How to run a Wikimania: past practice, best practice, and general guidance
So, you want to organize a Wikimania conference? This guide should give you lots of tips on how to organize Wikimania and where to get help for stuff not on here. It's a work in progress; please feel free to add to it if you see anything missing.
Please note: This is not a set of official requirements for Wikimania. However, it is a collection of best practices that have been developed over the past several years, as well as a comprehensive checklist of the areas to consider when running a conference. The goal of this guide is to help each new team in planning the best conference they can.
Ideally this guide will also prove useful to organizers of other Wikimedia and community events, not just Wikimania. Feel free to adapt and remix it.
What is Wikimania?—Wikimania is an annual global conference devoted to Wikimedia projects around the world (Wikipedia and the MediaWiki software). The conference serves both the community and the general public. Wikimania is part community gathering and part academic conference, giving the editors, users and developers of Wikimedia projects an opportunity to meet each other, exchange ideas, report on research and projects, and collaborate on the future of the projects. However, Wikimania is also a chance for educators, researchers, programmers and free culture activists who are interested in the Wikimedia projects to learn more and share ideas about the Wikimedia projects. While the content and structure of Wikimania is mostly consistent from year-to-year, the Wikimania team for each year is free to re-imagine and adapt the Wikimania conference to their city or country, and they may revise the structure of the conference as they see fit. Just as how Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit, Wikimania is organized chiefly by grassroots organizers.
Who is Wikimania for?—This question has been repeatedly debated over many years. First and foremost, Wikimania is for the Wikimedia community to come together. However, you may want to consider focusing on additional groups of attendees in addition to the core community, including "fans" of Wikipedia that may be recruited as new editors, journalists and filmmakers, and those from related movements, including the free culture and open data movements. Who do you want Wikimania to be for? The answer to this question will help determine the kinds of activities that you include, such as whether there is a session for new editors, and perhaps the total size of the conference, which could in turn determine what your logistical needs are.
Are you ready to host Wikimania?—The best way to tell whether your community group is ready to host Wikimania is to try bidding for the conference, as described below. Reading and discussing the bid requirements, as well as this handbook, will give you a good idea of whether you are ready to host the conference. Wikimania is a lot of work and requires a substantial commitment over time, but it does not have to be daunting. It is a true "team effort" and you will have the support of collaborators from all over the world, as well as the thanks of the entire Wikimedia movement!
Just like the projects it celebrates, Wikimania is very community-run and is dominated by the community. The Wikimania planning process begins each year with an open bidding process where different community teams submit their own bids so that they can bring Wikimania to their area. These bids are then fleshed out and developed over a few months. In the end, the bids are all reviewed by a Wikimania jury of Wikimedia Foundation members, community representatives, and former organizers, who then decide which country will host the next Wikimania. Once the bid is awarded, that team can go ahead with planning the conference.
The process of bidding is time-consuming but good preparation for planning the conference, and preparing a bid can help a team decide if they are ready to put on the conference. The bid must show a comprehensive and realistic plan for hosting the conference, including a core team of committed volunteers, a proposed location, and a budget. The bid must convince the jury that the team is ready and able to host a great Wikimania.
Meta-Wiki lists the Wikimania judging criteria used for past and present Wikimania bids.
Preparing a bid
Venue—Before launching your bid for the conference, consider where specifically you would like to host Wikimania. Discuss with your team the pros and cons of each possible location and venue, have several proposed venues and choose the city and venue that would be most appropriate for hosting the conference. Factors to judge venues by include:
- Proximity to conference accommodations, as well as to restaurants and shopping areas
- Availability of public transportation, including to and from conference accommodations
- Availability of a large hall for plenary sessions, as well as smaller rooms for conference tracks
- Note: The main hall should have ample seating for plenary sessions. For example, if 1,000 people are expected to attend, the main hall should be larger. The smaller rooms for the conference tracks should also hold nearly all participants together. A hypothetical breakdown: with 1,000 participants, there should be a conference room for popular sessions seating about 400 or more, three to four additional room sitting between 150 and 200, and two rooms for seminars seating up to 50 participants.
- The venue and accommodations will be available for the days of the conference
- It is best if Wikimania is the sole user of the venue during the conference period. At the very least, it should be the sole conference on the floor of the building Wikimania is taking place in, or it is otherwise the dominant attraction.
- Ability to reserve the venue and accommodations well in advance of the conference, one year or more
- Distance between where your conference team lives and the venue
- Optional, but a big plus is some outdoor space so attendees can get fresh air, and can serve as additional "lounge" space.
Dates—After choosing the venue, choose the dates of the conference based on the availability of the venue and lodging options. Be sure to select dates that do not interfere with religious or local/national holidays. For instance, past Wikimanias have been held during the holy month of Ramadan, which can limit attendance by Muslims. Additionally, if the conference overlaps with national or state holidays, many restaurants and suppliers may not be doing business on those days. Check with a good calendar (or encyclopedia) when selecting conference dates.
Submitting a bid
A comprehensive bid will include the following information:
- Background information on the country and city
- Information on the venue (including details on available rooms: sizes, distance between them, including conference halls, seminar room and also rooms for press or other facilities).
- Composition of the team, including who is assigned with what duty
- Proposed itinerary
- Nearby accommodation options
- Transportation options to the venue and nearby accommodations; check flight costs through websites like Expedia
- Cost of living, including cost of food
- Nearby attractions and sites of interest
- Weaknesses of your proposal, and how you are planning to deal with them
- Draft budget, based on research and solicited price quotes
- Letters of support from the local government and local institutions, including universities
Use bids of previous years, and Wikimania sites of previous years (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) for tips and ideas.
Wikimania bids are judged by a jury of fellow Wikimedians, including past Wikimania organizers. Be sure to answer their questions and keep the established deadlines in mind. During the bidding process, the competing bid teams present their bids before the jury on IRC, giving teams an opportunity to explain the merits of their bid and to answer any questions the jury may have. Prepare for this meeting and coordinate among your team members.
The winning city is announced on the Wikimania-l mailing list by the head of the jury.
The local team is by far the most critical component to any successful Wikimania. The team is the group of people that will plan and carry out the conference. Part of the planning team—the core team—will need to form at the bidding stage and stay involved throughout the year, coordinating the entire operation. These people should almost all be located near the site of the conference. Some team members will only become involved with specific parts of the conference (for instance, the scholarships committee). Some volunteers will only be able to provide remote assistance online, performing tasks that can be done remotely such as reviewing submissions and scholarship applications. Finally, some team members may only become involved at the last stage of the conference—immediately before, during, and after the conference. These team members may be volunteers who come from the hosting institution or from other local groups (such as a local university).
For more information, see:
Building your team
In-person—Try and enlist local Wikimedians in the area. Feel free to look for volunteers and other interested supporters in the vicinity. Also consider recruiting from local colleges and universities, as well as from organizations with aligned interests (especially ones that have experience holding large conferences).
Online—Having an online base of volunteers can help give your conference an international perspective while also expanding the pool of available volunteers beyond those who happen to live where the conference will be. Recruit interested volunteers for OTRS (customer support), email, design-related tasks, and for your program committee. Feel free to announce on the mailing lists and on the Village Pump.
Partnerships—Coordinating with other institutions in hosting Wikimania can help reduce costs while bolstering relations between the Wikimedia movement and outside communities. For instance, Wikimania 2008 was hosted in conjunction with the Library of Alexandria while Wikimania 2012 was hosted in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State Office of eDiplomacy. With the latter, the State Department leveraged their relationship with George Washington University Law School to provide us with a discounted venue. In return, we would allow them to host their quarterly technology conference, "Tech@State," which in July 2012 was to be about wikis in government. Additionally, Wikimania 2012 agreed to cover most of their expenses. This symbiotic relationship allowed Wikimania 2012 to be a great success.
When pursuing partnerships, consider: what can the partner provide for you, and what can you provide for the partner? What effect would it have on your conference's financial burden? Would this partnership be too much of a burden?
How do you coordinate all of the moving parts of the conference? It is a job that can feel overwhelming at times. This is where good internal communication is crucial. Making a communications plan up-front and sticking to it will help you run the conference smoothly and efficiently. Good communications includes making sure that all team members know what is going on, what their responsibilities are and how to get the answers to questions; making sure that planning meetings are well-documented for the sake of those who join your team later; and making sure that planning documents (including budgets and timelines) are up-to-date and accessible.
Good communications makes it possible to get additional volunteers, since people are more likely to help if they can figure out what is going on and if they know what the areas are where their assistance is needed. It can also help the lead organizers feel less stress, since if you have a good plan that is well communicated (and all your team members communicate back to you) you will know exactly at what stage of the planning process you are in and what needs to be done next.
Finally, good communication is absolutely required in a few circumstances—for instance, for reporting back to the Wikimedia Foundation and other sponsors. All of your funders will require clear, prompt and detailed communication about the state of the conference and how their money is being put to use.
Planning the conference is like planning any major project, and typical project management tools will be helpful.
- Gantt charts and timelines
- Critical path charts
- Regular planning meetings
- Mailing lists
- Roadbook (a roadbook is a document that centralises everything in one place, from registration particulars to phone numbers of hotels attendees are staying at, to list of speakers). The roadbook can be on a wiki, but it must be easily printable so that organisers who are running around can have it in their hands while running around.
- Volunteer handouts with contacts, timetables, assignments for each team of volunteers.
- Tick-tocks, explaining minute-by-minute operations (especially handy for plenary sessions).
The structure and organization of your planning team ultimately depends on the number of people available to help, as well as the skills and talents of these people. The following is a list of job descriptions that your planning team will need to accomplish, in no particular order.
- Lead Coordinator—The job of the lead is to make sure the different parts of the planning team are working together and that the conference as a whole is making progress. Consider also having a deputy lead. These two people should have some experience in organizing events or managing people.
- Budget Manager—Prepares the budget and provides for budget control. Works with the hosting organization's treasurer or financial controller.
- Press Contact—This person is responsible for answering emails that come through OTRS, including press inquiries.
- International Coordinator—Depending on the host country's laws, international travelers to Wikimania may need a visa to enter the country. This person's job is to write invitation letters and to help guide people through the visa process and making sure they know all the necessary laws. These processes can take lots of time; consider working with your country's foreign relations office.
- Sponsor Coordinator—A dedicated team member who specializes in arranging sponsorship. This task could also be taken up by a hired conference planner.
- Volunteer Coordinator—Plans for staffing needs, supports the human resources needs of the planning team.
- Program Committee Chair—Heads the program committee while coordinating with the planning team. Coordinates with the speakers, especially keynote speakers.
- Special Events Coordinator—Plans the opening and closing parties for Wikimania, as well as other outings that happen during the conference.
- Technical Coordinator—Oversees the server setup, registration software, e-commerce, calendaring, and on-site technical requirements.
- Registration Coordinator—Runs the registration process and answers any questions that may arise.
- Scholarships Coordinator—Serves on the scholarship committee, helps to determine scholarship criteria and arranges accommodations for scholarship awardees during the conference.
Officially speaking, no Wikimania team is required to hire a professional conference planner; however, it is highly recommended. The role of the planner is to handle the logistical, "business" work of the conference so that the volunteer-ran planning team is free to develop the substance of the conference, including the program.
If you decide to hire a planner, ensure that you go with someone with a proven track record and experience. This might be the most important decision related to the organizing that you will make, so feel free to check with any references and past clients. Also negotiate with the planner and have it absolutely clear, in writing, what the expectations of the planner is, including whether his or her role is restricted to the main conference or includes special events or even ancillary tasks like sponsor relations.
Also give consideration to hiring a registration management company to handle the printing of name badges and purchase of conference bags, as well as the management of the on-site registration desk. This is a tremendous amount of work best left to experts in conference logistics.
