Interview with Mr.Gangadhar Bhadani, India’s most prolific wikipedian [Part 1]
Mr.Bhadani with Jimmy Wales. Photo by Mr. Ashwin Murali, at WikiCamp chennai
Mr.Gangadhar Bhadani is India’s best known wikipedian. I feel very fortunate to get a chance to interview him. This is the first part of the interview. We can all learn so much from him. Enjoy the interview.
Me: For those readers who may not know you, could you please introduce yourself?
Mr.Gangadhar Bhadani: I am Gangadhar Bhadani, in mid-50s, from Ranchi (Jharkhand state). I’ve been working with Bank of India, since February 1974 (starting at 24 years of age, with dreams in my eyes, see the picture attached !!!). Most people of my age know only one organization – job hopping was rare and generally not attempted those days !!! My employment with Bank of India has been really exciting and I have always enjoyed being a banker, contributing to customers’ delight and building relationships beyond banking. I have worked in a number of supervisory capacities and my employment has given me great opportunities to move to different parts of India. I have worked in 9 states of India at many locations – from Mumbai to Madras, from Patna to Pondicherry with sojourns in between in many places including Taljhari (a tribal village in Jharkhand) and Trivandrum.
Me: When and how did you start contributing to wikipedia/wikia?
GB: It was an accident. I was googling and wikipedia cropped up – I landed there and for one day I explored the site creating two user names which I never used actively. I registered with the user name Bhadani (my surname) on 24th March, 2005. The Business Line in its issue of 26th February, 2007, has articulated my association with wikipedia in these words:
“What started off as `mere browsing’ while he was ill and holed up at home in 2005 is now a passion. He has, so far, contributed 500 articles to Wikipedia and is an administrator for three communities in Wikia.”
I registered with Wikia (different from Wikipedia though initiated by Jimmy Wales – Wikimedia founder – as a for-profit organization) months before I actively started contributing to the same from October, 2006. This happened after I returned from a meeting of Indian Wikipedians in Bangalore where Jimmy Wales, the man behind the Wikipedia movement was also present. I soon discovered the kick of contributing to Wikia wikis. Like all wikis, it too turned out to be highly addictive habit! For last nine months, my contributions to Wikia wikis have covered many interesting and diverse areas like travel, finance, do it yourself, my motherland (India), diabetes and autism. I look forward to contributing to many more Wikia wikis – right now, there are more than 2,700 Wikia wikis and everyone would find a wikia wiki of one’s choice, or one may request for free hosting of a new one of one’s choice. History shall repeat itself: I do believe that Wikia shall repeat the Wikipedia performance despite the fact that the former is a for-profit entity- large Wikia wikis and vibrant communities have already emerged at many Wikia wikis. People shall come to Wikia wikis to share their thoughts and experiences which may not fit to be incorporated in an encyclopedia like wikipedia.
Since September, 2005 (within six months of my becoming a wikipedian), I was upgraded by the wikipedia community to become one of the administrators. Currently, I am also an administrator of four Wikia Communities – World, Finance, DIY, and India.
Me: On an average, how much time do you spend for wikipedia?
GB: This is a closely guarded secret as my wife will become jealous to learn the time spent by me in the company of wikipedia and wikias. Just kidding My rendezvous with wikipedia began when I was on leave, and my wikipedia entry was like the proverbial love at first sight. On a number of occasions, I have continuously edited for almost 10 to 12 hours – mostly on Sundays and Holidays. However, generally, I spend a couple of late evening hours (say, on an average 3 hours per day) on most of the days editing Wikipedia or Wikia wikis or both. In fact, I had always remained a voracious reader, and used to consume a lot of books. Now, I am using a part of my reading time to edit wikipedia and wikias.
Me: What kind of topics do you normally contribute articles to?
GB: When I look behind to my contributions to wikipedia for last 27 months, I find that I have contributed to more than 500 articles on a variety of topics: geography, history, book reviews, biographies, Hindu mythology, banking and finance. I have remained a restless editor jumping from topic to topic without concentrating on select articles and upgrading the same to the status of Featured Article (FA), that is, among the best ones in wikipedia. Everyday, one such article gets promoted to FA status and gets featured on the main page of wikipedia. I do feel that despite being having around 50,000 edits to wikipedia and despite being called the most prolific wikipedian in India by Jimmy Wales, I have just begun my work here and I have miles to go! I have also contributed very actively for few months to Simple English Wikipedia and created a number of new pages there too.
Me: What motivates you to spend so much time and effort contributing to wikipedia?
GB: I can not identify the exact motives for being a wikipedia volunteer. For me it is perhaps a combination of factors – by contributing to wikipedia, I utilize my free time in a productive manner; it is exciting to be part of one of the largest, resilient and vibrant online community which has taken shape in the human history; the recognition which the community gives me is really satisfying; I get exposed to many new things which I would not have known had I not come across wikipedia.
Me: How good is India’s contribution to wikipedia?
GB: India’s contribution to wikipedia is really remarkable. Jimmy Wales’ three visits to India within a year indicate the high regard which he has for wikipedians – both present and potential wikipedians – in India. Everyone knows the potentials of India as a super Knowledge Process Powerhouse. Undoubtedly, the number of wikipedians located in India or Indian wikipedians located elsewhere in the world are rather less compared to countries like the USA. Canada, the UK, and Australia, but Indian wikipedian community is a robust one and it is expanding. In fact, the world wikipedia community has recognized this and there are many Indian wikipedians who have been endowed with administrative tools to manage wikipedia. One of the administrators is also a wikipedia bureaucrat – there are only 11 other active wikipedia bureaucrats in whole world.
To be continued….