Archive for January 2011

An encounter with Forest Glories

25 January 2011

It was already well past noon when we started trekking across the path near the stream in the Tambdi Surla forest. The jungle appeared to be dry deciduous. Shady trees with well-spaced chest-high jungli Tagar trees. The path was fairly good with few rocks, uneven-ness or thorny branches to stop us proceeding. Alas the forest is being completely encroached by Eupatorium which has correctly been named as “raaNmoDi” in Marathi. (Capitals indicate hard consonants.) As we proceeded we found bushes lining a hundred yard stretch on both sides.

On the leaves of a bush about 4 feet away, a large damselfly three inches or more in length with wings held high at an angle from the body was seated. The body was velvet shining green – it was a male; the female being a duller brown in place of the green.  The damselfly was extremely alert not allowing us to approach closer than six to eight feet but it would flitter away and come back over and over again. On each side we could see eight to ten such damselfies at any one time. I judge that that they held their wings between 40 and 70 degrees – but most were around 60 degrees from the line of the body.

As I lined up to photograph it, it darted away and repositioned it self a few feet away.  It led me a merry-go-round chase while others enticed me in their turn. I know, it sounds strange but the species appeared to my anthropomorphic eyes to have a mischievous personality. It had a very graceful flight – this is reflected in its name – Vestalis gracilis, or, the Clear-winged Forest Glory.

We didn’t quite get very good images but Miss Aboli Kulkarni immediately identified it for me as the Clear-winged Forest Glory. It is termed as clear-winged as it lacks the spots on the wingtips characteristic of the Glories.

There is no doubt – the damselfly is graceful and beautiful and found in the forest. From now on, its also my favourite damselfly.

I’m attaching an image better than mine by Jeevan Jose from Kadavoor in Kerala, who writes:

This damselfly has brilliant metallic shining green colours. The wings look transparent but at particular angle you can see a bluish shade on the wings.

Different from Black-tipped forest glory (Vestalis apicalis).

Most of the species of damselflies are found along the perennial stream inside the swamp. But Clear-Winged Forest glory is found in the undergrowth of interior forest areas. But there are á few in my backyard. (Dont envy me.:)”

The Clear-winged Forest Glory (Vestalis gracilis) (Image: Jeevan Jose)




This encounter took place during a trip to Tambdi Surla arranged for me by Yashodhan Heblekar  during my visit to his Butterfly Conservatory of Goa ( Thanks to Prasad Patil of Mystic Woods who took us to this spot with beautiful damselflies.


Confessions Of Organising A Tenth Anniversary Wikimeetup In Pune!

21 January 2011

Image: srik.lak

I’m a big critic of Pune as only true lovers of this city can be! Despite its metropolitan ills, the laziness of its shopkeepers,  the urban legends about Puneri attitudes, the city grows on you :-). Puneris are very different from the denizens of other cities such as Mumbai. They are quite laid back. But, when you get them going, they can become a powerhouse. This I re-discovered for myself during the recent Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Wikipedia at Pune.

It all started on 16 December when I realised that unless an appeal was made, no event to commemorate Wikipedia’s Tenth Anniversary on 15 January 2011 in Pune seemed to be materialising . The powerhouse Bangalore was really pushing for a great bash; Mumbai was also jostling around but Pune scene was quiet. Bishakha Datta (Board Member of Wikimedia Foundation, who is located in India) put me in touch with some prominent movers and shakers of Marathi Wikipedia. Unfortunately, some of these guys who had arranged previous meetups, were out of the country while others caught up with events in a busy life. Mahitgar,  Abhay Natu and others sent messages of moral support.

The appeal was answered by a few people, notably Sudhanwa Jogalekar, Mandar Kulkarni and Shirish Agarwal and we were off to a start with this motley crue. I had not had the pleasure of attending a meetup in Pune but I wanted that whatever we do should not just be to have a good time but also practically contribute to Wikipedia & Commons.

So the following were proposed in that first email :

  • Newbie meet (I volunteer to give an editing tutorial session in English cum Marathi by me but on English Wikipedia. I could be partnered by someone showing the same for Marathi Wikipedia).
  • Marathi Wikipedia Meetup.
  • Wikimedia loves Pune photothon, where people go and photograph Pune’s landmarks and add them to Commons.
  • Outreach activities to schools/colleges?
  • Any takers for birdwatching a la Bangalore/Shyamal?”

This was a shot in the dark. We proposed without any idea whether it was achievable and serendipity provided the rest.


