Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Intrigue: A Wiki Experience in Indonesia

My best friend Pipit once told me that my curiosity does not come cheap, indeed I found myself in many situations wondering "Oh my, how did I end up in here?".

My name is Siska Doviana, I'm an Indonesian in San Fransisco for two weeks, where the Wikimedia Foundation Office (WMF) is located. I was invited to come to tell WMF my story.


There's nothing special about how I began my wiki experience really, naturally I was curious. My first long and multiple edits in the Indonesian language Wikipedia began with an idea that I didn't want my assignment paper for the university to end up as a recycled paper only. My first edit was about Playboy magazine and its impact in Indonesia, the year - 2006. In my search for references, I stumbled upon the English Wikipedia article, among other resources, and I checked the Indonesian language Wikipedia. It was poorly written, and I decided to contribute. Since I'm not a techie, soon enough I ended up inside an argument, partly about the content but mostly it's about the "how to". Although the subject of the article was controversial then, my edit and argument page attracted other (very active) wikipedians, not because of the article content, but because they found out that I'm a woman. It turned out I had ended up inside a "guys only" lair, I guess the situation just changed a bit. Back then (2006) the Indonesian language wikipedia only had 20 thousand articles and 20 very active users.

Wikimedia Indonesia

Looking back, I might not "last" as long if not for the series of meetings happening after ward. The first Indonesian language wiki meet happened after I started to edit heavily the U.S. Presidents in Indonesian Wikipedia (since the office I worked for published a book about U.S. Presidents). The first ever Indonesia wikimeet conflicted with me travelling to Bali for a holiday, I had signalled my  "regret", and thought "Uhm, what happens online, stays online" and I was convinced that there would not be other meetings. Yet life has its own plan and funny turns. I end up attending the meeting since I missed my plane to Bali (misread the departure time of my budget flight - and it left me with six days of nothing to do in Jakarta). So I decided to attend the meeting with "interesting" Wikipedians. One of them, Revo, happened to fly in (visiting Jakarta) from his home in Netherlands. He brought us a story about the German Chapter and suggested that Indonesia should have a chapter of its own. We weren't really excited at first, to me it is an idea located somewhere over the rainbow. However, that first meeting led to an unplanned series of meetings since our meeting picture was discovered by three independent movie makers from San Francisco: The Underdog Pictures, shooting "Truth in Numbers, The Wikipedia Stories". Since Indonesian Wikipedians are mostly male and not really "service oriented" - they forwarded me the email from Nic (the director) to be "taken care of".

TeamAmericaandteamIndonesia(22-2-2007)

After Underdog, the next thing we knew, we started to get invitations to talk in seminars, interview on radio, and then Nic wrote to me about Wikimania 2007 in Taipei. I told him to forget it, why would they wanted me to come? Pfft, nothing to tell here, don't know anyone there. Nic insisted, sending me all the links, and honoring his determination in offering it, I filled it.

In 2007 I found myself wandering around in Taipei with three other Indonesian Wikipedia volunteers and talking to Delphine Menard and the chapter's committee, about the possibility of an Indonesian chapter.


Wikimedia Indonesia was established in 2008, if I knew then what I knew now, I might not been so compelled to have an organization. For one thing, I realize later that the organization couldn't live if we were just doing what we're doing online. An organization needs a life of its own, and it turned out to be a huge responsibility. As part of the community I sense a strong need to step it up. However instead of increases, as life goes by, the volunteer activity decreases, one of the founding members and best friend that used to be single got married, had kids, and decided to establish his own company, with no more time for wikipedia, more over - no more time for offline meetings. The happening in life became a repetitive pattern for any other members too. Behind Wikimedia Indonesia, there are people with little time and an organization that has no money - both the people and the organization still hold a golden promise of what "could be great".

Since I don't rely on promises (life is too short), I decided to live it, golden promise - here we go. As a non-techie volunteer writer, I realize people might have been discouraged to write to Wikipedia since the technical bar is too high (it happened to me). I also noticed that Indonesian language Wikipedia should definitely have more articles, like "Come on, the fourth largest population and no one would write it for free? Seriously?". I would also grade existing volunteer in Indonesian language Wikipedia communication skills as "not so great", since if a problem showed up with a newbie - they, the Wikipedians, would rather focus on the problem (like putting a "warning signs") instead of taking the time to explain the solution. Dragging my "non-wikipedian and know nothing about wikipedia" best friend in college into the project, we designed an outreach project "Free Your Knowledge 2010", a project that my Netherlands Wiki friend, Gerard, referred to as "ambitious". Come to think of it, it was kind of ambitious, aside from all the obvious: cost, resources, goals - even the organization chart in Wikimedia Indonesia adjusted in order to support a project coming from "just a member" like me into a recognizable "on the board" organization-wise project. No money, no time, and no office, the project pressed on. During the project since resources were tight, I personally had to make hard decisions and use whatever I got - i.e. my best friend's personal resources, or an occasion where I saw my own financial resources and academic assignments fly out of the window, my window, not Bill Gates' - as much as I have fun - sacrificing is not easy, and I have to admit that the implementation was hard, unlike when you begin to plan it, no matter how prepared you are when life is about to hit you in the face.

So what's next? My goal is to design a system that allows anyone who is willing and able to contribute to Wikimedia Indonesia as a means to realize their goal and (preferably) to use the Wikimedia projects as their tool. I would also love to see a global competition happening.  What would be awesome is having people from different parts of the worlds, the non native speaker like me, competing to write in the English Wikipedia, while the native speaker could only serve as coach - it's like a world Idols version but for writing! Ha...

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Siska Doviana | Pendiri (Co-Founder) | Wikimedia Indonesia
Ph. +62 816 484 5052
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