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(Not)able Alumni? Loyolites edited out of Wikipedia

On the Loyola School page in Wikipedia, there is a list of ‘notable alumni’. Er…there was. It’s gone.

More than a year ago, on 13 June 2011 to be exact, it was removed by Wiki contributor Lettherebelight. (Update: The contributor changed his username, following this blogpost.)

Reason given? “Criteria for inclusion subjective”.

Here’s the list that provoked deletion.

NOTABLE ALUMNI

Classes of 1968-79

  • Cherian Kalpakavadi (1974) – Film Scriptwriter
  • Joy Elamon (1978) – public health activist
  • Prathap Suthan (1977) – National Creative Director, Cheil Communications India
  • Pulickel Ajayan (1977) – Professor of Materials Science and Nanotechnology, Rice University
  • Rajeev Nath – film maker
  • Rajeev Trivandrum (1969) (aka S. Rajeev) – Executive Vice President, Asianet Cable Vision, Asianet Satellite Communications
  • Ramnath S. (1970) – Managing Director, Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation
  • Sangeeth Sivan – film maker
  • Santosh Sivan (1976) – film maker
  • Jose Degaul Pius (ISC 1976) – finance professional (overseas)
  • Santosh Rollands – President of Jesuit Alumni Association of India

Classes of 1980-89

  • Bipin Prabhakar – Professor, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University (Bloomington)
  • Parameswaran Nair (1980) – Associate Professor of Medicine, McMaster University
  • Rajiv Vijayan (1980) – Vice President (Technology), Qualcomm
  • S. Krishnan, IAS (1982) – Secretary, Department of Fertilizers, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India
  • Sreenath Sreenivasan (1987) – Dean of Student Affairs and Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Classes of 1990-99

  • Anand Raghavan (1993) – President, Asha for Education
  • Anil Shaji (1993) – Assistant Professor of Physics, IISER Thiruvananthapuram
  • Anup Kuruvilla John, IPS (1997) – former Police commissioner, Kozhikode
  • Vyasan Radhakrishnan, IAS ( Nagaland Cadre)
  • Chandrasekhar M. Nair (1995) – Assistant Professor of Information Engineering, Chinese University of Hong Kong
  • Jishnu Dasgupta (1996) – bass guitarist and backing vocalist, Swarathma
  • Harikesh S. Nair (1994) – Associate Professor of Marketing, Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Vivek Karunakaran (1998) – fashion designer; owner of the ”viia” label

Were the criteria for inclusion subjective? Were there some names that should not have been there? Yes.

But did it warrant the erasure of the entire section on the Loyola page? No. There are a few notable alumni who Wikipedia acknowledges unquestioningly, like Santosh Sivan, Pulickel Ajayan, and Sreenath Sreenivasan. There is no good reason to edit them out of the Loyola School page.

What’s the way forward?

Let us adopt the following criterion — if a Loyolite has a Wikipedia entry which is at least 3 years old, he makes it to the list on the school’s page. This criterion is objectively verifiable, uses Wikipedia itself to measure notability, and delivers information to the reader.

(“3 years” is subjective, but is proposed for a reason. Wikipedia content is monitored, and a three-year old biographical entry is in itself proof that the person is “notable”. By the way, Prathap Suthan and Sangeeth Sivan too make the grade, by this criterion.)

Do you agree with Wikipedia’s action? Is the proposed criterion satisfactory? Speak out!

* * *

Psst…have you seen loyolawiki? It’s a new wiki-style encyclopaedia on just Loyola School. Students, teachers, alumni can chip in with the lyrics of a song sung in Loyola, an article on campus cricket, whatever.

 

 

 

 

***

Update: As of 5 Nov 2012, the notable alumni section is back in Wikipedia. (A few days after the blogpost here, I used Wikipedia’s feature to ‘talk’ to Lettherebelight. Instead of responding to the proposed criteria, he/she deleted my ‘talk’ message, and changed his own username. I then raised this in the ‘talk’ page on the school, but nobody responded. After 10-12 days, I re-created a notable alumni section, and inserted three names.)

What’s Happening?

A few readers and contributors have been asking about my silence here.

I’m taking a blog-break. God knows, you and I need it.  🙂

See you on 15 February 2010.

Looking Back: Blogging in 2008

Another year has whirred by, and let’s look at how the blog fared.

[TABLE=2]

How were these modest improvements achieved?

