[Wikimediaindia-l] A report on the Trichy wikimeetup/workshop

Bala Jeyaraman sodabottle at gmail.com
Mon Feb 21 16:04:19 UTC 2011

*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

*Day 1:*

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 relevant

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 (
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Trichy_Wikimeetup1_2060.jpg) 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:*

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 question-answer

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

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 -

Bala Jeyaraman
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