The quiet workers - Ashok Bagade, Sudhanwa Jogalekar & Harshad Gune (Image:Prasad Vaidya)

At that point of time, I was attending the 7th Certificate Course in Basic Ornithology run by Ela Foudation and Abasaheb Garware College. Dr Satish Pande and Dr Anand Padhye, the course organisers and mentors, responded very enthusiastically to the idea of contributing to articles on birds seen in Pune. This was to consist of a talk to the course during one of their sessions followed by development of articles. It was planned to bring three articles of bird species to GA quality. This combined two of my wishes – editing of actual articles and also development of the topic ‘birds’.

Mandar Kulkarni, a firebrand editor of Marathi Wikipedia came forth and the Marathi Wikipedia meetup was on. The Pune Photographers group on Flickr responded valiantly to a call for photographers to snap Pune’s heritage. Prasad Vaidya, Anand Patankar and Ashok Bagade responded enthusiastically and I knew that the photothon was on.

The hunt was now on for a hall. Garware College offered to host the meet but their halls had already been booked for the duration. The Symbiosis Institute of Computer Science and Research (SICSR) came to our rescue. SICSR has prominent enthusiasts on “free” issues such as FOSS and Wikipedia – notably Mr Lalit Kathpalia, the Director and Harshad Gune, the Deputy Director. The Director very kindly gave us the facilities gratis and we felt that now our 15 January bash was sure to take place. SICSR hosts Pune Linux Users Group (PLUG) of which Sudhanwa is a driving force. In fact, PLUG and computer science students of SICSR played an important part as volunteers and supporters of our meetup. We sort of stood on their shoulders to arrange the meetups. The computer science students were already innovating extensions for MediaWiki and this too became something for us to highlight.

Moral support

Bishakha Datta (Image:Lane Hartwell)

Bishakha Datta, a board member of the Wikimedia Foundation in India, was our mentor in remote control. She informed us that we could apply for a small grant, which we got, and advised us to form a page on which we did. Hardly had we made the page when Steven Walling got in touch about promotional swag comprising T-shirts, buttons and stickers being available.  Steven sent us the T-shirts well in time but Indian bureaucratese delayed part of the shipment and we had to make do with only half the swag requested. Sadly, it appeared that the Wikimedia Foundation allotted only one VIP per city 😉 (boy, does Bishakha hate it when I use that term for her, he he he, evil me!) Bishakha spent TEN at Kolkata her home city. I’m sure she had a wonderful time but we missed her in Pune.

I had met Sudhanwa Jogalekar for the first time the day after I sent the email along with Dexter, Manjusha Joshi and Alolita Sharma in the famous restaurant Hotel Rupali on Ferguson College Road. A very auspicious start to a new friendship with this quiet, white-haired, FOSS evangelist who was to prove the bedrock of our organising the meetup.

Serendipity & all that

We had our first meetup at SICSR canteen around the 20th or so of December. That day, I met Mandar and Shirish for the first time – new friends. 🙂

I had mentioned “serendipity” before. The day of our first co-ordination meeting in SCISR canteen, we found a group of young college students excitedly and noisily discussing on the next table. We began discussing and during one of our pauses we heard the magic W word! Immediately we called them over and we found that this was a volunteer group of TEDxPUNE headed by the Curator in Pune, 19 year old Abhishek Suryavanshi who were organising a day-long evangelisation meetup for school children on 15 Jan in SCISR itself! Wham, the synergies hit us. The TEDxPUNE meetup became another of the activities Pune could boast about and present in the meetup. In return, we would provide an editing session by volunteers (yours truly) and share some of the promotional swag. So our evangelism wish also came true.

Dr Anupam Saraph - CIO Pune & Mentor TEDxPUNE (Image:Prasad Vaidya)

TEDxPUNE is mentored by Dr Anupam Saraph. Anupam is a polymath, an evangelist of infomatics and a great supporter of the Wiki concept and in his capacity as Chief Information Officer of Pune, had implemented a governance wiki for Pune. Anupam was in touch with Wikimedia Foundation on a number of issues. Unknown to us he was convincing Barry Newstead, Wikimedia’s Chief Global Development Officer (CGDO) to visit us in Pune. Barry was coming to Mumbai, ostensibly on work and would attend the Mumbai meetup that morning. At that point of time, exciting things were being planned in Pune. Barry wrote mentioning that he would be in Pune for our function. We were really excited.