1. Publicity

Among the new subscribers to the free, monthly e-newsletter more than half (57 members) joined in January. This was the result of a publicity blitz by Syam Nath (2007) via Orkut and e-mail. Also, during School Day 2007, I met old boys of recent batches, introduced myself and the blog, and distributed visiting cards of loyolites.com. It was humbling to learn that very few had even heard of loyolites.com or this blog. Syam too was there to distribute the cards.

2. Activity

Asif Kalam (2005) and I tried out a short, fixed-deadline campaign in connection with Teacher’s Day, unlike the long-term, open-ended Great School Campaign, begun here in 2007. The Teacher’s Day Campaign attracted a lot of interest — on this blog, there were 400+ pageviews each on September 4 and 5. That’s usually the number of pageviews we see in an entire week. Voluntary associations, I have heard, use activity as a tool to energise volunteers, keep the flock together, and assert relevance in society. This year, I learnt that activities have a positive effect in blogdom too.

My blogging goals for 2008 were met only partially.

  1. Deliver good content and regularly. 4 out of 10. Two mentions at Desipundit (on career choice, on policing) suggests that I was able to deliver good content once-in-a-while. But I tripped over my fortnightly posting schedule, and skipped posting more than once. Worse, I once skipped sending out the newsletter too.
  2. Build the great school campaign and spark a few more ventures. 7 out of 10. In my view, the school’s current leadership is quite regressive and adheres to a completely different set of values. Rather than continue to curse the darkness, I am trying to build the Great School Campaign by rejuvenating LENS. Action, not just talk. The Teacher’s Day campaign and Loyola Hangaroo (an online game) were the other ventures sparked off in 2008.
  3. Make the blog self-financing, at least to pay the webhosting charges ($10/month). 0 out 10. When I last checked, I had made $19 via GoogleAds. So, I removed the ads from the site. A few old boys offered to host the blog at their webspace, but I was not looking for webspace — I just wish that somebody would pay my webhosting charges, so that I can focus my energies and money on delivering good content.
  4. Do all this more efficiently, i.e. in less time. 3 out of 10. For sure, I spent less time writing blogposts. But offline activities consumed a lot of time. Since I enjoy doing this, I am quite ok with the overall time I spent in 2008 on the Loyola front.

This year’s vote of thanks go largely to the Commenters for reminding me that my blog is being read with interest, Syam (2007) for bringing in new subscribers, Karthik C (1999) for putting me on the Desipundit radar, and Asif Kalam (2005) for infusing tech-talent and humour into the running of loyolites.com. Vishnu Dattan (2001) not only helped to organise the Teacher’s Day Campaign but, like my brother Roshen (1989), also cautioned and encouraged me privately more than once.

Rather than set fresh blogging goals for 2009, I’ll try to improve the score on each goal I set for 2008.

Rejuvenating LENS

Rejuvenating LENS

In school, although a regular reader of LENS, I was never a member of the LENS squad that published the wallpaper. So, last fortnight (5 September), when I interacted with Loyola students about the publishing of LENS, I did not tell them about “those glorious years”; instead, I spoke to them about the future of LENS.

Not because LENS was bad in my time. In the 1980s, LENS used to be elegant — typewritten on a letterhead, with a green band a few inches from the top, the name “LENS” left-aligned and in maroon, a graphic of a lens to magnify the “L”, the expansion “Loyola English News Service” written beneath the logo, and available on the notice-board in front of the school office in the main building. Despite such attractiveness, the first word that comes to my mind when I think of LENS, is “irregular”. Because LENS was sometimes available in the Silver Jubilee Block, but often not. LENS was sometimes published every week, but often not. In my middle and high school years, LENS was like a 60+ in history from Fr Pulickal — you long for it, and you’ll get it one day, but not today.

A few years later, I learnt from other old boys that LENS had turned even more irregular — it got published well in the odd year, but in some years it did not appear at all, and the LENS squad was no longer a ‘star’ squad that students competed to join. This year’s school newsletter brought out before Onam holidays lists a few staff advisors for LENS, but doesn’t mention even one student’s name.

It seems funny, because the LENS largely disappeared at a time when desktop publishing wove itself into our lives, and opened up numerous ways of publishing LENS smarter. Today, than ever in the past, it is easier to snap pictures using digital camera, key in articles using MS Word, choose multi-column option, and get a neat printed look that rivals the frontpage of any mainstream newspaper. Also, it takes just an hour to get the e-version ready and publish online, to reach out to old boys and former teachers scattered across the world.

