Grants:PEG/WM Wikisym/2012 Wikisym Conference/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Project and Event grant approved in FY 2012-13 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
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Did you comply with the requirements specified by WMF in the grant agreement?



This project was a meeting of academics and practitioners who are interested in Wikis and Open Collaboration.

The International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration (Wikisym) is the premier conference on open collaboration and technologies that support it. In 2012, Wikisym celebrates its 8th year of scholarly, technical and community innovation at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz Austria.

WikiSym is where researchers, activists, technologists, educators, entrepreneurs and other wiki and open collaboration experts from around the world gather annually to innovate and create. Every year we feature a competitive, peer-reviewed research track as well as a conference-long Open Space track where conference participants can organize their own sessions and discussions. In addition, panels, workshops, posters, demos and a doctoral consortium offer diverse opportunities for sharing and learning. This year we had a full program of cutting edge research presentation, demonstrations of new wiki-related software projects, and doctoral symposium where 10 doctoral students from around the world presented their wiki-related research and received feedback from top scholars in the area.

This year, we opened the symposium with a keynote by Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and Wikia, who presented a review of what are the research and innovation challenges that need to be answered to move open collaboration forward. The symposium closed with a keynote by Brent Hecht, a researcher in the CollabLab at Northwestern University whose innovative tool Omnipedia allows users to search for entries across all of the different language versions of Wikipedia, and helps to identify a global perspective on share knowledge.

Wikisym 2012 was held in association with the Ars Electronica Festival this year, allowing for a connection between the research and practice around open collaboration at Wikisym to inform and be informed by the art and technology installations of the festival. Next year we will co-locate with Wikimania in Hong Kong.

Without the tireless efforts of the symposium committee and the program committee members and external reviewers, WikiSym 2012 would not have been possible. Many thanks to these individuals, as well as to our generous sponsors, Wikimedia Foundation, National Science Foundation, Google, and the Ars Electronic Center.

Finally, we thank the people who continue year after year to make WikiSym a vibrant, prolific, and open community of ideas, scholarship and technological innovation through their participation in the event.

Project goal and measures of success[edit]

Project goal[edit]

The goals for this project were to:

  • Bring together top scholars doing work on Wikipedia and other open collaboration systems
This goal was met, as scholars and practitioners were able to have meaningful and engaged conversations with one another over the course of the conference. Both during meetings and demonstration sessions, as well as at hospitality events, attendees spent considerable time engaged in conversation about their work and about the issues of open collaboration more generally. While the conference was modest in size, that size did allow for a very engaged conversation that persisted over several days.
  • Provide cutting edge research and demonstrations that inform both innovation and sustainability in wikis and other open collaboration systems.
There is evidence that work from the Wikisym 2012 conference is already being cited in other research, and revisions are being sent to other publishing outlets to inform other academic disciplines and systems designers. In addition, many of the attendees work with the WMF in capacities like PhD research fellows, and are active in the WMF practitioner community, and have reported carrying the insights from this conference into those other communities.
  • To build a community interested in research and practice that promotes the sustainability of open collaboration systems.
Participants have continued to interact with one another in the weeks and months following this meeting. They have been in contact in social media channels, and have arranged meetings at other locations. For example, a panel based on lessons from this funded meeting will be presented to a broad audience of researchers in February at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work Conference. Many researchers who have other academic homes now meet with Wikisym attendees at their main meetings.

It is important to note that WikiSym is an annual conference that has been running for 8 years in a row, uninterrupted. It has become a regular meeting place for wiki and open collaboration researchers, including Wikipedia and related project researchers. Many of the benefits of this continued series of events realize only in later years. For example, citations and use of research work presented in prior years has been steadily increasing, and the work of 2012 will reach those heights in the coming years.

Measures of success[edit]

From our grant proposal, our listed measures of success were:

