Social Media has become the new horizon for regional Wikipedians to reach out, share information and contribute to the Wikipedia.
Wikipedia needs no introduction. It is one of the online world’s first crowdsourced project that has its fair share of champions as well as critics. People can upload their content, edit others content in English as well as local languages. According to Mrutyunjaya Kar, one of the moderators of the Odia Facebook group for Wikipedia and a prolific Wikipedia contributor, at present Wikipedia has contributors for 21 different local languages of India and interestingly, English has also been considered as a local language!
Social media took the center stage this year in the month of March for the India Program team when they started a pilot effort, says Noopur Raval a core team member of the India Program. Some time back, I had read a blog post from Noopur on how social media is being used for the Wikipedia outreach program. Noopur in her blog post expressed that the seeds for the India program were sown earlier in the year when the organization had touched base with all the participants of the outreach program and managed to get only a handful of responses. However, Facebook did the magic, said Noopur.
“When we asked them if they’d like to join a Facebook group, the response was tremendous and the ‘You Can Edit Wikipedia‘ page on Facebook was created, which has 400 members now.”
Definitely physical outreach is very limited if we compare with social networks like Facebook. With India being the third largest nation on Facebook, it made more sense to encash the benefits for the team. Going further the team spoke to existing active editors and prepared a 20 point guide to control the chaotic environment of Facebook groups.
To start with, the India Support team supported and educated Odia language editors on Facebook. The members were told to be more active, encourage new members and add a human touch to the posts as it was done in the ‘You Can Edit Wikipedia’ group.
Mrutyunjaya shared that Facebook has really helped Odia people to be aware of their work. He added that the group is a focused one and everyone in the group has the right to ask a question and since it is a community group, it gives the right for anyone to come ahead and help.
Noopur shared similar thoughts on the focus of these groups, as at times most of the groups fizz out when they are not focussed to the objective. She said,
“Our English group on Facebook has 400+ members only, to keep it manageable. We add users who have expressed their interest in a particular local language or had attended physical Wikipedia outreach events before. That explains why it works better than unstructured outreach (e.g. inviting users randomly to ‘like’ pages).”
Facebook groups are definitely useful for focussed discussions but the Wikipedians are encashing the benefits from Facebook brand pages too. The Wikipedia Pune Club which was started on 15th January, 2012 has a community strength of 3000 plus fans.
Abhishek Suryawanshi, ambassador at Wikipedia and a core member of the club shared that,
“At present the Pune club is the only Wikipedia club in India with a highly followed page. Launching a Facebook page worked since initially nothing much was happening on the Pune Facebook Group. Now the club has grown quite rapidly, the younger generation has also been reached out to and all this has helped the Pune Facebook group to be active again.”
A similar story was shared to me by Srikanth Lakshmanan, one of the moderators of the Tamil Wikipedia Facebook page. Srikanth believes that social media will only work if you invest time and dedicating time to Facebook initially was a challenge. But later on the group started a new Facebook page that was about uploading images and the page went viral in its own way. This not only brought awareness among people on Facebook but boosted their morale too.
“We reactivated our original page again and after the first social media success, our focus increased“, said Srikanth.
These are not the only communities that are creating their presence on Facebook. Noopur informed me that they are also supporting similar initiatives for Kannada, Assamese and Hindi Wikipedia fans.
Along with Facebook, Support India group had also tried using other networks such as Google Plus. Google Plus Hangout was one of the features that was tried but constant Internet dropouts has been a hindrance.
“We are not limiting ourselves and thought of trying different networks such as Twitter, Pinterest, etc. but Facebook is working fine for us.”
Definitely growing organically and being present where fans are, makes sense and if Facebook works for you, so be it. Undoubtedly, social media has solved the outreach program to a great extent and people are coming forward to support their community but is social media only for awareness purpose or have these initiatives found dedicated Wikipedia editors too?
“Behavior of people on Facebook and Wikipedia are altogether different. People on Facebook are more for information purpose and fun so the turnout for finding actual editors has been low for now.”
Srikanth also shared the same fact, “Expecting people from Facebook to contribute for Wikipedia is little tough. But at the same time I have seen that few of them doing even though the numbers are very less.”
It is going to take time to connect to editors and nurturing young talent as the new age editors. Nevertheless, within such a short span there has been considerable growth in terms of numbers and activities in most of the groups and I see this whole initiative growing bigger in the coming years.