Excellent Shiju, very well written. I hope the community will learn a
lot from your research and surveys and use them in a positive manner
to ensure that our local indic Wiki projects are in as good health as
English, French, Spanish, etc.

On 12/16/11, Shiju Alex <sh...@wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Dear All,
>
> Apologies beforehand for a rather long and winding mail - but there is so
> much that I want to say. I want to share how my thoughts are being
> crystallised.  I want to try and cross-pollinate ideas from some Indic
> language communities across to all communities.  I want to reach out and
> ask your views and suggestions.  I want to understand how best we can help
> each community in a manner that is most appropriate to that community.
>
> I have now completed sharing initial, introductory, exploratory discussions
> with a host of community members from across Indic language communities.  I
> have shared these for 12 languages
> (Assamese<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Assamese/Discussions/2011>,
> Hindi<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Hindi/Discussions/2011>,
> Tamil<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Tamil/Discussions/2011>,
> Telugu<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Telugu/Discussions/2011>,
> Kannada<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Kannada/Discussions/2011>,
> Nepali<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Neplai/Discussions/2011>,
> Malayalam<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Malayalam/Discussions/2011>,
> Marathi<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Marathi/Discussions/2011>,
> Odia<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Odia/Discussions/2011>,
> Sanskrit<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Sanskrit/Discussions/2011>,
> Bengali<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Bengali/Discussions/2011>,
> and
> Gujarati<http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Gujarati/Discussions/2011>.)
>  I haven't (yet) got any response from 7 other communities (Bhojpuri,
> Kashmiri, Punjabi, Urdu, Bhisnupriya Manipuri, Pali, and Sindhi).
>
> At the very outset, I want to thank all of you who took time out and shared
> your experiences and thinking.  It has been really useful and I hope you
> found it is as productive and constructive as I did.  The purpose behind
> this exercise was to hear, learn, and understand the evolution of the
> various communities - and to therefore suggest ideas going forward. I urge
> everyone to go through all the other languages (even if they are not
> personally involved in those specific communities) because there are
> learnings for everyone from everywhere.
>
> I have been reflecting on the various insights and inputs and ideas I have
> got from all these folks as well as subsequent discussions on mailing lists
> and talk pages.  Here are my initial thoughts.
>
> CommunityIt sounds like a self-evident and very basic thing but the single
> biggest priority for all communities (even relatively bigger ones like
> Tamil and Malayalam) is community building.  What has struck me from the
> various language communities is that everyone agrees that this is very much
> required but very few are aware of what needs to be done or how it needs to
> be done.  I wanted to share some thoughts about this.
>
> When I consider community building, I think of 5 broad aspects:
>
>    1. Editor retention
>    2. Attracting newbies
>    3. Community communication
>    4. Community collaboration and
>    5. Community celebration
>
>
> I would like to detail what I mean by each of these.
>
> 1. Editor retention: Like most language wiki communities we also have an
> editor retention issue in all Indic language communities. This is
> particularly an area of concern for us considering the fact that all our
> Indic language communities are really tiny and community buiding efforts in
> Indic wikis are very less. A dramatic case in point is Kannada where active
> editor numbers (that is, editors who do at least 5 edits a month) have
> declined from 25 members to just 9 members over the past 10 months.  It is
> essential that all of us reflect on why this is happening and what can be
> done to avoid it in future and to resurrect lapsed editors.  Existing
> editors and old editors understand our projects and community and can play
> a huge role in community building and project quality improvement.  Many
> times, they have become inactive because of changing personal priorities.
>  However, sometimes, they leave because they are no longer excited by the
> projects.  The lack of interest in a project or users not feeling proud
> about a project might be due to multiple reasons. Some of the reasons that
> old community members shared with me are poor quality of articles (driven
> by BOTs and Google translation project), dominance of wiki by  one or two
> members, the huge amount of clean up and other administrative tasks
> required, and so on.  We must reach out and welcome these editors back and
> we must encourage them to do what they love doing most - editing articles
> and making them regain their pride and ownership over their articles and
> projects. We must foster an environment that welcomes old editors back and
> gives them the space to follow their passions.
