ESEAP Conference 2022/Report/Kerry Raymond

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Things learned at the conference[edit]

As always with parallel sessions at a conference, I want to be in too many places at one time. As I have not been able to attend the regular ESEAP meetings due to the timing being inconvenient for me, I tried to attend as many of the ESEAP hub discussions as I could.

In relation to the hub, it rapidly became clear to me that the many languages in the ESEAP region are a very major hurdle; if we cannot communicate with all the stakeholders, the hub will not achieve its potential. (And it reminded me how privileged I am to be a native English speaker). Our movement has a long history of calling on volunteers to translate material written in English into other languages, but often it is only translated into a few other languages and very few of those are Asian languages. The problem is a common one; there are only so many volunteers and they are already very committed to other activities in the movement and adding extra translation duties is over-loading them. Also some believe their ability to translate might not be good enough and worry they might lose some important information or nuance in translation. It seems to me that paid translation of major documents is going to be essential for the ESEAP hub to function.

Aconcern expressed by a member of the Asian community was whether ESEAP (as initially proposed) was too diverse a group of nations to function effectively. We might share a timezone, but do we have enough in common? Specifically, do Australia and New Zealand have enough in common with the Asian nations? There is an obvious "eastern culture" vs "western culture" issue and both Australian and New Zealand are native-English-speaking countries unlike most Asian countries. But I think the issue might go deeper. Australia and New Zealand were both colonised by the British and the majority of the population in both countries are descended from those colonisers. Whereas many of the Asian nations in ESEAP also experienced colonisation, but the colonisers remained a minority of the population and eventually those nations achieved independence from their colonisers (by peaceful or forceful means). Would any of these issues have a negative impact on the dynamics of ESEAP as proposed? Would it be better to (say) split the hub into north and south of the equator (given that many of the South Pacific Island nations do have links to Australia and/or New Zealand)? I think this is a legitimate question for our Asian collegues to discuss among themselves and for the rest of us (speaking as an Australian) to be accepting of whatever decision comes from it. The hub needs to be designed to maximise its chances of success.

Something that I (and other Australians) noticed at the ESEAP conference was that the delegates from the Asian nations were a younger group than the Australian delegates. I am not sure if there is any significance to this observation, that is, whether it reflects a genuine difference in demographics in the movement across countries or whether it is due to random factors about who attended the conference. Of course, we do not (and cannot) know the demographics of the movement in any country, so we have to use participation in chapters or user groups or other informal groups as a proxy for that information. Would an exchange of demographic profiles of our chapters, etc, be useful in establishing ESEAP, along with a discussion of the differences observed?

I also noticed that different nations seem to have different levels of interest in the sister projects, e.g. Wikisource, Wiktionary etc. Again, I am unsure if I am simply seeing differences in individuals or whether there are some broader national/language issues underpinning it. For example, a number of free English dictionary websites exist, but is that true for all the ESEAP languages and, if not, would that absence make contributing to Wiktionary more compelling in languages without free online dictionaries? Again, is this information we should share to help create ESEAP connections around the sister projects?

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

I presented a talk on Web2Cit, a project which aims to improve the quality of citations produced by Citoid ("Cite > Automatic" in Visual Editor). I had intended to repeat this talk for the Wikimedia Australia community at our December meeting, but internet problems prevented that, but I did a live demonstration of a simple example at one of our Wikimedia Australia December drop-in sessions. I have also been experimenting with Web2Cit in my own editing, mostly successfully on simple scenarios and with mixed success on more complex scenarios.

I participated actively in workshops about the ESEAP hub and other topics. I have a wide range of experience in the Wikimedia movement and in establishing collaborative organisations in my working life, so I have a lot to reflect on. Just as we have seen in Wikimedia Australia, when volunteers are kept busy in the running an organisation, it leaves little time and energy for outreach and personal contributions to Wikimedia projects, which can be demotivating. Since Wikimedia Australia has been able to employ staff members, we have seen a remarkable increase in effectiveness. This is a learning that we need to take on board for ESEAP; some staffing will be needed in order to enhance the productivity of volunteers rather than divert it into running an organisation.

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

I expect to present my Web2Cit talk with a live demo to the Wikimedia Australia community at our January meeting (if the Internet is cooperative!) and then at an ESEAP session after that. I have also received some examples of citations from our New Zealand colleagues to experiment with. The advantage of Web2Cit is similar to Templates in Wikipedia. If a few people do the work to setup Web2Cit for various websites, then many others can benefit from it. It is not necessary for all Wikipedians to learn "how to" write Web2Cit rules. So I would like to produce slideware for a training course to help get other started with Web2Cit with a view to establishing ESEAP (or wider) "community of practice" where we help one another learn and experiment with this very useful tool and to provide feedback to the developers.

Comments/ suggestions about the conference[edit]

I found the enthusiasm of the delegates around every topic and in the breaks very energising. Contributing to Wikimedia projects can often be a lonely online experience, punctuated more by "brickbats than bouquets" and can often lead to burnout. Coming together helps to reinforce one's faith in the movement and to reignite personal motivation. It's great to be with people who share this goal: "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing."