Talk:Future of the Wikimedia Conference

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2013 discussion about WMCON 2014: /2013

Let's discuss 2015[edit]

Hello, everyone. As I already brought up on the "Chapters" mailing list, I would like to begin discussing what WMCON 2015 will look like. Consider this a very preliminary conversation. My question for everyone is: what do you think the Wikimedia Conference should do? In my mind, the Wikimedia Conference is an opportunity for affiliates to come together and learn. More specifically, it is an opportunity for the experienced organizations (and trained professionals) to help out those with less experience. I would like to design a conference around workshops that help affiliates with specific problems. For example, instead of learning about, say, APG in the abstract, you can go to someone who knows how APGs work and they can help you with specific problems you may have. This way, rather than sitting in a room and listening to people talk, you can bring home with you a plan for action that helps your organization do great wiki-stuff. What are your thoughts on this vision? Do you support a different vision? harej (talk) 19:18, 17 June 2014 (UTC)

I think there is a place for both the formal talks and the less formal. In Berlin I also enjoyed one session which was a group learning workshop on Conflicts of Interests where people brought their own experiences and questions. This was a hybrid in that there was a set agenda with someone leading. People like a bit of structure to get started with and then sessions tend to develop in a way that the mood takes them. All in all though we do need this annual chance to look at the nuts and bolts issues of our movement. I can count at least half a dozen practical outcomes that would not have happened otherwise.Jon Davies (WMUK) (talk) 07:55, 18 June 2014 (UTC)

Location and scope for future conferences[edit]

I propose that the current thorg-focused Wikimedia Conference be converted to a pre-conference for Wikimania. This would have a number of advantages.

  • Reduced total cost and travel time for people who travel to both events.
  • Individuals who are excluded from or disinterested in the thorg-themed pre-conference events could instead attend other pre-conference events such as the Wikimedia Education Program pre-conference, the Research Hackathon, the MediaWiki Hackathon, or "unconference" events.
  • Simplified logistics for the Wikimedia Foundation and thematic organizations who send representatives.
  • Less total amount of time spent in jetlag for people who attend both events.

I anticipate that Wikimedia Mexico may be unable to accommodate a thorg pre-conference on relatively short notice for Wikimania 2015, so I suggest that this practice could start in 2016. --Pine 07:28, 12 September 2014 (UTC)


