The Photologue of the Tamil Wikipedia Academy

Amongst all the Wikipedia Academies held earlier, I would rate this Tamil Wikipedia as the one which had the highest learning quotient. About 15 interested folks had turned up to learn about how to contribute to Tamil Wikipedia. We learnt what it takes to contribute to Tamil Wikipedia while also learning some shocking statistics that almost made me put my head down in shame.�

While Tamil Wikipedia has close to 17,000+ articles, most of these have been contributed by a small team of 50 Wikipedians.  In other words, there are only around 50 Tamil Wikipedians worldwide, out of which only about 10 are consistently active
Most contributions to Tamil Wikipedia are done by Srilankan Tamils who live in other countries like Canada, US and Malaysia.  It’s a matter of shame that we in Tamilnadu don’t do much. A situation that must be changed.
Telugu Wikipedia leads the pack with 42,000+ articles.  Once again, most of the contribution is by people living outside India.
That’s what put in the seed for having more Wikipedia Academies that will encourage more regional language contribution from people within India.
We had two experienced WikipediasRavi Shankar and Ganesh, who took the time and effort to come teach. In my opinion, both of them deserve huge praise because they signify the very spirit of the Wikipedia community : The willingness to share knowledge.
After the initial introduction to Wikipedia, Ravi suggested the team split into two teams so that there can be better attention and interaction. This worked wonders.  It was a very interactive learning session more driven by Q&A.

There were two learning hurdles to cross.  The first is typing in Tamil. While all the participants knew Tamil and how to write, very few knew how to type in Tamil. The audience were taught transliteration techniques where one can type in Tamil and the software automatically converts into Tamil.
The second hurdle is learning how to edit Wikipedia.  I must say that for a total fresher, Wikipedia editing can be a steep learning curve. No, I’m not talking about simple spelling correction. I’m talking about adding a new article, adding reference articles, adding new photographs etc. Now, lets not even go near adding tables and including templates.  Those are *waay* too complex.
It’s a good thing that Wikimedia Foundation is seriously looking at simplifying the editing into a WYSIWYG (simple visual editing) method.

Ravi, who did his doctorate in Netherlands, showed exceptional love for both the language and Wikipedia. He had a natural teaching aptitude and patiently handheld the newcomers through the world of Wikis.
A huge shout of appreciation should also go to Natkeeran, a tamilian living in Cananda and a prolific Wikipedian, who showed exceptional interested in getting eveyone together for this academy. Even though he was thousands of miles away, he constantly wrote in with encouragements and proactively wrote to many people to come volunteer to teach.

The local neighbourhood newspaper played an important role in spreading the message. While the English Wikipedia Academies always had better response in terms of attendance, I realized that it was difficult to reach out to people interested in Tamil Wikipedia through the blog network. That’s when I realized the power of local media.
Anyone can start a Wikipedia Academy. The whole idea is to get a small place where people who are interested in Wikipedia can learn.  You can do this in your home, school or a nearby park. You don’t need to take permission from anyone to conduct an academy. It’s very low cost too.
It would be great to see such Wikipedia Academies take place all over India. Be it cities, towns or villages. If you need any assistance, there are many of us who are eager to help assist you. Please call me at 98415 97744 or email Kiruba @ Kiruba.com.


  1. Ravikumar should be Ravishankar.

  2. Arul Prasad Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Hi Kiruba,

    Just saw your twitter message about this post and came here.

    Though I was thrilled for a few moments about seeing tamil words in the wikipedia url eg – http://bit.ly/z0GA – the excitement faded very quickly…

    Do you think a word by word translation as being done in the pages like the example above is gonna be very helpful? For someone who knows what a ‘galaxy’ is, learning ‘naalmeenperadai’ does add to my knowledge of words in tamil, but it doesn’t add up too much new information, isn’t it?

    And to someone who doesn’t know of the word ‘galaxy’, I guess he/she wouldn’t know of the word ‘naalmeenperadai’ as well. In that case, wouldn’t learning ‘galaxy’ be a much useful option? ( just because he/she can communicate with a wider group of people)

    What I’m trying to arrive is, tamil articles about topics that are inherently tamil – (for eg, places in tamilnadu, srilanka etc, and their history), which don’t appear in english version of wikipedia, make more sense. Existing articles that are in english already, can be translated using a good tamil translation engine, which is more like an one time effort, and that exposes the whole wealth of all wikipedia articles already there in all those languages..

    Am sure people are already discussing this topic, just wanted to add my thoughts to it as well.

