Friday, August 10, 2018

Wikimania 2018: Learnings and Experience

Hello world! After my most successful Wikimania ever, I finally managed to get some time to share my learnings and experience at Wikimania 2018. As usual, I will *try not to* keep the content boring but keep it crisp and informative. So, let's start!

Bridging knowledge gaps: The Ubuntu Way forward

The theme of Wikimania 2018 was, "Bridging knowledge gaps—the ubuntu way forward". Here "ubuntu" doesn't refer to Operating System Ubuntu, but is much broader than that. Ubuntu, as per South African philosophy says, means, "I am because you are." This in itself is quite deep and much of what we can gather from this statement means, "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity." Since volunteer community-driven projects like Wikipedia follow this vision as well, in my opinion, no better theme than this can exist.

My learnings before pre-conference days

Before the pre-conference, I managed to free some time from hacking and completing my session presentation. Me along with Amir E. Aharoni, Andreasmperu and Olga Viota went to see the penguins at Boulder's Beach. We went via train till Simon's Town and then we walked till Boulder's Beach. On our way, Amir taught us (especially me), my native language, "Hindi". I was surprised that he knew about my language more than me. I never tried to go into the technicalities of Hindi, but he made sure that I know them by the end of our trip. Andreasmperu contributes to Wikidata and Spanish Wikipedia. She enlightened us with Peru, her home country and told us about Peru Wikipedia community and the challenges that the community are facing. Olga, who is from Bolivia, contributes to Spanish Wikipedia. She shared her experiences as well.

Another very informative thing I learnt is about Basque language community. I always thought about the complexity of words in Hindi Wikipedia and whenever I tried to persuade my friends to contribute to Hindi Wikipedia, they became dazzled after a while due to its complexity in sentences. They mentioned it to me, "as if a Hindi scholar wrote this". I discussed the same with Amir and he told me how Basque community has already come up with their own solution to which they named, "Txikipedia" (thanks to Amir again for reminding of it). It is a simplified version of the Basque Language in order to attract high school kids to edit Wikipedia. This initiative is quite brilliant!

My learnings and experience during the pre-conference days

Pre-conference was very much important for me. I had a scheduled Lightning talk and I was also leading a session on volunteer recruitment and engagement with Reem Al-Kashif and Walaa Abdel Manaem. I attended Wikipedia & Education meetup. Nik Skaull explained about South African Education System. He mentioned the diversity in South African Economy and how badly it impacts the education system.

Children belonging to Chronic Poor -> Get Poor High School Education -> Do not go to College

Me, Mina and 2 other Wikipedians sat together after Wikimedia & Education meetup and after a long discussion on Non-Wikipedia Wikimedia Projects, we came up with a list of ideas. They can be accessed here.

I shared a lightning talk on "Using Blogs as a tool to attract people from other open communities". You can access the slides here. In this lightning talk, I shared my experiences in writing blog, what to write, how to share, whom to share etc. The talk went good and people appreciated it. Yay! Listening to other talks on various topics like Gender Gap, Education Programs, Photography etc. gave me a lot of inspiration.

I lead a session on "Non-Wiki Activities: A motivation to edit Wikipedia" in which I shared unique ways to motivate students to edit Wikipedia. This went far more better than my expectations. I won't go deep into details but you can access the slides here and if you ran into some question, please feel free to drop it on my talk page here.

Author: Reem Al-Kashif (She is the best). Shared under CC-BY-SA 4.0 license

My learnings and experience during the main conference

This year, I finally started my journey with Wikidata which I wanted to do from a long time. For this, I attended a 2 hour session by Asaf Bartov and finally learnt how I can contribute to Wikidata. I learnt the basics and then after the session tried implementing complex SPARQL queries on my own. Oh, I just found a new love. It's Wikidata <3.

I also attended a session on "Using artificial intelligence to keep Wikipedia open" by Aaron Halfaker. The session demonstrated how AI is being used at different elements of Wikipedia. Being a AI enthusiast myself, I was very keen in knowing the Machine Learning models being implemented so, I managed to take a photograph of it.

