BENGALURU: Users of Kannada Wikipedia have increased significantly over the last 13 years — from none at all to 7,05,199 viewers a month.
On February 15, when its users and contributors celebrated its anniversary, the regional repository boasted of 80 ‘active’ (five articles a month) and eight ‘very active’ (100 articles a month) editors and contributors.
“People didn’t know a Kannada version existed,” says Om Shiva Prakash, an editor since 2007 and an active user since 2012. “Creative interventions and social media helped it gain some popularity. Even now, many users don’t know they can edit.”
Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia is not run by the young and tech-savvy. It has contributors and editors across different age groups. The admin and coordinators are youngsters, between 25 and 35 years, and editors are mostly over 45 years, some even close to 70.
The contributors have day jobs, across varied industries.
The first article uploaded — on July 18, 2004 — was on Shivamogga. Now, Kannada Wiki boasts of around 19,600 articles.
Prakash says there are challenges still. “It is not easy to get people engaged,” he says. “They don’t want to join because they don’t get paid... It will be helpful if famous and prominent Kannada writers help us with some articles.”
Credible sources are difficult to come by, says Prakash. “It is difficult to create pages as we do not have proper references and sources,” he says. “Kannada newspapers have not maintained their pages well online. This makes it difficult to dig out information and records from old issues.”
Technology has improved and made it easier over the years, says Harish M G, an admin hand, who has been working with Kannada Wiki for 10 years.
“It was difficult typing earlier with Baraha, Unicode and ASCII,” he says. “The number of editors then were fewer and many were not serious about the work.”
Prakash maintains that the technology is not friendly even now. However, he says, a new option, Content Translation Tools is available.
“It is a split screen with English version on one side and space to type the Kannada version on the other.”
Tejas Jain, Harish’s college roommate, has been an active contributor from 2006. A key Wikimedian, he discovered Wikipedia through an article on its Kannada version.
“I saw the Kannada version first and was happy,” he says. But when he took a look at its English version, he realised a lot of work had to go into the regional Wiki.
He now actively monitors the data that goes into it. He and Harish have spent many nights in their hostel editing and writing for Wiki Kannada.