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Sana'a, Yemen

From Wikipedia 10
15 Jan 2010, at 05:00 PM
Wikipedia 10th anniversary celebration

Anyone who loves Wikipedia is welcome! Facebook invitation: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=181332855223107&num_event_invites=0

Event coverage in the Yemen Times! http://www.yementimes.com/defaultdet.aspx?SUB_ID=35426

Nadia Al-Sakkaf Published:17-01-2011

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, celebrated its tenth anniversary on January 15 and invited users around the globe to mark the occasion.

The world’s fifth most popular website has become well-liked in Yemen, where more and more researchers, academics, journalists and general web users look up its information. It was therefore no surprise when Yemeni fans responded to the call and organized an event at Mokha Bunn coffee shop in Sana’a on January 15.

Rana Jarhum, who calls herself the number one Wikipedia fan in Yemen invited Yemeni Wikipedia users to the gathering through the social online network Facebook. She explained what fascinates her about the website.

“Wikipedia is organic. It is made by people who get together from all around the world in order to accumulate human knowledge in one place,” she said.

Wikipedia users are part of the success of the site, as they can freely participate in creating and editing articles, thereby spreading the ownership of Wikipedia across the globe.

“For once, history is written by the people and not only by those in power,” Jarhum emphasized.

Several Yemeni Wikipedia fans followed Jarhum’s invitation to mark the occasion. Afrah Naser is a journalist and uses the website for her work. She participated in the celebration to show the world that Yemenis also use and support the website.

“I want to tell the world that internet freaks and news junkies like me are here in Yemen and celebrate this useful website,” she said.

Ahmed Qasem works as accountant with IOM. He has used Wikipedia not only for general research, but also for specific information related to his work, such as accounting terms and definitions.

“I like the idea of Wikipedia and I am a fan. You get everything in one place. I am here to support the site,” Qasem said.

Arabic Wikipedia

The problem with Wikipedia for the Arab world is that the Arabic version of the site is “terribly awful”, as the gathering agreed.

Jarhum said that especially the information on Yemen that is available in Arabic is of bad quality.

“The topics are not as many and the information is not written in a comprehensive way,” she complained.

Bilal Murad is a third year university student who has never used Wikipedia, but nevertheless decided to attend the event. He said that there are few references to Wikipedia in the Arabic internet.

“Wikipedia articles hardly come up when I make a google search. When I heard about this event I was intrigued so I came to see what this excitement is all about,” he said.

The low quality of the Arabic Wikipedia is the reason why only few non-English speakers in the Arab world know of the website or make use of it. Almost all the fans gathering at the coffee shop knew English well enough to browse Wikipedia articles in both languages.

The participatory character of Wikipedia means that the quality of its content depends on the users who actively contribute to the site by writing and editing articles. While this approach has the potential of bringing together the best knowledge from around the world, it cannot assure that an article has actually been written by a specialist on the topic.

Credibility is therefore a main problem of the website, as the Yemeni fans gathering in Sana’a agreed.

Yemen’s Wikipedia fan number 1, Jarhum added that as an open source website, Wikipedia can also include biased information. However, the organizer of the celebration said she would not have it any other way.

“What you need to do is look up the references,” she advised and stressed the benefits of the participatory approach. "That is the beauty of it. It is an extended-human brain over the web. It is crowdsourcing, which also is a quality control mechanism," she said.