I left Chennai on Wednesday(8th) and reached Frankfurt airport on Thursday morning. Rest of the people from India for wikimania- Shiju Alex, Tinu Cherian, Srinivas Gunta, Arjun Rao were already reached the airport and I joined them. We reached Gdansk Airport by 12.30 PM. Our accommodation was at a students hostel of Gdansk University. Language was a big issue since most of the people does not understand English and only know Polish Language. The lady at the reception of the hostel we stayed was using Google translate tool for communicating with us. The Gdansk city is a very beautiful city with streets of big brick made tall buildings.
The conference started on Friday morning. Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. talked about the strategies of foundation, and it followed by a QnA with wikimedia board members. We presented the Malayalam CD to Sue Gardner. She remembered the International free software conference she attended at Trivandum on 2008 december.
Our workshop on offline wikipedia versions started at 2.30. Martin Walked introduced the workshop to participants. Manuel Schneider from German wikipedia explained the Openzim format for offline compressed storage of wikipedia and the available readers on desktop computers and mobile phones. Shiju Alex introduced the Malayalam wikipedia offline verision 1.0. I talked about the issues and solutions for providing an offline version, particularly a non-latin complex script wiki to users in CD ROM or DVD. I demonstrated sample offline wikis on Hebru, Tamil, Polish, English, Japanese with the wiki2cd tool. There were a couple of questions on wiki2cd and openzim. Kul Takanao Wadhwa and Tomasz Finc from wikimedia foundation who are focusing on offline wiki projects attended the workshop and we had a discussion after the talk.
The offline wiki workshop continued with Pediapress team. They are the people behind the recently added export book/PDF feature of wikipedia. Unfortunately this feature require lots of improvements to get work with Indian scripts.
We met Gerald M, who focus on language support of wikis. He is such a person with amazing passion towards our local language wikipedias. We discussed on the technical issues of the local language wikis. Siebrand joined the discussion and he pointed out some improvements in wiki2cd software.
On the second day I met Volker Haas, the developer of PDF export/books feature of wikipedia. The library used by the extension of creating PDFs is Reportlab. But it does not support complex scripts such as Indic or Arabic. We have a long discussion on possible solutions. Discussed the Reportlab code. the mwlib code, and the s/w which I am writing now a days to provide complex script pdf rendering APIs. We will continue to try out some of the options we have to solve this issue soon.
Martin Walker, who presented the Article Selection process of English wikipedia along with us in the workshop invited me and Shiju for a dinner with his family. And we went for that.
The third day started with plenary session by Jimmy Wales. He talked about small language wikipedia and the issues faced by them. He emphasized the need for offline versions of wikipedia to reach more number of people and talked about the Malayalam Wikipedia offline version.
Mayooranathan from Tamil wikipedia presented the issues and statistics of Tamil Wikipedia Community. On Monday and Tuesday, we spent time by roaming around the Old Town of Gdansk. Visited St. Marys Church , the biggest brick made church in the world. We climbed the 400 steps of the tower of the church. From the top of the chruch, one can see the entire city. We went to the Baltic sea beach -Westerplatte on a boat and visited Wisłoujście Fortress
Creating Malayalam Wikipedia CD: http://shijualex.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/creating-malayalam-wikipedia-cd/