>
> 2. Attracting newbies: Attracting newbies is the only way our communities
> and projects can grow.  I have to be honest and say that none of our
> language communities have achieved critical mass.  According to me unless a
> project has 500 or more active editors, it can never be said to be in a
> state where organic growth is secured and momentum is ensured.  Attracting
> newbies requires impactful outreach.  By impactful, I mean outreach that is
> done frequently and to as a large a group of potential newbies as possible.
> However, it also means that we need to be much more systematic about how we
> do outreach.  This covers everything from identification of the most
> appropriate target audience as well as doing outreach in a manner where we
> don't scare off newbies by information overload.  We must make sure that
> our outreach sessions adequately convey the passion and love for our
> projects that we feel while working on them.  Also, we need to critically
> look at how we reach out to attendees of outreach sessions (after the
> sessions) as well as other newcomers and see that we are providing an
> adequate helping hand to them.  The Nepali community - though tiny - does
> very well in terms of posting personal talk messages to welcome new folks,
> having FAQs spaces and problem boxes, etc. - all with the objective of
> supporting newbies.  All Indic languages are at a state where every single
> newbie should be identified and reached out to and given intensive help and
> warmly welcomed to the community. We must also look at both newbies to
> editing as well as existing English Wikipedia editors who have inclinations
> and abilities on Indic languages.  Remember that many Indic editors
> initially started off in English Wikipedia and we must actively seek them
> out.  I know some communities - like Marathi - who look for editors who
> have Marathi sounding names or edit Marathi/Maharashtra centric topics and
> quietly invite them to contribute to Marathi Wikipedia.  Another aspect,
> and I am sure is this a bit of a controversial statement, but can we get
> few existing Indic editors to reduce their emphasis on editing and divert
> their time on outreach. (I know Tamil, Odia, and Malayalam communities are
> already doing this. But this needs to be replicated in other languages
> also).  It is really tough and not everyone might have the interest to do
> outreach but the best outreach can be done by existing community members.
> However, as we know, volunteer time is limited.  This is a challenge
> because what we love doing most is editing - but the reality is that the
> greatest need of the hour, and the area where we can contribute maximum, is
> attracting and training and supporting newbies.  We should also look at
> digital outreach - by which I mean look at the existing internet activities
> in Indic languages (blog, facebook, google plus, and so on) and see if we
> can get newbies from there.  For instance, many Indic languages have very
> active blogging. Can we reach out to bloggers and ask them to contribute to
> our projects, or at least evangelise about our projects and invite their
> readers to read Indic projects and contribute to them?  Can we similarly
> look at social media like facebook and twitter to promote our Indic
> projects?
>
> 3. Community Communication: Community communication is an area which varies
> by community. There is a direct co-relation between the health and growth
> of the community and the inclusiveness, intensity, and warmth of the
> communication amongst that community.  Community communication takes place
> on mailing lists, village pumps, meetups, and so on. With the exception of
> Malayalam and Bengali mailing lists, and to a lesser extent, Tamil, Odia,
> Mumbai, and Pune mailing lists, most others are virtually non-functional.
>  Having said that, many village pumps are active across language
> communities.  It really doesn't make a difference whether the communication
> is on mailing lists or village pumps.  However, it is of paramount
> importance that it happens somewhere.  Anywhere!  To that extent, I
> encourage everyone to be more active wherever they are more comfortable -
> but ideally in public spaces like village pumps or mailing lists.  Reach
> out and ask for help or suggestions.  Offer advice or inputs.  Simply be
> friendly and accessible.  Just talk!  Community meetups are happening but
> not as frequent as one would like and with very limited attendance.  Often,
> it is just 3 or 4 people who meet up everytime.  Nothing wrong with that
> per se. Meetups are voluntary and the majority of wikipedians are happy to
> edit in the privacy of our homes and not meet up with others but even in
> this situation, we can and should be encouraging more people to attend
> meetups. People will attend meetups more regularly if they find them
> productive and inspiring.  Too often, the feedback from community members
> has been that they don't find meetups useful or they find them dominated by
> 1 or 2 individuals.  It is essential to have 1 or 2 individuals with the
> drive and hard work to organise meetups - but it is equally important that
> meetups are not centred exclusively around these 1-2 people but more about
> what the larger group want.  How about meetups where all we do is spend an
> hour or two just editing a few articles?  How about meetups where we plan a
> newbie outreach program involving everyone in the meetup?  How about a
> meetup where that meetup is run by those folks who usually never speak up
> and that the entire meeting is devoted to what they are interested in?  It
> is alarming when one looks at the situation in some Indic communities where
> there is virtually no communication at all amongst community members. It
> leads to a very cold and impersonal environment - which is not healthy to
> foster growth.   Like plants and flowers, communities too need breeze and
> air and water and food and activity and earthworms and manure.