In an earlier post on the Great School Campaign, I had argued that the school was getting stronger in hardware (more computers, in this context), but probably weaker in software (poor training to bring out LENS). Rather than just whine, we decided to do something. We got in touch with a student who had published LENS this year. Noel and his friends were not officially in the LENS squad, but they had displayed initiative and talent. The school too welcomed our idea to rejuvenate LENS.

That’s how, last fortnight, I was speaking to Loyola students about the future of LENS — the heights it can achieve in two years. I talked about journalism principles, shared tips on reporting, editing and design, and outlined the possibilities of a web edition. That Friday evening, we took stock of where LENS is, and where LENS can be. We’ll now try to travel from point A to point B.

The rejuvenation of LENS is also an experiment where old boys partner with the school to make Loyola a great school. Because we aren’t satisfied with Loyola being a good school.

***

Visit http://lens.loyolites.com to catch the first issue of 2008. To stay tuned, subscribe to our free, monthly e-newsletter.

The Future of the Alumni Movement

The Future of the Alumni Movement

The school’s alumni movement reminds me of the main playground at Loyola. There, during lunch-break on any working day, you could find numerous groups of students playing different games. There were the senior boys playing football, and there were numerous smaller groups of smaller children playing football or cricket. Often the twain did meet, but after glares or gore, the glory of sport would continue.

Similarly, in the Loyola alumni movement, you can see the Old Boys’ Association playing their game, and smaller groups of Loyolites opting for corners of the field.

When people are thus playing to their heart’s content, I hate to be the messenger of bad news: this multiplicity of groups, the networks and all that are fine for the present, but they are inadequate for the future. Why?

Sounding the alarm?

To signal the end of the lunch-break, and the restart of classes, the school used to ring a bell. If the bell didn’t exist, students would have played for more hours, till they got tired and quit the field.

This is what’s happening in the Loyola alumni movement. There is no co-ordinating agency to perform the role of the bell, and volunteers (in OBA as well as other groups) who lose the initial enthusiasm, quit the scene. The remaining chaps do not know what to do, they too are tired, and they kick the ball around lazily. They don’t play for an audience, the spectators leave, and as time passes by, it becomes difficult to get enough spectators. In short, the game in town collapses or becomes a farce.

The absence of a co-ordinator hurts the movement significantly in another way: no one pays attention to the future. The players believe that they are playing for fun, not for achieving worthy goals. They are volunteers who play when they feel like it. Identifying goals for the future (how alumni can help the school), or constantly updating information about old boys, or building goodwill for the future (by sending newsletters, maintaining a website), are “serious” things for…well, somebody else. Bad news again — somebody else got tired and left the field.

Thus, when things have to be done, but are not done, the movement weakens. All play and no work makes Jack a dull boy.

Some of us believe that it’s a free market, and that one group or the other will emerge as the dominant player/game in town. That is possible, but unlikely, because the groups here are undertaking activities voluntarily, and limiting their game to their own small spheres. Also, e-groups and Orkut communities may grow in size and number, but after a while, their enthusiasm wanes.

Tomorrow, we can do fantastic things for the school and the community. Or maybe tomorrow, we may need to come together for a cause. Who has the credibility and the reach to bring us together? None, at the moment.

For a healthy future, the alumni movement probably needs to drop anchor in the school, and shed its voluntary character. The school should set up an office, generate funds (from alumni and the management), employ professional staff, and run the alumni movement. Universities abroad and MBA institutes in India have adopted that model partly because they realise that the schools themselves will benefit by promoting alumni relations.

The Loyola alumni movement needs a school bell.

Products and Services for Loyola Alumni

Products and Services for Loyola Alumni

Last week, we launched a Loyola search engine here at loyolites.com. Users searching anything related to Loyola School, Trivandrum will now get more relevant search results. You will no longer have to wade through pages of Google results because, instead of searching the entire web for your keywords (search terms), the Loyola search engine will give you results from a specialised search of blogs and websites of Loyolites. It’s powered by Google and to start with, digs 55+ blogs and websites. Try it yourself.

The Loyola search engine is a product/service that improves our lives in a simple and small way. It is not the first of Loyola products, but it highlights the potential and likelihood of a new generation of products for Loyola old boys.

