WikiConference North America/2019
WikiConference North America 2019 took place November 8-11, 2019 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with the main venue at the MIT Stata Center.
WikiConference North America is the annual conference of Wikimedia enthusiasts and volunteers from throughout North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It was a gathering of Wikipedia, Wikimedia, Wikidata, Wikicite, Wikisource, Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia movement enthusiasts for a long weekend of collaboration and discovery.
This year's theme was the reliability of information and was in partnership with the Credibility Coalition and carried the additional moniker of WikiCredCon.
Other focus areas for the conference included relationship building & support; inclusion & diversity; editor recruitment & retention; tech & tools; harassment, civility, & safety; and education.
Activities included the Culture Crawl of local cultural institutions (centered at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); a hackathon and multiple editathons; a poster session; traditional community-led programming; as well as two evening receptions (Waterworks Museum and the MIT Museum), and the annual Wikidata Birthday Party.
Sponsorships and funding
Funding for the conference was generously facilitated with our partner, the Credibility Coalition, that brought in Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, Craig Newmark Philanthropies as major funders. Conference resources including staff time, conference spaces, and professional video recording were provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and specifically the MIT Knowledge Futures Group and MIT Open Learning.
No Wikimedia Foundation or movement funding was used in the production of the event.
In July 2018, the Wikimedia Foundation announced it was limiting its next two rounds of conference funding to seven specific conferences. Because the named conferences did not include WikiConference North America, and the moratorium coincided with the event window for WCNA 2019, we pursued other opportunities for partnerships and funding.
- WikiConference North America offered scholarships for the travel and/or lodging expenses for 97 applicants, the highest number ever granted for the conference. Scholarship amounts were staggered and vary based on geographical location / distance to the conference.
- Scholarship applications were only accepted from Wikimedians residing in North America. The scholarship application period closed on September 22, 2019.
- November 9-10 were the conference's main programming days with community-led presentations, workshops, panels, roundtables, and more.
- The submission process for proposals was an open call and was hosted on the WikiConference wiki. General program submissions closed on September 22. Academic peer-review submissions closed September 27, 2019.
The live video streaming and recording of the three main rooms was generously provided by MIT Open Learning group, with the special support of Sanjay Sarma, Vice President for Open Learning. This resulted in 37 sessions being recorded in very high quality with camera crews and professional audio. We also thank the Free Software Foundation who also contributed to the recording of other sessions.
Eventually, these will be uploaded to multiple platforms including Wikimedia Commons and Youtube.
The video recordings can be found online at MIT Open Learning and at FSF via this link: https://wikiconference.org/wiki/2019/Streaming
The event was a highly collaborative project with the core WikiConference North America team composed of individuals from the Wikimedia movement and from the Credibility Coalition.
- Andrew Lih
- Kevin Payravi
- Rosie Stephenson-Goodnight
Core planning team:
- Andrew Lih
- Jackie Koerner
- Josh Lim
- Kevin Payravi
- Maria Rimmel
- Phoebe Ayers
- Richard Knipel
- Rosie Stephenson-Goodnight
- Sam Klein
- Sarah Schwettmann
- Connie Moon Sehat
- Jennifer 8. Lee
- Maria Rimmel
- Andrew Lih
- Sarah Schewettmann
- Rob Fernandez
- Alex Stinson
The conference was anchored by an incredibly hard working local Boston/Cambridge team that brought local knowledge and resources to bear: Phoebe Ayers, S.J. Klein and Sarah Schwettmann's connections to MIT were invaluable to the reservation and procurement of in-kind donations from the university, including the main room venues, gathering spaces, MIT Museum reception and video recording. A special thanks goes to Sarah Schwettmann who spent countless hours on the conference planning and extending relationships with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and other organizations, as her involvement was key to the conference's success.
Kicking Things Off With a ‘GLAM’ Culture Crawl
The conference began with a Culture Crawl day, where Wikipedians engaged with local cultural and heritage institutions in Boston and Cambridge to create Wikimedia content. This year the annual Culture Crawl was hosted by and based at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), with excursions to other ‘GLAM’ institutions in Boston and Cambridge throughout Friday. The day focused on editing and training around Wikidata, the structured database supporting Wikipedia and various Wikimedia projects.
More than one hundred Culture Crawl participants visited multiple GLAM cultural institutions in the region on Friday, including the MFA, the State Library, Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Boston University. These visits were part of a day-long large-scale Wikimedia content improvement drive, where, in one day, Wikipedians added roughly 30,000 words to 190 articles related to local heritage institutions.
Continuing the GLAM theme, the evening reception was held at the en:Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, which opened in 2011.
On Saturday and Sunday, the conference moved to the Stata Center at MIT, in Cambridge. The Stata Center offered diverse spaces for participants to meet in small groups to discuss and initiative collaborative projects. Over the course of two days, the 350 conference attendees could choose from multiple tracks of more than 70 community-led sessions that explored themes such as equitable access to knowledge, information reliability, issues of diversity, inclusion and bias, and community health and safety.
The conference started with a plenary panel around the forthcoming book Wikipedia@20 by MIT Press, for which many members of the community were contributors and editors.
A poster session highlighted the growing prominence of Wikidata, with projects focused on “Changing descriptions in Wikidata” and “Gender Gap Tools.” Internet Archive, a conference partner, discussed their initiative to provide more free online access to books with their recent acquisition of Better World Books.
Both the Waterworks Museum and The MIT Museum hosted social events for attendees on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.
This year marked the first time WikiConference North America administered awards for the community. The awards were determined by the conference organizers and recognized a number of initiatives over the course of the year.
- Most exciting new affiliate: Wikimedians of the Caribbean User Group
- Notability Award (for contributions to notable topics in greater Boston): Another Believer
- Credibility Award (for contributions to credibility and misinformation initiatives this year): Cite Unseen
- Verifiability Award (for contributions to improving verifiability and sourcing): Internet Archive
- Education Impact Award (for contributions to education projects): Wiki Education Foundation
- Inclusivity Award (for projects that promote inclusivity and diversity): Wikimedia Canada
- Outreach Award (for advancing Wikimedia with new partners): Wikimedia México
Reliability and Credibility Summit
November 11 was the Reliability and Credibility Summit, which focused on the reliability of information, and included breakout roundtable sessions related to downstream platforms users of Wikimedia content, reliability of news content, and reliability of Wikimedia content. The platforms roundtable was an historic event, with representatives from Google, Facebook and Microsoft present to discuss how Wikimedia content could benefit users in assessing information reliability.