We often describe Wikipedia as a wonderful resource, a collection of human knowledge. But Wikipedia is also a remarkable collaboration. We believe that human interaction can only make it stronger.
The WikiConference USA is proof. This year, the event was co-sponsored by the National Archives and Records Administration and the Wiki Education Foundation. The conference was organized by volunteers and co-ordinated by Wikimedia DC and Wikimedia NYC and a host of passionate Wikipedians.
The Wiki Education Foundation isn't a grant-making organization; most likely it never will be. However, when people approached us, we were more than happy to help out. Our guiding principle with regard to how we'd provide support was simple. We asked two things: "what are the things about organizing a conference that you, as Wikipedia volunteers, hate the most?" (that's what we provided) and "what are the items that you would like to be in charge of?" (that's what we kept our hands off).
This weekend was a testament to the collaborative spirit of Wikipedia and Wikipedia volunteers. The Wikimedia chapters developed the program, awarded scholarships, designed the wikiconferenceusa.org website, and co-ordinated volunteers for the event.
Since I moved to the United States, I've met some Wikipedians who have told me that they'd never shaken hands with another Wikipedian. The sheer geography of the US makes it difficult to meet. I believe this year's WikiConference was a huge step toward getting to know each other, building trust, and talking about what we love most: Wikipedia. I hope the event also provided a space where people could report on past projects and catalyze new ideas and collaborations.
While we connected people within the Wikipedia world, we wanted to connect the Wikipedia world to those outside it, too. We saw excellent presentations where Wikipedians, academics, librarians, museum workers, and archivists met and built relationships around the work they share.
As we approached this conference, we were eager to experiment with a new way of supporting the local Wikipedia community in the United States. We stepped back and provided resources based on trust. It's a tenet of Wikipedia – "assume good faith." We funded this conference without attaching strings or paperwork. We trusted volunteers to get it right. And they did.
I'm excited that we get to show the powerful results that come from relationships built on openness, trust, and good faith. Thanks so much to our partners at Wikimedia DC, Wikimedia NYC, and to the National Archives for making this event possible.
- Frank Schulenburg is the Executive Director of the Wiki Education Foundation, an independent organization that supports the use of Wikipedia in education in the US and Canada.