    My two ‘kaasu’ ;)

    Cheers
    Arul Prasad

  3. BG Mahesh Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:36 am

    Glad to read about this. I have written about Indian languages recently on http://www.mahesh.com/2009/01/19/is-indian-language-on-the-net-really-pathetic

    Unfortunately very few understand the power of languages on the internet.

  4. workhard Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:37 am

    I think what you guys are doing out there is great. it takes a great amount of effort and disciple to work on wikipedias and one in local languages takes a lot of effort

  5. ரவிசங்கர் Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Thanks for the writeup kiruba.

    //vI would rate this Tamil Wikipedia as the one which had the highest learning quotient.//

    :)

    //Srilankan Tamils who live in other countries like Canada, US and Malaysia//

    not much from US, malaysia. significant contributors living in australia, UAE, Canada. percentage of Indian Tamil contributors is also increasing gradually.

    //Telugu Wikipedia leads the pack with 42,000+ articles. Once again, most of the contribution is by people living outside India. //

    They have more count. But mostly few line articles. Quality doesn’t match quantity. Don’t know whether they have larger contribution from outside india.

    //Ravi, who did his doctorate in Netherlands,//

    I am yet to complete my studies :)

    It was a good learning experience for all of us and I look forward to many such academies. We have already planned one at Bangalore.

    http://ta.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:2009Bangalore

  6. ரவிசங்கர் Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:38 am

    @ Arul Prasad,

    //Do you think a word by word translation as being done in the pages like the example above is gonna be very helpful? //

    Not every article in Tamil wiki is an exact translation of en wiki article. We strive to write original and better articles than those present in en wiki.

    //For someone who knows what a ‘galaxy’ is, learning ‘naalmeenperadai’ does add to my knowledge of words in tamil, but it doesn’t add up too much new information, isn’t it? //

    Tamil wiki is written for people who want to (and can only) learn through Tamil.

    //And to someone who doesn’t know of the word ‘galaxy’, I guess he/she wouldn’t know of the word ‘naalmeenperadai’ as well. In that case, wouldn’t learning ‘galaxy’ be a much useful option? ( just because he/she can communicate with a wider group of people)//

    Please read ஏன் ஆங்கிலச் சொற்களைத் தமிழாக ஏற்கக் கூடாது?

    //Existing articles that are in english already, can be translated using a good tamil translation engine, which is more like an one time effort, //

    There is no such “engine” so far and no hint of seeing one any sooner. Tamils can’t wait to have knowledge on various topics for such a reason.

    Why Machine translation is a bad idea?

    * There are machine translation engines for world languages like German, French etc., But they don’t use it to write articles in their language wikis. You know why? Machines can only help humans do their jobs better. They can’t replace what a human can do.

    * what is written in english is not the ultimate and only source of knowledge. we can always write a better and original article than what is being present in en wiki

    * en wiki tone, focus, view is not global. By systematic bias, it inclines towards western and european view point. There are numerous articles in which we need to have local and alternative viewpoint. So, rewriting from scratch is a a necessity.

    * even if you are gonna use machines, you still need to invent new words in local language to make it more understandable to locals.

  7. Ramakrishnan Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Great job!. This is a very good initiative. Hope this would bring awareness among Tamil people in India and increase our contribution to wiki. Srilankan Tamils are doing amazing work in wiki. Looking at the articles itself you can say most of the articles in Tamil wiki is contributed by Srilanka Tamils. It is about Srilanka, Eelam, LTTE everywhere. The quality of articles is really good and sometimes i find the language difficult to read.

  8. Nice effort.

    Cheers,

    Anitha

  9. Anonymous Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Is that a mosquito repellent holder I see behind the monitor in one of those shots?!! heh…heh…oh, those mosquitoes!

  10. Frisbee Painting Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:40 am
  11. thozhilnutpam.com Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:41 am

    FIRST ELECTRONICS RESOURCE IN TAMIL
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    AFTER CHINESE, JAPANESE, KOREAN – NOW IN TAMIL!!!

    தமிழின் முதல் மின்னணுவியல் கருவூலம்

    சீனம், ஜப்பானியம், கொரியம் மொழிகளில் மட்டும் இது வரை மின்னணுவியல் தரவுத்தால்கள் இருந்தன. இப்போது தமிழ் மொழியிலும் மொழிப்பெயர்க்கப்படுகின்றன.

    தமிழ் தரவுத்தாள் தளம்
    http://www.tamildata.co.cc

  12. ibrahim Says: May 21, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Great work of showing the power of tamil language to the people of the world….
    hats off to the people who have contributed to this tamil wikipedia….

    go on and on in cotributing lot of tamil articles in wiki….

  13. first of all i like to thank for the effort taken by u sir, hope this will help all the tamilians accros the world…………..

  14. Very nice !

    Tamil

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