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Birthday bash for Wikipedians

If you are used to cross-checking things on Wikipedia, the storehouse of information online, you might want to join this celebration.

Contributors and users of Calcutta, who call themselves Wikipedians, are coming together this Saturday to celebrate the 10th birthday of the online encyclopaedia.

“A user-generated encyclopaedia has become the fifth most popular site in the world and the first point of reference for 10 million users every month. That in itself is worth celebrating,” says Bishakha Datta, documentary filmmaker and member, board of trustees, Wikimedia Foundation, who will make a presentation at Saturday’s meet.

The birthday bash, to be held at Seagull Arts and Media Resource Centre in Bhowanipore, is one of the 400-odd being held across the globe. Of these, around 60 are in India, making the country an overwhelming presence on the Wikipedia map. No wonder the San Francisco-based Wikipedia has chosen the country as the site for its first overseas office.

But there is more than celebration that Wikipedians have in mind. “Our birthday wish is to have more people from all backgrounds to get involved, contribute, edit and grow Wikipedias in all the languages of the world,” says Datta, reiterating a mission statement spelt out in the invitation.

The Bengali Wikipedia, for instance, now stands at 73rd with 22,079 articles (see box). “Compare this with the 35 lakh-plus articles the English Wikipedia has and you know how much scope there is for growth,” says Jayanta Nath, the administrator and editor of the Bengali Wikipedia.

“Many people don’t even know that Wikipedia exists in regional languages,” he rues. Nath will speak about the Bengali Wikipedia on Saturday.

The 35-year-old civil engineer, who spends “one or two hours every night” editing or writing articles is one of the oldest volunteers of the Bengali Wikipedia, on the job since 2006. “There are barely three-four regular contributors in Calcutta. Initially, growth was slow as there were font-related problems. But now newer versions of Windows provide an in-built Bengali typing facility.”

Among those who have confirmed attendance on Saturday is Arnab Dutta, 22. He started off writing for the Bengali Wikipedia on finding little information in an article. “I realised that I knew more.” That was two-and-a-half years ago. “It feels nice that so many people can read what I write. But we need experts who can review our work,” Dutta says.

Bangalore remains the capital of Wikipedians in India, having started Wiki meetings in 2006. The first meeting in Calcutta was held last December. “At least we started in time to join the 10th anniversary celebrations,” smiles Nath.

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