Boston proposal history
Did not emerge wholly out of thin air... I looked into various venues near Harvard and MIT, but it was difficult to find reasonable rates for either conference rooms or lodging; not to mention any place with convenient rooms nearby that could serve as operations rooms. I sent a proposal to people at Harvard Law School mid-september, and to some local Wikipedians; after their buy-in, the proposal took shape.
The list of local supporters is a mix of Berkman adherents, Boston Wikipedians, MIT folks, and other information pros (librarians, KM gurus, bloggers). A couple of local artists think this would be a cool scene. +sj | Translate the Quarto |+
Sanders Theatre Seating
How much does the price vary? What would our event likely be classified as? 184.108.40.206 01:15, 1 October 2005 (UTC)
- Well, some events like classes are not charged if the space is not otherwise reserved. A lecture requiring no particular a/v, ushering, miking, lighting, or other tech would be on the low end of the spectrum; a performance with videography, lights/sound/place-markings and previous dress rehearsal, at the high end. The costs for student groups and other performances are different. This would hopefully be classified as a university-affiliated event, being broadcast widely and recorded for archival purposes, and not aiming to make the producing group money.
- You can see more details on renting the space, and what info the office is interested in, here. +sj | Translate the Quarto |+ 04:25, 1 October 2005 (UTC)
- Note that it is fine to have an event in sanders which is not ticketed individually through the Sanders Theater Box Office - that actually saves the fees normally charged for the ticketing process. We should think about issues of ticketing, and about holding single-ticket events for the local audience who don't care to come for days at a time, as well as about opening/closing ceremonies.
No debate needed
Cambridge blows Toronto away. --lotsofissues
- Any reasons why? It would be good to know which parts of the Toronto bid need to be improved. - SimonP 21:38, 3 October 2005 (UTC)
- To avoid listing, I'll get to the pivotal winning reason. We would be able to acquire prestigiousness with the H association. Starting with the media coverage, maybe this time we will be written about by more than just German and London publications. And then onwards, the rippling effect of new credibility. --lotsofissues
In Vino Veritas?
I was under the impression that the motto of Harvard was simply Veritas (Truth), not In Vino Veritas (truth in wine, i.e., when you're drunk you reveal the truth). Actually I was about to revert this as vandalism until I realized that Sj himself added it. Funny, yes, but people unfamiliar with Harvard might think you're serious. --Geoffrey 01:09, 9 October 2005 (UTC)
- Feel free to revert it. I will soon when I get to rewriting the bid, if noone else does :-) +sj | Translate the Quarto |+ 16:56, 9 October 2005 (UTC)
A set of questions from the jury
This is a section for questions from the jury.
- For large events, a conference gets a user/pass for the whole event. Anyone with that information can access the network. That user/pass should work anywhere on campus, covering the whole area discussed below.
- Rooms: The price of $40 dollars a night for single rooms is really really high. Plus dorms don't seem to mention any "doubles" or other possibilities. Many people will want to be with friends, lots of couples as well. What are the possibilities for that?notafish }<';> 01:39, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
- Rates "can be negotiated", according to the Dean of Students office, as our dates are flexible. There are singles-w-baths available for more than $40 a night, if we really want to put speakers up in the dorms; and there are two-room and three-room suites for 50-70% more (so, 25%+ cheaper per person) with baths in one of the dormitories. A pair of opposing three-room suites would make a fine substitute for the gartenhaus.
- Let me know if the current list is still unclear. I'm creating a separate page with long lists; of sponsors, other support, and other rooms. +sj | Translate the Quarto |+ 15:35, 13 October 2005 (UTC)
Strengths of the Toronto bid?
People working on a bid are usually talking about their city. Let's turn the tables: what do you think are the five biggest advantages of the Toronto bid? -- Arne (akl) 21:27, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
- I'd say ...
- entering Canada is indeed easier
- Toronto, as I've heard about it, is a very safe city, although big and interesting
- they talk about local support and facilities, and this sounds sound
- they say price for rooms $25/night
- the proposal itself is well-written, with nice photos
- ilya 04:47, 7 October 2005 (UTC)
I like this question. My list would be slightly different from Ilya's (still working on that fifth point):
- Toronto is cheap for a worldly and world-class city. Everything is a bit less expensive there.
- Entering Canada is comparatively easy and hassle-free. Harvard hosts hundreds of international conferences each year, and can help a lot with visa coordination, but it is better not to need such help.
- Support from a new facility -- a great thing to have; similar to support from an older venue but with its own advantages.
- A good and clearly defined proposal; obviously put together by people who know their city well.
- A cheerfully multicultural city; less segregated into subdivisions than most US cities, making an exception perhaps for New York. And they have Yonge Street... One of the world's great streets (and not just because it's 1000km long).
