In 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 @