Here is a story by this reporter who attended the Delhi meet up. Caravan folks
had been contacting us for a while regarding 'Wikipedia meet ups' and finally
their reporter Krishn landed up at the 7th meet up. Just a heads up, these are
entirely his observations and even the quotes are not verbatim. He's
paraphrased what he heard us say. Subha will agree. Anyway, it's a good piece
on an outsider's perspective of Wikipedia outreach.
Also, it happens almost always that journalists are clueless about the Wiki
universe and end up misquoting facts, figures, terms. Maybe a journalist
outreach session or inviting them to attend an entire editing session could
FACT CHECK: Krishn Kaushik
BALADEVAN RANGARAJAN moved his brown beanbag to the centre of the room, closer
to the round wooden table on which lay a Macbook. He wasn’t well acquainted
with the laptop’s keyboard, so he used a wireless one instead. A wall-mounted
flat screen TV transmitted the Macbook’s display to a gathering of 14 seated
around the unadorned room.
The first step, he instructed the attendees, was to create a Wikipedia account.
It was this year’s first summertime meeting for Wikipedia Meetup Delhi (WMD7,
to be exact), and most in attendance were newcomers. Launched in 2010, the
meetups have helped train aspiring Wikipedians in Delhi the art of editing
Wikipedia entries about India.
While registering for an account, Rangarajan tried typing ‘baladevan’ for his
username twice—but a prompt informed him that it was already being used by
someone else. He tried ‘baladevan.rangarajan’ next, and this time the system
Asked by the website to introduce himself to other Wikipedia users in the form
of a short description, Rangarajan, with side-parted hair and thick eyebrows
that slope inwards, typed that he was a public policy researcher who “loves
kids and freedom”. Sweet and grand.
With the formality over, Rangarajan opened his first Wikipedia page as an
editor: one about Pav Bhaji. The opening sentence read: “‘Pav Bhaji’ (Marathi)
is a fast food dish that originated in Marathi cuisine, and is native to
Maharashtra and is popular in most metropolitan areas in India, particularly in
Suspicious, he noted that Pav Bhaji is not just famous in the metropolitan
areas of Gujarat, but in cities in central and western India more generally.
He confirmed his claim by citing Retail Franchising, a Tata McGraw Hill
publication he found on Google Books that talks about the food’s popularity in
central India. After all, for facts to hold, they require reliable sources.
And so he rephrased the sentence: “Pav Bhaji (Marathi) is a fast food dish that
originated in Marathi cuisine. It is native to Maharashtra and is popular in
most metropolitan areas in India, especially in those of central and western
Indian states such as Gujarat.”
Much better; everybody else agreed. Rangarajan had just established a fact
internationally. And, now, nobody would doubt it.
The Wikipedia Foundation’s office, where Rangarajan had established Pav Bhaji’s
regional specificity, is situated in a non-descript building in Hauz Khas. On a
door three floors above the street, a wooden nameplate—each letter framed in a
small wooden square—reads WIKIPEDIA. Inside are two rooms each with white walls
and five workstations: airy and minimalist like the website. The foundation
currently has five people on staff, two of which were at the meetup: Subhashish
“We belong to diverse backgrounds,” Subhashish had said before the meetup began
when there were only four people in the room. Of the 15 Wikipedians present by
the end of the session, at least 11 had been trained as engineers, including
Noopur said that women were underrepresented in the community globally—there
were just three present at WMD7.
“Thank god! We would have articles about shades of lipsticks otherwise,”
blurted Abhishek, a lanky man with a goatee. Wikipedia was too serious to be
“pink” for him. An engineering student from Ghaziabad, he described himself as
a “write[r]” of poetry and philosophy, on his Wiki profile. “I have learnt
everything from Wikipedia. More than from anyone else,” he added.
As the group focused on the TV screen, which displayed the procedure to
establish Pav Bhaji’s popularity in particular parts of India, a plump man with
nascent whiskers—Roboture in his Wikipedian avatar—was surfing for more items
to edit. An engineer from Jamia Millia Islamia, he surveyed the pages for
‘Poha’, ‘Dahi Bhalla’ and ‘Flattened Rice’, among others, but changed nothing.
It had been one and a half hours since the meeting began, and the group was
still mulling over Pav Bhaji. “The lazy bums or those unwilling to invest more
time in enhancing or creating Wiki pages can start with translating already
existing entries into one of the many Indian-language Wikipedia sites”, Noopur
admonished, with a smile.
“Can we reference magazine articles for any edits we make?” someone asked. Two
senior Wikipedians advised the group against doing so. “Not well researched,”
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