A Note about Barry Newstead


Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer, Wikimedia Foundation (Image:Lane Hartwell)

(blurb begins) – he became CGDO in Jun 2010 and was responsible for increasing readership and supporting editor self-organization in the Global South, for overseeing communications with the general public and the media, and activities aimed at supporting and developing chapters. Newstead joined Wikimedia Foundation from The Bridgespan Group, where he spent the previous year helping the Wikimedia Foundation develop its five-year strategic plan. Previously, he worked with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) for eight years where he  worked extensively in southeast Asia, greater China, South Korea and western Europe. Barry was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and raised in Toronto, Canada. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario, and a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Barry has been married to P. K. Lee for 12 years. (blurb ends)  Barry is a very nice guy, intelligent and well-informed and it was a real treat for us to interact with him.


So now our activities were planned as follows:

  • WIKIPEDIA INTRODUCTION & EDITING SESSION to Basic Ornithology Course at 1930 hrs on 06 Jan 2011 in Abasaheb Garware College.
  • WIKIPEDIA MARATHI MEETUP at 1830 hrs on 08 Jan 2011 at SICSR.
  • PUNE PHOTOTHON FOR WIKIMEDIA COMMONS at Shaniwarwada at 0930 hrs on 09 Jan 2011.
  • TEDxPUNE EVANGELISM at SICSR on 15 Jan 2011 from 1000 hrs to 1600 hrs.
  • ‘Introduction to Wikipedia & editing session’ by yours truly from 1200hrs to 1400 hrs. Barry Newstead to attend on arrival from Mumbai.
  • TENTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION at SICSR from 1830 hrs onwards.
  • Dinner for Barry Newstead and few volunteers. After the function.

For the function itself, we had planned :

  • Presentation on Wikipedia (ten minutes).(Ashwin Baindur)
  • Short talks on:
    • Marathi Wikipedia (ten minutes) (Mandar Kulkarni).
    • 7th [[Ornithology]] Course’s contribution to Wikipedia with Uploading of the three improved articles on Indian Birds (ten minutes). (Dr Satish Pande)
    • Talk on contribution to Wikimedia Commons with symbolic upload of a photograph, from Wikimedia Commons loves Pune (ten minutes). (Ashok Bagade)
    • Talk on contribution made by TEDxPUNE’s event for college students on 15 Jan 2011 (ten minutes). (Abhishek Suryawanshi)
    • Talk on Software extensions developed by SICSR – (ten minutes) (Harshad Gune).
  • ””’Hallmark address by Mr Barry Newstead from Wikimedia Foundation.””’
  • Concluding remarks by Lalit Kathpalia.
  • Cake cutting.
  • Vote of thanks (Mandar Kulkarni).
  • Refreshments.

Ornithology Course Wiki Meetup

Dr Suruchi Pande, noted ethno-ornithologist, Ela Foundation

The Introduction to Wikipedia meetup to the 7th Certificate Course in Basic Ornithology at 1930 hrs on 06 Jan 2011 in Abasaheb Garware College. It was a thirty minute slot given to us. Sudhanwa and Shirish, the mainstays were present and Ashwin (yours truly) took the lecture. The lecture introduced the need for Wikipedia and Commons, the philosophy and showed how simple it was to edit. Thanks to Swapnil for helping with internet when our internet dongle and backup dongle both failed. After the function Tshirts were presented to Doctors Satish and Surchi Pande, Anant Padhye and Anil Mahabal and those who were actively involved in editing in the project. The course was enthusiastic in the reception of Wikipedia editing as an idea but it will need more follow ups to convert some of these interested people into Wikipedia editors.

Marathi Wikipedia Meetup

The Marathi Wikipedia meetup took place at SICSR at 1900 hrs on 08 Jan 2011. The following attended – Ashwin Baindur, Shirish Agarwal, Sudhanwa Jogalekar, Anupam Saraph, Mandar Kulkarni, Karunakar, Harshad Gune and couple of newbies to the concept of wiki editing. Discussion reigned on three topics – the forthcoming anniversary activities (by self), efforts to introduce wikis in the commercial, educational and government communities and the desirability of making Pune a contender for the location of Wikimedia’s India Office (by Anupam Saraph), and the road ahead for Marathi Wikipedia (by Mandar Kulkarni). Mandar gave a number of ideas. See Mandar’s presentation loaded /*here*/.

Shirish Agarwal has given a detailed writeup on that event /*here*/:

Marathi Wikipedia Meetup at Pune on 08 Jan 2011. L to R - Shrish, Mandar, Harshad, Ashwin, Sudhanwa, Karunakar. Anupam left early.

Wikimedia Commons Meetup

The Wikimedia Commons meetup took place on 09 January 2011. A bunch of (camera) trigger-happy people metup on Sunday morning at the front gate of Shaniwar wada. Those present included Ashwin Baindur, Anand Patankar, Ashok Bagade, Shirish Agarwal, Sudhanwa Joglekar, Prasad Vaidya, Chandan Sharma and Prasad Rasal. Since everyone was meeting afresh, the first act of the day was explaining our purpose – the idea behind Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons, the need for free images on Pune and our plan for the group which we christened as WikiPuneri. The need to do this today, namely, the forthcoming 10th Anniversary of Wikipediawas mentioned along with a special invite for the 15th event. WikiPuneri members played a major role on the 15th.


