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Grants:Conference/WCNA/WikiConference North America 2018/Report

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This report for a Project and Event grant approved in FY 2017-18 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
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WikiConference North America
2018 Conference Report
18 - 21 October 2018
IntroActivitiesAttendeesTeamNext StepsLearningFinancial Documentation


WikiConference North America is an annual conference that brings together Wikimedians from all throughout North America and beyond. The conference roots back to WikiConference USA, which was hosted in New York City and Washington D.C. in 2014 and 2015, respectively. In 2016, the conference rebranded to WikiConference North America to expand its geographic reach, and was held at San Diego's Central Public Library with a pre-conference day at Balboa Park. Later in 2016, the WikiConference North America User Group was created to better centralize organization efforts. WikiConference North America 2017 was held in Montreal as a pre-conference to Wikimania. This brings us to WikiConference North America 2018 in Columbus, Ohio, hosted at the Ohio State University, with pre-conference activities anchored at the Columbus Metropolitan Library and additional activities happening at other cultural institutions throughout the city.

Columbus provided a great opportunity for WikiConference North America. This was the first iteration of the conference in the Midwestern United States, providing an opportunity for new attendees and partnerships in the region. Columbus, and the Ohio State University in particular, serves as the base for the Ohio Wikimedians User Group and Wikipedia Connection student group. Columbus is the 14th-most populous city in the United States, and has a diverse economy based on education, banking, healthcare, government, aviation, food, energy, technology, and more. The Columbus Metropolitan Library has over 20 branches with 1.4 million volumes that serve over 800,000 residents. The Ohio State University is a leading research university, with its own expansive library of over 5.8 million volumes and numerous special collections. All these factors combined provided a unique opportunity to bring the North American Wikimedia community together in a library- and art-heavy environment to nurture learning, collaboration, partnership development, and strategic planning.

This report provides an overview of the conference's activities; a list of all sessions; overview of partners and attendees; next steps and learnings; and financial documentation.


Tech Day[edit]

Day one of the pre-conference was our "tech day," which featured a hackathon, an Introduction to Wikidata from Andrew Lih, various tool demos (including coverage of Tabernacle, Wiki Loves Monuments maps, Wikipedia Requests, WikiCite tools, and the Outreach Dashboard), and an Emerging Technologies Edit-a-thon supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to improve coverage of workplace health and safety topics on Wikipedia.

WikiConference North America Culture Crawl[edit]

One of the major GLAM events for North America is WikiConference North America's Culture Crawl, which had its origins in 2016 as a pre-conference event with more than a dozen museums at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. The day-long collaboration with cultural institutions consisting of tours and Wikimedia content improvement has become a notable tradition before WikiConference North America.

This year's event in Columbus, Ohio, ahead of the main conference at Ohio State University, was spearheaded by a team led by Maria Rimmel to establish a day of tours and events with the purpose of connecting participants from around the world with cultural institutions in Columbus. Hosted at the Columbus Metropolitan Library main branch, organizers planned an all day edit-a-thon, an Intro to Wikipedia for Librarians, Wikidata training, and an upload-a-thon to upload public domain images from the library.

From that location in the heart of downtown Columbus, more than 80 participants fanned out to our various partners for scheduled tours, photography, and editing activities:

  • Ohio Statehouse
  • State Library of Ohio
  • James Thurber House
  • Orton Geological Museum
  • Billy Ireland Cartoon Library

The main meetup coordination page can be found at en:Wikipedia:Meetup/Columbus/WCNA_Columbus_Edit-a-thon_2018

Notable outcomes[edit]

  • Creation of a new Wikidata item, article and photo collection about the Topiary Park, a replica of the famous George Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte using shrubbery. The park claims it is the only horticultural work of its kind that replicates a painting in real life.
  • The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum treated visitors to a backstage tour of their collections, showing them rare items like original Peanuts and Calvin and Hobbes strips. The museum staff worked closely with editors to provide resources and images for the editathon, where editors improved articles on cartoonists in their collections, including creating a new article on early 20th century Austrian cartoonist Karl Pommerhanz. This was also the start of an ongoing collaboration to use Wikidata to ingest and display biographical data on thousands of artists in their collections.

Wikidata tools for GLAM Culture Crawl[edit]

During the edit-a-thon, a number of Wikidata-oriented tools were shown for editing and uploading images to Commons, including:

  • TABernacle (link) - This revamped tool from Magnus Manske supports live interactive editing of multiple Wikidata items in a table format. It can load a SPARQL query or a manual list of Q numbers to provide a more coherent way to examine many items at once. For an example of a set to edit all local Columbus, Ohio museums, see this link. Another example, to work with all women cartoonists, can be seen on the coordination page.
  • WikiShootMe (link) - This is a map-based tool that works on mobile to show all the Wikidata items around you, identifying the ones that need a photo with a red circle.
  • PictureThis (link) - Like WikiShootMe, this is a mobile friendly tool/web page that shows what Wikidata items near you have photos or not. (You can also interactively search Wikidata items by label name to upload to specific Wikidata items.) But even more powerful, you can do "one click" uploading of images to add your photo to Commons while also adding it as the photo to a Wikidata item. It is very fast, as no licensing page or description for the image is needed. This is easily one of the most convenient ways for mobile users to contribute to Wikidata/Wikimedia projects.


