Report on Pune Wikipedians Participation in CMDA IT Expo 2011

“Wikipedia Pune” put up a stall at the CMDA expo, a big IT exhibition that’s held every year in Pune. Sudhanwa Joglekar has this report – which should be interesting to PuneTech readers for various reasons – including finding out about Wikipedia activities in Pune, reactions of average Punekars to Wikipedia, and more:

About CMDA:

CMDA, Pune is an association of Computer and Media dealers in Pune. It is a registered organisation and is ISO 9000 certified. Recently, it is declared as the best Computer dealers association across India by DQ Week magazine. Website: www.cmdapune.org

About IT Expo:

CMDA organises IT expo every year. This was 14th year of the expo and was held during 15-18 Dec 2011. As per CMDA organisors, the no. of visitors this year was about 40000.

About our activities:

CMDA gave us a 2m X 2m stall. The usual cost for the stall is about Rs 25,000. However, considering that we are not doing any business activities and are working for a social cause, this was given to us GRATIS. The stall allocation was confirmed at a very late stage. As such, the call for volunteers was also sent very late and we were running short of people to man the stall.

On day 1, (15th Dec), user:Mahitgar, Sudhanwa, Hisham and Nitika started the activities in the morning session. Flex banners were put up and the printed handouts were ready to be distributed. Hisham and Nitika came all the way from Delhi for this. They also got some T shirts for distribution to the right people. Our stall was the last stall in the expo and was adjoining the seminar hall. After the inauguration, people started visiting our stall. The chief guest was visiting all the stalls and he visited our stall also. He was pleasantly surprised to see our activities (non-commercial, social cause) in the expo.

On day 1, second half was handled by Ashwin and Mahitgar. We had printed a handout to create a generic awareness about Wikipedia. This was in English on one side and about Marathi Wikipedia on the other side. Initially, we had about 200 handouts printed as the response was not known to us. Ultimately, we had to make many copies many times as the response went on increasing day by day.

Day 2 (16th Dec) was managed by Mahitgar, Ashwin, Abhishek and some other CA volunteers. For the CAs, it was a great experience to interact with the people face to face and answer all kinds of their queries. This was totally different from the usual CA activities where they interact with people who are already much aware of Wikipedia and editing and may be other projects too. Abhishek and some others managed the stall till afternoon and later on by Sudhanwa and some others like Pratik. In the evening, Mahitgar gave a talk on the topic “Marathi Wikipedia- Challenges and Future” in the seminar hall which was received very well.

Day 3 (17th Dec) was a hectic day being Saturday, the weekend. Mahitgar and Sudhanwa handled the 1st half. Ashwin joined with his spouse for a couple of hours. Mandar joined in the 2nd half till the day ends. There was really an energetic crowd who visited the stall and asked many many questions.

Day 4 (18th Dec) Mandar handled the stall since morning for whole day. He was alone there till lunch time when some more volunteers including Ashwin, Mahitgar came to help him out.

Being a Sunday, the fourth day was very hectic and most crowded. Some more volunteers like Lochan Makheja (Hindi Wikipedian from Pune) were also added but it was still difficult to address all the visitors to our stall. Even with 4 volunteers at a time, we were not able handle the running crowd at peak hour on Sunday evening.

We had kept a notebook at the stall and noted down names and contact details of the people who were interested in further Wikipedia related activities. During the 4 days of expo, we have collected names and contact details of the interested people and that number is about 250!! That is big enough to have multiple wiki-academies in Pune in the next few months. Our guesstimate of the no of people visited our stall is about 3000.

While many visitors knew what Wikipedia is, most were not aware that it is also available in Indian languages, especially Marathi. The few who were aware of both were not aware of other projects like Commons, Wikisource etc. People were mostly unaware of the implications of copyrighted and freely licensed information.The expo gave a very good opportunity to interact with the people directly and get a feel of what the common people understand/know about Wikipedia. Here are some USUAL questions that we faced in the expo.

  1. What is the price of Wikipedia? I want to buy some copies. :-) (to be specific – Wikipedia kitne me bech rahe ho…. )
  2. You are not selling anything here? !!! Then why are you in the expo?
  3. You are not getting anything from Wikipedia, then why are you standing for whole day on the stall?
  4. If anyone can edit Wikipedia, what is the assurance that the content is correct and authentic?
  5. Can you edit Wikipedia in Marathi/Hindi? How?
  6. If I write any article on Wikipedia, will there be my name on the article?
    7 If I type some search string in Marathi (Devanagari), you get search pages in Marathi/ Marathi Wikipedia?? !!
  7. If I type in English (Roman) on English Wikipedia,can I get pages from Marathi Wikipedia?
  8. When and where you meet? I want to join your activities.
  9. What? You can directly edit content on the Wikipedia?

Apart from this, in the expo we could interact face to face with Marathi Wikipedia users and the activity helped in explaining Marathi typing in more easier way.This interaction will help in improving related help pages on Marathi Wikipedia. (Marathi Wikipedia sandbox has a good number of trial and error edits of people trying to type in Marathi using phonetic facility and still not succeeding in their effort)

It was also observed that the number of visiting women was good but at times the stall being small, it was crowded and they could not come forward to listen amongst the jostling men. Next time we should give a thought to request and hopefully get additional space (and also women volunteers) for addressing women.

The happiest experiences were when school children were stopping their parents saying “Papa Mummy Wikipedia Stall !!’ and that naturally made those parents stop at our stall and see what it was all about. it would be great if we are able to get academic fraternity and more volunteer support as many such expos will be forthcoming in the near future. It would be great to arrange such expos in bigger education campuses too.

Remarkably, this was a second consecutive year for the expo having a Marathi Wikipedia seminar. Last year’s talk was given by Abhay Natu and this year Mahitgar spoke on “Marathi Wikipedia: Challenges and Future”. Mahitgar used the opportunity to focus on areas where Marathi language has scope to provide significant knowledge. Mahitgar opined that all the technology is available and volunteers are there to support the activity. The real challenge is to bring back the confidence of the people that they can avail all the knowledge in their own language by cooperating each other through projects like indic language Wikipedias. Thanks to Wikimedia projects, the key of the future is in their own hands.

Expenditure:

We had asked for a grant to GAC on almost the last minute and it was sanctioned very quickly. (Money yet to be received in the account) We have asked for about 11000 INR that includes printing, stationary, CD/DVD burning, etc etc. Out of this, we spent about 5000/- Rs. (Expenditure details yet to come from the volunteers) Remaining money was not utilised as additional activities like CD burning, making some goodies like stickers, key chains etc. could not be done as all the volunteers were stuck up at the stall itself. The amount will be used for the given purpose but for/during our further activities like Wiki-academies.

Pictures:

Abhishek has already uploaded some pictures and will be uploading some videos also. Sudhanwa is uploading some photos in the category “CMDA IT Expo 2011, 15-18 Dec” on commons. We will also try to get some pictures from the expo organisers.

Conclusion:

With the kind of manpower we had and the time and money in hand, the kind of outreach we achieved is extraordinary. Almost 3000 people interacted and of these 250 showed interest in future activities!! Some of them are very useful people like librarians. We met some editors also in the expo. Some of them are from rural area and are doing work in Marathi!! All of them were unaware of the presence of the Pune Community and we were able to get some dedicated new members to the community.

Probably, considering the outreach we had and the response we got in the expo, it is even worth paying for the stall next year!!

We can do much better next time if we get enough time span for planning and execution of activities

(To find out more about Wikipedians in Pune, search for WikiPuneri and Mr-Wiki on the internet.)

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