Wikimedia Conference 2014 Report

From Wikimedia UK
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Attendees of WMCON14 in Berlin

The conference in Berlin was wonderfully well organised by our colleagues in the German Chapter for whom nothing was too much trouble. For the first time the organisers aimed to focus much more tightly on organisational and governance matters and this seemed to work well. There was plenty of time in the evenings to discuss each others programme activities.

Given the diverse nature of the attendees I felt there was enough for everyone to be involved with and a very harmonious atmosphere. I don't know the stats but it seemed to me there were far more women present that ever before plus of course a canine representative in the much admired shape of Gem, Carol Campbell's guide dog.

The tragic deaths of two leading Wikimedians cast a shadow over us all. Adrianne Wadewitz died in a climbing accident and Cynthia Ashley-Nelson (Cindamuse) who was actually attending the conference and died in her sleep. The conference took time out of its schedule to remember her.

Note from the conference organisers

Hi Wikimedians,

On behalf of the Documentation Team of the Wikimedia Conference 2014 I'm happy to announce that we published all the minutes and photos of all sessions, as far as they were available and ready. Check them out on meta:Wikimedia Conference 2014/Documentation.

We tried to summarise the sessions ("too long, didn't read"). However, sometimes this was not possible due to the most different opinions. Furthermore, you find most of the presentation slides and photos of the Conference on Wikimedia Commons (commons:Category:Wikimedia Conference 2014)

Any comments, any questions, drop me a line.

Best regards Cornelius

on behalf of the Documentation Team of the conference (Benjamin, Conny, Lukas and Cornelius)

Jon Davies

How I participated

For me this was in four distinct ways. Firstly to attend the sessions, contribute to the discussions and learn from them. Secondly to be part of the structure by leading one ED meeting and participating in an other. Thirdly ensuring that the UK group met key people to build future collaborations and relationships. Fourthly to be part of the fantastic 7 am to 11pm (I am getting older so need my sleep) networking opportunities.

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference

This was my third time and it was noticeably different to previous ones. It was far more focused on the organisational needs of the movement with a tighter programme and higher expectations. It was really well organised with volunteer record takers, professional rapporteurs and a timetable that allowed enough time between sessions to reflect and chat about what we were all hearing. and in a great venue. These things really matter. Every evening the Wikimedia Deutschland offices were open until late with refreshments and enough room for people to have quiet conversations or noisy meetings. I have no evidence for this but like others I noticed a real shift in the gender balance with a significant number of female Wikimedians present. One lovely touch was a dating board where we all had plastic pockets and could send messages to each other. This really helped people to meet up.

In terms of learning there was so much. Some specifics were around managing Conflicts of Interest in the mythical world of Wikimedia Fictionland, 'how to fail better' in a great session where some brave souls from the Foundation and two chapters explained how things went badly wrong, and generally how many great things were happening all over the world.

The tragic death of a delegate led to some difficult decisions having to be made by the organisers leading to the cancellation of the traditional party, but this was done with great sensitivity.

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away

That with size comes responsibility. There had been some criticism in advance of the size of our delegation and I travelled to Berlin acutely aware of those criticisms and wondering whether they would be justified. Most of us were presenting or directly participating in the conference itself and I believe, from what I saw and learnt from other delegates, we all acquitted ourselves well. There was a general recognition that the UK chapter had a lot to share and was generous at doing this. Being active at the conference demonstrated this. For those who were there to learn I believe they did and now have a really broad understanding of this very complicated community.


One PS which I want to highlight. I was really angry that one of our delegates was refused entry to the breakfast room at the Hotel as she has a guide dog. In fact once she was told she could not even enter the hotel. This despite explaining this in advance. I cannot read German so was a bit stymied but checked at another hotel and ours seemed to be making up its own rules. If anyone feels as strongly as I do feel free to email the manager at the Hotel Aldea Novum !