During the days of the conference, you will need an on-site team to carry out the operations of the conference. There should be little overlap between the on-site team and the planning team, since the planning team has a supervisory role in the conference. The on-site team is led by the volunteer coordinator, who is experienced in handling and managing people. The volunteer coordinator will be focused but also friendly, and he or she will know how to diligently and strategically assign volunteer roles during the conference.
There are three broad categories of on-site work: registration, traffic, and session operations:
- Registration volunteers work at the registration desk, handing out name badges and conference bags to the attendees.
- Help Desk volunteers work at the help desk all thoughout the conference, being the point of contact between the attendees and the organizers and answering any questions that may arise.
- Traffic volunteers hold signs and direct the flow of people. With a minimum of hundreds of people attending Wikimania each year, it is very easy for attendees to get lost in the venue.
- Session operators run the different track rooms, providing water for the speakers and making sure the presentation equipment is working. They also moderate sessions as appropriate. People like volunteering to run sessions, as they get the best of both volunteering and attending Wikimania—it's a fun job!
Considering the volume of work that needs to get done, the on-site team may rely on a combination of volunteers and workers recruited from the area who are paid a day rate. Typically, traffic work and registration should be left to paid staff while session operators should be community volunteers.
Make sure your volunteers stand out as volunteers (during Wikimania 2012, they wore bright green sashes).
Remember to thank volunteers for their work. At the closing of the conference, call all volunteers to the stage. Sometime after the conference, organize an event solely for the volunteers. (The volunteer dinner for Wikimania 2012 was held shortly before the closing party, both at the same venue.)
Role of Wikimedia Foundation staff
WMF has hired Conference Coordinator to provide a point of contact to ensure accountability between the WMF and volunteer organizers. The activities related to this responsibility may include the following.
Work as needed with the local teams to:
- Maintain a schedule that clarifies work to be done, who is responsible, and the dates due for all items.
- Monitor budgets, ensure invoices are processed and help finalize payment where WMF input is required.
- Facilitate the review, negotiation, and finalization of contracts where WMF assistance is needed.
- Identify potential sponsors and support volunteers enlisting them.
- Interact with the jury system to help coordinate site selection process where WMF assistance is needed.
- Liaise with the volunteer team documenting and coordinating function/meeting space, A-V, internet connectivity, printing and signage, lodging, transportation and catering requirements, and verify delivery of contracted services.
- Coordinate between stakeholders to ensure that a registration system, scholarship system, database, web site, and other software is in place to enhance registration, logistics, and promotion.
- Facilitate and advise the scholarship committee to ensure the committee has adequate members, the scholarship selection process works smoothly, and the group incorporates recommendations based on past year's learnings.
- Administer the scholarship program once the committee has selected the recipients. This program provides funds to individuals to offset the cost of attending the conference. Tasks will include helping the awardees with obtaining visas, funds, and coordinating travel arrangements.
- Generally support and highlight volunteer efforts, provide continuity year to year about conference processes and coaching or mentorship to local teams where needed so that volunteer skills and capacity continue to be built.
Work as needed with WMF staff to:
- Act as a liaison to the volunteer team, regularly communicating the status of the conference and local teams' efforts and routing requests to the appropriate staff member when needed.
- Annually review requirements based on previous years' conference activities and attendance trends and update and revise as necessary.
- Conduct post-event analysis with stakeholders to determine what worked and didn't, gather recommendations for future years, and put together documentation to help guide subsequent teams.
Timeline and planning
With your team organized, you need to begin planning out all the various things you need to do for the conference. Different parts of the conference are interconnected and interdependent, meaning that if one thing does not get done, other things cannot happen. This is why it is important to develop a schedule and stick to it.
The Wikimania 2012 organizers developed this timeline to assist future conferences. While it may need to be adapted depending on your conference's plans, this should give you a general idea of what needs to happen and when.
One year or more before the event:
- Design: Create branding/logo for conference
- Logistics: Select and contract Wikimania location
- Program: Recruit members for the Program committee; draft call for participation
- Registration: Develop online Registration system
- Scholarships: Begin developing scholarship criteria; develop scholarship process front page
Eight months before the event:
- Logistics: Create planning timeline
- Logistics: Conference budget development and approval (WMF Conf coordinator)
- Lodging: Finalize accommodations (WMF Conf Coordinator)
- Scholarships: Finalize scholarship selection criteria; test and launch scholarship application
- Sponsors: Sponsorship package development and solicitation
Seven months before the event:
- Logistics: Full conference review of all existing contracts and timeline
- Logistics: Search and select the venues for the opening reception and the closing party
- Program: Start speaker/presenter search and collection of papers
- Program: Start speaker tracking document
- Scholarships: Launch scholarship application process and call for participation
Six months before the event:
- Design: Conduct search for graphic Designer (Program book/Mini Agenda/signs)
- Lodging: Contract hotels (VIP/Foundation/Staff/Scholarship winners)
- Program: Draft Agenda outline online
- Registration: Finalize online Registration system
- Scholarships: Close scholarship application process; begin reviewing applications
Five months before the event:
- Program: Close call for participation
- Registration: Launch online Registration—make sure to include hotel information in your Registration.
Four months before the event:
- Design: Begin assembling content for the official Program book
- Logistics: Establishe all preliminary set-ups, Food and Beverage (F&B) orders, Internet/Wi-Fi, and A/V requirements for the conference (WMF Coordinator and relevant team members)
- Scholarships: Finish reviewing scholarship applications; select and notify awardees
Three months before the event:
- Design: Prepare the first draft of Program book and mini agenda
- Lodging: Start making hotel and travel accommodations for (VIP/Foundation/Staff/Scholarship winners)
- Logistics: Conduct search, send RFP and select key service vendors:
- AV/Video production
- Destination management Company (DMC) - Transportation
- Registration Management Company
- Program: Finish reviewing submissions; notify presenters; prepare schedule
- Program: Program director and graphic Designer working together to complete the Program guide
- Volunteers: Develop the volunteer tasks and duties list; begin solicitation and confirmation of Volunteers
Finalizing and executing
Two months before the event:
- Design: Create conference directional signage
- Logistics: Draft the sponsor trade show floor layout
- Logistics: Order all logo materials:
- Conference bags
- Name badge paper stock / holders / lanyards
One month before the event:
- Logistics: Finalize the travel schedule with the DMC
- Logistics: Draft the travel schedule for each venue
- Volunteers: Based on volunteer solicitation outcome, determine if you need to hire outside staff
Two weeks before the event:
- Design: Final Program Book and Mini agenda to print
- Design: Final Signs to print
- Lodging: Final information to the hotel: F&B, A/V, Room Sets
- Lodging: Final Room list to hotels
- Lodging: Drop any unused rooms at each hotel for re-sale
- Logistics: Ship all items to the venue – inform all Sponsors to ship their items to be included in conference bag
- Sponsors: Finalize list of Sponsors so that their logos, ads, etc. can be added to Program book
- Volunteers: Finalize the Volunteers and duties; send final email confirmation/info/when/where
Immediately before, during, and after
One week to one day before the event:
- Logistics: Create the conference contact list and distribute to all staff/Volunteers/venues/vendors
- Logistics: Track and receive all shipped materials to the venue
- Logistics: Hold a pre-conference with all staff and venues: Here you will adjust for any last minute updates to the conference set-ups, F&B, AV
- Registration: Close online registration, send final list to the Registration company. Registration company to print badges
- Volunteers: Have a volunteer bag stuffing party once all materials have arrived at the conference venue
- Sponsors, Program, Scholarships, Lodging: Send final info emails and draft welcome letters for:
- Staff/VIPs/Scholarship winners
During the conference:
- Lodging: Print and deliver welcome letters to each hotel
- Logistics: Conference planner to manage on-site
- Registration: Registration management company to handle all on-site Registration
- Volunteers: Volunteer coordination being executed by volunteer coordinator
- Lodging: Collect full hotel room pick-up list
- Logistics: Conduct a post event meeting with all staff, venues, vendors, etc.
- Logistics: Collect and pay all outstanding invoices from vendors
- Logistics: Create the final post-event budget report
- Registration: Registration company to deliver the final attendee list
- Videos: Post videos of presentations online, in coordination with video production team or company.
Once developed, these are monitored until the conference days:
- Lodging: Room reservations and travel arrangements
- Lodging: Monitoring of room blocks at each hotel
- Logistics: Constant contact with each venue on setup, A/V, F&B, etc.
- Program: Speaker solicitation and confirmation
- Registration: Monitoring of Registration numbers and track sizes
- Sponsors: Sponsor solicitation and confirmation
- Volunteers: Volunteer solicitation and confirmation
Budget and sponsorship
Wikimania is made possible by financial support from the Wikimedia Foundation and other sponsoring companies and organizations, as well as from in-kind donations and from attendees' registration fees. In the process of planning and executing Wikimania, you will raise and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. With this volume of money you need formal, written financial controlling and reporting as well as a fiscal agent to handle the money (such as a Wikimedia chapter or other nonprofit organization). Financial controls help prevent waste, fraud, and abuse while financial reporting helps keep track of the many receipts and expenditures while informing stakeholders (especially the Wikimedia Foundation) on the conference's financial health.
Different levels of financial control will be necessary depending on the size of the organization; consider consulting an accountant or management expert. Generally speaking, the organization conducting the business aspects of the conference (i.e. the spending and receipt of money) will want to have a fiscal control policy, spelling out who is authorized to incur expenses and by what process expenses are incurred. In the interest of balancing control and expedience, consider a multi-tiered policy where the amount of process required depends on the amount of money being spent. Buying $50 of office supplies and signing a $50,000 contract with a venue don't require the same level of scrutiny. However, for almost all expenses, it is necessary to collect invoices or receipts that explain what was purchased, from whom, when, and for how much. Accurate written records is necessary to maintain positive relations with stakeholders and it makes your job as conference organizers easier.
The conference has two basically types of expenses: fixed expenses and variable expenses. Fixed expenses include such costs as the cost of the venue rental—these expenses stay the same no matter how many attendees you have. Variable expenses, however, are the costs for individual participants, and change depending on how many attendees you have, such as the cost of food. Variable expenses are typically calculated per person. Multiplying variable costs by the expected number of attendees and adding this to the fixed costs equals the total cost of the conference that will need to be balanced by sponsorships and registration fees.
From the beginning of the bidding process through the end of Wikimania, you will need to prepare and maintain some form of budget. This is a perpetual process—as you learn more about your expenses and revenue, you will need to account for these changes and make decisions. Bid budgets should take into account both fixed and variable costs. The bid budget should also reflect core (absolutely necessary) expenses and potential extra expenses (such as for a field trip that might only happen if funding is received). The best budgets embrace the principle of conservatism: maximum expenses and minimum revenue are predicted. Good budgets also include a contingency fund to account for an unexpected surge in expenses. Budgets, as forecasts, are inherently imperfect and should be revised with new information. However, careful track should be kept of such changes and the team should always be kept up-to-date on the latest budget.
When bidding to host Wikimania, your budget is an opportunity to impress (or frighten) the jury. Put plenty of effort into it—demonstrate to the jury that you have the capabilities to host a large, expensive conference. When preparing your initial budget, consider what your goals are for this Wikimania and also consider the needs of past conferences. Review the budgets of past conferences and adjust for your conference's expected attendance, as well as for the costs of doing business in your city and country. Revise your budget as new information comes up, and report any major changes to the Wikimedia Foundation. Base your budget on written price quotes from vendors, as well as reasonable estimates based on your experiences and publicly-available information. Plan for emergencies and unexpected cost increases by including a contingency fund in your budget and keeping extra cash on-hand. Upon the completion of the conference, prepare a budget report that compares original cost estimates to the actual costs, along with an explanation for any discrepancies.
