donate
money to the foundation. We explained the cheque mailing method and assured him
that there will be more options in the future.
I did the second session. We went through how a typical wikipedia page looks
like, what is a talk page, how to view revision history and practised editing in
the sandbox. I took up the Sachin Tendulkar page in en wiki and showed them how
the content is sourced and how a page gets updated when facts change. There were
the usual doubts about reliability, who will monitor disruptive activities and
who will ensure the accuracy of the content. Next i switched over to Tamil
wikipedia and explained how easy it is to contribute using the typing tool. (A
big thanks to Junaid, Shiju and our other ml wiki friends). Here we took up the
example of the 2011 assembly election article and learnt how to write neutrally
without our prejudices getting in the way. There was again a brief question
session, which featured some insightful questions about our external links
policy, handling regional language variations (srilankan Tamil vs Tamil Nadu
Tamil), using Wiktionary, the difference between Wikibooks, wikisource and
wikipedia. Srikanth took over next and the third session was about wikipedia
hacking - bots, mediawiki, programming tools, databases, scripts, software -
stuff that usually frightens me. This was again followed by a brief
While Srikanth was answering the questions, i discovered that someone from the
room had edited the ta wiki article i used as an illustration to correct a
grammar mistake. And also someone from the crowd had done what he termed later
as a test edit (something cluebot in enwiki would label as "vandalism?"). The
second edit had been reverted 12 minutes later by ta wiki Admin Kanags (editing
from Australia). We were able to use this as a sort of real time demo how edits
are monitored and accuracy/integrity maintained in wiki projects. (We got lucky
with that :-)). There was an loud gasp of surprise from the audience when we
showed how the vandalism was reverted within minutes. The session ended with
Wiki 10 celebrations - cake cutting and photographs. Unfortunately the T-shirts
from the foundation have not reached the organisers and they weren't able to
give them out - we had to make do with chocolates, pins and laptop stickers. The
entire workshop lasted from 10 to 12.30 and was well received. (I have an invite
from Amrita University, Coimbatore to do a similar workshop there :-)) Microsoft
Wikibasha's Saravanan attended the session and we all had a long and deep
discussion with him about how important it is for the corporates/outside orgs to
speak to the community and get involved at the project level to avoid
misunderstandings and getting better results. After the presentation was over,
it was back to the stalls. This time we shifted to a open air stall near the
food court to be nearer to the crowd thronging the food court. The stall
remained open till 3.30 PM and had another 50 more visitors.
Another good thing that came out the stall was we were able to convince the
members of the NIT photography club to CC/SA licence their work and upload it to
flickr/commons. There was an exhibition of their works in the same area where
our stall was situated and featured several high quality images, that can be
used to illustrate articles on Indian subjects. They have promised to set up
flickr stream for their works with appropriate licensing.
So there ends the long story of my visit to Trichy. A special thanks to Tinu and
Srikanth for egging me on come out and face the crowd and enlightening me about
the necessity for outreach work. And another special thanks for student
organiser Nivash and his team for their outstanding hospitality and giving us a
chance to connect with such an enthusiastic audience.
Here are some photos from the event -