Hi Pine, thanks for bringing up this suggestion. However, the Wikimania pre-conference period is already quite full with the events you describe and more, and many of the people who participate in the Wikimedia Conference have other commitments during that period. There is also quite a lot of value in having a face-to-face meeting that's not at Wikimania, so that people talk in person twice a year rather than once a year. Indeed, the Wikimedia Conference is starting to generate pre-meetings as well, as people take advantage of the fact that lots of people who have stuff to discuss are in the same place.
If there is some reason why the Wikimedia Conference can't or shouldn't continue, a Wikimania pre-meeting could potentially help fill the gap left by it. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 08:37, 12 September 2014 (UTC)
(Im commenting from listserv discussion) I would recommend that Wikimania pre conferences be organized by groups other than those organizing the main event. For example, the content of the London pre conference was pretty much planned and executed by those from the two education programs. Heck, even the food for that came from their budgets. London had two: a hackathon (I dont know how that was organized) and the ed pre conference. I dont see how an affiliate pre conference adds all that much more work or demands for space onto Wikimania. If possible, the Wiki Borregos are certainly willing to lend a hand with the education pre conference for 2015.Thelmadatter (talk) 13:30, 12 September 2014 (UTC)
London Wikimania had at least 5 pre-meetings. The best list is here: Education, Volunteer Support, Train the Trainers, Boards Governance. Plus the Hackathon. I don't think this is a complete list, either, as I think there was some grantmaking training/orientation happening during those days as well. And arguably one should include the Foundation board meeting as a pre-meeting. It's a pretty full schedule. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 13:51, 12 September 2014 (UTC)
A meeting is not a conference.Thelmadatter (talk) 13:56, 12 September 2014 (UTC)
Very much agreed. A conference has its own programming process, which is a complex thing that requires a lot of coordination with the event side. Joining it with Wikimania would add a huge additional complexity on the Wikimania organisers, who typically already struggle. It would probably make both events fail. On a more conceptual level - Wikimania organisers should be free to organise any kind of event they like, and shouldn't HAVE to organise any particular pre or post events. Saying that another party can come in and organise it independently is just false; they'd still have to coordinate. Another way to look at it is purity of focus; different events for different purposes should be organised entirely separately, so they can be designed correctly for their intended purpose. EdSaperia (talk) 16:49, 15 September 2014 (UTC) (Wikimania 2014 organiser)
My concern is that it would make Wikimania turn into something that would have a three day conference before it, and then three days of Wikimania, which is rather long to ask of people to attend. The costs would certainly be lower, but it would make everything hell for those who want to attend both, due to the length. Also, what hasn't been brought up is that these are traditionally done in Europe because most Chapters are there and costs are generally lower when you don't have to fly people thousands of miles away, which should also be remembered in these discussions. Kevin Rutherford (talk) 14:22, 12 September 2014 (UTC)
To combine this event with Wikimania would provide much greater value for donors' money, and be significantly more inclusive. The critical mass and media potential of a single, larger event are also compelling reasons for a merger. And let's kill two birds with one stone, by getting rid of the "mania" bit, with all its odour of silliness, and switching the whole thing to an inclusive "Wikimedia Conference". Tony (talk) 10:37, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
I can see your point on that idea, but I am coming more from the angle of how much is too much time for a conference. If we're used to having rather short conferences, having a ton of pre-conferences overlap with each other, some of which are more intense than others, which is then followed by a singular Wikimania-esque event will be a bit of a mess to plan. Yes, it would be cheaper to consolidate things, but it would also cause a lot of conflict for people who want to be at two or more events that are going on at the same time. Kevin Rutherford (talk) 17:14, 13 September 2014 (UTC)
Well, to my way of thinking there's already an undesirable proportion of sessions at both events that are parallel—that is, they run simultaneously, so that attendees have to disengage from much of the content. Individual selectivity is already established and accepted. A four-day event, rationalised for the movement as a whole, with affiliates playing a prominent role, would in the end produce the best outcome for all. Tony (talk) 13:18, 16 September 2014 (UTC)

Define goals and outcomes before names and places[edit]

From my perspective we need to define the goals, outcomes and scope of the event before discussing any names or type and number of participants or attaching it to any other event. I understand that there are two diverging motivations for people to attend the Wikimedia Conference:

  1. To learn from each other and share experience in programmatic work or setting up an organisation.
  2. To discuss and decide about movement politics and the future of the movement model, sometimes on a very abstract and meta level.

I think both motivations are more than valid, but they do not address and cannot be addressed by exactly the same audience. Does it still make sense to try to combine these two unlike topics at one conference? Or do we need two or more conferences? Do we need this conference at all?

Only after these questions are answered, we can define who is the target audience (which types and what “categories” of affiliates; WMF, FDC, AffCom, community members...), who can valuably contribute, what attendee count is reasonable to ensure a fruitful, open and outcome-driven event. And finally, how this event should be named. But again, I think we are not at a stage where we can have serious discussions around those logistical questions.

In my view, we desperately need a place to discuss and shape the future of the movement in terms of its structures, responsibilities and goals. And I do no longer think that a conference with an attendee count of 150 or more people with such different backgrounds and levels of preparation and interest is best suited to openly and meaningfully work on these issues. --Nicole Ebber (WMDE) (talk) 15:35, 15 September 2014 (UTC)