The keynote session by Joy Buolamwini on "The Dangers of Supremely White Data and The Coded Gaze" was one of the best keynotes I have ever been into. She showed the dark side of AI and how billion dollar companies' "production-ready" AI can't even detect the gender of non-white people. I would say, this was one of the best sessions at Wikimania.

I attended a workshop on Scholia tool and the tool showed a very good practical application of Wikidata. I volunteered for the event with Daniel.

The last workshop I attended was on Pattypan. I was successful to make a Pull Request while the session was going on.

Meeting a lot of people at Community Village, Breakfasts, Breaks, Lunch, Excursions etc. was just awesome. This Wikimania, I met 100+ new people with whom I hope to communicate and collaborate.

P.S: I hiked up the Table Mountain, yay! ^_^

Okay, that was it. I finally complete this blog. I know most of you won't bother reading it (except my Wiki friends), so here are the key takeaways:


  • Basque Language Wikipedia and Txikipedia
  • A lot of innovation in Wikipedia Education Program
  • Gained better insights on issues like Gender Gap, Community Health, Volunteer engagement etc.
  • Wikidata and SPARQL!!!
  • Grants proposal
  • Tools like Scholia, Pattypan
  • AI powered Wikipedia
  • AI and it's dark side
  • Experiences from world-class editors, coders, leaders, innovators (they all are Wikipedians)!

Told ya, it will be small.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Why open access?

Today, I was scrolling the internet for some information which was very necessary for me. I got it from an open journal. I have used open journals a lot of time but today was different. I know about open access from a long time and I have been working on it directly or indirectly such as running awareness campaigns, running open clubs, writing here on my blog etc. Today, I write about open access and explain you why it is important for anyone.

What is Open Access (OA)?

In the most simplest terms, Open Access (OA) is the research that has been distributed in either online or printed format in order to let people read and know. Suppose, you have wrote a research paper that identifies blockchain as a replacement of traditional databases by matching same speed for read and write operations. You are confident about it. You know it's unique. You know no one has ever thought about it. You are excited to tell people about your research. You upload it to Google Scholarly Articles, Open Journal System, etc.

Wait, can your research come under copyright infringement? Can someone just copy your material, modify its bits and release under his/her name? Woah, yes it's possible. So, there are 2 degrees of Open Access:

1. Gratis

Gratis open access refers to providing everything your research for free without any further re-use permissions.

2. Libre

Libre is an extension of Gratis by providing readers re-use permissions under specific conditions. Most of the Libre work is released under Creative Commons license. (CC is actually very cool stuff)!

My personal preference is inclined more towards Libre because it clearly supports open access to its full potential. I also motivate people to release their research under CC license. This way, their work has a copyright and everyone can re-use and distribute it but the original author remains the same.

Why Open Access?

I could argue whole day in support for open access. I always like to explain people in the form of an example. So, let me take a very good example in order to make you understand why open access is necessary. How would you feel in an environment where you have to pay to gain knowledge on anything? So, you know you have internet. What happens if Wikipedia ever asked you to pay for each article you read? What would happen if every research paper was locked only for riches. Sounds hard? No, it sounds awful. We always want knowledge to open and free for all. Open Access is a crucial initiative in this huge movement. With Open Access, you get to

  • access any research free of cost
  • re-use and distribute it as per your needs
  • claim your copyright on your own research
  • share it with the world without worry
  • dive into pool of knowledge for free

Well, these are just some good reasons for you to get involved with open access. The true meaning and value is hidden beneath. Support Open Access, Support Open Education, Support Free Knowledge, Support Open Data and Support Open Source!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

How Wikimedia helped me explore the world of openness (awesomeness)

For a long time I have been willing to write this, I had it all in my mind but I kinda failed to express it in words. Wikimedia, the parent organization of Wikipedia believes in

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.

Us volunteers, thrive each day for the global knowledge movement. But Wikimedia is not just a knowledge movement, it's more than that. It helps you explore the world of openness. Now, what's openness? Well, if I were to define openness, it would be:

A world where everything is open for everyone and everyone has access to it.

Openness includes but not limited to Open Education, Open Web, Open Data, and Open Source. You must be wondering how Wikimedia could help someone enter the world of openness? Well, Wikipedia Community welcomes people from all the backgrounds, coders, writers, researchers, educators, etc. We have a place for everyone.