To give you an idea on what kind of expenses you will incur, here is data from Wikimania 2011 and 2012.
Note that the expenses are not necessarily the same from year to year. Wikimania 2012 is on record as the most expensive Wikimania to date for two reasons: first, the incredibly high cost of doing business in Washington, D.C., and second, the conference had record-breaking attendance and lasted longer than Wikimania conferences that came before it. (As a third reason, the Great Hall of Library of Congress is by no means a cheap venue for a reception.) Hosting Wikimania in an inexpensive country is one way to keep costs down, as is having a shorter conference. With all decisions, be sure to weigh the costs and benefits.
- Attendees: About 750
- Conference period: 6 days (2 hacking days, 3 days conference, 1 day for tours)
- Catering for all conference days (including Hacking days and tours, excluding dinners): $ 59,029
- Logistics: Including Amplification, Furniture, Moving costs, renting laptops and phones: $ 49,588
- Internet Provider: $ 15,908
- Publicity (Video, stills), souvenirs (bags for participants, shirts): $ 33,631
- Shuttles for dorms and events: $ 7,340
- Opening cocktail (entertainment and catering): $ 23,107
- Beach Party (including location, entertainment and catering): $ 19,055
- Early comers party (including entertainment and catering) : $ 6,557
- Buses for Tours: $ 6,284
- Production costs (including logistics coordinator, insurance): $ 57,237
- Total: $ 271,715
Disclaimer: These figures are meant to be illustrative and does not constitute an audited financial report from Wikimedia Israel
Note: The space fee for the venue itself was $30,000; however, most of it was given as an in-kind donation from the Haifa Municipality, which also allowed ads to be hung around the city for no cost. Furthermore, entrance to museums and sites in Jerusalem—valued at $15,000—was also given as an in-kind donation.
- Attendees: About 1,400
- Conference period: 6 days (2 hacking days, 3 days conference, 1 day unconference)
- Conference catering: $133,829.30
- Venue rental and equipment costs: $104,651.70
- Special events (Library of Congress opening reception, Buffalo Billiards closing party, event photographer): $74,628.03
- Staffing costs (conference planners, registration management, on-site logistical staff, graphic designer, sign language interpretors): $61,430.00
- Conference video recording and editing: $56,390.00
- Hotels and dorms (both those re-sold to attendees and those staying at the conference's expense): $55,395.65
- Transportation (shuttle buses, transit cards): $26,812.00
- Gift bags, t-shirts, and other merchandise: $10,490.78
- Conference booklets and Wikibucks: $10,441.00
- Speaker costs (transportation for keynote speaker, green room food and beverage): $6,133.94
- Venue signage: $4,187.40
- Volunteer costs (volunteer coordinator travel, volunteer per diem, volunteer sashes, duty phone): $3,415.88
- Lanyards and name badges: $3,077.07
- Transaction fees (PayPal and wire transfer fees): $1,709.48
- Miscellaneous office expenses: $683.17
- Capital expenditures (CLEAR modems for hostel, Mac adapters, credit card readers): $565.40
- Total: $554,422.51
Disclaimer: These figures are meant to be illustrative and does not constitute an audited financial report from Wikimedia District of Columbia. For complete financial information, see Wikimedia DC's financial report from that year.
On the revenue end of the budget, obtaining sponsorships is a core part of every Wikimania team's job, but it can often be quite difficult and time-consuming. At least one person should have the full-time task of persuading and keeping in touch with sponsors—this person, after securing sponsorships, should also do what they can to make sure they are happy. The Wikimedia Foundation will work with teams to pursue big or international sponsors and can help work with sponsors on behalf of teams, but it is up to every team to pursue at least local and in-kind opportunities and to make sure that materials that make it easier to get sponsorship (such as up-to-date press kits, websites, budgets and other information) are available.
To locate sponsors, start out by looking for locally-based companies and institutions. Look in a related industry, such as technology or education. Always prefer a large known firm to a smaller company, the chances of a large sponsor backing out are low compared to a new, unknown company. Co-branding is also an option to consider with a large sponsors. Try and get vendors to offer discounts for sponsorship and promotional opportunities.
Many institutions, companies, and universities would love for a chance to be associated with an international event like Wikimania. You have to be good at selling the idea of Wikimania to sponsors. Potential sponsors likely have no idea about our community or the conference; however, they will know about Wikipedia. It is up to you to inform them and educate them about what benefit the conference might have for them. Prepare a sponsor kit to show potential sponsors—be sure to include the different levels of sponsorship and the benefits for each. See wm2012:Sponsor Wikimania as an example. Focus on the international recognizability of Wikimania, and offer past sponsor information and past conference statistics. Once you've successfully convinced a sponsor, continually follow up with the sponsor to ensure that they are satisfied—after all, conference sponsorship is a business decision for your sponsors, and they will want to get the most out of their money. (Some sponsors, however, are more hands-off than other sponsors.)
You will need to publicize the conference widely, and you will need to have a great conference wiki that is kept up-to-date and entices people to attend. This is a good job for a combination of remote and local volunteers. In addition, you will need a team of customer support volunteers that is available to answer questions from potential attendees, speakers and volunteers, both in public forums (like the mailing lists) and private ones (like email through OTRS). While this is something that is ongoing throughout the conference planning process, it will become a full-time job shortly before and during the conference.
Finally, working with the press is a crucial part of the conference. Wikimania is always well-covered by the press, and the conference is a great opportunity to promote Wikimedia and the local Wikimedia community, to make announcements, and to give interviews. While not every Wikimania has had a dedicated press conference, handling the press (including issuing press passes and press kits and explaining and promoting the conference) is a job that every team must take on. This is a good area for the local team to partner with Foundation staff and other Wikimedians who routinely deal with press and public relations.
Using the trademarks
Wikimedia, Wikimania, and Wikipedia, as well as their respective logos, are registered trademarks of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. The Foundation gives permission for others to use the logos and trademarks pursuant to certain terms. Any chapter that has signed a chapter agreement will already have permission. Any outside organizations that are running Wikimania will work with WMF Coordinator, legal and communications staff to obtain permission.
While there have been suggestions to change this, for the time being, each Wikimania conference has its own wiki in the form wikimaniaXXXX.wikimedia.org. When your team is ready, file a request on Bugzilla to open the wiki. Once the wiki is created, do the following:
- Make sure the Translate extension is enabled
- Set up an interwiki link on the interwiki map (e.g., wm2012 for the Wikimania 2012 site).
- Import last year's templates into the website, including translation templates
- Appoint one or two people on the conference team to serve as site Bureaucrats. Appoint admins as necessary to delete spam, etc.
Look at the previous conference websites to see what pages you will need to include on your website. Generally you should include local information, an FAQ on the conference, plus pages describing the registration, presentation submission, and scholarship processes, as well as a solicitation for sponsors.
Many Wikimania mailing lists already exist. Some are public and some are private. For the private lists, the "new team" takes over the list every year. Multilingual coordination is acceptable and expected, especially on the private lists; there is not a need to start a new list just for your language. International planners subscribed to these lists expect to get messages in lots of languages.
For public communications, focus on the following lists:
CentralNotices allow you to disseminate brief messages throughout the Wikimedia websites. For more information, see CentralNotices.
Generally speaking, anyone can schedule a CentralNotice, so long as it does not conflict with others, but a meta admin has to actually post it. (some technical skill involved)
OTRS is an e-mail ticket system set up for all of Wikimedia, with several queues dedicated to Wikimania. See the list of queues (and people with access) on the Wikimania team wiki.
If possible, you should have at least one dedicated team member whose job is to keep up with inquiries on OTRS. Consider someone who is already familiar with OTRS. If language differences are not an issue, consider asking remote volunteers to help. It's important to be diligent about responding in a timely manner and keep the backlog low, so multiple volunteers for OTRS is good. Some of the queues involve private information, such as scholarships, so OTRS volunteers need to be willing to identify to the foundation.
General documentation about OTRS is available on the OTRS wiki, which can be accessed by OTRS agents. If no one on your team is already a registered OTRS agent, contact an OTRS admin to request an account for you, providing your name, e-mail address, and username.
Wikimania is usually held in the local language and English. For example, Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires was held in both English and Spanish, while Wikimania 2011 in Haifa had a Hebrew-language "Wikipedia Academy" track, with English translations provided.
Please consider having translations available for any materials, directions, and announcements so that they are in English as well as the local language. Clearly mark on the program which language each event will be in and whether translation will be available. If Wikimania is taking place in an English-speaking country, consider adopting a second language that is very prominent in the Wikimedia community or your local community. Translations of conference materials can be done over translatewiki.net or Meta-Wiki.
If the host country is not English-speaking, it is normal to have some elements of the welcome and closing ceremonies in the host language. Thanks to local sponsors, helpers and volunteers do not need to translate these parts into English. In fact, the Wikimania crowd is quite capable of clapping at the appropriate moments.
If your team has someone familiar with press relations, then give them materials and directions in advance so that they can plan accordingly. Consider enlisting outside help to manage press relations, such as a local PR agency or a PR person.
Press badges—Members of the press should register for free using a separate registration process, and during the conference, they should be given separate badges that clearly identify them as press. Press badges can be issued to members of mainstream press or blogs at the discretion of the planning team.
Press kits—Press kits should be prepared before the conference. Wikimania 2012 issued portfolios containing written press releases and documents describing the Wikimania 2012 conference and Wikimedia District of Columbia, the Wikimedia chapter conducting the conference.
Press conference—If you elect to hold a press conference, consider holding this shortly after the opening plenary so that attendance is maximized. Work with the WMF Executive Director and/or Chair and Jimmy Wales so that they are available for the press conference.
For more information—Press for Wikimania 2012 was handled by Nicholas Michael Bashour, who was also the Deputy Coordinator. In addition to writing press releases, he worked closely with a public relations firm to plan the press kits for the conference as well as the press conference.
"Program" refers to the formally organized conference experiences of Wikimania—the presentations, workshops, and other activities that occur during the conference. The local team is free to develop the program as they see fit; however, there are certain traditions (such as the Wikimedia Foundation Board panel) that have been established over the years and planners are welcome to continue these traditions. The amount of work necessary to review submissions and proposals for the program is extensive, and the development of the program is a pre-condition for certain logistical decisions. In turn, the ability of the venue to provide must be taken into consideration when developing the program. The program committee must work with the logistical team to determine what the venue can provide, and the program committee must decide on a timetable and stick to it.
Making these decisions must be done at the very beginning of conference planning, as this will determine how long the conference is. For instance, if you want to have two days of business meetings and hackathons before the main conference, this will add an additional two days to the time for which you will need a venue, accommodation, etc. You also need to decide early on in the planning process the length of the formal program. Although every Wikimania to date (2012) has been three days long for the actual conference, there is no particular reason why this could not be longer with fewer simultaneous tracks and so fewer "clashes" between talks/sessions that people want to attend.
The program is developed by a combination of local and remote volunteers. This is a good area to assign to a team of remote volunteers, as long as there is a liaison to the core local team. The program team can be split into several groups—for instance, the people who are planning the parties and social events and the people who are in charge of the presentations, lectures, and workshops. For reviewing submissions, make sure to have some technically-oriented people who are able to judge the technical submissions for the program, and can also help liaison with planning the hackathon. While these groups can work independently, there needs to be very good coordination between all of the groups and the core team. Several areas, such as the attendee party, the keynote speakers, and Wikimedia Foundation events, will require the input and possible leadership of the core team.
The pre-conference is the one to two days before Wikimania officially begins. Typically these days are catered toward more "core" members of the community. Fewer people attend the pre-conference, and the programming arranged is more informal and unstructured. This is a good opportunity to get the hang of operating the conference and test the Internet capabilities of the venue—hackers demand the best Internet connectivity! In 2012, the pre-conference consisted of a hackathon, organized by the Wikimedia Foundation in cooperation with the OpenHatch Foundation, as well as a chapters meeting.