Finally, the cities share great strengths; beautiful bodies of water, excellent art and culture, welcoming communities, academic surroundings with large bodies of international students.
What, if not?
In case Boston didn't win the Wikimania 2006 city contest, do you have any idea how the established contacts and gathered information can be used to pay off for Wikimedia in another way? -- Arne (akl) 21:27, 4 October 2005 (UTC)
- Having a bid contest like this is good for building local community; that will surely last. Some of the locals would be keen on coming up to Toronto to help out there or just bring a little east-coast spirit. And some local organization support (from the FSF, etc) can be passed on to support for other events. Likewise, some of the connections with local universities, and much of the information gotten, will remain useful for individual Wikimedia projects.
- Some contacts have explicitly said they intend to help, regardless of where the conference is held. I have made a separate list of these.
- One pillar of support that wouldn't translate smoothly to other initiatives are the enthusiastic support of the universities here for holding a big event (and the related infrastructure offered) -- most aspects of the conference would be sponsored by Harvard or MIT. Another is the interested but weak communities of contacts -- eg. the hacker community at MIT, and the many academics in town who think WP is 'cool' but don't have a real feel for it -- which Wikimania would strengthen into lasting networks.
- I'd like to be added to that list (but don't know where to sign), and if there's anything I can do, please do not hesitate to ask. I love Toronto, but I love Boston more (sorry :) )-Mysekurity 23:01, 15 October 2005 (UTC)
MIT Media Lab
The proposal says there would be "strong support from the MIT Media Lab". This would be nice, but are there any details about the form this strong support would take? TimShell 16:40, 13 October 2005 (UTC)
- Walter Bender, the director of the lab, basically asked how they could help. One of his grad students working on electronic publishing, who knows everyone in the open source world, has been eager to take part in planning and is helping look for potential conference-sponsors among the companies interested in their (e-publishing) work.
- Specific support people at the Media Lab suggested : holding an event in Kresge Auditorium, the largest indoor forum on campus (slightly larger than the biggest space @ Harvard; Jimbo was there for the recent Emerging Technologies Conf.); hosting a party at the Media Lab for up to 300 people.
- Alternately, we could ask them to host Hacking Days there; there was 'mania interest from a variety of hackers @ MIT. Likewise, we could likely ask for help with finding/borrowing almost any kind of technical gear.
National press coverage
As the Boston area is a large tech hub in the US, I would presume there is a lot of national press coverage in the area, from technology-oriented media and so forth. Is this a valid assumption? Can we expect ample press coverage from the national media rather than just from the New England media? TimShell 16:41, 13 October 2005 (UTC)
- New York is, of course, the real media hub on the East Coast. It is close enough that many of its publications have Boston offices. Boston has some major native news centers, such as the Boston Globe and WBUR. It also has major national tech publications like the MIT Technology Review (circulation: >300,000). +sj | Translate the Quarto |+
- Although I don't have any concrete ideas, I think the chances of getting into (inter)national technical press are much higher than in Toronto. ilya
- This is another area in which Berkman Center sponsorship would be helpful; Berkman's media director would be able to work with Wikimania folks re press contacts. She has good relationships with several national-level tech reporters for various publications, and Berkman is generally able to draw good coverage for our events, reports, etc. +EricaG
Perhaps there should be some discussion of the dubious pleasures of access for international visitors? Things like the joy of being treated as a newly arrested criminal, with mandatory fingerprinting, photographing, disclosure of biometric data (from passports) and financial and address information (from airline bookings to TSA)? This appears to be the least friendly bid for foreign visitors. Jamesday 14:57, 15 October 2005 (UTC)
- Entering the US is definitely less privacy-friendly than entering Canada; and this is the first negative on our self-evaluation. There are those who insist they will never enter the US. I think that most of our audience would be willing to visit the US, however; and the bid is quite friendly to foreign visitors once they make it through those unpleasant 15 seconds. +sj | Translate the Quarto |+
- Both Boston and Toronto have much to offer visitors - I've had the pleasure of spending time in both places. Regrettably, Boston does have the disadvantage of being in the US, so while I'd like to visit it, a different place seems better for this conference. Jamesday 07:55, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
- You go through the same thing when being hired by the FBI or getting top-secret clearance at a government research lab; so instead of being treated like a criminal, you can pretend you are being treated like an international super spy on a secret mission. As long as you are weaving fantasies out of simple bureaucratic procedures, you might as well weave nice fantasies. TimShell 18:11, 15 October 2005 (UTC)
- Admittedly, it isn't fun to enter into the U.S. (I've been detained in foreign countries as retribution for our visa policy), and I'm sorry for whatever role my countrymen have played in that, but please understand that the minor hassle is definately worth coming to an awesome conference. I already pretend I'm a spy, it keeps me fit. -Mysekurity 22:57, 15 October 2005 (UTC)
- As you discovered, the US visa and immigration practices are not much appreciated by those outside the US. Jamesday 07:55, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
