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ESEAP Conference 2022/Report/Bahnfrend

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About the participant[edit]

I live in Perth, Western Australia. I have been a Wikipedia editor, and have been uploading images to Wikimedia Commons, since November 2009. I also contribute from time to time to other Wikimedia projects, and particularly Wikidata. Earlier this year, I was elected as a committee member of Wikimedia Australia.

In April 2013, I became a member of the Perth meetup group. In the meantime, I had been contributing to Wikimedia projects, and especially Wikipedia and Commons, on my own without ever meeting any other contributor face to face. That seemed a bit weird to me, which is why I sought out and joined the meetup group.

In 2018, I attended the ESEAP Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The following year, I participated in the Strategy Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. Later in 2019, I attended Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden, and since then I have participated in the virtual Wikimanias held in 2021 and 2022.

Wikimedia Australia awarded me a scholarship to attend both the ESEAP Conference 2022 and the immediately preceding Worlds of Wikimedia Conference held at Women's College, University of Sydney. This report covers both conferences.

Things learned at the conference[edit]

Worlds of Wikimedia Conference[edit]

  • Tim Sherratt gave a very interesting presentation on Trove, the online archive operated by the National Library of Australia. He emphasised the work the NLA has been doing in linking Trove with Wikidata, work that, in turn, underscores the versatility and importance of Wikidata.
  • The Pasifika Arts Aoteoroa Wikiproject showcased its creation of Wikipedia content about Pacific Island artists in New Zealand. The Wikiproject grapples with two main tasks, namely teaching newbie Wikipedia users how to edit, and finding and making use of reliable sources on the artists.
  • Members of the Waray Wikipedia Experience spoke about their analysis of Waray Wikipedia, which went online in September 2005. Waray is one of the 175 languages of the Philippines, and has about 2.5 million speakers. Waray Wikipedia is one of 8 Filippino-language Wikipedias. I had previously watched a presentation about one of these Wikipedias during one of the online Wikimanias. Contributors to Waray Wikipedia have held eight Waray editathons, which have been successful in inducting new users. As the presenters emphasised, "Waray Wikipedia answers the need of the Waray-speaking community for free information that is written in a language that they easily understand." It therefore supports the Waray language as well as the dissemination of encyclopedic knowledge.
  • I was particularly impressed by the presentation on the rescue of Balinese manuscripts (Lontar) for use in Balinese Wikipedia. Lontar are traditional local materials used for recording information. Balinese people have preserved a great many of them, especially in their homes, but most are in poor condition. The presenters have been working on the digitisation of Lontars, by scanning them and then uploading them to Wikimedia Commons. To do that with an individual Lontar, the presenters have to obtain permission from its owner, which often takes time, and sometimes is not forthcoming. Another challenge is encouraging young people to participate in the digitisation project, as Lontar are regarded by many as being for older people.
  • Graham Pearce, the famous blind editor of Wikipedia, was rightly described by the person who introduced his presentation as a "Wikipedia rock star". He was already well known to me as a member of the Perth meetup group, because he has sometimes attended our meetups. However, I was not aware until he gave his presentation just how he edited Wikipedia. Now that I know he uses an ultra high speed speech synthesiser, and have seen the SBS clip showing him using it, my admiration for him is only greater.
  • Netha Hussain reported on a study into the gender gap and equitable gender diversity in Wikimedia Indian Communities. She emphasised the usefulness of Wikipedia in the shaping of knowledge in the mother tongues of Indian editors and readers, and in teaching a variety of skills to editors. However, there are also some barriers to female editors, including the limits on their discretionary time, and the initial lack of technical skills on the part of those from lower socio-economic groups.
  • Richard Cooke's keynote address was on Wikipedia and its role on the internet. He is currently writing a cultural history of Wikipedia. I agree with his view that Wikipedia is still not taken seriously, or seriously enough, and that that is because it is online and therefore viewed by many as insubstantial and detached from the "real world". As he observed, Wikipedia is in fact one of the largest "objects" (perhaps "projects" would be a better descriptor) ever created, but nevertheless can all be stored in a thumb drive. However, its size, scale and influence are all different things. His conclusion was that Wikipedia's benefits are hard to identify, and that although the "datafication" of the information contained in it is exhilarating, its power is ominous as well as dynamic.
  • There were also interesting presentations on Wikimedia and the multisector evidence ecosystem, and Wikipedia as a fact checking tool in ACT public schools. The latter topic was a little counter-intuitive, as Wikipedia is itself often regarded, even now, as a somewhat unreliable source of information. Perhaps the message to be derived from that topic is that the one's view as to the reliability of Wikipedia may depend upon the purposes for which, and the manner in which, one is using it.
  • A final presentation, by the Jumbunna Institute, addressed the dilemma between providing access to information in the possession of indigenous groups and maintaining what was described as "data sovereignty" over that information. Not an easy dilemma to resolve, I think.