The 2012 hackathon took place across two days, chiefly in the Grand Ballroom, but with four classrooms open to prepared (and spontaneous) lectures and collaborative sub-groups. The program committee was not involved with this, aside from assigning rooms. Largely speaking, not much preparation goes into the hackathon, though future hackathons may want to consider it for the future.
Additionally, the Wikimedia chapters held a meeting across two of the days, with most of the business held on the second day of the pre-conference. The chapters decide on the agenda for the meeting.
Consider hosting tours of the city or of major landmarks during the conference, but make sure such tours are planned and announced well in advance.
Several different presentations and workshops take place during the days of Wikimania. These presentations are arranged into tracks, at the discretion of the program committee. To give an idea on how the schedule is arranged, see wm2012:Schedule. Assuming a three-day conference, your typical Wikimania will feature a keynote presentation on the morning of the first day, followed by several concurrent tracks with lunch sometime in the afternoon. The second day will feature all tracks, and the third day will feature tracks with a closing presentation. This closing presentation features a closing speaker as well as a presentation from the following year's Wikimania team. An opening reception is held on the first day, or the day before, and a closing party is held on the last day. Planning teams, however, are free to develop their schedule as they please. For instance, they could add another keynote presentation in the middle of the conference.
Keynotes—The keynote speaker for Wikimania is recruited well in advance of the conference. Choose your keynote speaker wisely: while you may not get the exact keynote speaker you want, you still should have respectable backup options. The role of the keynote speaker is to set the tone of the conference and to inspire attendees for the rest of the conference. In addition to opening remarks from the organizers, Wikimania by convention features a "State of the Wiki" speech from Jimmy Wales, as well as a Q&A session with the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees featuring a brief presentation by the Executive Director. Traditionally the Board Q&A is during the opening keynote while the State of the Wiki is during the closing keynote; however, during Wikimania 2012 this was switched due to a schedule conflict. The keynote presentations, in any case, should involve the core Wikimania organizers in planning due to their significance.
Tracks—Well in advance of the conference, the program committee circulates a call for participation, requesting presentations. Proposals are submitted through the wiki, where a committee reviews proposed presentations according to various metrics. Presentations are ranked on a scale of 1 to 7, with presentations ranked 7 being the best. Then, based on the availability of presenters to attend, as well as other factors, the best presentations are assigned conference slots. Be sure to assign presentations in such a way that it generates little conflict. For example, do not hold two lectures on technology at the same time, since it would be impossible for one to attend all of both sessions. Also, do not hold too many concurrent sessions; while choice is good, too many things going on at the same time can be unduly stressful for the organizing team.
Special Events—Wikimania is the world's largest wiki meetup, and social opportunities are just as important as the rest of the conference. Try to organize at least two special events: an opening party and a closing party. Show off what your city has to offer! While events should be scheduled close to the venue, it is more important that they are scheduled close to the hotels where attendees are staying. Inebriated Wikimaniacs should not have to contend with traveling far distances in their state. Provide shuttle transportation if you must. Further, non-alcoholic beverages should be available for all attendees. Other than some common sense rules, the planning team is entirely free to schedule these events as they wish. For instance, Wikimania 2012 opened with a formal reception in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress, while the closing party was an open bar held at a local pool hall.
Meetups—Allow interest groups within the Wikimedia community to organize meetups by providing a forum for them to announce meetups, such as a whiteboard or a well-publicized page on the wiki. Additionally, advertise break times between tracks as "meetup" times.
Keep scheduled events after the main conference very light; at this point, everyone is exhausted. This would be a good day to plan tours.
Decisions regarding keynote presentations should be made after the committee as a whole discusses the options. Decisions regarding keynotes, especially their scheduling, should be relayed to the logistics team.
Scheduling the concurrent tracks requires a little more sophistication and mental gymnastics—it is like trying to make all the pieces of a puzzle fit together. The program committee should maintain a review page, akin to wm2012:Schedule/Submission review, that allows the committee to rank presentations. After each presentation is assigned a number and sorted into a track, each member of the program committee votes on a scale of Strong Reject (1 point) to Strong Accept (7 points) whether to accept the presentation into the program. As it says on the submission review page for Wikimania 2012:
- "Program Committee members will judge the submissions indicated below based on the relevance to the conference themes and anticipated interest by participants. Committee members will refrain from judging their own submissions. Each submission will be given an average grade based on these assessments, and the Committee will use these grades to determine inclusion, time, and location of each presentation. Grades are not the final determination of acceptance."
The points each reviewer gives are averaged together for the final grade for the presentation. Not every program committee member has to review all presentations. For example, if some program committee members do not feel qualified to judge some technical submissions, they may skip them. Also, if a program committee member has a conflict-of-interest for particular submissions, they should abstain from reviewing those.
The purpose of assigning points to presentations is to determine rank, not to decide which presentations are ultimately accepted. While it stands to reason that the highest ranked presentations will be the ones that make it to Wikimania, the program committee must follow up with each qualifying presenter to ensure that they are in fact attending Wikimania. If a presenter announces he or she is not attending, their presentation is removed from consideration. If the ability of a presenter to attend is contingent on a scholarship that has neither been accepted nor rejected, the final decision is not made until the scholarship is approved or rejected. (This is why it is extremely important for the scholarship committee to expeditiously process applications.)
Scheduling and speaker management
Once the top presenters who have confirmed their attendance are known, the program committee must then undertake the arduous task of sorting the presentations into the grid of concurrent tracks. Different considerations must be balanced. First of all, you will probably not have a perfectly equal presentations between all the tracks. As long as related presentations are grouped together, this is okay. As one can easily tell from the Wikimania 2012 schedule, the tracks occurring in each room constantly changed. Avoid overlapping tracks if you can—try not to have two rooms simultaneously holding lectures on the same topic. Additionally, depending on the rooms in your venue, certain presentations require certain room setups. If a presentation requires the use of PowerPoint, do not assign them to the room without the projector. If one presentation is a panel, make sure they are assigned to a room equipped for panels. Finally, some presentations will be more popular than others, so the more popular topics should be assigned to larger lecture rooms. (What constitutes a popular "track" can be determined by past experience, but it would be better to collect this information by asking conference registrants about their favorite conference tracks.)
Be sure to continually follow up with the presenters as the conference approaches. Once they have booked their hotel rooms, be sure to figure out where they are staying. Also be sure to get their phone number so that you can get in touch with them, should they not be at the venue on time. If a presenter drops out at the last minute, be prepared to have replacement programming.
On-site program needs
Wikimania 2007 featured a large, printed on-site schedule that was kept up-to-date alongside the online schedule. Something similar could be achieved with large monitors
The program committee needs to work closely with the planning team; the chair of the program committee should serve as a liaison between logistics and program.
Rooms should have signs posted out front. During Wikimania 2012, large room signs indicating the room name and number were printed on foam board, with paper signs attached indicating the events of that room. Note that schedule changes will happen, and they need to be communicated effectively. Make sure attendees know that the online schedule is always the latest and greatest. Be sure to include such information prominently by the printed schedule, should you choose to print one. Also keep an up-to-date schedule in a central place such as the help desk in case attendees cannot access the online versions themselves.
Be sure to work with the volunteer coordinator to make sure that all the sessions are covered by at least one volunteer. These volunteers moderate sessions and, after the presentations, should obtain a copy of the presentation slides so that they can be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons.
Collages—Ask participants ahead of time if they would be interested in creating something like a collage or an installation. For example, Wikimania 2010 featured an installation made from empty pipes outside the venue.
Cultural exhibitions—The 2010 Wikimania introduced an element of cultural exhibition, with the screening of a film and performance of a symphony concert. The idea is to have something that the entire community can enjoy together. In 2010, the Wikipedia-related documentary Truth in Numbers? was screened, and there was a symphony concert celebrating the host city and the cultural impact it had had and continues to have on the world.
Quiz—You can consider having small quiz sessions to give out merchandise. The questions could be related to Wikipedia or encyclopedic in nature.
Video screening—Consider hosting a video screening. Have a call for submission of videos, with some of the videos screened at the event. A winner could be chosen by the audience or a panel of judges.
Scholarships are grants that cover travel, registration and accommodation expenses for individuals to attend Wikimania. They provide a way for Wikimedians of limited means to attend the conference. The process must start 6-8 months in advance of the conference date.
Scholarship funds usually come from the Wikimedia Foundation and individual chapters. While the Wikimedia Foundation provides most scholarships, the conference team can also sponsors to provide scholarships, and they can provide them out of their general fund if they so choose.
The criteria for granting a scholarship can vary; for instance, individuals may be selected for scholarships based on participation in the Wikimedia movement (e.g., a chapter officer or long-time editor), a role in the Wikimania conference (e.g., organizer or program presenter), geography or other demographics (e.g., developing countries or women), or need (e.g., students). The amount of individual scholarships may be fixed or variable depending on individual need.
The Wikimedia Foundation generally takes the lead on coordinating the general funding for scholarships with the help of a very dedicated committee of volunteers. It typically takes a WMF staff coordinator and committee to handle the scholarship process and review applications. Scholarship also needs to be coordinated with the registration and program processes and timelines.
The scholarship process is started in late fall of the year before Wikimania with the establishment a scholarship review committee. The committee consists of 8-10 individuals from various Wikimedia communities around the world. One of those committee members should be from the Wikimedia Foundation, and one should be from the team that is hosting Wikimania. Members from the previous year's scholarship committee are usually invited to remain and additional recruitment is done as needed.
The review process consists of two parts: the first step filters credible applications from the non-credible applications (such as spam or where important fields are left blank), and the second step reviews the applications for their merit. Each year the scholarship committee decides on a set of criteria, including current and likely future involvement in the Wikimedia movement, as well as what the geographic distribution of scholarship recipients should be. For the selection criteria used in 2014, see http://wikimania2014.wikimedia.org/wiki/Scholarships#Selection_criteria
A member of the local host team should be appointed to answer questions, historically via OTRS. This person is ideally situated to answer these questions given their (1) local knowledge (e.g., visa questions), (2) close interaction with the Wikimania planning team (e.g., timing, accommodations), and (3) familiarity with scholarship rules (e.g., expenses covered).
- Participate in periodic online meetings with scholarships program manager and other committee members (Oct-Jan)
- Review and edit communications material (e.g., Scholarship wiki, application questions) (Nov-Jan)
- Screen scholarship applications for spam (Jan-Feb)
- Rate final round of scholarship applicants (Feb-Mar)
Scholarship applications and reviews
While many organizations provide scholarships, seek to create a unified scholarship form for all scholarships so that applicants only need to fill out one form. Based on this aggregate data, the organizations (the Wikimedia Foundation, the chapters, and any other grant-making organizations) can decide to whom they will award scholarships. For the scholarship application software, see mw:Wikimania Scholarships app.
Wikimedia Foundation scholarships
The Wikimedia Foundation sets aside money every year explicitly to fund the costs of select volunteers to attend Wikimania. The number of scholarships has varied year to year, based on funding as well as location of Wikimania. In years past, these scholarships have been open to anyone to apply. In 2014, they will be a full scholarship, with all travel expenses, dorm accommodations, and registration fees paid;
The chief contact at the Wikimedia Foundation for the scholarship process is the WMF conference coordinator, who in 2014 is Ellie Young. She is in charge of selecting and organizing the review committee and ensuring the scholarship sites and communications are all coordinated and executed. The coordinator will receive the applicant scores from the review committee and is responsible for the final selection of scholarship recipients. The coordinator will also work with the WMF travel staff and agency in coordinating travel arrangements for recipients.
