A research study on the occasion of Bengali Wikipedia’s 100,000 articles

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One of my research papers had recently been accepted and later presented at the Wiki Workshop 2021; and in this article, I shall be providing a general overview of the study. Wiki Workshop is one of the leading venues for researchers around the world exploring various aspects of the Wikimedia project(s). The research article titled “A Brief Analysis of Bengali Wikipedia’s Journey to 100,000 Articles”, conducted on behalf of Wikimedia Bangladesh, presents an analysis of Bengali Wikipedia’s nearly 17-years journey with respect to various parameters (link given below). The workshop was planned to be organized in Ljubljana, Slovenia, but later got shifted to the online platform due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The workshop was held on April 14, 2021 (surprisingly, the first day of Bengali new year!).

On December 25, 2020, Bengali Wikipedia (https://bn.wikipedia.org/) crossed the long-desired milestone of 100,000 articles, bringing a moment of enormous pleasure for us. The Bengali language edition of the world’s largest encyclopedia, which started its journey in January 2004, overcame various phases and finally achieved the milestone in December 2020. In literature, there are thousands of research studies on Wikipedia, but Bengali Wikipedia was hardly a part of those. Therefore, I was thinking about conducting a study for a long time and considered this moment at the right time. No grant was received for the study, it was entirely voluntary.

My motivation was simple: the desired line of 100,000 articles has been crossed, now is the time to look back – how was the journey? What were the probable positive catalysts? Did everyone get a chance to join this journey?

I started working in December. When I started looking back – gathering information, reading through the archives, I got amazed to see the speed of our journey. Although it was really sluggish in the beginning phase, its improvement in the last five years is quite noticeable. The number of active editors, total articles, etc., has all grown up conspicuously. It was also encouraging to see the positive results of the programs organized at different times are having impacts. The number of active editors jumped a lot during the article contests 2017, 2018, 2019, special edit-a-thon 2020, etc. All the newcomers joining these events do not contribute to Wikipedia later on (expected, right?), but some of them stay – which is apparent from the overall picture in months after the contest is over. There are similar optimistic statistics on the number of newly registered users, meaning many more are getting interested in contributing to this open encyclopedia. This is really encouraging – our goal is not only to enhance Wikipedia’s content but also to boost people’s knowledge about it.

Active editors of Bangla Wikipedia from January 2004 to December 2020. Generated from Wikimedia Statistics.

But the next statistic is not a relief. Globally, the number of female contributors to Wikipedia is much lower than the number of male contributors, and Bengali Wikipedia is not an exception in this regard. A study published in 2013 found that 4.09% of registered users in Bengali Wikipedia identified themselves as women in the last two and a quarter years. In 2019-20, this number reached 6.41%. Although a slight increase is observed, the improvement in this sector is insignificant compared to other sectors (growth rate of new articles, active editors, etc.) – which is unfortunate. Many studies have shown that gender gaps can lead to differences of opinion in Wikipedia articles, as well as latent biases on decision making, which are highly undesirable.

Percentage of registered users in Bengali Wikipedia who expressed their gender as female in different timelines.

There are many more parameters to be analyzed in Bengali Wikipedia, gaps are not limited to the ones described here; but they are kept as potential future works.

In the early years of Wikipedia, one of the main goals was to increase the amount of content, as has been the case in Bengali Wikipedia too. But now that we have a growing community, it’s time to fill up the blanks too. It is also very important for the organizers of various activities (contests, meetups, edit-a-thons, etc.) that we can ensure an environment where everyone can feel safe and don’t lose motivation. As a recommendation of this study, I’d say it is important to carefully look at future activities – we should encourage participation and focus on the existing gap at the same time, with equal importance.

Above all, I shall be glad if this research study and its results can be helpful for Bengali Wikipedia and also for other Wikipedia in other languages.

Link to the paper (pdf): https://wikiworkshop.org/2021/papers/Wiki_Workshop_2021_paper_4.pdf.

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