Photo by Pavanaja, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Photo by Pavanaja, CC BY-SA 4.0.

I reached out to a few Goan Konkani Wikipedians to learn about their experience with the project, especially after it went live in 2015. In the interview they share what they think of Wikipedia as a binding factor for native speakers that are currently dispersed in many states, speak in different variations of the same language, and write in different scripts.

Subhashish Panigrahi (SP): Hi The Discoverer [a long time contributor to Wikipedia who is actively contributing to the Goan Konkani Wikipedia], you have been actively contributing to the Goan Konkani Wikipedia since 2006 even before it went live in 2014. What potential do you see in the Goan Konkani Wikipedia bringing Konkani speakers from the states of Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala?
User:The Discoverer (TD): Even though my first contributions were in 2006, I have been moderately active on Wikipedia all these years.

I do agree with you that Konkani Wikipedia has the potential to bind people across borders. As you have rightly pointed out, Konkani is remarkable in that, for the small geographical area where it is a native language, it has developed a large number of dialects, in addition to being used in multiple scripts. Unfortunately, in the offline world, we see that there are disagreements over certain Konkani scripts being favored or not favored in terms of official recognition. Konkani Wikipedia can not only be a platform in bringing together Konkani speakers from many regions but can also be the unifying factor among the Konkani people.

SP: How do think Wikipedia could be a good platform to help unifying the Konkani people?
TD: For Konkani Wikipedia to succeed, it is not just a ‘good idea’ for Konkani speakers writing in various scripts to work together on one Wikipedia, but it’s also a necessity and a challenge at the same time. It’s a necessity, because as things stand, no one script has a strong enough community to run a Wikipedia by themselves. It’s a challenge because not everyone can read every script, and it’s important for all the users of a Wikipedia to be able to understand all the content on that site.

SP: Very rightly spotted. And how do you think the Wikipedia community and the CIS-A2K program should work together to tackle this challenge?
TD: We need an automatic script converter (see the script converter resource page for Konkani on Meta and task on Phabricator) that could make the lives of the editors easier. Most people cannot read more than two scripts. Most users are currently depending on an external site for transliteration when the user cannot read the script used in a Wikipedia article. That’s painful and a user might also not know about a third party converter. An automatic script converter on Wikipedia would enable people to read any page in the script of their choice in a single click. This is where CIS-A2K can really help Konkani Wikipedia, by helping to implement the script converter. In addition to the script converter, CIS-A2K could also study various multi-script Wikipedias in existence and prepare a list of such features that are used in these Wikipedias to deal with multiple scripts, so that Indian multi-script Wikipedias can consider implementing such a feature as well.

Konkani Wikipedia is facing another challenge right now in growing the community as there are only handful of active editors. And we need contributors from varied walks of life to add more diversity to the community. The boost that was needed initially to make Konkani Wikipedia live—thanks to institutions like Goa University (GU) and Nirmala Institute of Education (NIE) and CIS-A2K for bringing in many student-editors—needs more intensity now. Students from GU and NIE were mainly from the Konkani language and teaching disciplines. If you consider other larger Wikipedias, like the English Wikipedia, they owe their success to editing by people from a diverse backgrounds, and also to the fact that the people are comfortable with the basics of markup and coding and were able to build templates, etc. Today, there is almost no one who is working on templates and other similar technical stuff for Konkani Wikipedia. Here too, CIS-A2K can help by reaching out to Konkani speakers with a background in computing—for instance, students of Bachelor of Computer Application (BCA), Master in Computer Application, Computer Science and engineering. This will help build a community that is technically adept at creating templates and dealing with more advanced types of content for the Wikipedia.

The Konkani Wikipedia can also take advantage of software extensions like VisualEditor and Flow that the reduce knowledge of markup and other technicalities that the user needs to have, so that users who are uncomfortable with editing markup can focus on just adding content with a much more simple and user-friendly interface.

In these ways, participation of people from different regional and vocational backgrounds can form a vibrant editing community leading to the growth of the Konkani Wikipedia.

In brief

  • WikiConference India 2016 to be held at Chandigarh during August 5–7: The second WikiConference India (WCI) will be held on August 5-7 in Chandigarh, India. After the first WCI in 2011, this will be the largest gathering of the Wikimedians from the Indian subcontinent. A team of volunteers representing several Wikimedia communities across the country and three Wikimedia affiliates—Wikimedia India, Punjabi Wikimedians and Centre for Internet and Society’s Access to Knowledge program—are working together to make this event a success. Over 100 scholarships have been offered to noteworthy contributors from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Various talks, meetups and workshops are planned for the three-day event, and a needs assessment survey has been put in place for ensuring any hackathon needs are addressed.
  • Punjab edit-a-thon: month-long edit-a-thon has been running in 12 Indic language Wikipedias and one European language Wikipedia (the Ukrainian) to enrich the content related to Punjab, the Punjabi people, and their language and culture. So far, more than 1000 articles have been created by about 100 Wikipedians.  As we have already surpassed the dream target of 1000 articles, we are planning to extend the edit-a-thon through WikiConference India so many can participate during the event.
  • Campaign for relicensing copyrighted books under Creative Commons licenses: A campaign has been started to relicense Telugu-language books of several noted authors from “all rights reserved” to a Creative Commons Share-Alike (CC BY-SA) license. This campaign was started on June 19 and copyright migration process is complete for 17 books so far. Once the copyright migration is over the books—ranging from historical figures and popular personalities to regional history—are going to be digitized on Wikisource. “I don’t want these works to be in bookshelf and get wasted by termites. My wish as an author and researcher is to make these works available to future historians who can make use of it, so that our people get to know the local history” shares Kanuri Badarinadh, a historian, novelist and journalist who has donated some of his books.
  • Train-the-trainer and Mediawiki training program for capacity building of community leaders from Indian subcontinent: After two iterations of the Train the Trainer in 2013 and 2015, CIS-A2K organized the third program during June 15-17 at Bengaluru. The Mediawiki training was designed to help groom technical leadership skills of the technical contributors of the communities. A total of 45 participants, that were selected by a collaborative consultation with the community, took part in these events. The trainers for both the events consisted of subject experts from the Wikimedia community, the free knowledge movement, the free and open source software community and CIS-A2K program staff. A series of small Mediawiki trainings will follow soon that will be led by the trained participants.
  • Indian women in Science edit-a-thon: Organized by IndiaBioscience, a not-for-profit working for research and advocacy on the life sciences in India, this edit-a-thon began with an introduction to the series of Wikipedia edit-a-thons that have been running to expand Wikipedia’s reach on Indian women with contribution to Science. There was a Q&A session Professor Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan followed by introduction to Wikipedia editing, its policies and guidelines, and brief on copyright, and Creative Commons licensing. 11 new articles were created and 11 existing articles were expanded in English, Hindi and Odia-language Wikipedias.
  • Indigenous South-Asian language gets a new open Unicode font: A new font for the Ol chiki script (used to write the Santali language) along with input tools are getting ready to be released soon. Santali is spoken by over 6 million people in South Asia over Bangladesh and Nepal and six states in India. This project, supported by the Centre for Internet of India, will help native language speakers type in Unicode across platforms, and also using Universal Language System in all Wikimedia projects.

Subhashish Panigrahi, Wikimedian, and Program Officer, Access to Knowledge (CIS-A2K)
Centre for Internet and Society

Thanks to many community members whose inputs helped create this post especially User:Shyamal for the Women in Science edit-a-thon and Tito Dutta, Programme Asssociate, CIS-A2K for Punjab Edit-a-thon, and Pavan Santhosh for the content relicensing effort in Telugu-language.