>
> 4. Community Collaboration: When I consider community collaboration, I
> think of 2 things.  The first is ownership and the second is editing.  On
> ownership, it is really critical that every one of us as individual
> community members believe and are made to believe that we own our projects.
> Every project is owned by all members of that community. Equally.  We
> should all become more proactive in enforcing this ownership - whether it
> is in terms of coming up with initiatives or proactively participating in
> community discussions - whether it is about technical matters or content
> elements or community aspects.  Every single individual counts and every
> single individual's voice must be encouraged.  On editing, something that
> drives all of us is the thrill of collaborative editing.  Wikipedians love
> it more than anything else to work together on an article and make dramatic
> improvements to it.   Of course it happens even now, but this is something
> that we need to encourage much more and participate more actively in. This
> can be done in varied ways - but ideas like Collaboration of the Month or
> Editathons or whatever other idea should be organised.  One can start with
> a handful of people working on a few articles - but one must try as hard as
> one can to make larger scale mini-events around this basic idea.  It will
> help build personal relationships, project ownership, and drive community
> bonds.
>
> 5. Community Celebration: Lastly on the community aspect, let us bring some
> magic back to the community.  Let us start celebrating successes - no
> matter how small.  Let us start taking goals - no matter how seemingly
> unambitious. Let us spread cheer all around when we meet these objectives.
> Let us start publicly celebrating over the profiles of new or active
> editors (Tamil wiki community is already doing this)- whether because they
> are 12 years old or 80 years old or whether their article counts are 100 or
> 10,000! Let us celebrate when our wiki cross a major milestones, Let us
> celebrate when one our community member does some marvellous things for
> wiki. Let us celebrate when community able to engage in a relationship with
> state government... There are many reasons to celebrate. Let us celebrate
> all those and build the sense of pride about their projects among our
> community members. The most powerful fuel in our engines is passion - and
> we need to get more of it in our veins.
>
> ProjectsThere is a constant debate of what should come first - article
> count or article quality?  I don't think there is an answer to this that is
> equally applicable across all projects and communities. I had strong
> convictions on this based on my past experience with Malayalam wiki
> projects - which have been reinforced after my initial discussions with
> Indic Wikimedians from across the country.  In this regard, I wish to share
> a provocative statement about bots. Bots can and should be used to do
> repetitive tasks (like adding categories) because that reduces wasting
> volunteer time - which is limited and  precious.  However, the use of bots
> for article creation is something that I would strongly discourage.  The
> current state of Newari wikipedia (which has nearly 70,000 articles but
> zero active editors) reinforces my argument.
>
> The argument for using bots for article creation is that it provides
> placeholders for editors to start working on these articles.  While there
> is some merit in this argument, the problem is that this kind of artificial
> intervention means that the volume of work required to improve quality far
> outpaces the community strength.  It is like a sportsman using steroids.
>  It is not natural or healthy.  It results in large numbers of very poor
> quality articles - which are of such a basic nature that it might be better
> not to have them in the project.  (For example, if the only information
> about a town is that "Abc town is in Abc district which is in Abc state and
> the population is 12345 according to the 2001 census", this article is so
> weak that it cannot honestly be said to exist.)  If a project has thousands
> of these kind of articles, the whole project will be regarded as being of
> poor quality and will put off readers.)  More fatally, if a project has
> thousands of such bot entries, it doesn't inspire editors to contribute -
> but instead makes them disillusioned because they feel that so many
> articles of such bad quality that they just give up on where to start!
> There
> are many who feel that, for example, Hindi wikipedia has been adversely
> impacted by the overusage of bots.
