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On how Google irreparably wounded Kannada Wikipedia

Google India paid local companies/agencies to test and use their Indian language translation tool. The platform they chose was Wikipedia.

What happened next was disastrous. Especially on Kannada Wikipedia.

Rumors spread that "You get paid for writing on Wikipedia". The regular  contributors felt discouraged as they continued to contribute as volunteers while others, the translators commissioned by agencies were getting paid pretty well.

Google was actually paying the agencies, translators who used their translation tool to translate articles from English Wikipedia to the Indian language projects.
The fact that these translators were pretty new to Wikipedia and that they created huge mess was indigestible to several language communities in India. Some communities (like Tamil for instance) started flagging articles added by translators commissioned by agencies (which in turn were being paid by Google). The flagged articles sometimes were even marked for deletion.

On Kannada Wikipedia though, the articles still remain to be weeded out.

While we do have people who speak out pretty loud while discussing about improving Kannada on the Internet, sadly there aren't many who take active interest or initiative in working on community projects like Wikipedia as volunteers.

Until the issue was raised on several mailing lists, Kannada Wikipedians knew nothing of the agencies commissioned by the Google or that the mysterious set of users who were adding weird pages were actually working for these agencies commissioned by Google India. All we could see were some random user ids using translator tool to dump some below average articles on Wikipedia.

In meetups organized by volunteers, the situation was pathetic. People started asking questions they should have probably asked Google or the agencies commissioned by Google. Even with that, while the more appropriate question was supposed to be "How to become a translator for agencies commissioned by Google?", people relentlessly and shamelessly (or not well informed at times) queried on "How to make money writing for Wikipedia?". Trying to make them understand that we had nothing to do with the agencies commissioned by Google's translation tool project was an uphill task.

And what made it worse was that we as volunteers knew nothing of it.

The community that many of us spent years of our lives on was quickly destroyed by an MNC's plight to improve its own tool. Now, try stirring a discussion on contributing to Kannada Wikipedia, the people here usually ask "How much do they pay?".  


The second shot fired by the state government
It did not help much that later, a well publicized Government funded project hijacked the name 'Wikipedia' for the project they initiated which ironically had nothing to do with Wiki or Encyclopedia.
 

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