Growing Wikipedia in India – How a community is being built

The Wikipedia is fast getting more visibility in India, and not only contributions from India to the Wikipedia increasing, but also Indian Language Wikipedias are seeing rapid growth. All of this is possible because of a grassroots community that is developing across various cities in India, and with the help of an official chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation (the not-for-profit foundation that runs the Wikipedia).

Tory Read spent a few months traveling all over India to understand what is happening with the Wikipedia community in India and has written a short e-book based on his experiences that is worth reading.

Pune is one of important the cities in this community, not just because it has a very active Wikipedia community (WikiPuneri), but also because it has been picked as the first city where the Wikipedia Campus Ambassador program has been implemented.

Here are some Pune-related excerpts from the book:

“Wikipedia saved my life”

That’s what Srikeit Tadepalli, an MBA student in Pune, India, told me one day in June. He’d been a below-average student with few college options, but a prestigious school saw his Wikipedia achievements and admitted him to its communications program in spite of his test scores. Now, he’s thriving.

and also:

“At first, I contributed just to get the t-shirt, but then I started to like it,” said Shravani Joshi, a 13-year-old girl in Pune who is adding new material to the Harry Potter article. “It’s cool. Whatever I write is getting seen by the entire world.”

Later, the book spends a couple of pages talking about the Wikipedia Campus Ambassadors Program. Excerpt:

There is no mistaking that the [Campus Ambassador] training introduced a new vibe to Wikipedia activities in Pune. It feels youthful, energetic and hip, intentionally designed to sell the Wikipedia enterprise effectively to urban college students who are actively participating in 21st century global culture. This new version of the Wikipedia brand will take some getting used to for the established vanguard in the area, which has a more traditional way of doing business.

It even covers the flamewars that broke out due to differences between Wikipedia volunteers in Pune/Mumbai who wanted to organize a Wikipedia Conference in Mumbai and the “official” chapter of Wikimedia Foundation:

The second week I was in India, conflict between the chapter and the broader community erupted again on the email list. A few months earlier, volunteers from Mumbai and Pune had hatched a plan to host a national conference in Mumbai in November 2011, and they’d requested that the chapter support their efforts.

It took some weeks for the chapter to reply, and when it did, it wasn’t with a “yes” or a “no.” Instead, it proposed a framework to establish a set of procedures and guidelines for planning national conferences, including a national competition to determine which city should host it.

In the interim, the ad hoc volunteers in Mumbai and Pune had done extensive research on venues and costs, and they had invited Jimmy Wales to attend the event. They had energy, vision and momentum, and they were taken aback by the chapter’s response. Tempers flared, and behind-the-scenes conversations commenced-dozens of community members spent hours on phone calls, Internet chats and email.

There are many more interesting stories in the book. Anybody interested in Wikipedia, or internet communities should take a look.

Check out the whole document