Indian Wikipedians look forward to Hong Kong meet

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Septuagenarian Sengai Padhuvan

 It sounds like a motley group — a septuagenarian from Chennai, a mother-daughter team from Salem, a computer engineer from Pune and a medical student from Kozhikode. But the commonality these people share is that they are among the 11 Indian Wikipedians — persons who contribute articles to and/or edit for the online encyclopaedia — who will be attending Wikimania, 2013.

Wikimania is an annual conference centred on Wikipedia and similar projects. It will be held in Hong Kong in August (9 to 11) this year.

The website on the event ( says it “… features presentations on Wikimedia projects, other wikis, open-source software, free knowledge and free content, and the social and technical aspects which relate to these topics”.

At Wikimania, 300 to 720 people from 50 countries — including writers, editors, programmers, photographers and Wikimedia Foundation staff — meet. It is “organised by local volunteer teams, with support from international volunteers, and the Wikimedia Foundation and other sponsors.”

Sengai Podhuvan, the 75-year-old Tamil Wikipedian, who earlier edited a journal on sports in Tamil, told The Hindu he had submitted a paper, ‘Improvements to Wiki editing process’, for Wikimania.

Mr. Podhuvan has added as many as 2,350 articles on Tamil literature and science to the Tamil Wikipedia. He has placed in a chronological order 2,000 books from the 17th century and before. He has added information on 200 rural games that were played in the last century till 1950 or 1960 from various States. “My own experience, my service, my childhood, these are my source,” he said.

Mr. Podhuvan said: “My hands are shivering. I can’t hold a tumbler or make a cup of tea without help from my wife. But I can type.”

Netha Hussain, the MBBS student, is a “pilot volunteer” for Wiki Women’s Collaborations, a worldwide women-driven initiative which concentrates on creating women-relevant content online. Ms. Hussain, who attended the Wiki Women’s Camp in Argentina last year, said: “Not more than 22 per cent of the articles [on Wikipedia] are by women. Articles on women’s health are neglected because of fewer number of women editors. We want more women.”

She has made 10,000 “edits,” of which 3,500 are for the Malayalam Wikipedia and 3,500 for the Wikipedia. Though she has written on topics such as the medical uses of saffron, mostly, she said, “I translate articles from English, which is easy. But it is tough to find the exact words in Malayalam. The dictionaries are not updated. So we have to use English, Tamil or Sanskrit words [in the Malayalam script].”

Arnav Sonara, the student of computer engineering, is looking forward to meeting new people — especially those with whom he has been working online at Wikimania. He has made 5,000 edits, including 2,000 for the Gujarati Wikipedia. He keeps adding articles as the Gujarati Wikipedia has “only 22,500” entries and needs more content. He keeps a check on vandalism of articles. “I do speedy deletions. If new articles not conforming to Wikipedia norms appear, I mark them for deletions. I keep an eye on them.” Parvathi, a teacher in the Government Middle School, Kandhampatti, Salem, said she would like to discuss many subjects, in Tamil, at Wikimania. She has added 10,500 edits to the Tamil Wikipedia since September 2011. The additions are to Tamil literature, scientists and “Divya Desams” — the 108 Vaishnava temples. She contributed 30 articles to the first page and 700 photos in a Wiki Tamil Contest for which she got a “Continuous Participation” award. Her daughter, who has been editing for the past one month, will accompany her.

Wikimanias have been held since 2005 in Germany, the United States, Taiwan, Egypt, Argentina, Poland, Israel and last year in Washington, says the website.

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