[Wikimediaindia-l] online communities in Indian languages. few figures

Mahitgar from Marathi Wikipedia mahitgar at yahoo.co.in
Thu Oct 1 13:45:41 UTC 2009

Dear Sarah and other Indian Wikipedians,

Thanks for reading my email, I would not be able to join a strategic force myself  at this moment being need to search my bread and butter. So I will share just my experience hopefully it benefits you in some way.

You said,Some people have stated that the slow growth of an Indian language wikipedias is due to people in the India's preference for using English while online

: See, here at google trends  that people are searching for local langugae fonts.In india eduacational cream opts usually for technical fields and do not have any other option than that of english so
 they get used to english.But what do the rest do they also do not have option but use roman script favoring net so they end up communicating in their own languge using roman script how so ever they would be uncomfortable with that.

 My answer is People are not aware that they can use their own language,how to use their language and they do not have a fair choice, since today they are not assured of availability of all communication and knowledge in their own language,and they are not being represented.

See in Maharashtra state anually some 15 ,00,000 student apear for 10th standard out of which 12,00,000  are from Marathi Languge Medium (Ref) (rest of 3 lack of english medium what is their level of fluency in english needs study). out of these 15 lack only 3 lack students are registering for Science faculty(ref) which
 is dominnated by english language the rest 7.5 lack students opt for Arts and commerce studies which are predominantly in Marathi Language.and 4.5 lac students are not persuing any studies beyond 10th standard.so they remain Marathi.Since from 10th standard exam results and 11th standard admissions happen to be online so good size of students know what internet is.

So what we need,  is real field sample survey studies of students of atleast 11th standard and beyond to understand thier real online preferences,do they know wikipedia,how do they perceive wikipedia and how much local language wikipedias are important to them.   

SImmillerly at strategy wiki I placed a proposal for Audio/visual Presentation Competition for students by which we can reach to student community in
 easier manner(Since I have given full details at strategy wiki I avoid repeating them here), but as of now I am doubtfull of getting enough support for my proposal.  

May be an  activity of wikipedia teaching academy and some brand ambassador visiting individual education institutions may help.     

Most of Marathi Language communities are busy with either discussions or  some sort of online usually non fictional literary article  written by some one and is usually discussed by rest of the community members just below that article.

 since begining of my Internet usage around 1998 I remained more  concentrated to Marathi Languge online communities.
Although first Marathi Community www.maayboli.com came online way back in 1996 and is still active, was and is more popular among first generation of internet users who had means and know how of their own about how to use Marathi
 Language fonts on the net and is more devoted to literary activites and discussions. But rest of the people were intially handicapped since then popular os windows 98 did not support dvenagari script properly on 
 unicode, so a Yahoo group   came up in 1998 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/marathipeople2/  remained most popular among people who did not have access to Marathi fonts and second generation of Marathi Internet
 users until orcut communities came online for next generation and latest in use is ofcourse is face book for all those who donot know how to type and use Marathi on internet; and that they are largest.

But here at all these places   facility to type Marathi was not there around the same time wikipedia did begin its jourmey http://www.manogat.com/ came up with inbuilt facility to type Marathi and with a spell checker and ate into followers of earlier maayboli and marathi people2 and along with its own support mainly coming from Non resident Marathi Languge community and ladies, many people started their own communities  to have more indipendace of thought from conservative    www.manogat.com but all of them mainly followed manogat like drupal cms format.

www.maayboli.com still boasts of around  one lack of monthly hits,actual membership is not known but I suspect to be around 25000-30000,the next number is of Manogat
 with may be a membership around
 15000-20000 intialy it may have had huge membership but as mentioned earlier newly mushroomed drupal based http://mr.upakram.org/  , http://www.misalpav.com/  and alikes ate into memberships haveing each around 5000-10000 each. 

Ofcourse these figures are still miniscule if you take into account annualy 15,00,000 students pass out of 10th standard and are generaly aware and has their own or outside internet availability.(Last year I had a 12th pass officeboy who knew about english and Marathi Wikipedia). Mainly still majority of the people do not know how to type in Marathi on a computer or on net.Those who are their on Marathi languge communities are those who have an extra affection towards literature and languge and  socially from higher strata many of them who are settled in USA or main metropolies.

Intially  I campaigned for marathi wikipedia  for quite a long among these online  marathi communities with a
 hope I would get a support but did not get support more than handfull of them, may be 4-6 people to edit wikipedia that to over last four years. 

Why we did not get the support ?Well I had my list of observations the first and foremost   Until almost last year we on Marathi wikipedia did not give inbuilt typing facility to avoid using java, and all these keyboards are phonetic and not inscript so it takes a long time to type a proper size  article any thing between 4-6 hours for experienced person.Marathi Languge has  do have need of  field support from network engineers on how to enable inscript keyboard on windows XP which can improve awareness and speeds. 

Besides currently used marathi wikipedia inbuilt key board confuses  newcomers between :  and तः  this and another widely used baraha fonts । sign confuses with wikipedia | pipe sign specialy I found it to be
 turn down problem for  old  generation people, who  feel that they are doing  some blunder and avoid editing wikipedia.

Secondly,  we were and are encyclopedia and most of the content written by Marathi People usually an original reasearch  with lot of endorsement of certain aspects and lot of exageration with adjecteves and so any one try to write gets deleted immidiately and most of the times no notice is given why certain writing is deleted and although we have lot of support pages, we did not have any support pages on how to write unbiased  content in encyclopedic fashion. 

Again Drupal based marathi communities allow discussion and debates
on any topic and people can take positions without giving references.Most of Marathi internet users were and are not used to giving references and that is an unavoidable handicap for
 them. And if any one at all try to use <ref> tag </ref> gets turned down by a big red color error message. 

Discussion pages can be a good training and grooming ground for newcomers but, Drupal set up provides them with a form for discussion just below the main page and discussion threads can be more easily followed , here again in wikipedia discussion we do not have organised thread provision, new comers end up using --- lines to show end of their discussion and  a newcomer coming after him wont be able to edit the section properly gets turned down.Besides drupal community discussions are more open and less serious where as wikipedia discussions are usualy remain to topics ,serious in nature and there to some old timers are quite strong handed for  newcomers bit unexpected and not polite enough.

And may be, webmasters most of them are from open software community,but still  see better  opportunity in
 promoting drupal since they know how to install drupal set up and how to get a website up. 

There were few more objections which came during certain discussions and we were able to handle them success fully since those who did raise objections were the persons who came back to edit wikipedia eventulay if not immidiately then slowly over last four years

Thanks and Regards

Dear Mahitgar and other Indian Wikipedians,
I am doing analysis to help support the Wikimedia strategic planning
task force on Indian language Wikipedias.  I am very interested in
learning more about examples of successful online communities in Indian
languages.  Some people have stated that the slow growth of an Indian
language wikipedias is due to people in the India's preference for using
English while online.  However, the existence of these online
communities in Marathi that Mahitgar mentions imply
 that this is not
case.  It would be great if someone could help me by providing some
examples of these online communities.  I would love to know what type of
content to their users create, the number of users, and any information
about their growth rate.  The more understanding we have of what makes
these communities successful the better we
 can work to help build strong
Indian language wikipedias Anyone who could point me in the right
direction would be much thanked.  I would do some of the research
myself, but unfortunately, I do not speak any Indian languages.
Thanks so much for everybody's help and participation in the strategic
planning process. You can contact me directly.


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