Open Source

When I started my journey with Wikipedia as a Google Code-In student in 2015, I submitted patches for MediaWiki, migrated existing articles to make them ready for translation etc. This way, Wikimedia introduced me to the world of open-source. I developed a huge interest in programming, so I continued my studies with major in Computer Science.

Open Education

Following that, I went to Wikimania, the annual Wikimedia conference as a scholarship recipient in 2016, where I learnt about Wikipedia Education Program. Being an active education leader spreading free knowledge movement in India, I really liked the idea of integrating Wikipedia in the current education infrastructure in India. With this, I started Wikipedia Education Program with schools and then in colleges nearby where I received positive feedback. This way, Wikimedia helped me enter the world of Open Education.

Wikipedia believes in the principles of Creative Commons always make sure your work is licensed and freely available at the same time by encouraging editors to license their work with Creative Commons Licensing. I have taught and raised awareness among people on why license is important and how it will help you individually.

Some other open issues I care about..

I believe in free and open internet. Being a Wikipedian myself and with its learnings, I support net neutrality, equitable access to information and freedom of speech. They all constitute to Open Internet. I personally believe that this is some movement that everyone should care about. Countries like Turkey where Wikipedia has been recently banned is a huge setback on the free knowledge movement. A lot of research on data is to be done to make sure the content on Wikipedia is free from censorship with respect to all countries and articles follow the norms of country-specific laws. At the same time, public policy must be curated from time to time to make sure there is no violation.

So, these were some of the learnings I got from Wikipedia or Wikimedia Foundation and helped me explore the beautiful world of openness. Let me know in comments what learnings you got from Wikipedia or any other organization you work for and spread the love for openness.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

MediaWiki Training 2018 (MWT 2018)

This year, MediaWiki Training 2018 was held at Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore. It was a 2-day event. We call it MWT2018. People from different communities arrived including people from English Wikipedia, Hindi Wikipedia, Kannada Wikipedia etc.

It was an invite-only workshop held under the A2K programme of CIS. Our mentor for the workshop was Tony Thomas. He is a past GSoCer and GSoC mentor for Wikimedia Foundation. He proved to be a great resource person for the event. Since it was a 2-day event, I will give a brief overview on what we did each day with respect to MediaWiki.


We started off with setting up MediaWiki and Gerrit in all systems. Then, we learnt on how to submit patch to Gerrit. Then, we continued it with building our own extension using the BoilerPlate extension. Tony taught us different methods that is provided to us by mediawiki-core and how can we use them to build our own extensions.

Later, we started hacking our own extension that sends us a Echo notification whenever we edit a page. With a good amount of hard work, we were finally able to build one. It really paid off.


Our day 2 started with understanding the extension structure, the use of extension.json file, i18n and l10n. This was led by Mr. Jay Prakash from Hindi Wikipedia. Then, there was a live hangout scheduled with Quim Gill for discussing the Indian MediaWiki Developer Community. There was an unexpected entry from Srishti Sethi who also works at WMF. The hangout was pretty good and resourceful.

After that, I started working on the Book Uploader Bot (BUB) as it was reported by Bodhisattwa Mandal from Bengali Wikipedia that the tool is broken. Apparently, I will soon fix it or make it from scratch.

Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding of various core functions and their use cases.
  • Understanding the extension structure, l10n, i18n etc.
  • Using Echo extension to send notifications.
  • Submission of patches, review process etc.
  • Building our own extension from scratch.

Resourceful outcomes

  • Really great connections.
  • Set up of Indian Developer Community for MediaWiki.
  • Getting the support from WMF.
  • Working on projects that are worth it.

In the end, I would like to extend the thanks to CIS team for setting up this really great event for all of us. It was very well managed and executed. I hope to see and visit similar events in future. Till then, happy hacking!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Wikimania 2017: Learnings, ideas, motivation and outcome

Wikimania 2017, a 5-day conference held at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal hotel during 9th Aug - 13th August was full of learnings, connections, getting inspired, motivation, free knowledge, events, hackathon, food (sorry, I'm foodie :D), positive vibes and what else, you call it a family of Wikipedians.