WikiPuneris all - Shirish, Chandan, Anand, Prasad, Ashwin (Image:Anand Patankar)

The photographers soon sorted out into two groups – some to whom photography is serious business and others who consider it a great social activity. I shuttled between both as they pored over the grounds of the old fort and photographed it comprehensively. After that we went to Kasba Ganpati mandir, Lal Mahal (closed due to the relocation of Dadoji Kondadev’s statue) and had Misal-Pav at the close. Prasad Vaidya, the most energetic of photgraphers promptly created a WikiPuneri group on Flickr and Facebook. It is early to say but we hope that WikiPuneri will grow into something good which contributes usefully to Pune’s heritage. The photographers took awesome images some of which were showcased during the 15th function.

Shirish Agarwal gives an interesting writeup /*here*/ .

Bird Article Improvement

The Bird article improvement took place at Dr Satish Pande’s residence since he had both a laptop with internet connection and the references. The contributors comprised of Dr Satish Pande, Dr Suruchi Pande, Dr Anil Mahabal, Rajgopal Patil and Devashish Pandya. Yours truly was the editor as there was no time to teach wiki editing to the particpants. A number of edits were made with references. The article on Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) was developed with a great number of details ranging from distribution to culture. Earlier the crux of the article was by myna-haters from countries where it is an invasive pest. It has been successfully converted into an article with NPOV – containing material both by myna-lovers from India & myna-haters ;-). Besides this information on Indian populations of Shaheen Falcon (Falco peregrinus peregrinator), White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) and others. A unique first was when the Painted Francolin (Francolinus pictus) article was provided not just its call by yours truly but also its sonogram by Rajgopal Patil, we hope it is a sign of good things to come.

The improved article on Common Myna on Wikipedia

The Big Day dawns

Last minute changes and emergencies come up. Ashok Bagade had a severe attack of pharyngitis and Chandan Sharma stepped in at the last minute to speak instead of him. The program changed. Anupam had asked Barry to come relatively early to Pune, be in Pune by 1500 hours and attend firstly – an open session of the kids who had attended the evangelism get-together and later a meeting with movers and shakers of Government and Industry in YASHADA. After that Barry would attend our meetup. So now a new serial was added into our program:

  • Meeting of Barry Newstead with bureacrats and captains of industry from 1700 hrs to 1800 hrs on 15 Jan 2011 at YASHADA.

The cake guys refused to accept our cake design because it had a nation’s map on it – something they had not sensitised us to earlier. Worse, they refused to explain why they were rejecting our design till finally their chief creator of cakes at Copperchocks, Sharon explained the situation to us – that people object to the cutting of the national flag or map on a cake. On our pleading, Sharon, much to her surprise, found herself agreeing to do the cake at short notice. We chose one of Srikanth Lakshmanan’s designs from /*here*/.

Thanks to Tony Thomas and Swapnil Narendra, creators of the design we chose. You guys are entitled to cake, when you visit us in Pune.


Our awesome cake - based on a "free design"!

Next, the printers/publishers acted up and last minute running around was required by to be done by Sudhanwa. As a result all of us got involved and could not partiipate much on the 15th in anything but our function. I had an editing session to do which I did but that’s it. Fortunately, we had kept our blogger free to absorb all impressions and Shirish was deputed to attend and report – a task which he has done admirably. Or will have done admirably, once all his posts are up!

TEDxPUNE Wikipedia Event

The 15th morning saw us all phoning each other to coordinate eveything. I landed up at TEDxPUNE bang on the clock at 12 noon for my session. The children were all busy, innovating a parachute from various items of garbage given to them. After about half an hour, my time came. As luck would have it, the internet on the LAN misbehaved and I had to speak cold turkey to the kids till internet was restored 45 mins later by Saharsh Parekh of SICSR – great job, Saharsh, way to go. That gave me an opportunity to tell the children the philosophy about Wikipedias and Commons. Also that it was one of the very few places where they can make a difference and change the world. Our editing session that followed was exciting but necessarily brief – we added some information on Ganeshotsav and deleted some unreferenced information from the wikipedia article on Culture of Pune. Then I had to leave.

