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Grants:TPS/Iopensa/WikiSym 2013/Report

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Event name: WikiSym
Description of your participation:
My participation at WikiSym allowed me to:

  • Done Discuss the weaknesses and potentiality of the project Wikipedia Primary School with scholars and academics and reporting it in the project description on meta. I presented the project Wikipedia Primary School during informal meetings and conversations because the open space track was not an active space. I improved the documentation on meta (Africa Portal, Wikipedia Primary School, WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study, Wikipedia Scientific Journal, WikiAfrica, WikiAfrica Cameroon).
  • Done Acknowledge other projects and research in smilier or synergetic directions and to report it on meta.
  • Done Involve other researchers in the international implementation of the project Wikipedia Primary School. I started a specific conversation related to the project with four people (I don't mention the names because of course at the moment there is not confirmation of their involvement, but I will follow up by e-mail).
  • Done Reinforce contacts with researchers I have already met and discussing potential collaborations in the future. In particular Heather Ford; nice discussions and time to ask questions to Dario Taraborelli. The conference was also a chance to meet some of the members of the COST draft network related to Open Online Communities I have been involved in (Taha Yasseri, Nicolas Jullien). Very nice and extremely interesting conversations also with people I didn't know before among which Vishnu Vardhan (Programme Director - Access to Knowledge Centre for Internet and Society in Bangalore).
  • Done Draft a new research project related to evaluating the dynamics and impact of Wikimedia chapters and their potential development in Africa. I prepared a proposal on Wikimedia CH member website (restricted access); the proposal is linked to the Chapter dialogue project (I attended a related meet up at Wikimania) and I would like to submit a project application related to this potential project to the Società Svizzera di Utilità Pubblic (Swiss Society of Public Good) http://sgg-ssup.ch/fr/recherche-sur-le-benevolat (this application will focus on Switzerland as a case study). I will be writing a research project description also on meta once the project is more advanced.
  • Unplanned I chaired a panel at WikiSym[1].

More broadly the conference allowed me to

  • Done Discuss research related to Wikipedia and Wikimedia geographic imbalance and related to online and offline community dynamics of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects, with my specific experience in increasing the quality and quantity of African content on Wikipedia and the Wikipedia projects and involving GLAMs in contributing to it.
  • Done Listen to relevant panel/papers related to Wikipedia, and to report in particular on research related to the Wikipedia and Wikimedia geographic imbalance and related to online and offline community dynamics of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects. I was actually surprised on how little papers addressed directly those issues. It was important get a sense of some of the major research areas and to see how much the focus of the presentations at this conference is on quantitative analysis.
  • Done Network with relevant scholars and academics focusing their work on Wikipedia and involving them in future projects. The small size of WikiSym was perfect to have really the chance to discuss with many people. The conference also has a specifically nice working and collaborative atmosphere.
  • Done Better understanding how to contribute to Wikipedia research in a ethical way (how to acquire or re-acquire data I can use in research, how to structure anthropological contributions with a relevant and appropriate methodology, how and where to posit contributions related to Wikimedia and Africa) according to Wikimedia guidelines and policies. It was pretty relevant to discover that there are not clear guidelines; it seems that the most appropriate approach is to simply be very transparent.

What lessons were learned that could help others in similar events?
Very practically

  1. I extremely appreciated the chance to attend two conferences one next to the other. It was physically not easy (and Hong Kong August weather doesn't help) but really fruitful.
  2. I really liked the endorsement system. It allowed me to contact relevant people (to inform them about my interest in attending the conference but also to receive a very valuable feedback; it also produced the outcome of being involved a chair in one of the panels). Thank you very much to all the people who supported me.
  3. The size of conferences really matters. I could really benefit of completely different kind of conversations and exchanges at WikiSym and Wikimania and the combination of the two was very valuable.

More theoretically, but I think relevant, this experience allowed me consider some hypothesis

  1. There is an unsorted tension among quantitative and qualitative research related to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects. The quantity of content, readers and revisions give the impression that they can provide a broad picture of social dynamics; I personally have the impression the specificity (quality) of the contributors is left (anonymously) on a side, as it doesn't matter that much in the broad picture. I think qualitative research can allow to better acknowledge contributors in the way we look at Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects; i have the impression contributors do represent an anonymous IP but they are quite unusual human being which make Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects what they are.
  2. There is an assumption that "collaboration" is a key feature of Wikipedia and Wikis in general. The actual collaborative nature of those "tools" I think should be further questioned. I have the impression many Wikipedia contributors work in a isolated and independent way, with conflicts with other editors related to the borders of their "property" and bots sometimes talking to them. The "commons" appear when there is a "common enemy": people get together and collaborate when the principals of their work are questioned or they need to respond to some sort of external attach (media, Wikipedia black out...). This dynamic is incredibly similar to traditional dynamics of forest management; when a forest is on commons, the forest belongs to the community but each member of the community manages and "owns" his own land independently (I say "his" because very rarely women have rights); in general there are many conflicts related to borders but once there is a common enemy (fire, external enemy, natural disaster...) the community collaborates.

What impact did your participation have on the Wikimedia Mission goals of Increased Reach, Increased Quality, Increased Credibility, Increased and Diversified Participation?
My participation at WikiSym is related to Wikimedia Mission goal of quality and diversified participation. More specifically my participation allowed me to reinforce my interest in and my capacity of

  • Done Contributing to discussions and research related to Wikipedia and Wikimedia geographic imbalance and related to online and offline community dynamics of Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects
  • Done Producing applied research, which aims at rebalancing Wikipedia and Wikimedia geographic imbalance with a specific focus on Africa.

Detail of expenditures:
Maximum amount of 883.47 EUR

  • Done Registration fee (before June 30) - payment with paypall HK / / 337,75 euro
  • Done Travel expenses supported by Wikimedia CH. Arrival Sunday 04/08/2013 at 09:45 and departure to Wikimania accommodation Hong Kong Baptist University Dorm 07/08/2013 (three nights as planned but with modification in the dates)
  • Done Accommodation 04-06/08/2013 L'hotel Island South - 306,41 euro (3'168 HKD) - reservation with the visa card (room for 3 nights).
  • Meals and incidentals and local transport up to 237 EUR (2.440,01 HKD): total documented with receipts 191,41 euro

Amount underspent/left-over (please specify currency):
47,90 euro (total spent documented with receipts 835,57 euro)

See also[edit]


  1. Thank you Heather Ford for inviting me to chair the panel. It was not my first time to chair a panel but this one happened to be an unusually useful learning experience. And the merit goes to the very nice WikiSym atmosphere and to the quality of the people attending the conference.