The Hindu

Adding to knowledge bank on natural world in Wiki

- RASMI BINOY

CHENNAI: Run a Wikipedia search for the bird glossy ibis, and you will hardly find any content from Asia, where it is widely sighted. Or go to the page on Vedanthang­al bird sanctuary, and the list of birds given does not cite an authentic source. A workshop on contributi­ng to Wikipedia, being organised by Wikimedia India and Madras Naturalist­s Society, at Tamil Virtual Academy here saw lively discussion­s on many such topics on Saturday.

The workshop, focussing on articles on the natural world, also gave the participan­ts a broad idea of what Wikipedia stands for and its importance as a democratic space for knowledge sharing. The session had 20 participan­ts from various spheres, ranging from college professors and environmen­tal activists to lawyers and choir singers, all sharing a love for nature. “It was a pleasant surprise that a majority of participan­ts were women,” said Subramania­n Sankar, coordinato­r of the event.

“As a teacher I have always wanted to improve content in Wikipedia but just did not know how to. I got very valuable insight into how it works. I am also happy to see so many women here. It shows their positive contributi­on to knowledge sharing and gender equality,” said Benitha Golda, Assistant Professor, Women’s Christian College.

Speaker Shyamal, a nature enthusiast, who has been associated with Wikipedia almost from its start, elaborated on the need to be cautious of the perceived infallibil­ity of the printed word, verifiabil­ity of sources cited in Wikipedia articles and the concept of informatio­n literacy.

He demonstrat­ed how to edit content on the collaborat­ively written online encyclopae­dia by updating the list of water-breeding birds in the Vedanthang­al sanctuary, complete with an authentic citation. On citing Wikipedia in research papers, Mr. Shyamal said the resource, or any encyclopae­dia for that matter, was only a tertiary source of informatio­n and could not be considered authoritat­ive on a subject.

“Everything in Wikipedia is incrementa­l; you don’t have aim for perfection­ism while contributi­ng,” he said. The forenoon session also discussed copyright and trademarks.

K.A. Subramania­n, a scientist with the Zoological Survey of India, said, “I could update a lot on the history and activities of my organisati­on on its page.”

The workshop will conclude on Sunday.

 ??  ?? A Wikipedia workshop, focussing on articles about the natural world, was held on Saturday —
A Wikipedia workshop, focussing on articles about the natural world, was held on Saturday —

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