Generation 1 Products

The earliest Loyola alumni products were the newsletter and the directory, both launched by the Loyola Old Boys’ Association (LOBA) between 1990 and 1992, when P.A. Murukan (1984) was the secretary. Since then, the newsletter has invariably appeared twice a year. The revised editions of the directory have been less frequent. Bringing out a revised directory is a mammoth task, one that calls for a Pradeep Kumar (1974) to lead and accomplish. An online version (partially revised) appeared in July 2004, but is no longer available on the web.

Gen 1 products were initiated by the Association, and were used by LOBA members of various batches. These products emerged in an era when people looked up to the Fat Man to deliver the goods. If one or two Loyolites had an idea for the alumni community, they would approach Fat Man, and after deliberations among office-bearers, Fat Man would either accept (and implement) the idea or reject the idea. If the idea was rejected, Little Boys would go home, instead of implementing it on their own. Because even though LOBA members did not account for even 1/3rd of the students who studied at Loyola, the Association was synonymous with the Loyola alumni movement.

Generation 2 Products

Somewhere in the late 1990s, things changed. As the economy liberalised, people became confident of trying things out on their own; looking up to the state went out of fashion in India. In LOBA’s case, more than the social environment, it was probably technology that ushered in a new era. The internet made it possible for Little Boys to ignore the Fat Man.

1988 batch logoIn several batches, one or two Loyolites created e-groups. Little Boys did not bother to pitch the idea to Fat Man; they just set up the groups and started exchanging mails. As the internet became ubiquitous and more Loyolites joined the infotech industry, e-groups mushroomed and buzzed with activity. Some batches (like 1988, 1991, 1998 and 2001) set up their own websites.

These Gen 2 alumni products/services were initiated by one or two individuals, and were aimed at serving their own batch. An exception was the 1991 batch’s website, but that too was set up initially for the batch, and was only later extended to the entire Loyola alumni community. The ‘batchward’ sentiment of the era is also reflected in the rise of batch names. Boys of Seventy-Seven (BOSS – 1977), Ninety-One Batch LoyolitES (NOBLES -1991), Knights (1988) and Sabse Aage (2001) became prominent.

Generation 3 Products

And now we have Gen 3 — products initiated by a few individuals, but for the entire Loyola community (and possibly beyond). The Loyola search engine is an example, but not the first of this kind.

Loyola School Trivandrum community at OrkutThe earliest Gen 3 products were the communities of Loyolites at Orkut, which helped old boys get in touch with friends, including seniors and juniors. The Loyola School Trivandrum community, the biggest of them, was set up in 2004 by Christophe Manshoven (2001) and handed over to Deepak Madhusoodanan (1996). Note the inter-batch co-operation without mediation by LOBA. loyolites.com too sprang up in 2007 at the initiative of a few individuals of different batches, and serves all Loyolites; it was neither conceived nor implemented by LOBA.

The shift from Gen 2 to Gen 3 too has been driven by technology and how people use it. Today, tools for creating small products are available on our personal computer, and the expenses involved are negligible. Preparing an audio-video feature on Loyola no longer calls for signing a deal with a TV production company; if you or your friends are talented and tech-literate, it can be readied over a weekend. I think we’ll see more Gen 3 products coming from tech-savvy Loyolites who are in college: they have ideas, they are enterprising, and they embrace technology.

What product/service can you create?

Memorabilia and other alumni products

T-shirts, posters, coffee mugs or any of the merchandise typically produced for universities in the US and Europe? How about a Loyola alumni letterhead that old boys can use to write letters to teachers? Heard of the guy who created a “Cheer Loyola Sons” ringtone? Why not offer an MP3 collection called “Songs of Loyola” for download? Students of Loyola, why not publish the LENS on the internet? Why not sell a CD of the school magazines? Why not…

Contrary to beliefs, it does not take much time to create a product. It took me only one day to set up the Loyola search engine. It may have taken me 25 hours (spread across months) to set up the system for the monthly e-newsletter; it takes less than two hours a month to deliver the service.

Why would you create a Loyola product? For the sheer fun of it. There are bonuses in store too. If your product is offered free (like my blog or the e-newsletter), you’ll be happy when a Loyolite calls you from London to say that he enjoys using your product. If your product is sold at a price, you can earn a few bucks. In my experience, there’s a vast pool of Loyolites eager to consume Loyola products. There are buyers waiting for sellers.

In the past, people expected Fat Man to do things, and complained whenever Fat Man failed to. Today, Little Boys take the road less travelled, and oh boy, hasn’t that made a difference! So, think of a Loyola product and run with it.

I look forward to hosting a “Loyola Shop” at loyolites.com in 2008.

What’s your idea, mate?

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