Michael Maggs

How I participated

As this was my first conference, I hadn't had the opportunity of meeting many of the board members of other chapters before, and I spent much of my time outside the conference sessions making those new contacts. It was also a good chance to meet the WMF board members, and to understand in more detail their distinct perspectives.

I had pre-planned a meeting with the WMF legal team to talk about QRpedia, and it was really useful to have the chance to discuss specific legal points which are often tricky to address effectively by email.

On the final day I presented some thoughts about a possible software project for WMUK that has already been presented to our local community - Wikirate: rating Wikimedia. Although "Software Development as a New Opportunity for Chapters" was not a big session (it was only one of three parallel strands), it did generate some significant interest and expressions of support from other chapters as well as from WMF board members and analytics staff. A brief summary and copy of slides can be found here.

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference

It was nice but somewhat daunting to realise the extent to which we are considered one of the leading chapters. Far more people than I ever expected, both chapter board members and WMF board and staff, complimented me without prompting on the work we have done over the last few months on strategy. There was a lot of interest in whether we will actually be able to live up to what we have promised, in terms of the regular publication of hard numbers to show impact and distance travelled. I came to realise that the eyes of many within the movement are on us!

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away.

Until quite recently the chapter's ambitions have languished below the level we should be aiming at given our position in the worldwide community. At this conference we were able to discuss some bolder ideas of strategy, monitoring, advocacy and IT, and in pretty well every case the feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive. The chapters and the WMF are supportive of those who show ambition, particularly where sharing is also on the agenda, and we should grasp the opportunities that presents. We should not be afraid of being bold.

Stevie Benton

How I participated

One of the key parts of my participation was sitting on the panel for the discussion about open space advocacy. As a part of a group which included Dimi Dimitrov (Wikipedian in Brussels) and Luis Villa (Legal, WMF) we spoke about the activities we've already done, both as individuals and collectively. We also answered some wider questions about copyright reform and the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU. Though the group in attendance was relatively small compared to the rest of the conference the attendees were highly engaged with the topic. At the end of Saturday's wrap-up session, the advocacy session was noted as one that a few people enjoyed the most.

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference.

I learned too much to list here but a key thing is that we are going to need an awful lot of bodies on the ground at Wikimania. The more prosaic elements of the conference - getting people to rooms, making sure there's plenty of coffee, that the wifi is stable - are big tasks. Something else that I picked up is that while there appears on the surface to be great tension between WMF, FDC and chapters, the reality is that there really isn't that much distance between their positions. The dialogue does have some way to go but progress is being made. As a movement we have come a long way in a short space of time.

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away.

It may sound grandiose but there is a lot of respect and admiration for the UK chapter. There is widespread acknowledgement of the distance we have travelled and the efforts we have made to enhance our governance, develop our strategy, create meaningful metrics and deliver impact for the movement. Other chapters are keen to learn from us and I have made very useful links with chapters such as Venezuela, Chile, Bangladesh and India and made offers to help where we can. This is important for our position within the global movement and others are looking to us for leadership.

Simon Knight

How I participated

I went to Berlin especially interested in talking about strategy and measurement issues, heading over early to contribute to a Foundation-led learning day on programme evaluation and design. I gave contributions at the workshop, in the pre-conference metrics workshop, and in the Sunday chapter’s strategy session on these issues. Discussions throughout the conference suggest to me that there is a definite taste for delving into these areas, and greater cross-chapter collaboration (and WMF support). I put together a brief blog on these presentations, including the slides, here, I’m looking forward to collaborating further with our international colleagues on this area!

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference

It was great to get other’s views on strategy and strategy development, including those of the Foundation (which after the appointment of its new ED will be looking to develop its next strategy). An interesting challenge for the conference – although not one which I think was detrimental to its running – is the vastly varying audiences, particularly the pre/post “professionalised” board structures. This means the individuals involved in strategy and/or operations vary quite widely among the various groups. I was impressed that despite (indeed, because of it in some cases) this there was such productive and enjoyable discussion between all involved.

