From railroads to religion, Pakistani Wikipedia editor Muhammad Ameen Akbar works tirelessly to expand the capacity and content on Urdu Wikipedia.
Earlier this year Muhammad Ameen Akbar agreed to answer a series of question about his work in the Wikimedia movement. In the interview Muhammad talks about his motivations, accomplishments, and goals as a volunteer contributor.
1. Who are you and when did you get involved in the Wikimedia movement?
My name is Muhammad Ameen Akbar. I was born, raised, and live in Muzaffargarh, Punjab, Pakistan. I completed my MBA in Finance, but my interest is in religious research and the spread of knowledge.
I am associated with Pakistan’s first and only Urdu IT magazine Monthly Computing as News Editor for the last decade. Apart from this, I am also looking after the Science and Technology section at UrduPoint.com and contributing regularly in the popular science journal Monthly Global Science.
It was in 2013 when I started working on English Wikipedia regularly. At the time, Wikipedia had limited or outdated information about Pakistan. So I started with editing old and outdated articles about Pakistan. This is how I became a regular contributor at Wikipedia.
2. What specifically motivated you to contribute to Urdu Wikipedia?
Back in 2013, when I was writing a feature for Monthly Computing on Urdu Wikipedia, I explored it thoroughly. Unfortunately at that time, Urdu Wikipedia was nowhere near to the English or even Persian and Arabic Wikipedias. Information available was limited or outdated, and most pages had just a few lines of content. That was the moment I decided to work on Urdu Wikipedia wholeheartedly. In December 2014’s issue of Monthly Computing, I wrote a brief article and tutorial on Urdu Wikipedia. Many readers contacted me to show their appreciation and interest in working on Urdu Wikipedia.
3. How do you get along with fellow editors on Urdu Wikipedia?
All Wikipedia users and admins are very loving and friendly. I am especially impressed with the passion of Tahir Mahmood. In a very short period of time he achieved the milestone of 100 thousand edits. Muhammad Shuaib and Obaid Raza played a vital role for introducing new technical facilities and features for Urdu Wikipedia. I really like the quality of articles written by Sajid Amjad Sajid, Arif Somoro, and Muzamiluddin Syed. In last couple of months Hammad Saeed contributed some very important pages and Usman developed video tutorials about Wikipedia. Adding or editing technical articles requires lots of knowledge and Shahab did an excellent job in this area. There are many other wikipedians that I like.
As an admin of Urdu Wikipedia, I always try to help other users, especially in technical matters. I like to keep an eye on vandalism and try to act as soon as possible.
4. Tell us about the first ever prize contest which you planned and hosted in 2015?
Back in 2015, I initiated a contest to increase the number of new articles and new users. Urdu Wikipedia admins not only encouraged me but also helped me with their valuable comments. It was a great contest and its outcome was beyond expectations. Through social media, blogs/websites and magazines we were able to introduce people to the new world of Urdu Wikipedia and many new users got registered. I am sure we can attract many more people by hosting such events in the future.
At that time, prize money of the contest was PKR 5000 [about $48 USD] which I contributed. Monthly Computing shared its latest magazine with all contestants as a compliment. I feel proud and very positive that we can bring many more Urdu speakers to Urdu Wikipedia.
5. What kind of institutional support or tie-up do you think will be helpful in generating more content on Urdu Wikipedia in future?
In my humble opinion, getting new and active users are the only way we can rapidly increase content contributions. Current active users are doing excellent job but still they are limited. We need capacity building. I have several ideas such as holding an informational seminar at district level for college students. I am sure such activities can get us lots of active and passionate users.
6. Tell us about the Urdu Wikipedia brochure which you’ve designed.
The idea of brochure popped into my mind when I saw an ad of a conference about Urdu language held in Karachi. I thought if we could distribute a brochure about Urdu Wikipedia at the conference, we can attract many new users and contributors. Since Karachi is about a thousand kilometers away from my hometown, I designed a brochure with the help of my fellow Wikipedians, published it in my city and send it to a friend in Karachi who distributed it during the conference. I also distributed this brochure in my own city. Currently I am designing a new brochure and my ultimate goal for 2019 is that I will collaborate with some professional organizations to send this brochure to thousands of students across the country. I know this effort will needs lots of funds but I hope I will manage it.
7. Tell us about your association with Urdupoint and Computing Urdu magazine and how it has served in showcasing Urdu Wikipedia and Urdu Wikipedians.
UrduPoint.com is one of the most visited website of Pakistan and it’s an honor to work in such organization. UrduPoint is an excellent organization where I learned a lot. Covering stories and events about Wikipedia is one of my top most priorities. During my past four years tenure at UrduPoint, I covered every event held by Wikipedians and wrote a couple of dozen feature articles related to Wikipedia. I am thankful to Ali Choudhry, CEO of UrduPoint, for showing his full support for coverage of Wikipedia. Without him, I won’t be able to promote Wikipedia at such scale.
Monthly Computing is playing its role for promoting Urdu Wikipedia in Pakistan. The magazine often features news and how-tos about Wikipedia and had discussed Wikipedia multiple times in editorials. Our efforts are fruitful and we often receive email, letters, and messages from our audience lauding our effort for promoting Urdu Wikipedia.
There are very few institutions such as Urdupoint, Monthly GlobalScience and Monthly Computing who are promoting Wikipedia or Urdu Wikipedia to be precise. I hope more organizations will realize the importance of Urdu Wikipedia.
8. How do you feel being in the top 3 contributors of the Tiger Editathon 2018?
During Tiger Editathon 2018, I added 113 articles. All other users were also very active and I am very happy that I secured 3rd position. I will try to get onto first position in upcoming events.
9. Urdu Wikipedians collaborated with Ukranian Wikipedians in 2016. In 2017, they collaborated with Hebrew Wikipedians. Talks are underway for a possible Urdu-Chinese collaboration. How do you feel about these developments?
Working with other Wikipedia communities is always a great experience. I thoroughly enjoy it. Collaboration with Hebrew and Ukrainian communities not only gave many new articles to Urdu Wikipedia but contributors of Urdu Wikipedia gain new knowledge from those communities. I am very excited about collaboration of Urdu and Chinese Wikipedians. Hopefully I will get top position this time.
10. What is your view about overall contributions to Urdu Wikipedia in the last decade?
I think growth rate of Wikipedia Urdu increased exponentially after 2013. In the last five years alone, Wikipedia Urdu has seen 120 thousand new pages and thousands of new users – many of which are actively contributing. All administrators active ten years ago are now retired and new blood has taken over. New tools and features have made contributing on Wikipedia a lot easier. I firmly believe that Urdu Wikipedia will keep growing and will leave many other Wikipedias behind.
I will continue to advise new Wikipedians to concentrate on quality instead of quantity, get good know-how of technical tools & features, and contribute valuable knowledge.