The Signpost


WikiConference USA 2015: built on good faith

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 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.
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  • I was very pleased that this event was live streamed. It enabled a few people to participate in the live sessions, even if primarily as spectators. While the live viewing figures were small (I saw between 1 and 9) the total reach of the videos in in the hundreds.
This should be the baseline for future events.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 17:55, 18 October 2015 (UTC).[reply]
  • See much of the conference now, Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3. I would have preferred separate shorter videos of each presentation or discussion. That way I could just watch sessions I missed because I chose to attend a different session presented at the same time. I can still find and watch some of those I missed. Being able to connect a face, voice and personality with usernames was great. DocTree (ʞlɐʇ·ʇuoɔ) WER 18:44, 18 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I really appreciate Wiki Education Foundation funding the conference this year. This conference could not have happened without their support. I am grateful to the other organizations which contributed money and resources to make this conference happen. I found the gathering meaningful, and I feel that the turnout and level of engagement shown by participants is also supporting evidence of the event's usefulness.
Perhaps next year the Wikimedia Foundation can contribute some funding support. I look forward to trying the streamlined grant request process described at meta:Grants talk:IdeaLab/Reimagining WMF grants. Blue Rasberry (talk) 18:48, 18 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I count 36/111 women = 32.4%. Organizers would know to what extent that was skewed by scholarships or whether those self-selecting for the group photo did so randomly. Still: more anecdotal evidence that the gender gap, while a real thing, is not anywhere near the most stark depiction of its magnitude. Carrite (talk) 18:44, 19 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'll also add that NARA's live streaming and preservation of sessions was generally very good and stands in marked contrast to the disastrous lack of electronic presentation and preservation of Wikimania 2015. Carrite (talk) 18:50, 19 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]
  • Mr. Schulenburg, WikiEd, and NARA deserve our applause and thanks for a well-run, enjoyable, and productive event-- hopefully the first of many to come! The strong presence of participants connected with GLAM and higher education was especially appreciated.
Wikimedia DC also deserves credit for its consistent efforts to ensure that women and minority participants are well treated at its events under its Friendly Space policy. This event was both fun and dignified. When you implement standards of conduct at an in-person event which are consistent with the anti-harassment guidelines specified by the US Department of Education and the US EEOC, and when you respect individual boundaries regarding self-disclosure, it means that a wide variety of people, who reflect the diversity of today's United States, can participate without fear of negative personal and professional consequences. I hope that Wikipedia events held in non-US venues, and online Wikipedia itself, will eventually see the advantages of implementing similar standards to ensure the safety of women and minority participants.
And while we are on the subject of diversity and respect, a thanks to the Million Man March, outside the door of the event, for a reminder that we want a United States and a Wikipedia where everybody counts, and everybody is treated with respect.
I am hopeful that we are starting to turn a corner with this event, and on the way to becoming a stable, respectable cultural-sector organization. The next few years will tell the story, whether this turns out to be a rambunctious multiplayer crowdsourcing effort that gets taken over by private sector interests, or a respected online cultural platform. I am hopeful that the community will develop the self-policing capacities necessary for broader participation, find ways to leverage the ongoing resources provided by organizations like NARA, and take its efforts to the next level.
On a personal note: if you are suffering bad upper respiratory problems, please take the day off, and attend events like this one remotely, so the rest of us don't get sick! Yet another reason to consider the live stream videoconferencing. --Djembayz (talk) 14:59, 20 October 2015 (UTC)[reply]


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