Foundation report about India, 2008

[ Report to the Board: India Trip]

Prepared for: Wikimedia Board of Trustees, December 30, 2008

Here is a special report that I wrote for the board documenting a visit Jimmy and I made to India in December. Later today I'll send you a second special report, documenting the World Economic Forum at Davos last month.

For confidentiality reasons, I've redacted specifics about major donors and major donor prospects. (As you know, we don't reveal individually identifying information about donors/prospects.) Everything else is intact from the original. - Sue

Overview edit

In general, I would characterize the trip as productive and useful. The staff continues to rapidly evolve our thinking about media, public outreach, volunteer self-organization and major donor fundraising: this trip helped advance our thinking on all those fronts. There are no major conclusions or big directional changes in this report: it's just a quick summary of what happened.

Background & Context edit

From December 9-15, Jimmy and I visited India. The purpose of the trip was to create some excitement and interest about Wikipedia inside India among editors and potential editors, media, and potential donors. We were there to accept a gift from the Kerala government of a Malayalam encyclopedia, which Kerala was releasing under a free license, as well as to carry out a variety of outreach and media activities.

Please note that as always, Jimmy paid for his own travel: the Foundation only paid for mine. Also: we owe a huge thanks to advisory board member Achal Prabhala. Achal's advice, arrangements and introductions made the trip worthwhile: it wouldn't have been nearly as successful without his help :-)

Itinerary edit

  • December 10 and 11: Trivandrum. Jimmy and I attended the Free Software Free Society conference. Jimmy was a keynote speaker; I met Richard Stallman for the first time; the conference arranged a press conference.
  • December 12: Chennai. Press conference and individual interviews. We attended a Wikipedia Academy staged by local blogger Kiruba, and met briefly with representatives from the Knowledge Foundation, a likeminded organization.
  • December 13: Bangalore. Lunch with representatives of the Centre for Internet and Society < >, a new Bangalore NGO funded by Indian billionaire Anurag Dikshit, which has been described as the Indian equivalent to the Berkman Center. We are hoping to partner with CIS informally on a variety of initiatives. We also got a basic briefing on the work of the Akshara Foundation, Pratham Books, Argyham and e-Gov. Jimmy spoke at the Bangalore International Centre.
  • December 14: Bangalore. We facilitated a meeting between CIS and a number of Bangalore-area Wikipedians, at which the CIS offered Wikipedians meeting space in Bangalore as well as advice on how to navigate the Indian regulatory context when setting up a chapter. Also CIS staged a free culture lunch in our honour with local Wikipedians and other free culture advocates. In the evening, we spoke at a dinner.

Observations and Analysis edit

(in no particular order)

1. Despite the fact that we had done very little preparation and had no major announcements to make, there was plenty of media interest. During the trip, there were about two dozen media stories generated, including (I believe) all/most major Indian national and regional outlets (see list later in this report). It's pretty obvious, but worth saying, that there's lots of general media interest in Wikipedia, and India is no exception to that.

2. The coverage was across-the-board positive, but also full of (mostly small, inconsequential) errors. Jimmy, Jay & I have discussed this: upshot is, we believe that although we could choose in future to manage the message much more tightly on trips like this, it would probably not be worth the effort – especially given that the stories, albeit full of mistakes, are generally positive.

3. Multi-event international trips are administratively expensive: they are a lot of work.

4. During the trip, Jimmy and I noticed that we were often not working from the same basic information base. I've asked Jay to start making all the basic info available on one of the wikis -including our standard powerpoint- so you should please feel free to reuse/adopt/adapt whatever you like. I'll share the URL, or Jay will, once he knows it. Also, Jay is now regularly disseminating global comScore usage stats to the staff: I will ask him to CC the board as well. FYI, we have standardized on comScore "monthly global uniques" as our core metric for both raw numbers and rankings.

5. In general, I would say that South India seems well-positioned to create either a national or sub-national chapter – I would guess there will be one within six months. We made some critical introductions to help get things off the ground, and we offered practical support – I told them the Foundation will pay to send a rep to the chapters meeting in April in Berlin, and will ensure they get scholarships to Wikimania if they apply. I introduced them to Andrew Whitworth of the chapters committee, and to Mike Godwin. They have also asked for a local established chapter "mentor" - I advised them to wait and pick their own mentor group in Berlin.

Appendix: Media coverage edit

Below are headlines from Indian newspapers that appeared via Google News Alerts. There was also lots of TV coverage, and probably also stories not picked up by Google.

  • Stallman, Wales to star Intl Free Software meet
  • CM to open free software meet
  • Wikipedia Academy Launched
  • India a major attraction for Wikipedia
  • Wikipedia fares well in India - Wales
  • Wikipedia's launches WikiAcademy in Chennai
  • Interview With Wiki Founder Jimmy Wales
  • Wikipedia founder scouting for R&D alliance in India
  • Mobile Version launched by Wikipedia
  • Wikipedia launches 'academy'
  • Wiki-community strives to extend eastward
  • Darwinian or Marxist?
  • Wikipedia Finds a Home in Chennai
  • Wikipedia needs more contributors from India