With the kids at TEDxPUNE Wikipedia event. (Image:Abhishek Suryawanshi)

Children display their posters (Image:Abhishek Suryavanshi)

The children had a poster competition and I was really gratified to hear that they had got the message clearly – they churned out some fabulous posters which Barry Newstead was shown at his arrival at 1630 hrs.  (You actually believed the Mumbai guys would let him go so easily? Hah!). He had a great time interacting with the kids and departed for YASHADA. We shall be uploading the kids posters to Commons soon.


The YASHADA meet was NOT about Wikipedia but about the understanding/using the concept of wikis in government, business and acdemicia – though to be fair, Anupam lobbied hard for scholarships to school teachers & students who would contribute to Wikipedia/Wikiversity. Let’s hope he succeeds. Shirish has a detailed writeup on his blog for those interested in this field.


Shirish makes a point at Yashada meetup. (Image:Yashada)

The last minute hitches
The final meetup began slowly. Our time-plan had gone for a six. We hoped that Barry would revert very soon from YASHADA but that was pointless optimism. People turned up slowly but steadily and we were relieved to find our hall fill up by 1900 hrs (we had catered for 150). The TEDxPUNE volunteers led by Abhishek Suryavanshi and SICSR volunteers led by Saharsh Parekh were a boon to us and quickly helped us set up our show. Anand Patankar and Ashok Bagade landed up gingerly but triumphantly holding our cake. It was a real beauty – easily the prettiest cake in all the WP celebrations in India.

Ashok, though speechless, landed up with a sizzling presentation on Shaniwar wada for Chandan to showcase. Chandan Sharma and her sister Poornima landed up, both looking gorgeous and adding some much needed colour to our meetup. Immediately, they got together with Amita, my better 99% and Aditi my daughter (who came along to participate and also give me moral support) and took administrative charge of cakes, T-shirts, people etc. They organised our reception, etc so that I could quit flapping. Sudhanwa landed up at last minute with the beautifully printed handouts/booklets that we dished out. (Sorry, folks, we are all out! Don’t worry, you can download it from /*here*/.)

Tenth Anniversary Function

Since the program could not effectively began without Barry, yours truly got a chance to put his gift of the gab to work. The audience was fantastic. They neither booed me or chased me with paintbrush and tar-bucket but listened spell-bound for an hour as I put forth the whole philosophy thing and very, very slowly went over my presentation on WP. In short, they were good as gold.


Yours truly - pontificating at large! (Image:Prasad Vaidya)

I was also able to inform the public about our activities in general and introduce the wikipedians to them. The editors of Wikipedia were then asked to stand up and introduce themselves. The youngest editor was 15 year old Rishabh Tatiraju or User:Tatiraju.rishabh who has a thousand edits and mostly edits on tropical cyclones. He and my daughter, Aditi, formed the reception committee.

Special Note to Editors from Pune on Wikipedia especially those who attended : Extra T-shrits have come. Leave message on User Talk:AshLin if you are a genuine editor. Minimum 50 edits are a must to collect your Tshirt. First come, first served but do not forget to post me on English Wikipedia on my talk page in any case.


Rishabh Tatiraju - the youngest editor present (Image:Prasad Vaidya)

At around 7.45 Barry, Lalit, Anupam & Shirish arrived, to my relief.  I wound up my spiel and launched the people reporting on the multifarious activities one by one.

Dr Satish Pande entertains us all. (Image:Prasad Vaidya)

The first was Dr Satish Pande. Without any presentation of any kind, in simple language he mentioned why the Ela Foundation decided to take up this project and how they went about it. He mentioned the unique contributions such as the addition of very interesting ornithological facts, especially the bird call sonograms which had never been added to Wikipedia before. He regaled the audience with some very interesting names for the Common Myna in Sanskrit literature. The information on Sanskrit names was provided by Dr Suruchi Pande who has doctorates in Sanskrit and History and is working on Ethno-ornithology of Indian culture while the information on so many other aspects of Myna biology were provided by Dr Anil Mahabal who has made his life’s study on this bird. The short talk was very well recieved by the audience. At the end of it, the expanded and revised article on Common Myna was uploaded in front them.

Mandar Kulkarni (Image : Prasad Vaidya)

After this, Mandar Kulkarni gave a presentation on Marathi Wikipedia, a revised version of what he presented in the Marathi Wikipedia meetup. Dressed impeccably in formals, Mandar made a striking figure. His strong beliefs and enthusiasm shone through as he mentioned the different ways we can help to develop this indic language wikipedia of our home state. Mandar mentioned a number of ways we could contribute from creating new articles, translating en:WP (English Wikipedia) articles, adding information, images, references, inter-wiki linking (linking different language versions of an article), marketing WP through social networking such as FB & twitter, etc, etc. My only regret was that for want of time and opportunity we had only paid lip service to mr:WP (Marathi Wikipedia) and could not have made a real contrubution as had been done for en:WP and Commons.