One of the things asked of attendees is to take plenty of photos during the Culture Crawl - photos of the city, tours, public domain materials, etc. This year participants have uploaded 190 photos and counting from the Culture Crawl to the Wikimedia Commons. The full set of photos from the day can be found here.

Main Conference[edit]

Saturday and Sunday were our main conference days, which primarily consisted of over 70 sessions across 6 different tracks. These sessions were primarily led by members of the Wikimedia community, Wikimedia Foundation staff, and from representatives of various organizations involved in the movement.

Keynote addresses[edit]

  • Nicole Ebber, Program Manager, Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy Process
  • Mark Graham, Director of the Wayback Machine at Internet Archive
  • McKensie Mack, Director of Art + Feminism


WikiConference North America 2018 served as a host of several organized topical and regional meet-ups:

Other impromptu meet-ups were held by conference attendees during and after the event.


Over 60 formal sessions (presentations, panels, workshops, etc.) were presented by Wikimedia volunteers, Wikimedia Foundation staff, academics and librarians, and more.


The following organizations provided major support for the conference (financial or organizational).
We are grateful for their support of the conference and the Wikimedia movement.

Wikimedia Foundation

The Ohio State University Libraries

Columbus Metropolitan Library

Wiki Education


Wikimedia District of Columbia

Ohio Wikimedians User Group

Root Insurance Co.


Some attendees and organizers.
Upload-a-thon with the Columbus Metropoltian Library.
Culture Crawl at the Columbus Metropoltian Library.
The Non-US panel presenting on activities and issues facing non-US Wikimedians.

Over the course of the entire conference, over 200 individuals attended WikiConference North America 2018. This included 184 people that checked in after pre-registering, and another 20 individuals who registered on-site (including passersby who became interested in the conference on-site).

  • Pre-conference Day 1 check-ins (Hackathon, Wikidata, and tech sessions): 76
  • Pre-conference Day 2 check-ins (Culture Crawl and edit-a-thons): 71 (147 total)
  • Main Conference Day 1 check-ins: 37 (184 total)

As part of registration, attendees had the option of identifying their affiliation. WikiConference North America 2018 hosted folks who identified as part of over a dozen Wikimedia affiliates from around the world, 25 institutions of higher education, and over 15 external organizations and companies.

Wikimedian Representation[edit]

Wikimedia Chapters
Wikimedia User Groups
Other Wikimedia groups

External Representation[edit]

Universities and Colleges
  • Brigham Young University (Harold B. Lee Library)
  • Columbia University
  • Dundee Dental School
  • Emory University
  • Fordham University at Lincoln Center
  • George Washington University
  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
  • LaGuardia Community College
  • Miami University (Ohio)
  • Northeastern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Pratt Institute
  • Spelman College
  • Southern Methodist University (DeGolyer Library)
  • Touro College
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • University of Virginia
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Western University (Canada)
  • York University

Other groups
  • Association of Research Libraries
  • Carnegie Corporation of New York
  • Cochrane Oral Health
  • Google
  • Haitian Creole Language Institute of New York
  • Harvard Library
  • Internet Archive
  • Internet in a Box
  • Linked Jazz
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • OCLC
    • OCLC Library, Archive and Museum Collaboration
  • Open Siddur Project
  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • US National Archives
  • Upper Arlington Public Library


A big thanks to all the organizers and volunteers who helped make this event happen. A special thanks to Quanetta Batts and Shannon Niemeyer from The Ohio State University Libraries for their support.

Organizing Team
Event Volunteers

  Next Steps

Please share a brief update about the status projects, important discussions and/or capacity building that took place at the event.

Activities during the conference 2 months after the conference 6 months after the conference
Strategic Discussions:

Were any significant issues your community discussed at the conference?

With over 60 formal sessions, many significant issues about the Wikimedia community were discussed, in the scope of North America and beyond. In no particular order, issues discussed included:
  • Wikimedia safety and harassment issues
  • Countering systemic and implicit bias
  • Gender equity
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • New editor retention
  • Bridging academia and Wikimedia
  • Undervalued languages and topics
  • Offline resource access
  • Wikimedia movement strategy

A full list of sessions is viewable above.

At the conclusion of the conference, partipcants were asked what the plan to do after the conference. Notable responses and common themes included:
  • Working more with Wikidata
  • Adding references
  • Try new technical tools learned at the conference
  • Partner with libraries
  • Help with event metrics
  • Strengthen WALRUS
  • Publication of seven WikiJabber podcast interviews that took place at the conference.
  • Increased attendance and diversity of participants at the monthly Wikimedians Active in Local Regions of the United States (WALRUS) call, to discuss affiliate activities and strategy throughout the United States.
  • Increased knowledge and contributions made to Wikidata.
  • Increased involvement by conference attendees in the Movement Strategy process.
Capacity Development: Please list capacity building sessions or workshops. The list of sessions aboves gives the most comprehensive overview of all the sessions. Below we have highlighted some notable sessions that involve capacity building:

Libraries and Academia Capacity Building

Oral History

Events and Organizing

Gender Equity



Ideas coming out of the hackathon:
Wikipedia and Wikidata ideas projects
Desires for Wikidata

In a post-event survey, we seeked feedback from all attendees. One of the questions we asked was "What is the most valuable thing you learned at the conference?" - here is a summary of responses.

