ESEAP Conference 2022/Report/Giantflightlessbirds

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New Zealand delegate singing a waiata on the Friday night cultural performances

Although talks, training, and collaboration can happen over Zoom, there is still an important role for face-to-face conferences. Some of the most productive interactions I had at this ESEAP meeting were outside of formal presentations; for example, a corridor conversation with Yael Weissburg about the Pacific Wikipedia community. Despite the P in ESEAP standing for Pacific, this was the first meeting that included anyone from a Pacific Island country (Sophia Coghini). There are several Wikipedia projects in Pacific languages, but the WMF does not know who is editing in those communities, where they are based, and what support they might need. Auckland has a large Pacific Island community, and a growing number of Wikimedia editors, so could act as a base for supporting editor communities in different Pacific Island languages; this seemed like a future project Wikimedia Aotearoa New Zealand could undertake. We discussed the possibility of commissioning a report for the WMF on the state of the entire Pasifika editing community—all from a corridor conversation. This, to me, makes the travel and carbon footprint worthwhile.

For the opening night cultural celebration, New Zealand rashly volunteered to perform. At almost any bicultural event in New Zealand, you'll hear a waiata (a song in Māori), and institutions will often schedule waiata practices so staff members are able to proudly represent the institution at public events. For the first time Wikimedia Aotearoa New Zealand committed to learning a waiata, despite rehearsal being impossible over Zoom and our delegates being dispersed across two islands. We chose a waiata composed for the Libraries and Information Association of NZ, about the three baskets of knowledge brought from the heavens for humanity, as being the most appropriate for the Wikimedia Movement, and managed a creditable performance with little rehearsal time and a borrowed ukulele.

An illustration from Papuan Fairy Tales

The Balinese manuscripts project, rescuing and transcribing records written on palm leaves, has been an inspiring use of Wikisource, but most of the participants at ESEAP had not used Wikisource themselves. One of the highlights of the conference for me was the Wikisource workshop, run by Beeswaxcandle and moderated by Satdeep Gill, in which participants collaboratively transcribed and proofread Papuan Fairy Tales (Annie Ker, 1910). I was able to help troubleshoot for new editors, clean up the images, and upload them to Commons. Workshop participants kept editing during and between sessions, and on Sunday afternoon Beeswaxcandle was able to announce the book was completed and available as an EPUB. I think there's real potential for a workshop and project like this at the start of any Wikimedia conference, with participants collaborating over a few days to produce a finished, validated public domain e-book on a topical sublect—a great bonding experience and good onboarding for Wikisource.

I ran the workshop Working With Commons (notes here), a quick overview of Commons wikitext templates, structured data, Pattypan, and OpenRefine. This was based on conversations I'd had in September in Europe as part of a month's fact-finding trip funded by LIANZA's Paul Reynolds Scholarship. There was enough interest in the group in the new capabilities of OpenRefine that we agreed to form an ESEAP "OpenRefine Yarning Circle" (a yarning circle, an Australian concept, could be a useful alternative format to a structured user group or Zoom meeting).

Other highlights for me were:

  • Kerry Raymond's presentation on Web2Cit, with potential for improving citation of web sources like the New Zealand Herald and New Zealand Geographic, which Citoid usually gets wrong
  • Sam Wilson on indexing Australian content in Trove
  • Fiona Romeo on cultural heritage in the Wikimedia Movement
A building in Chippendale, from the Sunday morning pre-session photowalk

The Sunday morning photo walk run by Gnangarra through Chippendale and Central Park near the hotel was a fun small-scale event, where the Australians could explain a little about the suburb's history and culture. For conferences like Wikimania photowalks like this could be an excellent way of introducing visitors to a small part of the host country, especially if they were coordinated using structured data and Wiki Shoot Me. Photos taken could be the subject of Commons or Wikidata workshops later in the conference.

My only criticism of the conference was perhaps in its COVID precautions. At the Wikimedia Summit in Berlin, masks were required at all times except for speakers; all food and drinks were consumed outside; RAT tests were handed out, and all attendees had to take a German government RAT test the morning of day 1, and show a negative result before being admitted to the venue. This was excellent and worked well, and I was hoping similar diligent attention to venue and masking would be present at ESEAP, but this was not the case—and I gather there were some post-conference COVID cases as a result.