Hi Nicole, I think you've basically got it right - there are two requirements and they don't necessarily have to be addressed by the same event. I think there is definitely a need for movement organisations to get together, share knowledge, make contacts, and learn from each other. The Wikimedia Conference as it's currently constituted is getting good at this - last year was a great improvement on previous years. The higher-level discussions about strategy and the future of the movement I think aren't as well suited to the Wikimedia Conference. This is in part because movement organisations aren't the only people who need to be involved with them - we don't want to create a situation where you have to create an organisation in order to have an input into movement strategy, say - and also because unless there is a structure to the conversation aiming at an outcome, the discussion goes round in circles. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 10:58, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
Many thanks for these profound thoughts. (My only experience of the WMCon is only 4-5-year-old, so I cannot have an accurate experience of the recent conferences.) Thinking upon your reflections, there are more and more thematic conferences and meetings: GLAM-Wiki conferences, education conferences, hackathons (at leat 3/year now, in different world regions), Boards trainings (quite new but I guess there will be more in the future), meetings for the AffComm and FDC, trainings for OTRS agents (Germany, and probably also in France in the coming months), Program Evaluation and Design Workshop in Budapest 2013, Finance Meeting in Paris 2012 (I was co-organiser of it with Christophe), regional conferences (Iberoconf, CEE, etc.), etc. and obviously the WMCon and Wikimania. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge our movement is becoming really enormous, and consequently general meetings without a specific topic will gather a lot of people, with the consequences of complex programs and organisation.
On the other side, WMCon has a "limited" topic by gathering affiliates. For your first WMCon sub-topic (programmatic and organisational stuff), I guess this could be splitted in other thematic conferences. Probably the same for your second WMCon sub-topic (strategy), although it should gather not only the affiliates but also non-affiliated Wikimedians to have some "representativeness" of the whole Wikimedia movement, so a lot of attendees.
Or another solution to big meetings are a better online communication and/or other communication forms. By saying that, I’m more and more tired of reading walls of text, either "PR" texts or unstructured discussions, and I would love to see semi-structured and curated discussions. With a heartthrob for the process used for the Chapters Dialogue (really): a study build by meeting a lot of groups (bottom-up), curated, and presented in a relatively short translatable video and texts (I guess a translatable booklet could be made); I think this had a reach similar to a WMCon (unlimited inclusivity of the video (no travel, no English required, short), high-quality reflections, bottom-up). There are probably other communication means we have to create to accompagny the growth of the movement.
In some words: increase the conference quality (specialisation, online pre-conference homework, and online delivrables), new communication forms (whose videos and curated discussions)
(Sorry for the wall of text.) ~ Seb35 [^_^] 12:01, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

Developing contacts and sharing expertise[edit]

The movement affiliates are not the whole of the Wikimedia movement or community, but they play a very important role. They hold many of the events, respond to many of the press inquiries, and spend a substantial chunk of the donations raised through the annual fundraiser and other channels. So it's totally legitimate, and indeed very valuable, to have a face to face forum where they can network and share expertise and experience. I can't confirm without having attended, but I have heard and believe that the event is very valuable in developing the work and professionalism of the chapters and other affiliates.

That's why, in my opinion, suggestions for radically different models should be proposed as an separate conference event - whether an independent event, or an element of Wikimania, or something else. This event is valuable as it is.

That said - the name should reflect what it is, and it should not be either confusing to non-participants or suggestive of a wider purpose and remit than the meeting possesses. "Wikimedia Affiliates Conference" is perfectly workable and does not fail on either point. "Wikimedia Conference" fails on both, and while some have suggested that the use of this name by this conference need not be unique - i.e. others can use the same name - that is, I think, absurd. Imagine the confusion! On meta, on lists, during organizing attempts... If the movement tried to have two identically named events, even if they were literally held on opposite ends of the globe, confusion and discontent would be inevitable. Nathan T 16:14, 15 September 2014 (UTC)

  • +1 Tony (talk) 13:20, 16 September 2014 (UTC)
  • Globally aggree. See also section above (separate, specialised conferences). For the name, it’s a minor point which should be discussed after the definition of the conference topic: yes, Wikimedia Conference is vague, but Wikimedia Affiliates Conference could be also → what is the very specific topic of this conference? do we aggree on some? ~ Seb35 [^_^] 12:13, 20 September 2014 (UTC)