Valparai TEN

January 15th was the tenth year of Wikipedia. Although, I missed being at the Bangalore TEN celebrations, along with Kalyan, some of us held the celebrations in Valparai. Here is a brief write-up I did on it as a guest contributor on the restoration blog of NCF.

Pasted below is the article from there:

In the little Tamil village that we know so well, it was just another day. The coffee was flowing like potion and the local Geriatrix had just set up lamps to prevent wild boar-human conflict. The village had just welcomed Cacofonix who brought with him an extended phenotype of electronic lyres to garnish the horrendous volume of what he called ‘song’. Impedimenta had just finished reflecting on civets while the chief had had a long night appreciating the mellifluous notes emanating from the august pharynx of Biligirix. All was well in the village we know so well.

The Valparai TEN

But this 15th day of January was the day, ten years ago that an unplanned miracle occurred. Four years after a failed docom, on this day, Jimmy along with a few others dreamt of creating an encyclopedia on the internet, an eternal work-in-progress; merely because a new software, mediawiki allowed it. What followed is history – how a ragtag band of amatuers created over 3 million articles in english alone with 277 other encyclopedias in other languages including MaoriKannada and Swahili among others.

Wikipedia today has a great potential to create equity in knowledge, to overcome the somewhat natural tendency of information to concentrate among few. From articles about esoteric programming languages to Gravity Hill and government-forbidden prime numbers, the encyclopedia has taken the transmission of information very seriously.

So, here was the day. Ten years of wikipedia, some hard(ly)working scientists and a few Bangalore Wikipedians was all it took to announce theValparai Wikipedia TEN celebrations.Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 10.21.06 AMWe had a respectable 11 participants including the Thrush of the Malabar, whose previous night was traumatised by the songs rendered in perfect disharmony by the local photographer. A presentation and discussion on the idea of wikipedia, the five pillars on which it is built and the possible ways to contribute followed. Breathtaking photos languishing in the dark hinterlands of the scientists’ computer found their way to the much accessible commons on wikimedia’s servers, now available to the ragtag group for illustration on articles. Obscure fungi that would have rotted within the electronic backyard of another’s hard drive were uploaded for identification and spiders that weave a silken trap were strung on to the world wide web. Articles were edited and commitments were made – 7 new editors were born!

As our species get more and more cornered in patchy rainforests and animals get smoked into claustrophobic fragments of jungle, the importance of knowing, appreciating and learning about nature remains among a privileged few. The internet, new media and projects like wikipedia are a boon for naturalists, scientists, educators and such to share the knowledge that they accumulate. Be it a photo of a tree or a plant or a paper that we write or read; imagine the possibility if we could all use that to improve an article or illustrate a behaviour on wikipedia. Some have gone as far as to suggest that it is even a professional responsibility, not merely an educational opportunity! That is a journey that some of us began here. Hope we will keep it alive!

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.That’s what we’re doing.

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