  • Wikidata / Wikibase (most popular!)
  • Valuable networking and relationship building
    • Connecting with other Wikimedia organizers in the region
  • Diversity of our community
  • Various efforts to promote diversity and inclusion
  • Friendly space policy development
  • Dealing with conflict and harassment issues
  • Mission alignment
  • GLAMs
  • Commonality of missions of libraries and Wikipedia
  • Learning to edit Wikipedia
  • ORES
  • New tools
  • User scripts
  • Wiki Loves Monuments

Continued Wikimedia activity in Ohio:

Projects or Working Groups:

What are the most important projects that were started or improved during the conference?

  • Caribbean Wikimedians continue to meet and organize.


After the conference, we sent out a feedback survey to all attendees to learn about what went well and what could be improved. The following answers are based on the major feedback received from our 38 respondents:

  • What worked well at the event?
    • The Culture Crawl - folks found it inspiring, enjoyed learning about Columbus history,
    • Great sessions that covered a very diverse set of content - something for everyone.
    • Opportunities to collaborate.
    • Venue (namely Thompson Library)
    • Food logistics and quality - thanks to having OSU catering on-site.
    • Volunteer efforts
    • Registration and check-in smooth and easy.
    • Enough breaks and snacks throughout for attendees.
  • What did not work so well?
    • Better communication of logistics further in advance.
    • More assistance in finding affordable lodging (particularly difficult during the conference time due to being a very busy weekend in Columbus).
    • Better accommodation of dietary restrictions.
    • We had tracks in multiple buildings on campus, which caused logistical confusion and discouraged folks from switching between some tracks.
    • Scholarships are always difficult, due to the number of scholarships, varying countries, variations in requests, etc. We can do a better job of getting scholarships out faster and keeping recipients up to date on the status of their reimbursement.
  • What would you do differently next time?
    • Gather and finalize logistical details earlier and communicate out to attendees through multiple mediums
    • Devote more resources to organizing affordable lodging
    • Better accommodation of dietary restrictions through surveys, working with the caterer, and/or keeping flexible options on-hand for changes as needed
    • Try to centralize space as much as possible
    • More efficient scholarship process (shorten turnaround time, allow users to check status, better technical infrastructure)

  Financial Documentation

This section describes the grant's use of funds

Budget table

Please list all project expenses in a table here, with descriptions. Review the instructions here. These expenses should be listed in the same format as the budget table in your approved submission so that anyone reading this report may be able to easily compare budgeted vs. actual expenses.

Number Category Item description Unit Number of units Actual cost per unit Actual total Budgeted total Currency Notes
1 Venue Space rental Days 4 N/A $0.00 $0.00 USD Space was donated by the Ohio State University Libraries
2 Catering Lunch Days * People 4 * 175 Varies $8,622.38 $16,000.00 USD No Wikimedia Foundation grant funds were spent on this budget item
3 Catering Coffee throughout day Days * People 4 * 175 Varies $1,123.20 $2,500.00 USD
4 Travel and Lodging Partial scholarships People 51 Varies $25,536.69 $30,000.00 USD Partial scholarships to offset costs of travel and accommodation for the conference
5 Travel and Lodging People 10 Varies $3,708.08 $8,000.00 USD Pre-event site visit (2), keynote speakers (2), core organizing team (6)
6 Attendee materials Lanyards, nametags, print-outs People 200 Varies $324.38 $1,000.00 USD Lanyards for people to wear during the conference; nametags for the lanyards; print-outs of nametags and fliers with information for participants throughout the event
8 Office supplies Poster stands, printouts, paper, post-its, pens N/A 1 Varies $222.07 $200.00 USD Office materials for running the conference
9 Contigency N/A N/A N/A $0.00 $2,300.00 USD
TOTAL $39,536.80 $60,000.00 USD
Summary of funding

Total project budget (from your approved grant submission):


Total amount requested from WMF (from your approved grant submission):


Total amount spent on this project (this total should be the total calculated from the table above):


Total amount of WMF grant funds spent on this project:


Are there additional sources of revenue that funded any part of this project? List them here.

  • External sponsorships from:
    • The Ohio State University Libraries
    • Root Insurance Co.
    • OCLC
    • WikiEdu (provided academic scholarships)
  • Attendee registration
Remaining funds

Are there any grant funds remaining?


Please list the total amount (specify currency) remaining here. (This is the amount you did not use, or the amount you still have after completing your grant.)

Remaining funds from this grant have been returned to WMF in the amount of US$13,085.58.