I'm a Social Media Entrepreneur, Professor of Digital Marketing, Author of 5 books, Podcaster and an Organic Farmer.


Kiruba Shankar

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.

Tamil Wikipedia Academy on Jan 18th

Here’s an opportunity to learn how to edit Wikipedia in Tamil. In this 3rd edition of Wikipedia Academy, we will get learn from experienced Wikipedians who have spent many years contributing to Tamil Wikipedia.

One of the major objectives of the Global Wikimedia Foundation is to grow the contribution to regional languages worldwide. The Indian Chapter of Wikimedia Foundation will focus heavily on encouraging regional language contribution.

While there are a healthy number of Indian volunteers who contribute to Wikipedia, most help out in English. Regional languages, for example, Tamil Wikipedia, pales in comparision. Another matter of concern is that most of the edits are done by Tamilians who live outside Tamilnadu. Most of these are passionate Tamil lovers who live in US, UK and other countries. It’s time we encouraged more people in Tamilnadu.

There’s a lot of good intent to help. It could just be the case of sheer ignorance. That’s where the Tamil Wikipedia Academy aims to help out.

We have experienced Wikipedians like Ravi, Sundar, Mayuranathan and Ganesh who have volunteered to come help teach. Learn more here.

We’ll also use this opportunity to meet together to discuss on what strategies we can use to grow Tamil Wikipedia. Everyone is welcome. You don’t necessarily have to deal with Tamil Wikipedia. Any Wikipedia enthusiast who is willing to volunteer and help out with ideas and efforts is welcome.

Please take note of the venue and the timings.

Day: Sunday, January 18th.

Time: 3 pm to 5 pm

Venue: F5ive Technologies, C-1, Raj Paris Apts, 82, Kamaraj Steet, Virugambakkam, Chennai – 92.

Directions: On Arcot Road, after Avichi School and a big Raymond’s Showroom, take the first right. This is Kamaraj Street. After 100 meters, the road splits into right and left. (a ‘T’ junction). The venue is exactly at this ‘T’ junction. It’s opposite to an Amman Temple.

Call for help: Should you need help, please call me at 98415 97744 or email Kiruba@Kiruba.com

We request you to help pass the word around to friends who might be interested. Please blog or tweet this information. Thanks in advance.

More Comic Relief

A few days ago, our coworking office got colourful, thanks to a certain TinTin, Dilbert and Homer Simpson. This was our second installment of comic poster collection.

The entire portrait was created from scratch by our designer, Rajesh. We got it printed at a great place in North Usman Road, T.Nagar called GLO. They have this really fancy machine who’s printing quality that I’m always impressed with. After a week of anxious wait, the poster got framed. Got it done at United Brothers who’s shop is conveniently located close to the printer. Seen here is the person carrying the finished product to my car.

Transported them safely across.

It was past midnight by the time we got down to drilling holes and nailing. Huge dollops of appreciation to the neighbours who understood our need to create a racket at wee hours. We warned them up sufficiently in advance and that helped. We wanted the painting to be done before Jimmy Wales’ visit and the start of Wikipedia Academy.

The Academy in progress and the painting looked real good. Today, I was browsing through the Economic Times in Bangalore and they had a nice colourful picture of the hall with the poster. You should have seen me beam.

Jimmy at our office. Love that dilbert Simpsons picture behind him.

The last two pictures from Jaggy’s collection of photos from Wikipedia Academy.

Experiences From the Wikipedia Academy

The first Wikipedia Academy got off to a nice start today. For those of you new to the concept, its an effort to teach and encourage more people to contribute to Wikipedia in terms of knowledge. Most of us just consume Wikipedia but don’t bother to edit or add any information. The academy is a small effort to change that.

Within a few hours of tweeting about the event, the registrations overflowed the small capacity my office could hold. We opened up an ‘overflow’ section and that got full as well. The next Wikipedia Academy is planned for December 12th for which Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia Founder, will be present as well.

That’s Mr.Gangadhar Bhadani, one of India’s most prolific wikipedian. He is the Chief Manager of Bank of India’s Pondicherry branch and yet 2 to 3 hours every day contributing to Wikipedia. So passionate is he that, he hired a cab on his own cost from Pondicherry to Chennai to teach at the academy. That’s quite a commitment and the participants were highly appreciative of his effort.

The nearly 3 hour session dealt with advanced editing techniques, how the volunteering hierarchy works, how to grow up the ranks to be an editor. Our small office make it look like a packed standing-room only session!

I realized the sore need of a projector. The folks at the end of the room had difficulty following the edits on the computer screen. With Wikipedia academies planned at a regular scale, it would be great if corporates can help donate a projector. It could even be an old one. It would be of great help for future sessions.

ExpressBuzz, a New Indian Express publication had a nice write up about the Wikipedia Academy. The whole idea behind the academy is to make it viral. Anyone can conduct one in their neighbourhood. All it takes is just the intention. For anyone wanting to start one and need advice, feel free to call me at 98415 97744 or email Kiruba[@]Kiruba.com. I’ll be more than glad to help. The more people contribute, the better wikipedia becomes.

The Collaborative Painting Experience

One of the ideas that stuck was to do a collaborative painting effort during Wikipedia Academy….. something that will symbolically show the effect of collaborative work and how much fun it can be. The idea probably is a rub-off of the interactions that I have had with the artists of Cholamandalam Artists Village. (They are my clients).

Two days back, I started my homework. I googled for painting tips. Saw many YouTube videos. But as with everything else, I actually started actioning things barely two hours before the event.

First on the shopping list was paints and painting brushes. Off I go to Connexions but was shocked at the cost of painting brushes. Those small ones averaged Rs.100 per brush. Dad suggested that the hardware stores will have cheaper ones and boy, was he right. Similar brushes cost only Rs.18. I picked up two boxes of fabric paints as well.

Now, to make the frame. Thankfully, I found the perfect timber shop, walkable distance from my home. I explained the concept to the owner and he was very helpful in helping me select the frame. The size I planned was 7 feet by 4 feet. Cost: Rs.80

Now to buy the canvas. This proved to be the most difficult of the lot. Only very few shops sell painting canvas in Chennai and they are located at Parry’s Corner, too far away for me. So, I tried my luck at a clothes store nearby and while they didn’t have canvas, they had coarse . At this stage, I had to make do. Picked up 2.5 meters. Cost: Rs.70.

Off to the hardware story where I picked up a hammer and a bunch of nails. Cost: Rs.45.

My Dad is a great sport. He’s a very hands-on guy and loves to get his hands dirty. He volunteered to get the frame ready and began in earnest.

That’s Natraj, our apartment watchman. A genial and helpful guy, came in quite handy. After the frame was done, the cloth was nailed to it. We did all this at the community hall in our apartment building.

With the frame done, I had to quickly take it to my office without getting it wet in the drizzle.

Participants at the Wikipedia Academy had started to trickle in. And they only needed a little prompt before they dived into the painting enthusiastically.

And what you see is what eventually turned out. There was no brief given. Everyone was free to draw anything they wanted. Use any color they wanted. The folks had good fun. I certainly did. For many, actually all, its our first experience painting on a canvas. It isn’t a masterpiece. Heck, it’s a cacophonish collage of arbitrary strokes but what the heck. We had fun and we were quite proud of what we whipped out.