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 _______________________________________________ Wikimediaindia-l mailing list Wikimediaindiaemail@example.com To unsubscribe from the list / change mailing preferences visit https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikimediaindia-l