The Wikimedia Foundation chooses to support these scholarships with the following goals in mind:
- to make Wikimania a successful and productive international conference,
- to support the Wikimedia projects by encouraging participation,
- to enrich the conference with attendance by a diverse group of participants in the Wikimedia movement.
Some chapters provide their own scholarships for different reasons. There are multiple ways this happens.
- Chapters contribute toward the Wikimedia Foundation scholarship fund. This is quite simple and straightforward; nothing special needs to be done. However, chapters that do this will not be able to exert special influence who is getting scholarships.
- Chapters provide additional funds for scholarship attendees of their own choosing. This way, the chapters can influence who can receive scholarships. This might be useful if a chapter wants to enhance participation from its own country. It could also help the WMF scholarship committee, as chapters might know their local Wikimedians better to be able to rank them. These kinds of scholarships needs to be coordinated with the scholarship team, with all applications following a certain criteria to be forwarded to the chapter. The chapter decides and informs the scholarship team which applications it will accept and fund. The other applications will go back to the WMF pool and may be funded by the regular scholarship program. The Wikimania organizers can decide to invoice the chapter directly for these scholarships while providing discount codes for the registration, so scholarship recipients don't have to pay in advance.
- Chapters run their own independent scholarship program, with very little or no involvement from the Wikimedia Foundation or the Wikimania organizing team. This should perhaps be avoided, as it may create duplication of effort and can be cumbersome on scholarship applicants.
Scholarships from other organizations
Sometimes outside organizations volunteer to sponsor attendance to Wikimania. For example, in 2012, the Soros Foundation and ROSEdu both offered scholarships to qualified individuals upon the recommendation of the Wikimania Scholarships Review Committee.
These scholarships are typically administered by the organization itself, and their recipients go through the same selection process as other scholarship recipients.
The timing obviously can flex based on when Wikimania is occurring. Roughly:
- Set-up scholarship committee
- Determine selection criteria
- Outline specific timeline / key dates
- Finalize scholarship application
- Test scholarship application
- Review committee
- Scholarship program manager
|October - December
- Set up scholarship application site
- Enable repository for storing applications and interface for scoring applications
- Scholarship application is open
- Advertise Scholarship applications (e.g., Central Notice; mailing lists; blogs)
- Tech coordinator
- Scholarship program manager
- Local team representative
- Scholarship application is closed
|January - March
- Scholarship committee reviews applications and rates based on selection criteria
- WMF selects scholarships based on committee's recommendation and special considerations
- Scholarship program manager
- Scholarship recipients are notified (~3 weeks to accept/decline)
- Tech coordinator
- Scholarship program manager
|April - May
- Scholarship recipients work with WMF and travel agency to book flights
- Scholarship program manager
|May - June
- Help scholarship recipients get visa assistance, if necessary
- Local team representative
|May - August
- Help scholarship recipients get reimbursed for travel costs
- Local team representative
- Scholarship program manager
Think of the registration process as a broader information collection and intelligence gathering process. Most of the information you need to conduct the conference is gathered through different registration processes, so the more unity and cohesion that exists between these processes, the more intelligent your decisions will be. Your ideal scenario is that your attendees will need to do as little work as possible to sign up for the conference. If you have an attendee who is also a scholarship recipient, in need of a visa letter, who is also an accepted speaker who would like to go on a tour of the National Archives, you would like to be able to have all that information in one place. Otherwise, you will have separate, redundant sets of records, and in that case, you risk having conflicted data.
The registration team will need to work closely with the budget, scholarships, program, press and logistics teams. These are the different interplays between the registration team and other teams:
- The budget team should determine best practices for handling money and where the money should go, as well as setting registration fees.
- The scholarships team and registration team will need to coordinate about how to register participants who are also applying for scholarships.
- The program team and registration team will need to coordinate about how to register program speakers, as well as how to register the long list of VIPs and guests that the program team will have: everyone from Jimmy Wales to the local dignitary.
- The press team and the registration team will need to coordinate for issuing and keeping track of press passes.
- The logistics team, who will provide cut-off dates for registration (for instance, no more registrations after Date X so that we can order the food), as well as information about accommodations (which may or may not be a part of the registrations process). The logistics team will need an updated and accurate count of registrations throughout the process; it's probably helpful for the registration team to get in the habit of making a weekly report to the core team throughout the registration season.
For your registration system to be functional, you will need adequate registration software, a list of information to collect from attendees, an established registration fee structure and payment collection method, and enough information about the conference so that people will want to sign up. The timeline for registration should be set at the beginning of conference planning and be based on the date of the conference, especially if you are offering tiered (early/late) registrations. Registration needs to be in good time for people to be able to book holidays, get cheap early booking deals on flights, and obtain travel visas if necessary.
Once everyone is registered, the registration team isn't done—there is an on-site component to registration as well. All attendees will need badges and will need to be checked in. As stated above, consider contracting this work to a registration production company, since it is very detail-intensive and can potentially involve a complicated supply chain. A registration company will also help you run the registration desk; however, volunteers that hand out the name badges and conference bags are also needed.
Registration fee structure
Wikimania has usually made use of a tiered registration structure. First, there is a lower fee for registering very early than there is registering very late. Secondly, a different rate is charged depending on whether the registrant is a member of the Wikimedia community or not. (For Wikimania 2012, the discounted fee was extended to all students regardless of Wikimedia involvement.) This serves two purposes. First, charging a lower fee for early registration encourages people to register earlier, allowing the planning team to better predict attendance. Second, discounted registration for Wikimedia community members encourages members of the community to attend.
For Wikimania 2012, the early, regular, and late registration fees for community members and students were $35, $45, and $60 respectively, while the everyone-else early, regular, and late registration fees were $55, $75, and $95 respectively. All scholarship recipients were charged the community member's early rate, as well as anyone whose registration was being billed to an organization such as a chapter. Those registering on-site paid the late registration fee. There was no way to make sure that non-students and non-community members used the community member's discounted rate; however, enough people paid the higher rate that the honor system probably works.
After Wikimania 2012, the team noted two things: attendance was considerably high while registration fees were considerably low. Future conferences should consider charging a significantly higher fee for non-community registration, something closer to a typical conference (like $300), to help keep Wikimania as a financially feasible conference that is still available to the members of the community. To prevent people from gaming the system, registering at the lower rate would require a special approval.
To begin, you will need some kind of registration software to put on your website. Past conference teams have used the Drupal content management system with the "UberCart" extension, along with a few other extensions. The problem with this approach is that while it is highly customizable free software, the code is very unreliable. The number of things that needed to be resolved with the code (some of which were never fully resolved) took up a lot of time and caused a delay in beginning registration. Future conferences should implement more robust software, or better yet, use a third-party service like EventBrite that simply works without any need for configuration. Of course, the downside with third-party registration is that you must trust the third party provider with other people's data, which, while it is not a substantial risk with a good company, may still concern some people.
Whatever software backend you use must support the creation of custom registration forms (obviously), with the ability of registrants to revise those forms after they filled them out. You need to know all the information you need to collect in advance—this is important, since otherwise you may be missing important details from registrants. Your system should have a coupon code system that allows registrants to pay a reduced rate or nothing, especially for scholarship recipients. You need an online payment system like PayPal or a credit card merchant service, though some registrants may ultimately need to pay in cash in person due to issues with e-commerce in certain countries like Ukraine. Your registration form must be made available in many different languages, and you need a convenient way to export your data so that it can be incorporated onto name badges.
An important caveat: registering for the conference and registering on the conference registration system should be the same process. If you have website registration and conference registration as two separate processes, it confuses attendees into thinking they have registered for the conference when they have not. It makes data collection very frustrating, since you end up needing to reconcile two different sets of databases (the user database and the attendee database).
Information you will need to collect at conference registration includes:
- Badge information
- First Name
- Last Name
- Project (featuring listing of wiki projects) and Project Language (if applicable—e.g., French Wikiquote)
- Optional: Affiliation
- Optional: Preferred languages
- Optional: Interests (this is an open-ended field meant more to facilitate conversation and is low-priority, given limited space available on badges)
- Non-badge information
- Choice between discounted registration price or full registration price
- Days attending (check box for each day)
- Tracks (check box for each track—be sure to note that this is to help with assigning rooms and is not binding)
- Gender (male/female/decline to state) (this is for statistical purposes and helps with ordering t-shirts)
- T-shirt size
- Dietary restrictions
- Special accommodations needed (sign language interpreters, etc.). This should be an open-ended field.
- Coupon code
With badge information, attendees should be able to specify whether or not they want certain information on their badge. For instance, some attendees may want to leave their last name off their badge, going only by their first name.
Additional registration processes
While conference registration is important, it is only one piece of the data collection puzzle. There are additional forms that attendees may need to fill out.
Visa assistance—This is probably one of the most time-consuming and complicated thing to consider. As Wikimanias get larger, the number of countries represented also increases. Some familiarity with visa procedures would go a long way. The basic concept is that attendees from some countries may need a travel visa from your country's government in order to attend Wikimania, and while your government may have firm requirements such as sufficient home-country ties, an invitation letter can help your attendee. Writing these letters is a full-time job, and being able to turn them out in time is necessary so that attendees can apply for visas in time.
To write invitation letters, you will need to collect the following information:
- Name as it appears on passport
- Passport number
- Passport expiration date
- Issuing country
- Date of birth
When writing invitation letters for scholarship recipients, be sure to note the recipient's accomplishments and explain how their travel is being paid for.
Hotels and room sharing—See the Accommodation section of this Handbook for more information. If attendees are signing up for hotel or dorm rooms through the conference and not directly through the hotel, you will need to collect the attendees' check-in and check-out dates, as well as their preference for a smoking or non-smoking room and bed needs. If an attendee is bringing someone with them, they should make a note of that. If you have decided to offer a roommate pairing service, whereby people ask to be randomly paired with a roommate so that they can split the costs of a room, you will need to collect information on roommate preferences, including whether the roommate smoke or whether they need to be the same gender. Registrants should also have the option to specifically name a roommate.
Scholarship applications—Those applying for scholarships should have the option of submitting a conditional registration, where they can submit information as though they were registering for Wikimania but not have it be finalized until they can confirm their attendance. As for the scholarship application process itself, the information you collect will depend on what the scholarship committee wishes to collect.
Presentation submission and confirmation—By integrating the program process with the registration conference, you may save yourself a lot of effort. You won't have to worry about whether speakers have registered for Wikimania, and you will have a simple, efficient way of finalizing each speaker. The first step is the original submission of the presentation, with a title, name of presenters, brief abstract, and more information if applicable. Then, as the program committee accepts presentations, presenters can use the form to confirm their attendance and provide more information if they have any.
Press credential request—Registration for press should be separate from regular attendee registration, since they register for free and different information is collected about them. You will need the following information for press credentials:
- Contact name, address, phone number, and email address
- Day attending
- Type of media
- Media market
- Editor's name
- Special needs
- Interview requests, if applicable
Sponsor registration—Sponsor registration is slightly different. If an attendee is registering as a representative of a sponsor, display a form with the option to add:
- Office phone
- Mobile phone
- Company logo (optional),
- A one hundred-word description (optional)
- A yes/no field asking “Are you the main contact for this sponsor?”
- A yes/no field asking “Are you the billing contact for this sponsor?”
- A yes/no field asking “Are you attending this conference?”
For validation, add a sponsor code field. Sponsor registration is free. If a registrant is not attending the conference, add them to a separate list from the other registrants. There are two different types of sponsor codes: regular sponsor codes and guest sponsor codes. Regular sponsors get a “Sponsor” ribbon, while sponsor guests do not.
Groups, such as Wikimedia chapters, will want to register attendees in bulk for their scholarship awardees or staff members. Coupons can provide free/discounted registration, free/discounted hotel stay, or it can provide both. Groups will be billed based on use.
