G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Why Ketkar-pedia (महाराष्ट्रीय ज्ञानकोश) Flopped but Wikipedia Booms?

Brad DeLong said on December 24, 2007:

"blogging evangelist Dave Winer made a long bet with New York Times executive Martin Nisenholtz: "In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site."...

...In the five years since the bet was made, a clear winner did emerge, but it was neither blogs nor the Times.

Wikipedia, which was only one year old in 2002, ranks higher today on four of the five [top] news stories [of 2007]: 12th for Chinese exports, fifth for oil prices, first for the Iraq war, fourth for the mortgage crisis and first for the Virginia Tech killings..."

The Economist on April 20, 2006 said:

”… Wikipedia's promise is nothing less than the liberation of human knowledge—both by incorporating all of it through the collaborative process, and by freely sharing it with everybody who has access to the internet. This is a radically popular idea.

Wikipedia's English-language version doubled in size last year and now has over 1m articles. By this measure, it is almost 12 times larger than the print version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Taking in the other 200-odd languages in which it is published, Wikipedia has more than 3m articles. Over 100,000 people all over the world have contributed, with a total of almost 4m “edits” between them.

Wikipedia already has more “visitors” than the online New York Times, CNN and other mainstream sites. It has become a vital research tool for huge numbers of people. And Wikipedia is only five years old.

This success has made Wikipedia the most famous example of a wider wiki phenomenon. Wikis are web pages that allow anybody who is allowed to log into them to change them. In Wikipedia's case, that happens to be anybody at all. The word “wiki” comes from the Hawaiian word for “quick”, but also stands for “what I know is...”. Wikis are thus the purest form of participatory creativity and intellectual sharing, and represent “a socialisation of expertise”, as David Weinberger, who is currently writing a book on collaborative intelligence, puts it…”

Dr. Shridhar Venkatesh Ketkar श्रीधर व्यंकटेश केतकर (1884-1937) is a formidable name in the pre-independence history of India.

His reputation is based on his unique creation - a 23-volume encyclopedia in Marathi, called Maharashtreeya Dnyankosh महाराष्ट्रीय ज्ञानकोश. His work received no government funding and took 12 years of his life eventually killing his diabetic body.

He reminds me of great Don Quixote. We may all laugh at Don but we envy him deep down, for his capacity to dream and incessant efforts he puts in to pursue those dreams, against impossible odds.

T S Shejwakar त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर, Durga Bhagwat दुर्गा भागवत, Y D Phadke य दि फडके and many others have written very sensitively and perceptively on the life and work of Dr. Ketkar.

Phadke’s article informed me most. Shejwalkar's brought tears to my eyes.

Phadke argued that Ketkar shouldn’t have undertaken this project. He thought Ketkar was a very promising sociologist and should have stuck to his core skill. By doing so, he would have contributed more to India’s intellectual progress.

As Phadke demonstrated in his article, Ketkar was a highly opinionated person. He wasn’t ready to listen to any expert, let alone revising his work based on their views.

(“व्यक्ती आणि विचार” य दि फडके; “Persons and Thoughts” Y D Phadke, 1979

"निवडक लेखसंग्रह" त्र्यंबक शंकर शेजवलकर; "Selected Articles-collection" by Tryambak Shankar Shejwalkar 1977)

You can’t compile encyclopedia with this attitude.

The Economist on April 20, 2006 said:

“…Among the new media, wikis are the perfect complement to blogs. Whereas blogs contain the unedited, opinionated voice of one person, wikis explicitly and literally allow groups of people to get on the proverbial “same page”…”

Ketkar wasn’t ready to get on the same page with anyone who didn’t agree with him, he didn’t believe in collaborative intelligence!

For that reason, sadly, Maharashtreeya Dnyankosh महाराष्ट्रीय ज्ञानकोश is just a relic today.

Ketkar says to all of us:


‘I thought I had an encyclopedia inside me but it was just a blog.’

variation on The Spectator cartoon