Being a Wikipedian might be a thankless job, but they say it’s addicting
On a Holy Friday afternoon in 2008, Subrata Roy, a 38-year-old librarian at a college in Narsingdi, read something on Wikipedia in a local newspaper.
An avid Bengali writer, Subrata recharged his internet modem that night and started visiting the Wikipedia website from that day on. After two weeks, he received an acceptance letter with a contributor’s link attached.
It has been 13 years since the first mail arrived. Subrata is now the record holder as the editor for most articles on Wikipedia Bangla. To date, he has published a total of 5,116 articles.
How can someone be so persistent in doing something like this on purpose without any compensation?
“It can be free, voluntary, even thankless work. But the amount of knowledge I’ve gained, the number of people I’ve met and the number of platforms I’ve been on – I don’t think this can be bought for any amount of money. . Only passionate hearts will understand this quest, ”was Subrata’s answer to the question.
To cross-check this statement, another Wikipedian was contacted. Masum Al Hasan Rocky, an INGO officer in Cox’s Bazar, works as treasurer of the Wikimedia Foundation. He has been writing for Wikipedia in Bengali for 8 years.
For him, writing articles for the platform is almost addicting. “Here at Cox’s Bazar I have so much to do. But on the weekends I work for our Wikimedia Foundation or I write articles for Wikipedia in Bengali. Otherwise I can’t find peace of mind.” , Rocky pointed out.
Subrata, Rocky and many other Wikipedians have one thing in common: each of them agrees that knowledge should be free and that everyone has the right to learn something in their own language.
And with this goal, more than 340,000 people are currently registered (from Bangladesh, India and other countries) on Wikipedia in Bengali. But only about 1,300 of them are currently active.
However, that number changes from time to time, said Shabab Mustafa, former chairman and current member of Wikimedia Bangladesh’s executive committee. In addition, the Wikipedians of Bangladesh also contribute to Wikipedia in English, Wikipedia Santali and Wikipedia Bishnupriya Manipuri.
He said: “Wikipedia’s vision is to have a better world with knowledge accessible to all. Jimmy Wales, the founders of Wikipedia, inspired us to “Imagine a world in which everyone on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge. This is what we do.”
Beginning in 2004, Wikipedia in Bangla passed the milestone of publishing 100,000 articles on December 25, 2020. As of September 9, 2021, the total number exceeded 1,12,459 articles with 1,317 active publishers.
In 2018, Wikipedia Santali began his journey with the Sandalwoods of Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Of the 50 Santali Wikipedians currently contributing, 10 are from Bangladesh. And to date, there are nearly 6,500 articles published on Wikipedia Santali.
Wikipedia in Bangla, Wiki Boi (books), Wiki Vromon (Travel), Wiki Songkolon (Editing) – these are the Wikipedia projects in Bangla that are operational on the go.
The Wikipedians Bangla and Santali are scattered all over the country, while some can be found in West Bengal and other countries. Although Wikipedians work on a voluntary basis, the Wikimedia Foundation works as a management team to make this work smooth for them.
Website development and maintenance, server management, main web development, etc. are the tasks that staff perform. More so, encouraging new Wikipedians, organizing monthly meetings and conferences are also some of the main tasks the foundation works on.
Currently, 500 employees work in the foundation. Most of them work remotely from all over the world. One of the former Wikipedians of Bangladesh, Nahid Sultan is currently working there as an employee.
These passionate Wikipedians mentioned another benefit they get: self-improvement. For Shahab, the most noticeable improvement is the development of formal writing skills. Since collaboration with others is required in Wikipedia, engaging in this type of work helps develop teamwork skills.
He mentioned another important improvement that they often see, especially among young Wikipedians, “Critical thinking and attention to detail are essential in finding the correct information and filtering out all the misinformation.”
This list goes on. But more importantly, it helps to develop the attitude of helping others and giving something back to society which gives a chance to be better human beings.
Each month, the Wikipedians of Bangla organize an “adda” or a meeting where they share their stories and their passion for the platform. This is how fellow Wikipedians are connected as a large community.
Anyone can write and edit on Wikipedia
As Shabab explains, Wikipedia works on the basis of peer review. When someone writes something on Wikipedia, it is published immediately without any additional steps. Later, other active Wikipedians examine it by checking if the conditions are met.
Wikipedians perform a wide variety of tasks, from correcting typos and removing vandalism to resolving disputes and perfecting content. Many Wikipedians are working on the same article. This is what makes the success of the Wikipedia project.
For writing articles, Wikipedia has some written guidelines. The “Notability Guidelines” determine whether the article’s subject matter is remarkable enough to be featured in an encyclopedia. The “verification guidelines” ensure that references are verifiable. The “Neutrality Guidelines” indicate how the language of any article should be written with a neutral point of view and avoid the personal opinions or prejudices of anyone.
There are also guidelines stating that Wikipedia is not a place to publish original research. This means that all information added to articles should be attributable to reliable and published sources.
When Wikipedians collect information, there are some basic things to consider, Shahab pointed out. The information must first be published in a reliable and credible source. For example, as a source of information, information published by the WHO or the CDC on Covid-19 will be considered reliable sources, unlike someone’s social media posts.
The limits of Bangladeshi Wikipedians
There is still no Wikipedia office in Bangladesh.
After the Holey Artisan tragedy in 2016, the fund also became inconsistent. And for rural and small town contributors, electricity and the Internet are big concerns. Many of them have to browse the Internet using modems.
For Manik Soren, Wikipédien Santali from Bangladesh, the challenges are somewhat worrying. Unlike Nepal or India, Santali is not an officially recognized language in Bangladesh. As a result, there is a debate regarding their writing or alphabet. Again, as a marginalized (and economically neglected) community, it is difficult for Santal volunteers to continue writing for long without any remuneration.
“But we still want to enrich this platform. A language, no matter how small, deserves to be spoken. All we need is a little support, for example, a device and better and cheaper internet connection. So that volunteer work does not become an obstacle for us “, Manik almost apologized by saying this.
Over the past 20 years, the vision of making knowledge accessible to all has motivated thousands of publishers to contribute to Wikipedia and its sister projects in more than three hundred languages around the world.
Money can’t always buy the sense of accomplishment that Wikipedia brings to its contributors working for a greater cause. Although they don’t work for financial gain, a little help is needed. Otherwise, this passion can falter under the pressures of life.
A librarian at a college in Narsingdi
Work for 13 years on Wikipedia
Record holder for most articles (5,116)
Masum Al Hasan Rocky
An INGO officer at Cox’s Bazar
Work for 8 years in Bengali Wikipedia
Wikimedia Bangladesh Treasurer
Wikipedia Santali from Bangladesh
“It is difficult for the Santal volunteers to continue to write for a long time without any remuneration.”
Bangla Wikipedia started in 2004
Over 340,000 people are in Bangladesh Wikipedia
About 1,300 of them currently active
As of September 9, 2021, the total number of publications exceeded 1,12,459
Wikipedia Bangla, Wiki Boi (books), Wiki Vromon (Travel), Wiki Songkolon (Editing) are the projects of Wikipedia in the Bangla language