How It Came To Be: Wiki Loves Uniformed Services

Posted by Guest blogger: Krishna Chaitanya Velaga at Jul 10, 2017 04:14 AM |

I'm User: Krishna Chaitanya Velaga from English Wikipedia; fortunately and unfortunately my user name and my real name share the same text. I have been contributing to Wikipedia and its sister projects since December 2014. I work primarily on Indian military history related topics and articles. Initially, I was focused on creating articles rather than assessing them. My wiki journey can be best described in two parts, before and after Train The Trainer 2017.

The latter part of 2016 proved to be a critical period of my Wiki journey. I was credited with my first good article, first featured A-class article and list, first featured list and, several Did You Know credits on English Wikipedia. Later on, I was awarded the “Military history newcomer of the year” for 2016. I was the first Indian to receive the award. Additionally, I was selected to be the “Featured Wikimedian of Month for January 2017” by Wikimedia India.

As of January 2017, I have been contributing for nearly two years, and as far as I have observed the military history topic area of India is one of the most neglected areas. With two well known military historians from India, Srikar Kashyap Pulipaka (User:StrikeEagle) and Colonel Ashwin Baindur [retd.] (User: AshLin) on a semi Wiki break, I was left to be the only regular contributor. In an attempt to encourage more Wikipedians to work on this area, Indian military history work group emerged as an initiative by the Military history project. The work group closing in on a year since its inception, has more than twenty-five members at present. As the founder of the group, I aspire to incubate the group into an independent task force under Military history project. One of the major problems I faced while working on the military history articles was regarding images. Though the images were accepted on Commons, they were rejected at advanced levels of assessment i.e. A-class review, FAC, FLC etc. One of the primary reasons for the problem is the unclear copyright statement presented on the official websites of the armed forces and various uniformed services. I had been thinking for a long while to resolve this issue and TTT provided me with the path to finds a solution for this. Train the Trainer (TTT) is one of the best initiatives by Centre of Internet and Society - Access to Knowledge. It is a three-day residential program to enhance the trainer in experienced and well established Wikipedians through the length and breadth of India. Prior to TTT 2017, I have only been involved in online activities of Wikipedia, predominantly contributing to Indian military history topics. I hardly knew about the offline community of Wikipedia i.e. the grant structure of Wikimedia Foundation, conduction of edit-a-thons, meet-ups, program affiliates etc. Not only this, but also the Wikipedian contacts I had were very sparse. Though I was selected to attend TTT 2016, I could not attend to academic constraints. During TTT, I had rich exposure to the wider Indian Wikimedia community and that of Indic language projects. TTT also cleared many of the misconceptions I had of Wikimedia, some them include the use of Harvard referencing style, importance of offline events, etc.

Owing to the experience I decided to act on the problem. There is a heavy need of images related to the uniformed services. So I discussed my idea with Ravi Shankar Ayyakannu (User:Ravidreams), coordinator of Wiki Loves Food and Manager for Strategic Partnerships in Asia under Global Reach Team. Initially, I thought of naming it Wiki Loves Armed Forces, Wiki Loves Security Services etc. But with an intention to widen the scope, it was named as Wiki Loves Uniformed services. Once finalized, I started creating necessary pages and templates on Commons. Simultaneously, I worked on forming the core team of coordinators and judges. I chose Suyash Dwivedi (User:Suyash.dwivedi) and Mourya Biswas (User:Mouryan) to be the Coordinator and Assistant Coordinator respectively, with myself as the Lead Coordinator. The jury included Col. Ashwin Baindur [retd.], Diego Delso (User:Poco a poco), Col. Ravi Shankar Vasireddy [retd.] (Off-community) and Sirkar Kashyap Pulipaka. After having done these tasks, I moved on to file a detailed rapid grant application to the Wikimedia Foundation. The grants team was very responsive and the grant was approved in a week. This initiative gained good global support including the foundation’s staff, who were happy to see a new Wiki Loves initiative budding. However, till now there aren't as many images as expected. To increase awareness about the program we’ve decided to implement a new strategy of conducting photo walks with government permission. Apart from that we’re also in contact with the Indian Navy to donate their images to the contest. The deadline may extend for about a month or so depending upon the stats. Personally, I see great potential for this project, but the problem is one of Wikipedians' response. I hope this initiative will be a great success and will be taken up by fellow Wikimedians from others countries. I conclude by thanking CIS-A2K for conducting innovative workshops and Wikimedia India for their support to the project since its inception. I also thank each and every unacknowledged finger behind this great initiative.

Krishna Chaitanya Velaga

Lead Coordinator

Wiki Loves Uniformed services (India) 2017