Yesterday was the last day of our first ever Arabic Wikipedia Convening which was which was held in Doha and kindly hosted by QCRI. For 3 days, Arabic Wikipedians, academics and technical specialists, shared their thoughts on improving the quality of articles, increasing the number of contributors and the different models of engaging Wikipedia in education.
This is probably the first time Arabic Wikipedians, who are scattered across the Middle East, get a change to meet in person. It was our pleasure meeting each of Ciphers, Abanima, Ahmad, OsamaK as well as Rami Tarawneh, who is among the early founders of Arabic Wikipedia. On the first day and after brief introductions, Rami told us the story behind how Arabic Wikipedia started; what were the challenges that faced the community during the early days and how Arabic Wikipedia policies changed along with time. For the rest of the day and for the following couple of days, the discussions revolved mainly around three main topics: Machine translations, education and outreach. We listened to the lessons learned from a machine translation project that was carried out in 2009 on Arabic Wikipedia and we had a presentation by Bala Jeyaraman, who gave us a detailed and impressive talk about a similar project that was finished last March on Tamil Wikipedia. Naren Datha, from WikiBhasha team, also gave a small talk about how their tool works. In addition to machine translation, Frank Schulenburg gave a brief introduction to how our global education program operates in different countries, then we listened to a success story by the coordinator of WikiArabi project. Our last day included discussions around possible online and offline outreach strategies that can leverage both the content and the number of contributors of Arabic Wikipedia, we were also introduced to Arabic Web Day initiative.
The discussion helped the community communicate on a personal level, and present its culture and aesthetic to enthusiasts who are considering using Wikipedia as a platform for enhancing Arabic web content, and to the QCRI team who are currently helping our Global Development department render a number of solid projects on the ground across MENA.
The global development team will leave the 80°F/27°C Doha in a couple of hours, heading to Amman for a one day visit to The University of Jordan, before we go to Egypt, for meetings with professors at Cairo University, and with the Arabic Wikipedia Community.
A year ago, Arabic Wikipedia was nearly 120k articles, with a community striving to start an action on the ground in different places, by applying a chapter model in different locations across the region. Our MENA catalyst project is now bringing new possibilities, growing a more solid vision, with feasible funding and a work-in-progress action plan.
We shall keep you posted with our next steps and research findings, meanwhile, wish us luck in our MENA endeavors, a region which is hot, in many different ways.
Global Development Team