My previous blog post, depicted my experience at the hackathon. This post will share my experience at Wikimania 2017 as a whole. I hope you will find it worth a read!

Wikimania 2017: An unexpected twist

This year too, I was awarded with Wikimania Scholarship. How many times does it happen to you, that you wake up, check your mail, and you see you're going to Canada to attend Wikimania? It happened with me. The moment I received the E-mail from Scholarship Committee, I almost fall off my bed in happiness. I didn't go to college that day, and went back home to deliver the happy news to my family. They were equally happy. It was a moment of euphoria for all of us. If you think this was the twist, you're wrong. I applied for Canada TRV in June. With all other Indic Wikipedians getting rejected by the Canadian embassy, I was very nervous. August arrived and still there was no news from the embassy. On August 03, I went back home totally disheartened. I was sure I won't be going to Canada. So, how many times does it happen to you, that you wake up, and unexpectedly, you get Canada visa just 4 days before your flight. The twist didn't end here. We were celebrating the good news but my passport didn't arrive at the VFS office. It was still with the embassy. I wasn't sure whether the embassy will release my passport that day. And I was again depressed. It was Friday and if embassy didn't release the passport that day, my trip would have been canceled despite getting the visa. Saturday, Sunday and Monday was off at the VFS office and I had my flight early Tuesday. :( I called my dad and he said, "Believe in God. You go to Chandigarh. Don't let your hopes die." So, I went to Chandigarh later that day and guess what? The moment I reached the VFS Office, I got the confirmation that my passport has been dispatched from Canada Visa Office. I was so happy. It was unbelievable. So, after waiting for 2 hours more, I finally got my passport with Canada visa and I went back home with victory.


My agenda for this year Wikimania was pretty clear and straightforward. With my involvement in Wikipedia Education Program and my evolution in the existing program, I thought of sharing my experiences and learnings with the community in the lightning talk. I also wanted to gain more insights in the technology so I spent the first two days in the hackathon sessions. Build more connections from different communities and get inspired from their experiences. So, in a nutshell, Learn from the workshops and sessions, get inspired from the talks, meet with other Wikipedians and enjoy.


  • Gained better insights on the Wikimedia tech. Learnt about the technologies used in Wikidata.
  • Attending a session on "Speaking the language of non-Wikipedians helped me a lot. Now, whenever I run an education program or just teach the people how to edit Wikipedia, I think like them and I make sure I teach them in a way they find it interesting and contribute more and more even after I leave.
    • Encourage them to write in Google Doc, MS Word, wherever they feel comfortable and later paste it later to sandbox.
    • Make plans and strategy that ease them.
    • Welcoming the new editors with Visual editor and teaching them references, the article format, media upload etc.
    • Sharing the educational experiences within the community.
  • I gained better insights on how to develop an education program from scratch.
    • Importance of Context in implementing the education program.
    • Advertising the education program with the help of local newspapers.
    • Importance of partners such as teachers, students and logistics such as ISP's.
    • Sharing the educational experiences within the community.
  • Learnt from the experiences of Wikipedia Year of Science 2016.
    • Approaching the students to share their knowledge of science.
    • Professors bring the subject matter expertise.
    • Recruiting instructors was a bad idea.
  • The session from Zach was the best session I attended at Wikimania 2017. His outcomes from WEP were outstanding and his way of connecting Wikipedia with real life was amazing.
  • The Wikispeech session was very nice. I was finally seeing the latest innovation in Wikipedia. Though, it needed some improvements but still the demo was worth watching.
  • Wikispeech was followed by the "Editing through Telegram" session by Amir. A. Aharoni where he created a bot which is connected with and you can continuing your translation just by using Telegram. People actually find it difficult to edit Wikipedia via phone so they skip doing it but at the same time they are using messenger apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and FB Messenger to talk. What if we make them edit Wikipedia using these apps? A brilliant idea indeed!
  • The Kathabhidana workshop was very informative. Wikitungi was explained in this session which focuses on preserving the languages and dialects. I am working on to expand it in my area where different dialects of Hindi is being spoken. Preserving their dialect for future is a much essential need.
  • Outcomes