Mandar was followed by Chandan Sharma who spoke of how it was an intriguing to be invited to Shaniwar wada for photography and how the whole idea of photographers contributing to Pune, Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons was an awesome way to contribute to society. For those who don’t know. Commons is the image and media repository providing free images to all the 278 language Wikipedias, other projects and to the general public. Chandan explained how a large collection of images on Pune’s monuments was a surefire way to promote the city and empower its people. The photographers group, spearheaded boldly by Prasad Vaidya had formed Facebook and Flickr groups called WikiPuneri. She then wowed the audience with Ashok B’s (he with the speechless voice) presentation.

Then in front of every one the first image – of Shaniwar wada’s front gate – was uploaded into Wikimedia Commons. Here it is :

"Dilli darwaja" at Shaniwarwada - our first image to be loaded into Commons

Due to time constraints, we had to cancel the talks by the next two speakers, Harshad Gune on PHP extensions created by the students of SICSR and Abhishek Suryawanshi reporting on the TEDxPUNE. They took this very sportingly without a single word of complaint. Though I had mentioned their contribution to the audience, we were all a bit disappointed at that. We are looking forward to Harshad Gune’s boys demonstrating their coding skills on MediaWiki next month at GNUNIFY in their College. But it was late, a few people had begun leaving without hearing Barry speak or even partaking cake and refreshments, so we had to cut short the programme.


Barry Newstead at the Meetup

Barry’s Talk

Barry Newstead stood up and in a frank, soft-spoken tone told us all about Wikimedia’s worldview.

Amit Karpe’s blog post gives the points succintly which I am paraphrasing below :

* Wikimedia Foundation’s plans for next 10 years.

1) Secured Infrastructure

2) Increasing Participation of all stakeholders

3) Quality ( Rating Tool ) under test

4) Increasing reach of Wikipedia to offline audiences ( Books, CD, Pendrive )

5) Innovations

* India is on priority. Notably, Barry had travelled 3 times in last 5 months to India. India has a large reader community with more than 30 Million monthly visitors on the total projects of Though we now have significant Indic language communities, there is tremendous  scope for growing and improving India is important for Wikimedia Foundation because:

1) Opportunities

2) Free Knowledge

3) Hub for Innovation

4) Office in India ( Only Office outside US )

* Barry explained the significance of the logo:

1) More I learn, less I know.

2) Knowledge puzzle yet to complete represents the work yet to be done and knowledge yet to be added.

3) Knowledge 1% uploaded in Wikipedia and 99% yet to come not vice versa.


Barry Newstead points at the logo explaining it stands for the work yet to be done.

Barry then cut the delicious cake and while the cake was being apportioned, Mr Lalit Kathpalia, the jovial Director of SICSR gave a short and sweet summing up. He reiterated the support of SICSR in development of technical projects for Wikipedia and invited Barry to visit SICSR in Feb 2011 for the college techfest GNUNIFY. Lalit has generously offered to help implement whatever changes ordinary Wikipedians would like to see in MediaWiki. More power to him and his coders!


Mr Lalit Kathpalia, Director SICSR, concludes the session. (Image: Prasad Vaidya)

Mandar Kulkarni gave the vote of thanks and the proceedings came to an end. Everybody was ravenous and the excellent snacks provided by SICSR canteen contractor vanished as fast as they appeared but since there were only 63 guests at the end, there was enough tuck left over for the hostelites among SICSR volunteers to take with them.


Chandan and Aditi clap as Barry cuts the cake. (Image:Abhishek Suryawanshi)

The dinner at Raviraj for Barry to interact with a few of the volunteers was a pleasant, quiet affair with interesting conversations and ideas being thrown around. Everyone unanimously heckled Barry (in a pleasant way of course) to locate Wikimedia’s office in India in Pune. A large variety of reasons were given and Barry smilingly kept nodding without committing – a very diplomatic effort on his part. A great time was had by all and we broke off at 12.30 pm. Thanks to Prasad Vaidya for his flawless organisation of the dinner party single-handedly.

Special Thanks to : Wikimedia Foundation, Bishakha Datta, Barry Newstead, Steven Walling, Winifred Olliff.

We also thank Sakaal Times, Times of India, Indian Express, DNA, Maharahstra Times for their press coverage of the event.

The State of Wikipedia – a short enjoyable video look at the Encyclopedia anyone can edit!

19 January 2011

JESS3 is an award winning creative agency that specializes in social media, branding and data visualization. It recently produced a short (3.5 minute long) video to tell the world what Wikipedia’s about. It’s narrated by none other than Jimbo Wales – the great man himself. Enjoy!

