With Sundar Pichai, an Indian becoming Google CEO, the natural reaction for most people in the country is that it is a matter of pride. While some might argue that Pichai has been an American citizen for the last 25 years or so and that Indians should calm down, for many an Indian heading one of the most important Silicon Valley companies is a reason to celebrate.
But this pride, also comes with a desire to claim Google’s new CEO and his success, a desire that has resulted in a Wikipedia battle. So what’s the contentious issue about Sundar Pichai’s Wikipedia page? His rise in Google, his style of working, his relationship with Google’s top boss Larry Page? Nope, it’s none of these but rather where Sundar Pichai went to school.
Now according to most media reports and interviews Pichai attended Jawahar Vidyalaya for Class X and Vanavani Matriculation for Class XII. However after Google’s CEO Larry Page made the announcement about Pichai succeeding him as CEO, several other schools started claiming Pichai as one of their own.
For starters, Pichai’s high-school was changed to PSBB and Vanavani, according to the Wikipedia edits. In fact, even PSBB’s Wikipedia page mentioned Sundar Pichai as its notable alumnus, which can be seen here. That notable alumni has since been dropped.
Another gleaming gem that was added during this edit change was that Picahi led his school team in the Tamil Nadu Regional Cricket Tournament. Check out the edited page below
This need to claim Sundar Pichai as their school alumni got so bad, that at one point his Wikipedia page showed three schools in the list. The page reflected Jawahar Vidyalaya, Vanavani Matriculation and a new addition on the list was GRT Mahalaksmi Vidyalaya. Check out the page below.
At some point, someone decided to go all out on this ‘school’ madness and added that Pichai was already in IIT by the time he was 8 and that he never went to school. Oh and Rajinikanth and Shaktiman made an appearance in this post as well because when you’re mocking something, why stop at anything.
Hopefully they were doing this as a joke and not being serious. Check out that Wikipedia version below:
And yes the edits are continuing. So far Pichai’s wikipedia page has seen over 354 edits in the last week alone, and the number of users who have edited Pichai’s page stands at 406.
If you see the graph on the edit stats page for Pichai, you will notice how the graph spikes once August 2015 starts, the month when he was announced as Google’s new CEO.
While some of us might have a good laugh over this ‘edit-war’, the issue raises concerns over how ‘collective wisdom’ online is often guided by its inherent biases. In this case, the desire to claim the new Google CEO as a member of one particular Chennai school has reduced the whole exercise of Wikipedia’s democratic freedoms to a farcical exercise.
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