  • I talked with Education experts like Nichole, Vahid, Zach and learning from their experiences, I was delighted. So, I implemented their learnings in my WEP program at SSPM College of Engineering and my school and it came out to be so fruitful.
  • Wikipedia SAARC Meetup was very constructive. A lot of things for the next year was decided especially the next WikiConference India.
  • I ran a Wikimania 2017 learning session to share my learnings with the local community. Apparently, one of the people who attended it got motivated to contribute more. He is now my very good friend and he will be joining the Hindi Wikipedia Technical workshop at Jaipur hopefully. He is Sachin Katiyar.
  • MEP (MediaWiki Education Program) implemented at SSPM College of Engineering! (So happy)
  • Will be opening a WikiClub in my college to invite young editors from my college to edit Wikipedia and run edit-a-thons.

So, this was it. Wikimania 2017 was indeed my best Wikimanias ever. The hotel, the place and my post Wikimania trip to Toronto and Niagara with my cousins was so exhilarating. With the amazing memories, people, learnings and outcomes, I am missing Montreal. Thank you Wikimedia Foundation for the scholarship application. Noting would have been possible without you.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wikimania Hackathon 2017 - Learn, teach, hack!

So, we're back from Wikimania and certainly I got a bit late in writing the hackathon blog post. But, here I am writing about one of the best Hackathons I ever attended. I hope you'll like the post. Happy reading!

This year's Wikimania at Montréal, Canada had one of the best Hackathons ever. With such a beautiful and open space at Le Centre Sheraton Montreal hotel, the hackathon was full of positive vibes already. This year, we had so much to do at the hackathon. We had,

  • Sessions: to provide an overview of the technologies that powers the technical areas of Wikimedia
  • Skillshare: to teach the newcomers the relevant skills to contribute to Wikimedia tech
  • Sprint: which focuses on special areas like improving documentation, translation, design etc.
  • Featured projects: to engage newcomers with projects [1]

With all the aforementioned things, the key element of the hackathon was "THE MENTORING PROGRAM". Keep reading to know more about this.

Hackathon - For whom?

One of the best things about Wikimania Hackathon is that it welcomes people from every background, whether technical or non-technical. This year's hackathon had developers, testers, mentors, newcomers and volunteers with each person playing more than one role.


Wikimania Hackathon is a juice that is always worth the squeeze. Have some glimpse of it below:

  • We have projects for every developer - whether Android, iOS, PHP, Machine Learning etc.
  • Work on existing projects, report new bugs, solve existing bugs etc.
  • Scrum kinda task workboard
  • Hackathon sessions
    • Overview of Wikimedia technology
    • Improving MediaWiki - What to do at MediaWiki when you're new
    • Sessions on ORES, Extension:Translate, TemplateData, Parser Hooks etc.

The Mentoring Program

The coolest thing about Wikipedians is their power of free knowledge. They are the true believer of free knowledge and they know that knowledge only grows if it is shared. To keep this legacy alive, this year at Wikimania we had The Mentoring Program. This program was dedicated especially for newcomers where mentors were matched with newcomers to help them start with projects. The mentor sessions were scheduled on 9th and 10th August. The first session included an overview of technologies used by Wikimedia. It was lead by Srishti Sethi and Quim Gill followed by Aaron and Rachel. In the Thursday session, the newcomers were introduced to projects. The mentors were there to help them at every step. Overall, the mentoring program proved to be a huge success.[2]

One of the newcomers I met, told me his experience with MediaWiki for the first time. He mentioned,

"I never knew learning MediaWiki was this easy. With great mentors around the side, now I can contribute to the technical stuff in addition to the editing stuff. All thanks to hackathon organizers for this amazing mentor session."

I met the recent GSoC Intern who was working on the Wiki Ed Dashboard. It was her first Wikimania. When I asked her, how does it feel to be here in the midst of free knowledge enthusiasts, she said,

"It's like magic. Seeing so many people contributing to free knowledge movement is amazing."

And when I asked her, if she would like to stay associated with the community after her internship ends, she mentioned,

"Indeed! I would love to volunteer for Wikimedia and learn more about MediaWiki. You will definitely see me around IRC and Phabricator even after my internship."