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away

One of the things I talked to a lot of people about was around shared frameworks, while respecting localisation and local circumstances. There’s an important lesson here – we can and should engage in sharing our knowledge, and developing the movement together. Sometimes, the best way to do this will be through sharing a platform to include the whole community, but allow local interests, and ‘forking’ of ideas to take place. To start playing with some of those ideas and sharing the wealth of knowledge across the movement I proposed an idea on the Idea lab - I hope we can have some interesting discussion about it there!

Daria Cybulska

How I participated

I started by attending the two Programme Evaluation and Design team workshops. Wednesday was a full day pre conference workshop on introduction to program evaluation [1]. Together with Simon, we were contributing to the content of the day, helping other attendees learn about evaluation. I presented a talk about writing a survey for the Wikimedian in Residence programme evaluation. Presentation is here.

On Thursday I attended the second pre conference day on evaluation, learning more about writing evaluation surveys (will be useful for a lot of the work we do) and metrics. (Details).

I attended as many sessions of the main conference (Fri-Sun) as was possible, with the focus on the 'Success and impact' and 'grants/FDC' themes. I co-presented on the Sunday Evaluation session (slides here). This has received very positive feedback.

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference.

  • Learning more about writing good surveys was very illuminating. My notes are here.
  • Thursday programme evaluation session mentioned some Editor Engagement stats which was interesting to see. Here are further details.
  • Foundation evaluation teams are working hard to help people evaluate. Ideally they would strive for coherent measures within the movement, but that's a tall order. Important thing is though, they continue to develop new materials for the movement to take advantage of (e.g. here).
  • (From the Chapters Dialogue session) As a movement, we are all bound by an abstract claim (sum of all human knowledge...) but it can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the context and personalities. This can lead to miscommunications.
  • It can be hard to show a chapter is valuable to the whole movement, because it is embedded in a very individual context and it’s hard to show how it is relevant and making a difference.

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away.

  • We can create better surveys..
  • A lot of people within the movement are impressed with our strategy and evaluation systems. Many people would be keen to learn from us. Personally I've been approached several times and thanked for GLAM-Wiki 2013, a sign that the event is still in people's memories and that it has given them a boost in their activities within the movement.
  • It seems that in the long term people will want to aim for consistent metrics across the movement and chapters. We need to keep an eye on these developments and adapt as needed.
  • You need a strong team of really dedicated people to create a good conference...

Carol Campbell

How I participated

This was the first WM event that I have attended and my aim was to learn as much as possible about the movement and meet a range of people from other chapters and the foundation.

I achieved this during my participation at the conference, where I took an active part in as many sessions as I could, and tried to make sure that I spoke to as many other conference attendees as possible.

My travelling companion also provided some valuable stress relief for some conference attendees.

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference

Sessions attended Learning
Software development I was very interested in the kiwik  project and went away excited about the possibilities of this. Also pleased to learn that Europeana is moving forward

A number of other chapters expressed interest in MM presentation

Meet the board Met the techie board member. He was keen to let us know that the foundation board felt that a couple of chapters ie Germany and the UK were ready to start work on new software development
Fundraising Very amusing and interesting to see what external funds other chapters had raised but no real insight into fundraising.
The future of the movement This session looked at the future of the movement up to 40 years from now, and it was interesting to see how all the groups had come to the same conclusion. Someone in my group had as a 25 years on aim that Wikipedia should be fully accessible to the disabled!

My biggest learning curve was about where the movement as a whole is in terms of organizational development. Chapters are by their nature very different but it was interesting to see how the whole thing melds together. I was pleased and excited to see how people helped each other and the whole conference had an atmosphere of sharing. This was particularly evident with people who were user groups.

What I was interested to note was though almost everyone at the conference bought into the Open knowledge agenda there was no concept of this outside of WM and what was obvious in the ‘40 years on’ session was the lack of acknowledgement that if WM fulfilled its aims then a counter movement would almost certainly have sprung up to stop its world domination.  

