Sunday, February 13, 2011

Indian growing pains

#India is of strategic significance for the #Wikimedia Foundation. An office will be opened, a chapter has recently been started, there is a vibrant mailing-list that brings wonderful news of public attention and projects that are doing well and finally there are Wikipedias and other projects in many languages.

On so many levels things are looking up. However, there are issues. As India has such a massive population, spread over what is a sub-continent, people do not know each other well and their priorities are conflicting. The question is very much one of how to give everyone enough room to do well and stay involved.

My advise would be to involve people as widely as possible and be really careful about sensitivities.

The one thing where the chapter can do better is in understanding and sharing power. While a chapter is intended to support the Wikimedia goal in its country, it is to be seen as a power for the good. The recent fracas about who administers the India mailing list is a case in point. It is not relevant that there are enough administrators, it is relevant that there are seen to be enough impartial administrators. Administrating a list is work and when this work can be shared between people of the different communities, the work gets done and people will be reassured.

At this moment most visible activities in India are by the native language communities while power is visibly with those preferring the English language. This does not have to be by design, and if this is so, the best way is to share power and influence as widely as possible. This will help us achieve what we aim to do and our aims are inclusive.

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