- I know it's already in the main bid, but it does bear repeating that while treatment of non-citizens entering the US can suck, there is a lot we can do to ease that as much as possible. It is entirely doable for Harvard/Berkman to send invite letters to foreign attendees, which can frequently ease the way in dealing with border crossing. Attendees expecting to have unusual circumstances that might trigger suspicion from US border officials could work with us ahead of time to make sure their invitation letters explain the legitimacy of what they're doing - like transporting more computer equipment than is usual for a tourist, etc. - EricaG
- With respect to the hosts, who I'm sure will do all that is possible to smooth things as much as practical for those who aren't US natives, choosing a location where the practices are better for all seems like a better idea. Jamesday 07:55, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
- Re biometrics: According to the US Dept. of Homeland Security's website (http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html, http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_1336.html), the requirements for visitors from visa-waiver countries are a machine readable passport, and, if the passport was issued after the end of October 2005, a digital photograph on the passport. Actual biometric data (digital photo) are only required on passports issued after October 2005, and digital fingerprints for passports issued after October 2006. Many travelers will already have a machine readable passport and so will not need a new passport, and will be exempt from the biometric requirements until their current machine readable passport expires. For travelers renewing their passports between now and Wikimania 2006, the only biometric required by the US is a digital photo (something already on many passports) and not yet fingerprints. (In fact, for the truly hardcore privacy advocate, if they want to visit the US, the next few years are the best time, while biometrics are still slowly being phased in.) Canadians are exempt from the biometrics requirement for US entry. If attendees are from a non-visa-waiver country or have a non-machine-readable passport, attendees will need a visa, which does have biometric requirements in order to be issued - a digital photo and fingerprints. A visa is compatible with a non-machine-readable passport; a person could theoretically get a one-time visa for entering the US, without renewing their passport or causing the passport itself to hold biometric information. - EricaG
- The photographing and fingerprinting (PDF) ("visitors have their two index fingers scanned by an inkless device and a digital photograph taken") on entry to the US applies to those using the visa waiver program ("Since September 30, 2004 VWP travelers have been enrolled in the DHS US-VISIT [link to page with previous PDF] program"). Part of the problem is the very poor perception of the US practices by citizens and governments outside the US, for example European Union reactions to the disclosure of personal data. Jamesday 07:55, 17 October 2005 (UTC)
We have to differentiate between two cases:
- People from "visa waiver" countries (with the exception of rare cases) can enter the US for tourism purposes (like attending Wikipedia) with only their passport. The problems there are only privacy (and the occasional overzealous immigration agent). However, visa waiver countries are basically the "first world" (i.e. the non-Muslim wealthiest countries).
- Other people have to get a visa. (Official site) The procedures were changed in the last years, and now on systematically has to show up in person at the consulate, even to get a tourist visa and even if there are no problem issues. This means that people may have to pay fees to schedule an appointment1, then travel across their country, pay for a hotel, just to see a consular officer for one minute. (And pay yet other fees.) So there we get three questions:
- Wwhich countries outside of "visa waiver" ones will people come from?
- How much are the fees for citizens of these countries?
- Are US consulates easy to reach for them?
I'd appreciate feedback from people from non-visa-waiver countries who had to get visas lately.
And finally: how does this compare to other venues?David.Monniaux 06:47, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
1 In Paris, this costs about 15€ just to schedule the appointment. Depending on citizenship, kind of visas etc, other fees can be 150€ or so. I don't have the precise numbers in my head, but that's the order of magnitude. This does not count extrat costs like going to the consulate city.
- The other venue being Toronto has some advantages and some disadvantages in this regard. There are about twenty countries for which the United States requires a visa, but Canada does not. This includes countries that we will probably get visitors from such as Greece, Mexico, South Korea, Israel, and Hong Kong. For visitors that do require a visa the fee is $75 Canadian. From what I've heard this is cheaper than for the United States. The main disadvantage is that the Canadian process is slower, and you have to budget a couple extra weeks before you can get a visa. Most applications are processed by mail, but Canada has far fewer embassies and consulates, so if an interview is required many people would have a longer journey. - SimonP 15:37, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
Coming to the US
A summary of some relevant information.
- Noone is iris-scanned. Nor will anyone need a 'biometric' passport. The US State Department has been pushing the use of such passports (as have sister departments in some EU countries), but keeps postponing the implementation deadline for requiring them. The current 'deadline' is October 26, 2006, late enough not to affect this conference.
- Canadians will not need passports to enter the US; nor will US citizens need their passports to re-enter the US after a trip to Canada.
