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Persian Wikipedia's Entries Pass the 100,000 Mark


By Pejman Akbarzadeh

Wikipedia's Persian Section has been celebrating recently. It is now a wiki-edition with over 100,000 articles.

The number of users of and contributors to Persian Wikipedia is by no means comparable to that of the English section. However, even with fewer numbers, the Persian language is now firmly established as part of Wikipedia: the free online encyclopedia that despite criticism is expanding everyday on the internet.

If you use the web for research purposes or for keeping up with the news, you must have noticed that whenever you search a topic, a place, a person, or even an event in Persian, that the first search result often leads to Wikipedia Persian. Wikipedia is not only a source for discovering information about various topics, but many of its entries are copied and published on various blogs and websites. The collaboration of users working to complete, update, and open new topics on Wikipedia is the unique feature of the online encyclopedia and serves to keep it up-to-date. However, this very quality has also drawn the criticism of many who question the reliability of a source that can be altered by anyone in any corner of the world without showing any proof of qualifications.

Yet the debate is not so simple and it is becoming more and more complicated every day. A group of users who act like an editorial board consistently supervise the changes and reverse those that are against regulations. Wikipedia is not, in effect, a space for original research, but rather a place where information from specific and reliable sources is arranged and compiled.

The Wikipedia project, which can currently provide information for users in 272 languages, started its official activities in 2000. Its main host is located in Florida, USA; it also collaborates with a number of hosts in Amsterdam and Seoul.

The first entries in Persian appeared in 2003 with the efforts of Rouzbeh Pournader and Massoud Alinaqian, founders of Persian Wikipedia. The Persian language has now ascended a few lines on the Wikipedia homepage to show itself off amongst the languages that have more than one hundred thousand articles. Mani Parsa, a graduate of the Persian Studies Department at Leiden University in Netherlands, who is also one of the editors of Persian Wikipedia, told Radio Zamaneh, "Right now, from the page that shows the ranking of languages, one can see that Persian is ranked as a language with a high number of articles and this attests to the prestige of the language. Along with the number of posts in each language, another section also indicates the depth of the articles, the length, and the level of editing. Persian ranks high on this aspect, too. A while ago, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, spoke of Persian Wikipedia as a branch that has acted without bias while at first it appeared that it would be heavily influenced by political issues."

But what about Persian Wikipedia's growth? Have the editing and creation of new pages picked up speed or is it still crawling along as it did in its opening years? "Behafarid" another editor of Persian Wikipedia who lives in Canada told Amsterdam-based Radio Zamaneh, "This section has seen tremendous growth; especially after we reached the 20,000 mark. It was then that the collaborations began to fall into place. At first, Mani congratulated us for reaching article 1000, and it took a while for our efforts to get going."

I ask about the possibility of rallying journalists and bloggers to collaborate but "Behafarid" answers, "Our experience has shown that bloggers are used to writing their own opinions and when they come to Wikipedia, they want to continue on that track. However, this is against Wikipedia policy. So we did not make any efforts to attract them."

"Behafarid" maintains that the shortage of human power is the main obstacle to Persian Wikipedia's expansion, adding, "It is vital that those who have access to reliable sources collaborate with us and write the articles."

Wikipedia's Persian Section now ranks as the 33rd language of this project. The Persian section has also created a special page for the occasion of reaching the 100,000 mark where users have expressed some interesting ideas. Rahgozar-online says: "I too would like to congratulate all our friends. However, I want to remind them that the last entries which took us to the 100,000 mark were not pleasant and lacked content, and it brings to mind the possibility that appearances have taken precedence over content in Persian Wikipedia. It may also be seen as an affront to those users who take time from their busy schedules to create quality articles. However, we can perhaps overlook this concern for now in the excitement of reaching the 100,000 mark." Vahid writes: "My feelings are similar to those of welcoming the New Year and the peace that follows it. Many thanks to you all." Finally Ebrahim adds: "Friends, please do not slow down in writing articles. Although I am a strong believer in quality, we must not fall from the 33rd position at any price."

NOTE: The above article was originally published in Persian on Radio Zamaneh website. Pejman Akbarzadeh is a Netherlands-based pianist, journalist and documentary maker (

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