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Lessig on Digital Barbarism

Lawrence Lessig has posted a review of David Halperin's recent book, Digital Barbarism.

Halperin, who authored the (in)famous New York Times article calling for perpetual copyright, has now compiled his ideas into a book. Lessig offers a much-needed critique, including citing misconceptions about Creative Commons (Halperin conflates it not only with "freeware" with software... more

The Wikipedia Academies Launch in Johannesburg
Heather Ford · Johannesburg (South Africa) · Nov 19th, 2007 8:29 pm · 30 votes · 3 comments
Jimmy Wales with participants at the Wikipedia Academy in Johannesburg., Jimmy Wales, CC BY-SA 3.0 (
Jimmy Wales with participants at the Wikipedia Academy in Johannesburg., by Jimmy Wales

Learners at CIDA City campus who took part in the Academy
CC BY-SA 3.0
Jimmy Wales with Ndesanjo Macha, father of Swahili Wikipedia
CC BY-SA 3.0
Wikipedia Founder and iCommons Board Member, Jimmy Wales, launched the African Wikipedia Academy series at CIDA City Campus in Johannesburg on Saturday. He spoke about his passion to help build a free encyclopedia of the very highest possible quality for every single person on the planet in their own language.

It made a lot of sense that the first South African Wikipedia Academy took place at CIDA City Campus. Wikipedia is dubbed ‘the free encyclopedia’ and CIDA the first ‘free university’ in South Africa, but it is not only the “cost” that these two pioneering initiatives share. Both are founded on the concepts of community contribution: Wikipedia is built by thousands of contributors from around the world who share their knowledge with their fellow language speakers; CIDA is maintained by the students who help run the university, teach young people during their holidays and help pay university costs of other students when they graduate. It is this sense of community and community contribution that has made both Wikipedia and CIDA so successful in delivering quality education to the poor.

Wales inspired the students with a vision of creating their own local language encyclopedias. African language Wikipedias still have a long way to go. Of South Africa’s 11 official languages other than English, Afrikaans is by far the largest with around 8,700 articles. After that, only Zulu has moved beyond the 100-article mark.

Wales thinks that this is largely due to the fact that contributors who build Wikipedias on their own can get very lonely. This is why it’s so important to build local language Wikipedia communities so that more people are encouraged to join the group and contribute together.

Ndesanjo Macha, considered by many as the ‘Father of Swahili Wikipedia’, spoke about his own experience at building Wikipedia in Tanzania. He said that he used to go to his village in Tanzania and ask the old people to tell him stories about African spirituality. Then he would tell people in the towns and they would say, ‘But where is it written?’ Now he tells people to go to Swahili Wikipedia ‘where it is written.’

Frank Schulenburg who founded the Wikipedia Academies in Germany to encourage students and faculty from local universities to contribute to Wikipedia, led the training at CIDA – along with a number of volunteers.

It was a highly successful event with more consistent training planned for the future. Many of the students didn’t know that Wikipedia existed in their home language, and were thrilled to know how easy it is to edit the encyclopedia. Taddy Blecher, founder of CIDA City Campus, remarked how great it would be to have a class on editing Wikipedia. Wikipedia teaches a number of skills including the beginnings of programming, web development, web research skills, language skills as well as writing – especially in the objective ‘Neutral Point of View’ that Wikipedia requires.

On Sunday, a small group of Afrikaans Wikipedians and local Afrikaans media met with Wales to discuss how to advance Afrikaans Wikipedia which has been called ‘a tiny giant’. Laurens Cloete, an active contributor and administrator on Afrikaans Wikipedia, spoke about some of the strategies they could employ to grow their community and to reach out to other local language Wikipedias in Africa.

‘We tend to not talk to people and that’s not the way to grow a community,’ he said.

The goal is to build Afrikaans Wikipedia into the size of the Scandinavian Wikipedias like Finnish Wikipedia – since they have similar numbers of native speakers.

iCommons hopes to coordinate a series of African Wikipedia Academies in partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation in the future, and will be working with CIDA students to build local language Wikipedia communities.

Thanks to Ndesanjo Macha, Ian Gilfillan, Frank Schulenburg and Laurens Cloete, as well as the awesome iCommons staff and to the Wikimedia Foundation for all their help this weekend!

tags: johannesburg south africa education wikipedia academy africa

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great stuff! I hope we hear some good tales about its progress in the near future.
pfctdayelise · Melbourne (Australia) · Nov 19th, 2007 9:33 pm
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Great job iCommons crew ..with 11 languages we have an interesting challenge here in SA, but then India is ROCKING article production & they have a staggering amount of dialects.
Looking forward to getting some Wikipedia Academy learnings activated here in Cape Town in 2008
max kaizen · Cape Town (South Africa) · Nov 20th, 2007 9:00 pm
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Thanks for the great comments, gals! We're busy working on proposals to extend these events to Cape Town and Windhoek next year :)
Heather Ford · Johannesburg (South Africa) · Nov 22nd, 2007 8:56 pm
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