The form fields to include are:
- Name of group (e.g., Wikimedia Hong Kong)
- Name of group contact
- Group contact email address
- Group contact title (e.g. Treasurer, Travel Coordinator, etc.)
- Billing name
- Billing address
- Billing email address
- Number of codes requested of each:
- Registration discount only (and amount discounted)
- Hotel discount only (and amount per night discounted)
- Both registration and hotel discount (and amounts discounted)
- Additional requests
The idea of specifying the amount discounted is that it allows the coupon code user to either stay at a cheap dorm for free or stay at a more expensive hotel for a subsidized cost.
This form generates the coupon codes, but before they go live, someone from the Wikimania team needs to email the named contact person to make sure the order is authorized. This is to ensure that the group intended on taking on the potential cost. Common sense should be exercised. Once the person from the Wikimania team approves the request, the codes should be emailed to the contact person who will distribute the codes as necessary.
As coupon codes are used, their use and the amount discounted should be recorded in a central database. This will ultimately yield an invoice to be payable by the group.
Additionally, the Wikimania team can use this feature to generate coupon codes for its own uses (for example, for free registration codes for sponsors).
Printing name badges can become complicated, since people's registration details change, people turn up on the day wanting to register, the printer breaks, someone made a typo (you'll be blamed even if the attendee goofed), someone is registered as a normal attendee but want a speaker/organiser/press badge... the list goes on. Be prepared to create new badges on-demand at registration.
The name badge needs to include the name of the conference, a logo to prevent easy duplication/faking, and information per the request of the attendee (see above). You should either print this information on both sides of the badge, or engineer the badge such that it cannot flip over. What you don't want is a case where badges easily flip over, causing them to fail in their most basic function.
The font should be as large as you can fit on the badge, but note that some people have very long names and user names (over 40 characters is not unknown in some attendees). Badges need to be attached to Wikimanians. This is usually done by hanging them round the neck on a lanyard with an option for clipping them to clothing. Pins are a bad idea, since they are difficult for some clothes, there is a potential for injury, and they are less visible).
Use different colors and text labels for different type of attendees, including organizers, volunteers, speakers, and especially press.
Include a small booklet with the schedule and most important information, such as venue layout, nearby shops and pharmacies, and shuttle schedules, and put this booklet inside the badges so it can't get lost and can easily be transported. This was a great idea from Wikimania 2011 that was repeated for Wikimania 2012.
Some additional advice:
- Not all information on the badge is of equal importance. Use different font sizes to easily identify the important bits (e.g. name).
- Landscape badges have more space
- username@homeproject is quite long to read—consider separating onto different lines
- You (or your funding sources) may wish to add sponsors' logos to the badges too
- Some attendees will not want their photo taken, and will ask for a marker to indicate this. Sometimes we have included this either on the badge or as a sticker to apply by attendees on registration.
While we live in a day and age where anyone can find the best rates for hotels online, there is a value in selecting official conference accommodations for your attendees. Having attendees clustered together encourages an after-hours social activity that would otherwise be hampered by people needing to return to their beds at the end of the night, and having most of your attendees together makes group transportation to the venue or to an event that much simpler. Some lodging options—such as university dormitories—are really only available if reserved in bulk for your conference, so the planning team also has a duty to reserve those beds. This should be done as far in advance as possible, just after selecting your venue.
Regardless of what hotel options you offer, you will need to arrange inexpensive housing for Wikimania attendees. As one past Wikimania organizer put it, many Wikimedians cannot afford more than US$50 per night. Cost is the biggest consideration for many; however, other people will have other needs. For instance, some people need to be able to have a room to themselves. While you can offer shared rooms as your cheapest option, you need to also offer inexpensive private rooms. Some people will request suites (i.e., hotel rooms with kitchens), while others will need arrangements for disabilities. Some people yet can afford paying a higher rate and will want nicer accommodations. For all housing options you pursue, they should be as close to the venue as possible while also being close to restaurants, bars, coffeehouses, etc. while also offering breakfast and Wi-Fi. Also make sure the hotel does not charge extra for double or triple occupancies, or if it does, that the surcharge is not a great amount of money. Make sure the guaranteed rate covers three days before the conference through three days after the conference. Remember it is customary in many parts of the world that prices include the taxes, so please make clear what the total price is including taxes.
Making group reservations
There are two basic approaches to handling reservations: reserve all the rooms for the conference and then re-sell them yourself, or leave it up to the hotels and provide a registration code for your attendees. The former allows you to pair roommates together—saving attendees money—but it imposes a data management burden on the conference team. The latter is obviously easier for the conference team, but it makes attendees look for roommates on their own. Additionally, not all hotels (and especially not all dormitories or hostels) offer this option. As a result you will need to do a little of both.
A typical conference will reserve a block of hotel rooms and then distribute them to attendees, either directly or through a registration code used by the attendees. Room blocks are guarantees—you will fill all the rooms, and you will pay an attrition charge for the rooms you do not fill. If you reserve a large-enough room block far enough in advance, you can leverage this to get a discount. Use this conservatively enough so that the risk of incurring attrition costs are minimized. Keep in mind that, no matter how steep the discount, a room may still be too expensive for some attendees.
Another option is to pursue a "courtesy block," where you get a guaranteed rate through the conference but you do not need to commit to purchasing any rooms. You will incur zero loss this way, but you cannot get any discount—in fact, the rate may be even higher than the rate advertised on the website. As such, its only value is that it serves as a guaranteed maximum.
Should you re-sell rooms directly, be sure to include a modest price markup to account for potential losses that result from not all the room-nights being sold. After all, not everyone is staying from three days before the conference to three days after.
See also: Wikimania 2011 lessons#Accommodations and Wikimania 2010 lessons#Accommodation
Wikimania 2012 case study
While Wikimania 2012 took place at George Washington in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, the neighborhood had little to offer with regards to businesses open late at night or satisfactory hotels. However, the Dupont Circle Hotel in the Dupont Circle neighborhood—to the north—had plenty to offer. First of all, it was the one hotel in Washington, D.C. with the satisfactory Internet infrastructure necessary to host over a hundred Wikimedians. While most area hotels had outsourced their wireless Internet connectivity to third parties that offered lousy upload/download rates, the Dupont Circle Hotel handled it entirely in-house. Additionally, with a 100mbps connection, their capacity far exceeded any other hotel in the area, and there was also a backup connection in case the main one went down. Given that the Wikimania conference is centered on a website, it is only appropriate that the hotel should have strong Internet connectivity.
The Dupont Circle Hotel also provided other benefits, including a very comfortable bar and lounge with outdoor patio, as well as its proximity to the various amenities that the Dupont Circle neighborhood has to offer. Given all of these benefits, the decision was made to christen the hotel as the "official hotel" of the conference, encouraging anyone who had the money to stay there.
The team secured a discounted rate of US$189 per night at the hotel, $216 with taxes. To do this, it needed to buy up one hundred hotel rooms, which is about one-third of the hotel's entire capacity. Having had almost no data on accommodation arrangements for previous conferences, and with an aversion to risk due to the high cost of hotels in Washington, the conference team was reluctant to guarantee a high number of hotel rooms anywhere. However, by strongly encouraging individuals and organizations to stay at the hotel, we were able to fulfill the guarantee and more.
As an inexpensive option, largely catered toward the many number of people attending on scholarship, the Wikimania 2012 team reserved 150 beds, about one-half the building's capacity, at Hostelling International on 11th and K Streets. The greatest benefit to this was the low price, just US$38 per night; however, it was both far from the venue and there was no option to have private rooms. Further, due to the large number of scholarship recipients, reservations were not open to the public. As such, this left a number of people still needing rooms: those who preferred private rooms, and those who preferred inexpensive accommodations but were not traveling on scholarship.
As the third option, the conference team secured a courtesy rate at the State Plaza Hotel, walking distance from the venue. The conference team further reserved several rooms for the purpose of pairing roommates together, based on requests from attendees. Those who signed up for this option paid Wikimedia DC for their rooms rather than the hotel directly. This provided cheaper, private rooms for those who wanted it, and it also allowed those who didn't mind sharing rooms to do so somewhere slightly nicer than a hostel. The only problem with this, however, was that this was a reactionary measure, rather than a decision made in advance, and as such, the conference team could not get the best deal.
The Wikimania 2012 team persistently struggled with accommodations due to limited resources at the hostel and because of a misunderstanding of the price threshold it needed to reach for accommodations to be considered affordable. These problems were exacerbated by difficulties with securing its venue, with a final decision not being reached until late October 2011. The main lesson learned is that while there is value to a pricy "official" hotel, it must be supplemented by an ample supply of cheap rooms priced at no more than US$50 per night where possible, with an option of private rooms always available. This decision must be made well in advance, and attendees should be concentrated in as few hotels as possible to simplify logistical matters and to encourage attendees to spend time together.
Note: In this section, "hotel" is defined to include all hotels, hostels, dorms—wherever people are staying.
The best and cheapest way to conduct Wikimania is to have all relevant buildings and points of interest be within walking distance of each other. However, given the realities of cities, that is not always possible. This is when it is necessary to develop a transportation plan that efficiently moves your attendees around as to enjoy the full experience of the Wikimania conference.
Your transportation needs will depend on the number of locations (venues, hotels, party sites, etc.) that factor into your conference, as well as their distance from each other. By cutting down on the number of locations you need to connect, you reduce your transportation needs, thus saving money. Further, the closer your various locations are to mass transit, and the better the mass transit systems are in your city, the more you can rely on public transportation instead of considerably costlier charter buses.
Whatever transportation scheme your logistical team agrees to, be sure to document it thoroughly and to disseminate this information among attendees. For instance, if you are renting a charter bus, publish a bus schedule of when people will be picked up from where. If you are encouraging public transportation, link people to the transit authority website and say which bus stops / train stations to travel between, as well as the cost of fare.
To and From Airport—Consider making a deal with a taxi or shared van company to provide transportation for attendees from the airport. Wikimania 2011 made a deal with a shared van transportation company. Volunteers at the airport handed out flyers to attendees which described the deal made: the van would transport Wikimania attendees only from the airport to the different hotels and dorms for a fixed rate and no baggage charges. Those riding the van would show this flyer to the driver who would honor the deal. This allowed for more flexibility than a higher capacity bus that would pick people up at intervals, and it was also cheaper since the attendees paid for the cost of transportation.
Between Hotels and Venue—It's strongly recommended that hotels be within short walking distance of the venue, thus eliminating much of the logistical hassles. This also allows people to come and go when they want, go back to the hotel to change before special events, etc., and makes it easier for people to socialize with one another in the evenings.
Should it not be possible to have accommodations within walking distance, then at minimum, you should provide transportation in the morning of the conference and in the evening after the conference ends for the day. However, with many charter bus companies, buses must be reserved for four hour minimums. The best way to get around this is by reserving shuttle buses for four hour blocks in the morning and late afternoon, providing a loop for both people wishing to go early in the morning but also later in the morning. For the evening shuttle, start providing transportation earlier in the afternoon, with the last bus picking up attendees about one hour after the conference ends for the day. Alternatively, encourage attendees to use public transportation (see below).
To and From Special Events—To minimize the amount of confusion, first transport people between the venue and the hotels, and then, transport people from the hotels to the special event. This way, people have time to rest, shower, get dressed, etc. before the event. At the end of the event, provide at least one bus that leaves early and one bus that leaves later, such as a 22:00 bus followed by a 23:00 bus. Assuming your special events are at night, consider that public transportation may not be the best option. While attendees may be accustomed to the route they take to the conference, they may not be as certain about going to and from the special event venue. Further, public transportation at night may be intimidating to some attendees.