What is Wikimedia Commons all about?

18 January 2011

Most of us do not know enough about the free resources of the digital world available to us,  such as Wikimedia Commons!  This article, originally written to expound the philosophy of WikiPuneri, a Facebook group of people wanting to make a difference, has been added here for the greater public to read.


Before I explain what WikiPuneri group does, I would like to explain in short about Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons is not an encyclopaedia, it is a media repository. Wikipedia, as you all know, is the free online encyclopaedia which anyone can edit. There are a total of 278 Wikipedias in the world, each in a different language. The English Wikipedia is the largest with 3,528,428 articles. As of now there are twenty wikipedias in Indian languages – including in Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, blah, blah and blah. Of these Marathi Wikipedia is the third in size with over 30,000 articles. In addition there are twenty more wikipedias in other Indian languages in the process of being developed.

Now why I have mentioned this is because all of these use photographs, video clips and sound files. Now, it is a waste of space for each Wikipedia to load its images exclusively for itself. Hence the Wikimedia Foundation has created another project called as Wikimedia Commons or in short just Commons. Commons is the media repository. All photos, video clips and sound files are uploaded here just once and they immediately become available to all wikipedias.

The number of images on Wikimedia Commons about an important subject say Pune city is important. That is because all the images on Commons are free. When I say free, I mean free as in free speech as well as in free beer. You are free to use them as you wish, even commercially, as long as you attribute whose image you have used and as long as you make the material available under a free license. These images on Commons are placed under one of a variety of licenses that give you these rights and permissions – this kind of license is called a free license, which allows you to use the images as you wish, as long as you attribute and give free license to people to use your work in turn. The most common free license used around the world is the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.

The full text of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License is given here.

But to explain it here is a more easily understood diagrammatic version of the same below :


The crux of the Creative Commons 3.0 Unported License

Why? Why this talk about free licenses?

Because images are usually copyrighted with all rights reserved by the creator. Because a person who is going to break the law and steal or illegally use your image will not bother about whether image is copyrighted or free to use. But the law abiding person can neither use a copyrighted image whose creator has kept all rights for himself without breaking the law nor can he afford it.

Usually you have to pay a fee ranging from a hundred to tens of thousands of rupees to use a photograph commercially per image. Poor people cant afford that, even if the cause is noble or good for society. Many people agree to permit use of their photos free for a good cause, but it is difficult or sometimes impossible to contact people who have good images on Flickr, Picassa or web ste. So a repository of free images is required. Wikimedia Commons is exactly that – it not only stores images for Wikipedias but also makes them available for everyone in society to use, even commercially.

Imagine a person, Mr Patil, who has knowledge which he wants to share with the world. Suppose he wants to write a very economically priced book on Butterflies Of Maharashtra in Marathi for all the children of Maharashtra to read. To illustrate it he will need over three hundred images. If he buys the images, the book will be extremely costly and not free or cheap. But he can take the images from Commons and use them to illustrate his book. He will have to do only two things – acknowledge the person whose photos he has used and publish it not under copyright with all rights reserved but with free Creative Commons license I mentioned to you. Mr Patil can use these images, print the book cheaply and even make a small honest profit.

The free license allows people to use Mr Patil’s book in a constructive manner. They can make derivatives. A biology teacher takes material from his book and makes a chart of common butterflies for display in class rooms. He acknowledges at the bottom of the chart that the information is taken from Patil’s book, mentions the authors of images used and publishes the chart under a free lisense. Another person thinks that the book and chart are valuable educational resources and translates it into English, Hindi, and other Indian Languages. The free license permits them to do so. And so on. The information and images get re-used freely, the contributions of all people are acknowledged and same freedoms are passed on by means of the license.

In such a context, it is important that enough free images are available on Commons to empower our people. If you check Wikimedia Commons today, you will find very few images of Pune. For example, there are more than 500 historial places such as temples, wadas, buidings etc in Pune city alone but only five such places are covered in Commons. There are images of front gate of Shaniwarwada but none of the many wonders inside.

So some photographers of Pune have decided to remedy this by starting a programme to add images of historical monuments of our city onto Commons. We have formed a group of like-minded people on Facebook and Flickr who are keen to further this noble cause to help society. We call this group “WikiPuneri”. We have already started with our first focus being Shaniwarwada the landmark symbol of Pune city which we photographed last Sunday. In coming weeks we will add many more images of Pune and Maharashtra so that hopefully by the time Wikipedia becomes 11 years of age, all of Pune’s monuments are photographed.