  • Number of attendees to the main conference.
This is our largest area for future improvement. The conference attracted about 60 attendees, from a very broad international array of locations, as well as from different backgrounds. The size was good for an engaged conversation, but our goals are to return to a larger number of participants in the future. This coming year we are collocating with Wikimania to encourage attendance.
  • Number of attendees to the Wikipedia Research Session.
One of the very success aspects of this program was a very successful doctoral research colloquium, where students were supported by both the WMF and the U.S. National Science Foundation.
  • Number of different research works on WMF projects presented.
The majority of research projects were based in WMF projects, largely through studies of Wikipedia. Part of the reasons Wikipedia receives so much attention from researchers is that they make data readily available. It would be interesting to consider how we could expand research on other WMF projects by making data available to researchers.
Amended Dirk Riehle (talk) 17:10, 20 January 2013 (UTC) using User:Clifflampe's words: For academic researchers, there's something of a tension between data availability and visibility of the project. [...] all WMF projects make data available, but not all of them have the scale of interaction needed to conduct the type of analyses that Wikipedia makes possible. Beyond the WMF projects, other wikis don't always have the same types of data availability. WMF is quite rare in the level to which they've made data available. It's a good research question whether other open collaboration projects follow the same generalizable pattern as is in WMF projects, or how much additional work needs to be done to make data available in other projects.
  • Number of doctoral dissertations related to WMF projects and goals
This year we saw 10 doctoral dissertation directly related to WMF projects and goals. In addition, the closing keynote speaker Brent Hecht has based his Omnipedia project on a central WMF goal, which is expanding access to Wikipedia across a wider variety of languages.
  • Mass and social media coverage of the event
The meeting had a successful following on Twitter, with many interested participants not able to make the meeting engaging with attendees through that social medium. Mass media coverage included an Austrian national radio program and an article in the technology news site Slashdot.
  • Number of new proposals and intiatives launched in WikiSym 2012.
Through many discussions in open spaces and during engagement times, a new initiative that comes out of Wikisym 2012 is to refocus this area on wikis and open collaboration systems more specifically. For 2013, Dirk Riehle is hosting parallel conferences in association with Wikimania, one related on wikis (Wikisym) and one on open collaboration more generally (OpenSym) in order to expand the boundaries of researchers and practitioners who are doing work related to goals shared by the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikisym.

Lessons learned[edit]

What lessons were learned that may help others succeed in similar projects? There are two levels of lessons to be learned from Wikisym 2012. The first is logistical, and the second strategic. On the logistical side, it's important to think about timing for a conference like this, as we're dependent on academic attendance for the bulk of the meeting. That means our time in late August was difficult, as people were preparing for the start of their new semester. It also conflicted with some European holiday planning. Co-hosting with another related meeting like Wikimania, or in a major U.S. city since the bulk of participation (though certainly not all) might increase attendance.

The second issue is strategic, which has to do more with how to convincingly integrate practitioners and researchers. Some attendees this year noted a heavy focus on Wikipedia research. While there were certainly other intellectual contributions to the meeting, it's true Wikipedia related research and demonstrations dominated. Part of Dirk Riehle's plan for the next year Wikisym/Opensym should help with these integration issues. For a heads-up of how we are turning these lessons into reality, see the 2013 conference concept.

What impact did the project have on WMF mission goals of Increased Reach, Increased Quality, Increased Credibility, Increased and Diversified Participation? The main benefit of this meeting is that it draws together a group of people who are on the forefront in research and practice that attempts to solve known, persistent issues in innovative and sustainable open collaboration. Dealing with newcomer integration, ensuring quality over multiple language versions of Wikipedia, handling conflict and new ways of understanding processes in complicated open collaboration systems were all part of the research and tool demonstrations being presented at this meeting. The papers and demos resulting from this can be incredibly informative for a wide range of projects that are central to the WMF mission. In addition to the concrete products of papers and demos, this meeting develops and continues to foster a community of bright, engaged scholars and practitioners who will in turn continue to develop their work in the areas that are of interest to WMF.

During the grant proposal process, we had a long discussion about open publishing and the conference. We found something of a middle ground in allowing users to publish both in the ACM digital library (closed, with a paywall) but also on their home pages, which is consistent with ACM policy, and have held a copy on our website. While this isn't true open access, it makes the content available to the world of researchers and practitioners, so seems to be consistent with the spirit of open access. In 2013, we are taking further steps to allow for open access.

From a practical perspective, WikiSym provides an academically acknowledged publication outlet that remunarates researchers, academically, if they get their papers published, for their work. A pure user conference without peer review and the (love it or hate it) bells and whistles of academic procedure cannot achieve this. Thus, we view WikiSym as an important part of the Wikipedia research community and are proud to be covering that angle.

Reporting and documentation of expenditures[edit]

Documentation of expenditures has been received by WMF.

Did you send WMF documentation of all expenses paid for with grant funds?

Yes. (Pending one receipt to follow later.)

Details of expenditures:

Item Type WMF Funds Requested/Granted Total Conference Expenses
Food (coffee, lunch) $8,000 $17,000
Conference materials $2,000 $2,000
On-site volunteers $2,000 $0
Speaker travel, accommodation $0 $3,800

Will you be requesting re-allocation of remaining grant funding?

Yes. We got all student help for free, thanks to the help of the University of Linz. We would like to reallocate the $2,000 originally intended for student volunteers to cover the travel and accommodation of our keynote speakers and organizers. Most actually halfed their costs or did not ask for reimbursement at all. Brent Hecht is the one exception who asked for full reimbursement ($2,420 of the $3,800) because he only recently finished his PhD studies before becoming a professor and is still in debt.

Will you be returning unused funds to the Wikimedia Foundation?

No. As described above, we would like to reallocate the $2,000 for student volunteers to cover half of the speaker and organizer travel and accomodation expenses.

Additional requests and related proposals[edit]

Will you be requesting an extension or were you granted an extension?


Please link to related grant proposals here: Grants:The_John_Ernest_Foundation/2012_Wikisym_Conference