I was very interested to note that the Swedish chapter were considering moving from a service provision model of charity to a lobbying role.

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away.

Be proud of what has been achieved, there were a lot of very positive comments about WMUK. A number of the presentations could have been handled by WMUK and I think that we would have had more to offer.

A number of people commented to me about the governance training and how please they were with it. I think that we should consider what other areas we can provide training and support in. people were interested in the strategy work and Michael’s presentation about programming for qualitative metrics.

I think that we should follow up the remarks about software development projects.

Chris Keating

Two main focuses for me:

The Affiliate Selected Board Seats process. I am one of the facilitators of this year's selection of two members of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, and ran two sessions as part of this process; one hustings session, one discussion among Chapter, Thematic Organization and User Group representatives.

Movement learning and development. I am trying to push forward training, experience-sharing and skills-building among movement organisations, building on our successful training workshop in March. I set up two sessions on these subjects, one about relationships between Boards and staff, one about better defining training needs, as well as having many informal conversations on the side.

In total I was running in total 4 sessions on the Sunday, which was exhausting, and meant I spent much of Saturday preparing. Nonetheless I found the Re-Imagining the Movement session particularly useful and thought-provoking.

On the whole, the conference was remarkably positive. The hosts and facilitators did a good job of keeping everyone focused, and dealt very sensitively with the death of one of the participants during the first day. I also believe the movement and the conference are evolving in the right direction. To my mind the Wikimedia Conference ought to be "worthy but dull" - focused on improving the way the organisational part of the movement works together, sharing perspectives, successes and failures, and supporting the people who stick their necks out to make Wikimedia movement organisations work.

Kate West

How I participated.

This was the first Wikimedia conference I have attended as a new Trustee, joining the charity at the end of 2013. As such, I didn’t know what to expect. My intention was to take as much in as possible, meet people from other Chapters and the Foundation that I’ve not yet had the opportunity to meet and improve my knowledge of the challenges and ambitions facing Wikimedia UK and the movement as a whole. With this in mind, I thought that the State of the Movement session was a particularly good way to start the conference and I had interesting discussions with representatives from the Portuguese, Ukraine and Russian Chapters, particularly around the challenges of diversifying income and it was fascinating to hear other perspectives on this. Personally, I found the sessions that were broken up into smaller groups more useful and easier to participate in, particularly as I am still getting to grips with the technical side of the work of the movement. I found the ‘Meet the WMF Board of Trustees’ session particularly engaging and was able to share some of my professional experience in working with members and supporters with other participants.

What I learnt and my perception of the Conference.

I learned a huge amount from the conference. Perhaps the most striking thing was gaining a real insight into the shape of the movement worldwide. I hadn’t realised just how many Chapters there were, and understanding the huge variation in how far along in terms of organisational development each one had got to was fascinating. The session on user- generated advocacy was useful in gaining an insight into the potential of the movement to drive political and social change – a fascinating area for development in my view. The session on strategy provided an opportunity for us to share the way in which the UK Chapter had developed its strategic aims and KPIs and it was interesting to hear the different ways in which other Chapters and the Foundation had approached this. I was interested to learn that an exploration of the feasibility of developing consistent metrics that could be applied across the movement is something that would be welcomed by many. In terms of my perception of the conference, I was thoroughly impressed – both in terms of the tremendous job that Wikimedia Deutschland did of organising and running such a smooth and well-structured event, but also in terms of the general atmosphere and ethos of the conference. The positive mood of collaboration, support, sharing and trust was really noticeable – and impressive - and it added a huge amount of value.

Lessons for the UK Chapter to take away.

I was struck by the number of times during conversations with representatives from other Chapters that I was asked to share my knowledge and experience on a whole range of issues from strategy development through to operational nuts and bolts such as setting up an office, managing funds and employing staff. It seems to me that the UK Chapter too often underestimates how far it has come – particularly over the last 12 months – and how much it has to offer in terms of sharing best practice with other Chapters, some of which are in the very early stages of development.