Wikimania 2006 to be held in Boston

After delaying their decision for a week, the Wikimania planning committee made its choice between two cities as potential hosts for Wikimania 2006. In a narrow vote, Boston was picked over Toronto, the other finalist bid.

The decision was announced on Saturday by Delphine Ménard, Chapter Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation. The vote was 5-4 in favor of Boston, with one member of the panel abstaining. The jury to select the host site originally had 11 members, including the Board of Trustees and the team that put together Wikimania 2005. Of the latter group, however, sj withdrew from the panel because he was organizing the Boston bid.

Boston and Toronto had been chosen as finalists earlier this month (see archived story). They beat out bids from London and Milan in the first round of the competition. For the final deliberations, sj's place on the jury was taken by Fuzheado.

Strengths and weaknesses

The Boston bid benefited from having a sizable group of local people who are active on Wikimedia projects. It also took advantage of the prestige of Harvard University, where the conference will be held at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Exact dates for Wikimania will be set later, once arrangements are finalized for scheduling the venue. It will happen sometime during the summer in any case; the bid gave dates ranging from 21 June to 21 August as possibilities.

One point of particular concern has been the difficulties people attending from other countries might experience with US customs officials. This was cited by a number of people as a reason they might not attend if the conference were held in Boston. However, sj pointed out that these issues could easily apply for travel into Canada as well. At least two people attending Wikimania in Germany this year also had similar problems. In an attempt to allay fears, the Boston organizing team has been laying groundwork with State Department officials on the process of obtaining visas.

The Toronto organizing team congratulated Boston on their victory, while remaining proud of their accomplishments. SimonP, who helped organize the bid, observed that the process helped increase local interest, adding also, "The momentum for this bid could be translated into setting up a Canadian Wikimedia chapter". He doubted that a bid for 2007 would be forthcoming, indicating his opinion that Wikimania would likely return to Europe, but held out hope for future years.

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