The Hindu : "The struggles of keeping Kannada Wikipedia afloat"
In the world of online Kannada content, blogs may be thriving but
Wikipedia is struggling. The reasons vary from technology barriers
to lack of contributors, say Wikipedians.
While there has been a surge in Kannada content in the last two
years, contributors to the language have been grappling with
After floundering for years, the Kannada Wikipedia picked up with
font availability, said Hari Prasad Nadig, a Kannada
Wikipedian. The software to add to Kannada Wikipedia is not so
user-friendly, and only geeks can edit it properly.
Unlike English, which has a large community, technology issues are
glaring in smaller communities. “Growth is slow with respect to
technology in smaller communities,” he said. The lack of a good
Unicode font has been a persisting problem so the reader ends up
seeing boxes instead of Kannada text. After trying to write using
the ‘Thunga' font, which had problems with vowels, besides other
bugs, today, ‘Kedage' is the most complete font, though issues
remain with this one too, Mr. Nadig said.
Besides, various operating systems provide different levels of
support for the script. “All these small factors together
discouraged people from contributing. It's not that people don't
want to use Kannada on the Net. Traffic on the Net is very high;
there is Kannada on Facebook and Twitter too,” he said.
Another challenge is writing and adding quality content. “The
community has to grow if Kannada Wikipedia is to grow,” he said.
The quality of content also matters. One person adding thousands
of ‘stubs' on, say, Kannada films, does not help the reader, and
in fact, drives them away from the site. Also, Kannada Wikipedia
needs “starter” articles, to get people reading before they can
start adding content, he said.
In order to grow, Kannada Wikipedia requires an active, organic
community, which is not imposed through a catalyst of paid content
creators. Once, Google started a tool that had machine-translated
content improved by manual translations. Yet the Kannada content
was “looking like spam. They (manual translators) didn't
understand markup, templates; (it was) all malformed”, he said.
An observation about contributors is that people in metros prefer
writing to the English Wikipedia though they know Kannada and are
tech-savvy. “Bangalore has less than 10 people writing to Kannada
Wikipedia,” he said.
Omshivaprakash, Chair for Kannada Special Interest Group
for Wikipedia, said people are not aware that Kannada Wikipedia
now has simple tools to add content. He said “Wiki academies”
would be set up to train people on adding Kannada content.
“Everyone complains that the quality of Kannada Wikipedia is low,
but they do not know that they can edit it themselves,” he said.
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