With two days of learning, teaching and hacking, we had the hackathon showcase, with contributors showcasing their work they did in the 2 days. The hackathon was then officially concluded with the group picture.

If you ever plan to come to Wikimania Hackathon, if you are familiar with the MediaWiki code, do come and work on your existing project or task. Present it during the showcase. People will appreciate your contributions and keep you motivated. If you're newcomer but MediaWiki excites you in any way, don't think, just come. There will be people guiding you and matching you with the projects to help you get started.

At last, but not the least, I would like to thank Wikimedia Foundation for the Wikimania scholarship. It was indeed a very enjoyable, fruitful, and knowledgeable experience at Montreal.



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My experiments with Wikipedia Education Program: The Meeting of Life

Session two: Faculty

So, after receiving a bunch of positive responses from my previous blog post (check here), I freed my time to write the so-called sequel to my previous blog post.

As I previously mentioned, this post will share my experience with the faculty of SSPM College of Engineering with respect to Wikipedia Education Program.

The following day after my talk show, I was invited by the registrar of college to address the faculty and coordinators of college. The students shared positive feedbacks of WEP to their professors and after getting so many positive feedbacks, they were keen to know more about WEP, Open-Source and MediaWiki. In front of me, I had 8 coordinators, faculty of Department of Computer Science and the registrar of college. I started with Wikipedia Education Program. I explained them the benefits of the program and what students will gain if your college implements it. Some benefits included:

  • Knowledge of students won't be limited to a sheet of paper.
  • No more wastage of paper for assignments.
  • They will learn to work collaboratively.
  • Writing skills will be greatly enhanced.

Their reaction conveyed it all. They asked what can be the contribution of college towards its implementation. The question really made me happy. The college was interested in WEP. I elucidated the terms of program. Beginning from teaching the students the basics of Wiki editing, encouraging them to create their user page and help them with their first article. And ended it using the journals given by Vahid Masrour (WMF) at Wikimania 2016, to give them a better insight of WEP. And I must say, they were impressed. They agreed to implement it for the sake of better future of their students, and also for increasing the reputation of their college. WEP will be implemented but my mission wasn't over. After the thorough discussion on WEP, I introduced MediaWiki to them. Told them what it is, how it works etc. They were still quite unsure why I was talking about MediaWiki unless I introduced it as a part of Wikipedia Education Program. I stated,

"Even after 4 years of programming, the computer science graduates fail to get a job. The main reason behind this is lack of practical knowledge. If MediaWiki will be present in the syllabus, the students will be able to know more about Open-Source technologies, get themselves engaged with one of the best Open-Source communities, understand how big projects are undertaken, earn themselves a chance to crack GSoC and much more opportunities. The students fail to get involved in such activities on their own because they are already pre-occupied with assignments, college projects and other stuff. Lack of awareness is another major issue. Integrating MediaWiki in syllabus will provide every individual with the opportunity to contribute to Open-Source and they will do it at least for the marks and there will be no chance of cheating since no two students can complete the same task. And hence the chances of development on part of students will increase manifolds. MediaWiki can easily replace the weekly assignments that professors give to their students."

After listening to it, all the people were hit with curiosity since they never heard of any such program before. I also mentioned that their college will be the first one in India to implement it. After some time, the registrar of college said by himself that the college readily agrees to proposal and they wish to integrate MediaWiki in computer science syllabus and Wikipedia Education Program will be implemented uniformly. I congratulated them, but they thanked me for coming to their college and bringing revolutionary change in the education system. I gave them some additional tips such as:

  • formation of FOSS club in the college,
  • encouraging students to contribute to Open-Source,
  • having regular workshops and meetings on Wikipedia and Open-Source and
  • help the students to spread the message of free knowledge across the university.

The meeting was over. I experienced a moment of euphoria once again. I succeeded in my mission. After this, I had a small talk with the coordinators to help them get started with everything.

What's next?

I have been invited again in June to have a meeting with one of their trustee and help them with integrating WEP and MediaWiki from the new session as well. Thank you everyone who motivated and supported me all this while. It wouldn't have been possible without them. Looking forward to implement the program and spreading the message of free knowledge in different colleges across the country. Cheers!