Using public transportation
Wherever possible, encourage attendees to use public transportation. In addition to saving your conference team money, transit can often provide for a more flexible schedule than a charter bus would allow. For instance, many Wikimania 2012 attendees stayed at Hostelling International on the other side of town. Because there was a bus that ran every ten minutes between the hostel and a drop-off point one block away from the venue, the conference team decided to make use of that bus instead of chartering buses to cover that route. To that end, the Wikimania team worked with the hostel to provide each attendee with a reloadable transit card. Attendees were given bus schedules and were told where to get on and off the bus.
If possible, try to plan a conference centered entirely on transit, such that you will not need to charter any buses. At the same time, consider the limits posed by public transportation, such as the fact that bus and train routes may not neatly line up with where your venues and hotels are.
Insurance and emergencies
Liability insurance—Your venue is likely to require you to hold a liability insurance plan during the conference, with the venue named as a co-insured party, so make sure you have that by the time of the conference. Insurance can help you in the event anything should go disastrously wrong and you are held liable in court. With insurance plans, check to see that you have all the necessary coverage that is appropriate to the conference, especially if any part of your program is particularly risky (for instance, involving pyrotechnics [that would be really cool]). Your venue will define what needs to be covered (such as false arrest), while your conference planner may be able to guide you through this process.
Duty phone—Have at least one person with a mobile phone, provided by the conference, that serves as the point of contact in case of emergencies. If you have multiple people with phones, set up a Google Voice number that includes all the duty phone numbers in a round-robin. Publish this phone number on the conference wiki, and post it throughout the venue. Your duty phone volunteer must be an extremely trustworthy person, but should be someone other than the main coordinators. For Wikimania 2012, the volunteer coordinator was entrusted with a pay-as-you-go Android smartphone so that all modes of communication were covered.
Emergency information—Publish in your conference book as well as on the website all the necessary information for an emergency, including the emergency hotline (9-9-9 in Great Britain, for example), the conference duty phone number, and the location of the nearest hospitals. See wm2012:Address book/Emergency as an example.
First Aid—Clearly mark in your conference book's map where first aid is provided in the venue.
Printing and production
Conference book—Traditionally, each attendee is provided with a book featuring greetings, conference policies, the schedule, presentation abstracts, local information, and information about sponsors. Consider working with a graphic designer to design a common theme for the book and then filling it in with information as necessary. Consider having as little as possible in the physical book, as nearly everything you put in the book could also be put online, and longer books can be very expensive. Since you will need to submit your conference book to the printers about two weeks in advance, anything you put in the book will risk being outdated. For instance, the session schedule featured in the printed book was out of date by the time of the conference, leaving many attendees to rely on an out-of-date schedule. Consider leaving the session schedule out of the printed book, instead featuring it on large-screen displays throughout the venue.
Venue signs—Large, clearly visible signs featuring the conference logo will make your attendees' lives easier. Large signs direct the flow of traffic, and if attendees see the conference logo, they will know they are in the right place. Well in advance of the conference, walk throughout the venue and decide on logical places to put signs. You will need signs that point people to the right rooms, signs for each session room, and signs for the registration queues. Consider also having signs outside the restrooms so that they are easier to find. For signs outside of session rooms, just put the name or number of the room on it, leaving a space to tape written information about the events of that room.
T-shirts—It is conventional for Wikimania attendees to receive t-shirts for the conference. Wikimania 2012 partnered with the Wikimedia Foundation, debuting its Wikimedia Store at the conference, to print special edition conference t-shirts that attendees could receive with a special voucher. Collect t-shirt sizes at registration so that you know how many t-shirts of what sizes you will need to print. If you are ordering your own t-shirts for distribution, be sure to order both men's cut and women's cut t-shirts. You will need to do this about one month before the conference.
Other printed materials—During the conference you may need to print impromptu signs to affix to your larger venue signs, or other things for distribution throughout the venue. Keep a printer in your conference's on-site office so that you can print these things on demand.
Internet and audiovisual
Since Wikimania is a conference centered on an Internet technology, it is understandable that it has extensive wireless and bandwidth needs, particularly given its tech-savvy audience. Aside from the sheer volume of Internet users, you will also have to take into account that the programmers during the hackathon have very specific technical needs, many of which are outlined in this section of the Handbook. This is further complicated by the diversity of devices and operating systems on these devices. (For example, Linux was a popular operating system during the Hackathon of Wikimania 2012. Linux machines were also consistently unable to get along with the venue's wireless.) When selecting your venue, have confidence that they will be able to provide your Internet needs, and if they cannot, see what your options are for setting up a temporary Internet connection at the venue. Make sure the wireless setup can handle at least one thousand concurrent connections.
Requiring less involvement from the venue but far more logistical finesse, recording videos of all the sessions will preserve the experience of Wikimania and make it available to all those who cannot attend in person. At minimum you should record videos of all the sessions and to do so with the help of a professional video production company. It is worth the expense, since you will need a dedicated team just for video, and by contracting it to an outside firm you can be assured that all necessary setup, recording, takedown, backing up, and editing is accounted for. If your venue has the Internet capacity and if the conference has the budget, also consider streaming the conference in real time. (The leadership of Wikimania 2011 and 2012, however, both decided against streaming, noting that the money can be put to better use.)
This is not the ideal solution, but sometimes you need guerilla networking. Wikimania 2005
Functioning wireless Internet for all attendees is an absolute must. Because of the diversity of computers and mobile devices used, especially by Wikimaniacs, the wireless network must not have any captive proxies, connection timeouts, network-level malware checks, or other things that limit connectivity. Ideally an open network is used, but encryption with a password is fine so long as the password is well distributed. One password per device is absolutely unacceptable.
Prepare for about 1.5 devices per attendee. Most contractors would never consider that every Wikimania attendee will have at least one device that wants an IP and potentially two or three. With this in mind, a /23 subnet (which supports 510 devices) or even a /22 subnet (which supports 1022 devices)—instead of the usual /24 subnet for 254 devices— should be considered. Additionally you could limit the DHCP lease time to 1 or 2 hours so that addresses can be reallocated often, though you risk knocking people offline that way.
Note that the bandwidth is a lesser concern compared to support for concurrent users. Wi-Fi access point can—according to vendors—handle up to 20 concurrent devices. In practice you can support around one hundred people with one AP as they are mostly not using wifi all at the same time. However, you do not want to risk overloading access points by setting up too few. There are only three Wi-Fi channels which don't have overlaping frequencies (1, 6, 11), so you can have up to three Wi-Fi gears per room. Put them into three different corners of the hall and limit the radio power so they don't interfere with Wi-Fi in the next room or in the lobby. Alternatively, see if you can have other wireless networks in the venue turned off during the conference.
If this part of the spectrum is licensed for Wi-Fi in your country, consider using 5 GHz Wi-Fi (802.1n). See List of WLAN channels for more information.
While wireless is very important, you will also need to support wired connections, especially during the Hackathon. There must be at least one RJ45 socket in each lecture hall, connected to a central network rack. Determine if you will need to bring extra switches, and if so, how many ports they will need to have and where they should be put. Also decide if you will need extra cables.
Visit the venue well in advance of the conference and test the Internet uplink. You may need to supply your own if the venue does not normally have one or if it is woefully inadequate. Be sure to work with your venue to make sure that a stable Internet connection will be available, and conduct stress testing before and during the conference.
The subnet and DHCP server must have capacity for allocating 6 IPv4 (and optionally, IPv6) addresses (preferably a /29) per hacker. This would be nice, but to be realistic, two IP addresses per person present are probably sufficient.
The following ports need to be open:
- SSH (22), DNS (53 — TCP & UDP),
- HTTP (80, 8080, 8888), HTTPS (443), FTP (20, 21)
- IMAP (143, 220), IMAPS (993), POP3 (110), POP3s (995)
- SMTP (25), SSMTP (465), SIP (5060), RTP (7078 - TCP & UDP),
- XMPP/Jabber (5222), IRC (6665-9)
- Gerrit (29418)
Also, ICMP (ping, traceroute) should work.
Ideally, there's no restriction on outgoing connection at all, or maybe just a blacklist for Bit Torrent and other such undesirable ports.
The only thing we need incoming is DNS (yes, please allow direct external DNS replies) and ICMP.
If NAT is not used, attendees should be informed in advance. This is highly unlikely anyway (except maybe for IPv6).
Video recording and streaming
Given the amount of people and expertise it takes to record simultaneous Wikimania sessions, your best bet is to go with a video production company that will handle all the video work.
If you are able to get a company make sure:
- Streams can be watched with open source tools (i.e., no proprietary software plugins like Adobe Flash)
- Raw recordings will be provided to the team; optionally, with encoded versions alongside
- A timeline is established for providing the videos to the team, along with a designated recipient for the videos
- That the recordings will be released under an appropriate license (i.e., the production company will not try to claim copyright)
A contractor should be able to provide all the equipment and staff necessary. Ask for references and look up reviews to ensure that you are getting the best for your money, since it is a very expensive investment.
If your Wikimania will stream videos, make sure the production company is equipped to handle all necessary streaming. If not, make sure they work closely with whoever is handling streaming.
Other OpenScource-conference are able to publish there videos 1-3 days after the presentation. This increase the impact of the whole conference.
Do it yourself
If possible you should avoid handling recording and streaming, since it is an extensive operation that risks distracting you from all the other work of organizing Wikimania. However, if you have the capacity or if you have no other choice, this is how to do it yourself.
Minimum Setup—For a minimal setup you will need (per lecture room):
- A camera (DV with Firewire)
- A PC (with Linux and Firewire)
- One person handling the camera and monitoring the streaming
The simple setup uses an Icecast server which is hosted somewhere on the Internet (Manuel has done that in the past for free). With a few command line tools you can grab the camera input from Firewire (dvgrab), encode it into Ogg/Theora (ffmpeg2theora) and push it via HTTP/ICE2 to the streaming server (oggfwd). You can simply run dvgrab and ffmpeg2theora in a second instance to record the lectures onto the local hard drive in a different format. This can be started and stopped by the person handling the camera before and after each lecture, so you get separated files. If you have an additional volunteer you can collect the recordings from the computers immediately after, make backups, adjust the beginning and end, convert and upload them soon after the lecture has ended.
Sound—To improve the sound check that your cameras have a separate audio input or play with ffmpeg2theora so it uses the audio from your soundcard instead. If you use the camera make sure you can switch of Auto-Gain. Get a small mixer - you might already have one to adjust the microphone volume in the hall - and use the recording output from there as sound input. The camera person should use a headset to verify the sound is good at all time, a VU meter in the mixer would be also helpful to be able to stick with a certain level.
Two-Camera Setup—If you can afford to do so, get a second camera for a static position that captures the whole lecture scene while the first camera will be guided and captures close-ups of the speaker. You will need a separate camera person for this. With a video mixer, you can mix the two images from both cameras to provide a more lively scene and better vision to the viewers. A good video mixer can also capture the VGA input from the projector—the projectors mostly have a VGA output where you can capture the image they are showing. This way you can also mix in the slides shown during the lecture which improves readability and overall quality of the video greatly.
Volunteer Team—Your volunteers should have no other job except video recording, and they should be trained by your planning team's technology person. Only assign the most trustworthy volunteers to this job, since it requires a substantial time commitment. Always make backups of your videos.
More important than being able to stream the videos in real time is being able to upload them after the conference so that posterity may enjoy the proceedings of the conference.
After videos have been edited, it is suggested to upload them to the Internet Archive at the highest resolution you have (upload raw DV if you have it, since there's no size limit), with one video/session per item, through the S3 API or the very reliable bulk uploader. This way, videos will be converted to several formats and will be available immediately for streaming and download.
Ogg videos in reasonable bitrates can then be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons for backup and inclusion in the wikis' pages (such as session pages and schedule). To circumvent the size limit a sysadmin will be needed, see commons:Help:Server-side upload for instructions. It's way easier if you provide the videos in the correct format; by uploading them to archive.org first, you will have Ogg-formated videos at your disposal, and you will only have to send links to the sysadmin, with no need of conversion or hard disks.
