At the end of June 2011, we had the opportunity to visit Brazil as part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Brazil Catalyst Project – a project designed to develop open and collaborative approaches by which the Wikimedia Foundation can support the growth of the Wikimedia community in Brazil. Brazil is a priority country for the Wikimedia movement, both for contributions to Portuguese and other Wikimedia projects and for the opportunity to connect with millions of potential readers who are coming online.
Our visit involved a variety of meetings ranging from community gatherings to exploration of business partnerships to presentations at one of the biggest international conferences focused on free software (FISL); the whole agenda and supporting information can be seen on the Brazil Catalyst Project metawiki page. We spent most of the time listening and learning about Brazil and the Brazilian Wikimedia community. It was incredibly valuable to hear from a variety of people and we hope to continue the dialogue.
Sao Paulo: WikiSampa 8
Paulistas have been gathering periodically under the banner of WikiSampa for years, and we were fortunate to get a nice group together on a bank holiday. The group ran the gamut in depth of wiki experience: wiki newcomers sat alongside long time editors, admins, and community members to share their experiences with Wikipedia and discuss the health and future of Wikipedia in Brazil. We spent about six hours together including a relaxed dinner at a local pizzeria.
As with every community gathering around the world, we were in awe of the positive spirit, dedication and friendliness. We were reminded again that, as Jimmy likes to say, Wikipedians are just “nice people.” We also heard about the struggles in the community. We heard the word “conflito” a lot as the more experienced editors all shared a concern that the Portuguese Wikipedia community has an over-abundance of conflict between editors and that the community needs to find ways to refocus away from fighting. We are not yet clear on the causes of the conflict or if PT:WP is worse that others, but there was a clear sense from those in attendance that they need to find new ways of working together so that new contributors will feel welcome and experienced contributors stay active and energized to continue building a great Wikipedia.
Rio de Janeiro: first broad community meet-up!
Seven Cariocas began what we hope is a regular community gathering in Rio de Janeiro. This group brought fresh faces and minds eager to contribute to the sum of all knowledge. The excitement of the possible future of the RJ community specifically and Brazil at large was palpable: one professor in attendance is now planning to incorporate Wikipedia-editing into a university seminar course! She already has a blog just focused on this experience. A long time Wikipedian and self-proclaimed Wiki-addict met other Wikipedians for the first time and shared his experiences as an editor primarily on English Wikipedia.
Our conversation in RJ focused on the potential of Wikipedia as we had a number of newer community members. They were interested in exploring new ways to bring people into the community. One interesting theme was the prevalence of English. Unlike Sao Paulo, the conversation was in English. We discussed the fact that a significant number of Brazilians apparently prefer to contribute to English Wikipedia to reach a global audience, even though there is plenty of room for growth of the Portuguese Wikipedia. Some also expressed that Portuguese Wikipedia is considered second class vs. English. We all agreed that having a first class Portuguese Wikipedia is vital to meeting our vision and we took away the question of how to encourage bilingual Brazilians to contribute in Portuguese.
Creating an offline Wikipedia
We had some promising conversations about the potential to distribute offline versions of Wikipedia to people who have computers, but do not have regular access to the Internet. This is a large proportion of Brazilians. We are committed to supporting partnerships to do this, but we need to create a selection of the Portuguese Wikipedia to make available offline. We would love it if community members who were interested in contributing to this initiative would connect with Jessie.
These specific meet-ups in addition to other interactions with community in Brazil (in Recife, Campinas, and Porto Alegre) on this trip collectively communicated the great need and potential for mobilization behind the Portuguese Wikipedia within Brazil. While there are great obstacles – negative quality perceptions, low numbers of editors, limited admin support in addition to the fact that some editors prefer to edit the English Wikipedia – opportunities to mobilize existing community and engage a broader Brazilian population seem abundant, and there is no better time than now. We’re excited to continue supporting such a dynamic movement within Brazil and will continue to support and encourage outreach activities designed to further catalyze the collection and dissemination of knowledge within Brazil. We continue to seek more opportunities to hear from Brazilian community members and to learn more about opportunities. We’d also like to thank everyone who helped with the visit and who met with us. Muito Obrigado!
– Barry Newstead, Carolina Rossini, Jessie Wild