- You will be asked for you passport if you fly in (both ways). lotsofissues
- Unless you are from Canada, you will have a digital fingerprint and a digital photograph taken, just before a customs official looks at your passport; taking less than a minute.
- If you are entering the US with a visa waiver, your passport must be "machine readable" -- which means it should have chevrons along its bottom or side.
- If you are entering with a waiver and getting a new passport issued after October 26, 2005, it must include digital photo information (all EU passports will have this information soon).
On the evils of post-modern ID standards:
New ID and border regulations are a real pain, and I think only countries, and not citizens, can possibly be in favor of them. As an aside, while the US has been first to carry out some of these measures, other countries are unfortunately trying their own versions as well, sometimes much more thoroughly. See for instance current plans for EU biometric IDs, and related UK proposals). Let us hope that we find better solutions... --+Sj+
Getting a US visa
Most applicants must visit a US embassy for an interview. This is usually a pro forma process, but requires getting to the embassy and providing supporting paperwork (such as invitation letters, etc). Likewise for getting Canadian visas; with the exception that an additional 20 countries are eligible for Canadian visa waivers.
Average visa application acceptance rates will not apply to Wikimania. In Boston, we would vet invitation-requests ourselves, taking care of visa fishing, and send formal conference invitations from Harvard, which an immigration professional notes "is a huge advantage." One of the Harvard perks we should make use of is that its International Office has contacts with the embassies in dozens of countries.
Regardless of venue, we need to advertise the event and ensure visas are requested well in advance. Many requests are denied because they are made too close to the departure date, or made without time to resubmit supporting information -- embassies often have precise requirements for the format of supporting documents (which can change from embassy to embassy :( we encountered this problem last Wikimania as well). --+Sj+
I expect there will be around 60 attendees requiring visas. Many of these will be getting travel and other financial support; which will further facilitate the visa process. The others can be given direct attention from [either] supporting university, on a case-by-case basis. --+Sj+
I am also concerned about possible difficulties when crossing the border, due to overzealous agents. A recent event gives reason to suspect that US Customs and Immigration officers engage in some kind of racial profiling, and give a hard time to people of certain ethnic backgrounds. I'd like testimonies of people of, say, obvious Arabic or Berber ethnicity entering the US. David.Monniaux 22:12, 21 October 2005 (UTC)
- A shame there isn't more information about this event. I'll see what I can do this weekend; there are many Arabic exchange students in town, including a few local Islamic societies, so they must have both personal stories and stories from family and friends. +sj | Translate the Quarto |+ 05:38, 22 October 2005 (UTC)
Setting the record straight
There seems to be a pretty common misconception that getting into the U.S. is unnecessarily difficult, when this is clearly not the case. If planned for ahead of time, U.S. customs tend to be VERY easy to navigate and deal with. If left until the last minute, of course the waits will be long, and the hassles big. We do not need to make this issue bigger than it really is. It seems most people with concerns about the U.S. travel policy have never visited, or haven't been here within the last few years. They have understandably heard stories of the hassles, and have assumed all visitors are treated this way. Firstly, customs takes only a minute or so, and with the right papers, and reasons to be here, the hassle will be minimal to none.
I see many people stating that the main draw of Boston is the fact that we have Harvard backing us. This is simply untrue. Not only do we have one of, if not the best technological schools in the country (if not the world), we also are a web of free software activity and other really great things around the MIT campus and Boston as a whole.
True, having Harvard is quite a plus, but it is not our only strength. In addition to the Crimson and MIT, we also have the five colleges in Amherst (which many believe were the basis for the characters in Scooby Doo—proving our greatness :) ). Our strengths are not purely academic, as we also have many fun and interesting things to do while you're here (check out the bid page for more details).
We have a great assortment of summer activities, ranging from beaches to pools and water parks, amusement parks and air-conditioned stores, and of course, ice cream. New Englanders are especially known for their love of ice cream—we're the largest consumers in the country—and as such, it's only fitting we have such great choices. You won't be disappointed, I promise.
The clear choice in terms of internet speed and connect ability is around the MIT campus. If it's good enough for world-class researchers and programmers developing the next wave of applications, it's good enough for us. On a related note, having the conference here would raise awareness amongst our numerous developers (an obvious plus), and bring our many area bloggers into the fray that is Wikinews.
Do not misunderstand me, I love Toronto. I think Toronto's a great city, and I'd be glad to help out should we choose to hold it there, but in all honestly, I think Boston is simply better suited for this conference, as well as attracting thousands more to the project, and raising general public awareness.
Whatever you're looking for, in a conference, or even just a vacation, you're sure to find it in Boston.
-Mysekurity 04:25, 22 October 2005 (UTC)