Prepare a list of all the necessary equipment and ask your venue if they will be able to provide. If they cannot provide, find an outside contractor or work with your video production company.
Audio—While you will need to know about the audio setup in each room for video recording purposes, it is also useful to know what support there is for amplification in each room. Determine for each session room if there is amplification available, as well as the number of microphones available. Smaller lecture rooms only require two wireless microphones—one for the speaker and one for audience questions, roving or on a mic stand—while larger lecture halls will need additional microphones for additional mic stands or more roving mics. You will also need a mixer in each room for video recording purposes.
Projectors and computers—Each room should have a projector in it. Check with your venue if they have Mac adapters available; if not, the easiest thing is to buy a few for the conference (set aside a few hundred dollars for this). Consider renting a few laptops for use during the conference.
Power strips—During the sessions, many people will want to plug their computers in. Having ample power strips in each room helps make this possible. However, be sure to have clearance from the venue beforehand, since too many power strips can be a fire hazard.
During the conference
Make a list of all important persons and their mobile numbers, know when they are available during the conference and where to find them:
- Facility manager: Helps you with locking/unlocking doors, power issues, lights
- Audio technician : in case there is a problem with the local audio equipment
- IT manager: To get access to server/phone cabinet with Internet uplink, switches, etc.
You need at least one person in the local team who exactly knows the venue and has access to all the information listed above. This person has to be immediately available in case of emergency. Radios assure the communication between Wikimania office and the rest of the local team while they are around.
Consider having a tech support assistant from the venue on standby by the registration/help desk during the conference in case issues arise. Having one place to report tech problems was very helpful during Wikimania 2012.
Have plenty of spare parts on hand, especially spare batteries for the wireless microphones, and some mac adaptors for the projectors.
After you have your conference planned out, the last step is putting the finishing touches on your venue. This is where precise details and good budgeting matter most, since even a slight surge in attendance can cause your costs to go up. When several hundred people converge in one place, there will be issues that will need to be dealt with, and the on-site team will be the ones dealing with them.
The team for this diverse set of areas may consist of several individuals, many of whom will typically be part of or will work closely with the core team. These team members generally need to be local, so that they can conduct in-person negotiations, site visits, etc. However, the logistics team will also need to coordinate with every other team, since logistics will be the ones setting up registration tables, helping the tech team get access to the venue, assisting the program team with room assignments, providing and receiving budget information and so on. This team will coordinate on-site services, but may actually be provided by a last-minute, larger crew of volunteers that may come from the venue, a local university, the local meetup group, etc. Many people will be required throughout the conference to provide these services, and these people will need to be coordinated by the volunteer coordinator, who should be someone other than the lead organizer.
When selecting your venue for Wikimania, you will need to make sure you have enough space and rooms for these things:
- A large lecture hall or auditorium for plenary sessions, which has special technical requirements different from typical lecture rooms.
- Different breakout rooms, including classrooms or anything similar. Lectures and presentations should have a theater setup, while workshops should have a classroom or banquet setup (so that people can face each other, rather than the front of the room.)
- A conference lounge, explained further below.
- An information desk in a highly visible place that provides general assistance as well as technical help. This should be separate from the volunteer coordination desk, otherwise you have too many people crowding around the desk and it causes stress for everyone involved!
- A lost and found.
- A war room, where your on-site team can meet and do work. This room should be open only to organizers. It should be stocked with a printer, paper, a scanner, pens, snacks and drinks, whiteboards, different cables, wired network connectivity, and power strips as needed.
- Interview rooms for press to conduct interviews. You may also need a media editing room.
- Sufficiently large storage space to store your merchandise and other equipment.
All of these things should be reasonably close to each other and require as little walking around as possible. The Wikimania 2012 venue was set up such that the lounge was next door to the largest breakout room, with the information desk in between the two. The breakout rooms were down the hall from each other, while the war room was on a different floor so that the organizers could get away from the crowd.
For more information, see Wikimania 2011 lessons#Venue.
Wikimania 2010 patio setup - with couches AND beer, and a view of the waterway :)
This is one of the most important features of Wikimania—just as there is value in the presentations, there is also value in the informal socializing that takes place in places like the lounge. Wikimania is, after all, one of the world's largest Wikimedia meetups. Nothing makes a big group of Wikimedians happier than having a quiet area with access to Wi-Fi, coffee (or beer), and couches on which they can sit and discuss plans for world domination (or improving the projects).
While your accommodations should also provide sufficient social space, this section focuses on the social spaces within the conference venue. Every attendee should have access to some kind of socializing space. Requirements include
- Enough enough so that many people can hang out here
- Easy access for long hours—see if you can get access to the space before and after usual conference hours
- Access to food and drink
- Comfortable and not too noisy
- Flexible furniture arrangements, so attendees can set up their own tables, exhibits, podcasting sessions, etc.
- Plenty of power outlets and Wi-Fi
Logistically speaking, this is your conference's "ground zero". Because many attendees will already be concentrated here, this is a good place to distribute lunch as well as have sponsors setting up booths. Having this all in one place means that people will not have to wander all over the place to get their lunch or, er, pay tribute to the financial backers of Wikimania.
Food and beverage
Food and beverage is your biggest budget item, but it is also, along with Wi-Fi, the most important feature of the conference. People will remember the food and the Wi-Fi, so plan carefully!
First of all, water should be available all day during the conference, not just at mealtimes. Also offer coffee and tea all day; though, keeping your attendees hydrated is your highest priority, especially since Wikimania has been held in cities with 40-degree Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) weather. Snacks are also a good idea.
For meals, use a professional catering service. Your venue may require you to use their on-site catering service. However, since off-site caterers are almost always cheaper, try to find a way out of using on-site catering, even if it means paying a penalty. Negotiate everything beforehand. Around two weeks before the conference, you will need final numbers for your caterers—you are guaranteeing that you will buy that much food. You will need to account for various dietary preferences. Be sure to provide vegetarian and vegan options, and avoid pork if you can. Always have Kosher and Halal options. Note that the catering staff will not necessarily speak good English, so food labels that include ingredients and allergens would be very helpful.
Finally, take the opportunity to provide food that's creative and unique to your region/city. Wikimania 2011 in Israel provided an excellent array of light Mediterranean food. Wikimania 2012 had decent catered lunches during the pre-conference, but unfortunately needed to shift to uninspired boxed lunches during the main conference to save money.
If you have hired the services of a registration company, they will guide you through setting up the registration table. The name of the game is keeping lines short—long lines discourage attendees. You will want to have several different lines. The first few lines should be for pre-registered attendees (A-J, K-P, Q-Z, or something like that). Then, you will want a line for on-site registration that features a point-of-sale. Finally, you will want a special line (or lines) for VIPs, speakers, and press. This should be set up in advance so that large signs can point out these different lines.
Pre-registered check-in—Those who have already registered should enter into their appropriate line. A volunteer will hand them a welcome pack including the program book, conference information, maps, and a conference bag with small gifts. (Conference bags are a good opportunity for sponsor co-branding—sponsors like giving out swag.) Consider giving out t-shirts in a separate place to keep lines moving; however, at the least, include a voucher for a t-shirt. Keep a badge printer handy in case of misprinted badges; something like a simple label printer will do.
On-site registration—If you hire a registration company, this is what they will specialize in. People will fill out a short form and then have a name badge generated on demand. You will need a cash box to handle cash transactions as well as a system to handle credit card payments. Wikimania 2012 used Square payment processing to great satisfaction.
The conference team should have a rapid communication mechanism to use during the conference. Walkie-talkies or even cell phones are good for this purpose.
However, sometimes you will need to communicate information to the wider conference attendance, and to do so effectively requires some advance preparation. For example, say you need to communicate a change in the schedule. If you have a plenary session before the affected part of the schedule, announce the change at the plenary session. The other half of the process entails blanketing the venue in ad-hoc signage. Using your war room's on-site printer, print multiple signs communicating the change. Place those signs at the information desk, the affected venue rooms, in the lounge, and any other highly visible parts of the venue.
A high proportion of Wikimania attendees will have laptops or netbooks with them. Depending on the level of local crime, this may necessitate on-site security to ensure that people only leave the venue with their own laptops. In Buenos Aires, several computers were stolen and security had to be implemented with guards checking every computer that was taken out of the venue and in and out of certain rooms.
Theft prevention should always be emphasized. Discourage vendors from leaving equipment at the venue except in a locked storage room, and discourage attendees from leaving their laptops or cell phones in plain sight—even when going to the restroom! Some people will go to the venue straight from the airport, bringing their baggage with them. Offer to store their belongings in the venue's locked storage room.
Since there are attendees with children, it can be useful and nice to provide information related to childcare and activities for children.
- Information about it. You can simply provide links to family and children activities around the venue or the location
- Deals with existing daycare and structures which organize children activities (workshops, excursions, visits...). You can consider making a deal with a local daycare so that attendees can leave their children with trusted professionals at a discounted rate. A discount rate can be also negotiated with structures which organize children activities.
- Specific childcare organized on-site. You can organize childcare on site. This is the most complex way to implement it. Remember that watching after children requires precautions and insurance, and consider the costs and the necessary professional skills.
After the conference
After the conference is done, you will feel giddy from lack of sleep, have lots of adrenaline from running around, and be happy from the knowledge that you've finished a huge accomplishment! You can congratulate yourself and your team on a job well done. But you're still not quite done. After you get a little rest and have a celebration meal, there will still be tasks you need to complete.
Immediately at the end of the conference, you'll need to make sure the physical space and attendees are taken care of. Is there a place to store extra supplies, like extra t-shirts; is the space cleaned up; is technical equipment removed? For attendees, a certain number will likely be staying after the conference; do these people have a central place to gather? You don't need to plan activities for attendees after the conference, but it can be a nice touch and is a good job for local volunteers (but not for the lead organizers—who will be exhausted at this point).
It is customary that on the day after the conference, a meeting takes place between the lead organizers and the organizing team for next year in which experience is shared. Before the conference, determine who from the successor team will be attending Wikimania, and plan a meeting for them based on their availability. Organizers from previous years should be invited as well.
After this stage, the next most immediate thing to take care of is the conference "post-mortem", which should be done as soon as possible after the end of the conference while the whole experience is fresh in everyone's mind. The post-mortem very simply means that you analyze each area of the conference (you might use the breakdown of this handbook) and have team members report on what went wrong and what went right. The post-mortem serves two purposes: knowledge collected from the session will help future teams decide what to do, and it can provide a kind of closure to the experience for the team.
You may also want to collect attendee feedback about the conference, either online or in person at the end of the event. See wm2012:Feedback for example.
The next crucial set of things to do after the conference is to finish your reporting. You will have receipts and final bills to account for, and you will need to make sure all of your accounting is finished. You will then have to submit reports to the Wikimedia Foundation and any of your other sponsors that require them. You may also choose to post a final report for the community.
Lastly, attendees will want to see the videos of sessions that were recorded and any other program notes (such as presenter slides) posted online for later viewing. This is a process that may stretch for several weeks (or even months) but a timeline for this should be developed and followed by the technical and program teams, who will respectively be in charge of these areas.
The very last thing to do is to share your experiences with the conference on this wiki and in the handbook. Collect all the purchase orders and other such documentation and make them available to next year's team so that they have an idea of what specific things they may need to order. Consider developing your own "timeline" document on how to organize Wikimania based on your experiences.
A representative from your team will also be invited to join the Wikimania bid jury for the following year. Congratulations, you ran Wikimania!
- ↑ There's also this script which will handle automatic retries and stuff if you replace line 162 with
s3 = boto.connect_s3(key, secret, host='s3.us.archive.org', is_secure=False).