One of the images uploaded. - the Shaniwarwada gate - (Image:Ashok Bagade)

The other thing we will do is that we will ensure that both Marathi and English Wikipedias have articles on all these monuments and landmarks. In this way, our exposure of our beloved Pune will increase. People can get all the important information about Pune that they need from Wikipedia and images from Wikimedia Commons.

On the function on 15th January 2011, as a symbolic gesture, we will be have uploadinged in front of everyone for the first time an image which we have taken and contributed to Wikimedia Commons. Hopefully that will be followed by many, many more!




14 January 2011

Go placidly amongst the noise and haste...

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexatious to the spirit.

and remember what peace there may be in silence...

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of years...

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be...

Max Ehrmann (1872-1945)

This beautiful prose poem, Desiderata, meaning “things desired”in Latin was wrtten by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). Virtually unknown in the author’s lifetime, it was used by a priest of St Paul’s Church , Baltimore, Maryland in a selection of devotional material for his congregation. The handout had at the top of its front page the inscription:

Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore A.D. 1692.”

Presumably, this meant that the antiquity of the church was 1692.

Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)

Years later,  when Adlai Stevenson, an American politician, much respected for his intellect, eloquent public speaking, and promotion of liberal causes, died in 1965, this pamphlet was found by his bedside. It surmised that Stevenson planned to use the poem for his Christmas cards. The poem was circulated widely under the mistaken notion that it was an inscription dating back to 1692 which was found in St Paul’s church. The poem attained great popularity especially after Les Crane, an American radio announcer and talk-show host made a spoken word recording of it. This proved a great hit and the poem gained in fame and public recognition.

Kamahl (b. 1934 - to date)

Almost thirty years ago in my late uncle’s house when cassette recorders were the craze, I loved to listen to the deep baritone voice of an Australian singer of Tamil ethnic origin named Kamahl. Amongst his many songs were two of my favourites – the Elephant song and a recital of this poem – Desiderata.

Desiderata is not just a lovely poem of great human sentiment, it has been considered to represent a philosophy of life by Osho, Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh himself. As a teenager I remember being handed a pamphlet once by an Osho disciple in which he compared the great religions of the world with the Bahá’í Faith and Desiderata, both of which I had not known about before then.

IMAGE CREDITS: Click image to reach source.

  • Crowd – Vincent & Bella Productions, Creative Commons 2.0 on Wikimedia Commons.
  • Mushrooms – J.J. Harrison, Creative Commons 3.0 on Wikimedia Commons
  • Max Ehrmann – Fair use, on Wikipedia.
  • Kamahl -Sound and Vision Wiki – Gallery: Lavish with music Creative Commons 3.0 on Wikimedia Commons.

Ten belles to be stranded on a desert island with?

10 January 2011

This post by Aggressive Opinions got me thinking! Its based on Praveen J’s post of 2001! To recall what Praveen posted :


This is a repeat of a feature that appeared in Newsletter for Birdwatchers in the lines of
the erstwhile BBC programme Castaway in a desert. It goes like this. If you are to be marooned
on an island and the captain of the ship promises you to send 10 species of birds of your
choice (so that u can pass time for the rest of your life!!!) how would the selection go?

AO in his post reflected Job Joseph’s view :

1. A Bengal Florican…..boy its gait itself is worth watching.

Bengal Florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) (Image:Richard Lydekker, 1895 - public domain)

2. A Brown headed storkbilled k’fisher. I like its call very much.
3. A swan..for me to feed during the day.
4. A tame cockatoo…to keep me company in my make-shift hut.
5. A hunting falcon….courtesy some rich sheikh.
6. A rooster…to wake me up.
7. A hen….to give the rooster company.(eggs are tasty)
8. An ostrich….bigger eggs are more tasty!
9. Racket-tailed drongo….more for the price of one?( hear animal
10. A hummingbird….let it contribute to pollination.

However, it got me thinking, If I were on a desert island, and I had to have ten bird species with me, which would I want?

I disregard AO’s rider that you can’t eat the bird. Survival is brutal. Nothing aesthetic about it. So in order to do a Robinson Crusoe or a Swiss Family Robinson (known to lovers of Classics illustrated comics), what would be the ten best birds to have with me? I’m sure we could do a much better job. Don’t hesitate to comment!


Quote – John Muir on “Nature”

7 January 2011





John Muir (1838-1914)

Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.

John Muir, Naturalist and explorer


Image Credits: Click on image to reach source.

  • Building… – US National Parks Service, Public domain.
  • Creating… – Edward Crateau, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain.
  • Destroying… – Christian Revival Network on Flickr. CC Attribution 3.0 Unported.