What problem does this solve?
It is difficult to find common topics of interest with a stranger. It may be difficult to start a meaningful conversation with a stranger for lack of mutually interesting topics. Sometimes, it may be awkward to jump by a stranger to introduce oneself.
What is the solution?
Cutie as icebreaker
A cutie can act as an icebreaker between strangers. A cutie invokes curiosity, and even strangers will be interested in knowing more about the cutie. Some people are intrigued by cutie's appearance or its reasons for attending the conference. It is easy to pick up a conversation about the cutie and establish familiarity with a stranger.
Things to consider
- The cutie can preferably become a member of Wikimedia Cuteness Association, so that his/her commitment to the Wikimedia Movement can be established.
- It is preferable to leave the owner's/assistant's name and contact details on the cutie's collar so that the cutie can be recalled if went missing.
- While choosing your cutie, it is good to get one that has a story. For example, Wozzy, the endangered owl from Bulgaria has a story to share. The story keeps a stranger listening to you, and this helps to sustain the conversation.
- The cutie can also be used as a mascot for a mission or an organization. For example, Rani is a mascot for promoting gender diversity. A list of Wikimedia mascots can be found here.
When to use
- Large Wikimedia conferences, where all participants are unlikely to have met in the past.
- During informal, open space discussion where strangers have to come together to discuss about a particular topic.
- As a cuddle-buddy during times of stress. However, it is always better to meet a loved one (human) or consult a healthcare professional if you are experiencing unmanagable stress.
Cutie as community builder
Cutie can help build a common identity in the community.
It's true for collective or shared cuties (like Rory or Erminig) or for family of cuties (like the Queryboos and Structured Data Bees).
- The Structured Data Bees crochet pattern is available on Commons (here), so anyone can make its own.
- This tweet by Wikimedia Community Ireland to choose the cutie. This polls received 348 answers, a nice way to gather a community.
Cutie as your spokesperson
If it is hard for one to convey unpleasant truths or talk about one's achievements. In such circumstances, one can use the cutie as one's spokesperson. For example, "Cutie A says that she feels that the room is cold", "Cutie B says that your time is up", "Cutie C congratulates her assistant (master) who just did her 1000th edit". Several Wikimedians have made posts regarding conferences and other gatherings as seen through the eyes of their cuties on social media, probably because they do not want to mark the observations in the posts as their own.
Things to consider
- Be careful that the people listening to the conversation knows on whose behalf is the cutie talking, or you shall leave the audience confused. When a cutie is posting on Wikimedia using his/her own handle, please also give the contact details to the cutie's assistant (master) on the cutie's userpage. A cutie is not your alias or sockpuppet. A cutie is not meant to make anonymous edits on social media. The cutie's assistant (master) should take responsibility for edits/posts/tweets from the cutie at all times.
Cutie to represent a project
Having a plush as the mascot of a project, community, or working group, is a very efficient way to communicate about it during an event. People tend to spontaneously come to you and ask about the cutie, its name, origins or who's taking care of it. This is the perfect opportunity to start discussing about your project.
Communicating extensively about your favorite project can sometimes be seen as boring or aggressive. Having a cutie representing your project allows you to do outreach and communication in a soft way, via a discussion initiated by your interlocutor.
Moreover, people will remember better your project if they associate it with the cute face of your plushie. You can also make the cutie participate to talks, workshops, or online communication like on social network, to ensure the visibility of your project.
- Aeron the Dragon is the mascot of a project from Wikimedia Deutschland called "Train the Wikidata trainers". It's been introduced to the communities during Wikimania 2018, and has been active on Twitter in various situations.