ESEAP Conference 2022[edit]

Day 1[edit]

  • Plenary Session A2 focused on the activities of Wikimedia's global advocacy team, which acts to protect the Wikimedia model developed by its community. The team faces many challenges, and the session emphasised the following:
    • National policies and practices are breaking the internet apart. They include such practices as blocking, centralisation of technical infrastructure and content moderation, localisation and disproportionate use of surveillance, local internet shutdowns and the spreading of disinformation.
    • Policy trends, including the development of internet infrastructure, the outcomes of elections in ESEAP countries (which have very diverse models of govenments and policies towards the internet) and regional standard creation;
    • Other key issues, including copyright, liability protections, surveillance, human rights and disinformation.
  • I then attended Session B2, on the proposed ESEAP Hub. Various benefits could be gained from such a hub. They include structural support for Wikimedia activities (to relieve what would otherwise be a big burden on volunteers), and assistance in participating in global conversations (which is a particular problem for people in the ESEAP time zones). A hub could also co-ordinate advocacy efforts. Attendees at the session were invited and encouraged to make suggestions about potential goals for a hub.
  • Session D1, on affiliate leadership development, was made up of presentations by several affiliates and user groups, based in Taiwan (Paiwan language), Myanmar, New Zealand and South Korea, and provided information about how those organisations operate.
  • There was then a very interesting session by Bunty Avieson, during which I learned about her work with research "partners" and "friends" in creating Wikipedia content about Bhutan. The content is in both English and Zongka, the latter of which is the national language of Bhutan, and the only one of the country's 19 recognised indigenous languages that is in written form. I noticed some parallels between Bhutan and East Timor (I am one of the few editors who create content in English about the latter country).
  • Some further sessions I attended dealt with the topics of Tamil Wikipedia, the Wikidata independent art space in Taiwan, the Balinese Lontar project, and the search for a Wiki sound logo, which has turned out to be a very substantial activity.

Day 2[edit]

  • Session G2 was a workshop led by Mike Dickison and Gideon Digby showcasing various technologies on the Wikimedia Commons platform. The focus was on using templates to transclude data from Wikidata to Commons, and the adding of structured data. Although I was already aware of some of the templates, I had not known much about their transclusion capabilities until I attended the workshop. As for structured data, I think, as a frequent contributor to Commons, that the best way to include it is to use bots to add it. In my view, the uploading, describing, geolocating and categorising of images is enough of a time consuming process for human editors without the extra burden of the entering of structured data as well.
  • Session H1 was a group of lightning talks:
    • Wikipedia page views as a potential metric in (medical) curriculum development: A useful way of rating the importance of topics to include in the education of medical students is to analyse the number of page views of Wikipedia articles corresponding to the various possible topics. As there is a significant correlation between page views and the ratings given by experts to the importance of the page's topic, the number of page views can be regarded as a proxy for the importance of the topic. A similar correlation arises in respect of the number of wikilinks on a page dealing with a topic.
    • Use of social media on education for Indonesian Wikisource: social media posts on this topic, if added to wikisource, can be used as reference material for Wikimedia projects.
    • Bringing Wikipedia to Classrooms: This interesting presentation was about the efforts of WMF in encouraging the use of Wikipedia as a school classroom resource. In recent times, Wikipedia has moved from being an "oh no" in educational circles to being "of course, yes!" This is an important development, as in 2020 there were about 90 million school teachers and 1 billion school-aged children worldwide. WMF has been operating a pilot program supporting information literacy in reading Wikipedia. The program was first run in Bolivia, Morocco and the Philippines, and has now certified teachers in 30+ countries. In the ESEAP region, the Philippines, New Zealand and Indonesia. Talks like these serve to emphasise just how influential Wikipedia can be and is worldwide in relation to just one of many possible activities.
    • Wikimedia towards health education in Malaysia: Health concerns are common everywhere. In Malaysia, the WHO has partnered with Wikimedia to raise health awareness. Specifically, the partners have been increasing the availability of health information in local languages. This is an example of one aspect of Wikipedia I have long considered to be very important, namely its ability to spread important information over language boundaries.
  • Session I1 was a workshop on the Wikidata platform:
    • The first of two presentations was led by Toby Hudson. Particular emphasis was placed on what was described as "creation of triples". It was clear from the presentation that Wikidata is an extremely useful and versatile platform with many existing and potential applications. However, and although I have previously heard of the Sparql software used in the process that was described, and am also a frequent and appreciative visitor and contributor to Wikidata, I have to confess that I found some of the subject matter of this presentation to be just a little bit over my head. That, of course, is no reflection on the presenter.
    • The second presentation, by Margaret Donald, showcased her work on adding content to Wikidata about Australian biota, a topic on which Margaret has previously given a presentation to the Perth meetup group. An important point that always emerges from presentations like this one (particularly when given by Margaret Donald) is just how much an individual with appropriate skills, experience and, above all, enthusiasm can contribute to a Wikimedia project, for the benefit of a great many people all around the world.
  • Session J1 was a panel on citations and tools:
    • Wikimedia Vietnam spoke about bots and their uses in Wikimedia projects.
    • Sam Wilson, a WMF contractor, gave a presentation about searching Trove, and adding data from Wikidata to it. He uses the {{trove}} template, is developing a toolforge tool, and has established a discussion page at Talk:Trove.
    • Kerry Raymond described how to use the Web2Cit tool to improve citations.
  • The final session, K1, was a panel on the plan for an ESEAP Hub. An interim hub committee with representation from various ESEAP affiliates and groups has been created, and there was discussion about establishment of the hub. A pre-conference survey, and also feedback from participants at the conference, will be part of a process of consultation with the Wikimedia community in relation to the hub.