>
> Another very important aspect I want to address is the kind of policies we
> adopt for Indic projects.  Too often, tiny projects and communities are
> adopting too many of the policies of English Wikipedia.  The policies of
> English wikipedia have evolved over years as English Wikipedia grew in
> community and article size.  These policies are suitable for English
> Wikipedia given the size and breadth of its community.  My view is that
> many of these are not appropriate for the current state of most Indic
> projects and communities given that the community sizes are 60,000 for
> English and ~25 for the average Indic community.  If English Wikipedia
> policies are indiscriminately adopted, results in the feedback that I am
> seeing from many Indic editors that they are spending too much time doing
> "administrative" tasks like categorisation and not getting enough time for
> basic core editing.  Let me elaborate.  Something like NPOV is central to
> our overall philosophy.  This cannot and must not be diluted. However, even
> if I take the larger Indic Wikipedias, it really is not such a major issue
> if the categorisation is currently weak.  The focus has to be to build
> articles quality and content, and not necessarily having all the content
> neatly slotted into categories.  Of course, something like categorisation
> is good, but not at the cost of article quality.  I want to make an even
> more provocative suggestion.  Verifiability is really really really
> important to all our projects.  However, if one looks at how English
> Wikipedia evolved in the early days, it started with editors just adding
> content. Over a period of time, other editors came in and added and
> improved citations.  Even today, as a recent Signpost article mentioned,
> there are 2.5 lakh articles in English
> Wikipedia<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2011-10-31/Opinion_essay>that
> don't have references.   We should encourage editors to write, write
> and write!  References will follow.  Let us not chase away editors because
> we want every article to be perfect in a 20,000 article project.  Of course
> we want quality but let us take it in stages - and let us prioritise what
> is most important to begin with.  I think many editors would find it
> incredibly satisfying and inspiring and motivating to start and edit new
> articles, and they might get it 80% right.  This will attract a much bigger
> community within which there will emerge a new generation of editors who
> love to add detail and citations.
>
> ReadershipOne of my big discoveries I had was to see the total size of
> readership.  I have often contemplated the Catch 22 situation of Indic
> language Wikimedians - where there is no awareness of the projects so there
> is no readership and even where there is readership, readers are not
> satisfied because of a low number articles or poor quality of articles.
> Conversely, editors don't find adequate motivation and satisfaction because
> they believe there are too few readers for their contributions.  I often
> wondered how we would approach this problem - and which we should address
> first.  I used to think that we should first focus on community building
> and article quality - and that readers will automatically follow.  To that
> extent, I used to think that we shouldn't worry about readers because they
> will inevitably follow content.  The fact that last month, we had more than
> 4 crore readers for our Indic language
> wikipedias<https://blog.wikimedia.org/2011/12/12/indian-language-wikipedia-statistics-october-2011/>means
> that the dilemma of what we need to do is no longer valid.  We have
> readers. Lakhs and lakhs and lakhs of them for each Indic language wiki!
>  We now need to focus singlemindedly on community building and project
> quality.  As internet penetration and mobile data access increase, we will
> get even more Indic readers.  We don't need to do anything to attract
> readers.  However, we need to do *everything* to keep them coming back by
> increasing article count while religiously maintaining and increasing
> article quality and size of community.
>
> I would love to hear your thoughts and views on these suggestions.
>
> The next stage of my work is going to be to speak directly with various
> communities in village pumps itself.  I will try and make these as relevant
> and specific to individual communities - and also to share some ideas which
> have relevance across similar communities.  For instance, some ideas will
> be similar to all communities with less than 25 active editors.  I also
> want to try and identify potential areas of support that India Programs
> could work closely with communities on.  The idea is to support community
> across languages.  We would like to identify a very limited (1 or 2) pilots
> of a very controlled nature (in terms of scale) that we would like to
> collaboratively design with respective communities.  Given the efforts that
> will be required in any pilot (even if it is of a relatively small scale),
> we believe that there needs to be a certain basic level of community size
> and collaboration to be able handle such pilots.
>
> I will be sharing this mail on the various local language / local town
> mailing lists as well as the respective language village pumps.  I look
> forward to hearing your views.
>
> I placed the content of this mail in metawiki also. It is here:
> http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_-_India_Programs/Indic_Languages/Summary_of_initial_discussions_-_2011
>
> Regards
>
> Shiju Alex
> India Programs Team
>


-- 
Regards,
Srikanth Ramakrishnan.
Wikipedia Coimbatore Meetup on December 10th.
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Meetup/Coimbatore

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