Can't we just consider the comment as applying to every Wikipedian in
India, after all, for outsiders who don't know our diversity, we're just
Indians. I'm quite sure he didn't mean what was interpreted :)

On Sun, Apr 29, 2012 at 9:57 PM, Ashwin Baindur <>wrote:

> (In response to a certain remark in ‘Malayalam Wikipedia could be
> emulated’)
> (url -
> )
> The Malayalam Wikimedian community definitely deserves kudos. A
> diverse bunch of people volunteered their effort and skills gratis for
> many years to build up what is already a major educational aid in
> Malayalam. This will play an actual positive role in community
> development and that is what the greatest reward to the participants.
> We are confident that they will go on with their exemplary work and
> prove to be sources of inspiration to us all in the years to come.
> That kind of satisfaction, at being part of something bigger than
> oneself and being able to make a difference in the world, motivates
> Wikimedians all over the world, as it does in India also.
> Human nature causes wikimedians to look to the statements of WMF
> officials for encouragement, advice and guidance (though imho they
> should not). In this context, Newstead's comment at the
> Wikisangamotsav  in Kollam last weekend - "they don’t focus on
> politics or personal gains" - can be construed as mischievous in the
> worst case and mistaken in the best.
> Though the WMF does dole out some grants to individuals and
> communities, all Wikimedians are essentially unpaid volunteers, the
> vast majority of which do not have access to resources provided by the
> Foundation.
> Such a remark casts aspersions wrongly on the rest of the Indian
> wikipedian community, giving the casual reader the idea that the
> Malayalam Wikimedians are paragons of virtue while the remainder of
> the Indian Wikimedian community “focus on politics and personal gain”.
> The remark indicates a deep distrust of the WMF for the general
> community for reasons best known to them. Such a remark is hardly
> constructive in motivating the entire bunch of Indian Wikimedians who,
> as a collective whole, are making extremely valuable contributions to
> society despite being unpaid volunteers and at the cost of a large
> amount of personal time and often at their own expense.
> The question arises at what could be the reason for politics and what
> personal gains are to be found in doing Wikipedia editing or outreach?
> Satisfaction, learning, peer approval, interaction with intelligent
> fellow-believers, social service and fun are the personal gains for
> editors - all legitimate rewards which one can partake off with
> integrity and pride.
> Politics arises when scarce resources are pursued by many. It cannot
> be money, since all funds in Wikipedia are in the hands of the
> Foundation which directly receives donations. Nor is it power, as the
> community insists on it being a society of equals.  The India Chapter
> with its few executive members and completely budgetted by the WMF and
> with its limited role & mandate cannot be considered worthy target of
> Newstead’s remark either. So what politics are we talking about and
> who is it that Newstead is referring to?
> Perhaps the WMF feels offended by the criticism from Wikimedians
> worldwide at the failure of a flagship educational program in India
> last year or perhaps at local criticism in their mode of operation in
> India and the cost-benefit analysis of their country program where
> hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured in with mediocre
> results. Newstead may feel unhappy about these issues but public
> statements like these do not add to the confidence of the community in
> the WMF either.
> In today's world, participants in citizen science or collaborative
> projects such as Wikipedia expect the highest levels of transparency,
> democracy and debate - in part, Wikipedia’s open ethos itself is
> responsible for the extremely democratic aspirations of participants.
> Wikipedians routinely engage in large debates on major and minute
> issues. They absorb from their experience in the Project the idea that
> all action is open for debate and that such criticism/dissent is not
> only constructive but vital. It would be a strange quirk of fate,
> should an office-bearer of WMF feel threatened by the values
> encouraged by their own projects.
> This distrust may also be seen as a clash of cultures - on one side, a
> corporate culture where actions are expected to be accepted at face
> value and not to be justified to those not in power, and on the other,
> an open culture where nothing is sancrosanct and responsible action
> and respectful response from all, including and especially Jimbo
> Wales, is expected as a matter of moral right by volunteers.
> The meaningful solution lies through engaging the community as equals
> and stakeholders, not with public remarks like these. Wikimedian
> volunteers understand and express their gratitude to the foundation
> for creating and operating a vehicle which enables their useful
> contribution to society. Reciprocally, it is time that WMF
> representatives realise that it is the Wikimedian community that is
> the living flesh and blood of Wikipedia, without whom the WMF cannot
> exist, and who need to be engaged with mutual respect and
> consideration, if the encyclopedia is to prosper in the long run.
> Warm regards,
> Ashwin Baindur
> ------------------------------------------------------
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- Arjun
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