Things I contributed or participated in or since the conference[edit]

I did not give a presentation at either conference. My participation in those two events was mainly in the form of attending presentations as an audience member, in my joint capacities as a Wikimedia contributor and committee member of Wikimedia Australia. However, I also provided some feedback during the discussions about the proposed ESEAP Hub.

While at first glance such participation at a conference might seem to be limited, I have two responses. First, conference presentations need to have an appropriate audience as well as a presenter. Secondly, suitable persons to be a part of the audiences at Wikimedia conferences include people like me, who spend a great deal of time contributing to various Wikimedia projects mainly as an individual.

As a now regular attendee at such conferences, I can confirm that such participation is very useful in maintaining and refreshing the enthusiasm one needs to have to keep making contributions to Wikimedia projects. Such participation can also help one make friends with many other members of the Wikimedia community from all around the world, and friendships with fellow Wikimedians are also helpful in maintaining the necessary enthusiasm.

Additionally, I took advantage of my trip to Sydney for the conferences to create some new Wikimedia content. On the day after the second conference, I spent a very pleasant few hours strolling between two of the city’s major transport nodes (Central station and Circular Quay). As I did so, I took lots of photos for Commons of Sydney's new tram (or light rail) lines that run up and down George Street. I have since uploaded those photos to Commons (where they can be seen here), and added some of them to Wikipedia articles.

I have also followed up a conversation I had with a WMF official at the second conference by seeking out some old negatives I have of encyclopedic photos I took in the 1970s, and have started scanning them (using a scanner owned and lent to me by Wikimedia Australia) and uploading the scans to Commons. Although the camera and films I used to take those photos were primitive by comparison with 21st century digital image creation technology, such photos can still provide a useful record of life several decades ago that can be showcased on various Wikimedia projects. I also have lots of other (higher quality) negatives from the 1980s and more recently that I now plan to seek out sooner rather than later, so that I can similarly scan and upload them.

Plans after the conference (from what I learned or contributed in the conference)[edit]

As I have indicated above, an important benefit from attending a Wikimedia conference mainly as an audience member, and learning about the activities of other Wikimedians, or even from just going to meetings of a regional meetup group, is that it helps to maintain one's enthusiasm for the Wikimedia project.

My current plans, apart from scanning and uploading old encyclopedic photographs I took decades ago (long before I even found out about Wikipedia), include continuing to contribute text to Wikipedia on at least my usual topics (and especially East Timor (my main ESEAP topic) and women's cricket (my main women in red topic)). I also regularly take photographs for Commons, especially of women's cricket.

Comments/ suggestions about the conference[edit]

Worlds of Wikimedia Conference[edit]

I thought that this conference was very well organised, with interesting and useful presentations at a very pleasant conference centre. As an alumnus of the University of Sydney who has spent very little time on the main campus, or even in Sydney for that matter, I particularly enjoyed sampling the campus atmosphere.

A special pleasure was attending the launch of Heather Ford's book, Writing the Revolution: Wikipedia and the Survival of Facts in the Digital Age, at the Beverly Room, Courtyard Cafe. The book is very interesting, and has received very good reviews; the catering at the book launch, and also at the conference venue, was excellent.

ESEAP Conference 2022[edit]

This conference was also very well organised, to the standard I have come to expect as an attendee at earlier ESEAP gatherings. The conference venue and catering were similarly excellent. I was very impressed with the hotel, not just the room but also the daily breakfast buffet, which was one of the best such buffets I can remember enjoying.

The presentations were also very interesting and useful, especially as they well illustrated the diversity and utility of some of the many Wikmedia activities in the ESEAP region.

A visit to Sydney is really not complete without a boat trip on the harbour, and so the conference boat trip was pretty much essential. Again, it was very pleasant and well organised all round. Someone even took the trouble to arrange for a short fireworks display to be staged to serenade us on the walk back to the hotel ...

Bahnfrend (talk) 15:56, 22 December 2022 (UTC)[reply]