Wikimania 2012/Bids/Washington, D.C./Q&A
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Jury members will list questions below. Please answer them/ adjust the bid accordingly by April 8, 1500 GMT
- The list of team members is very large – and it is great, however there is no chapter or legal body behind them. Have your considered the how will you make decisions? Have you considered the financial aspects (opening bank account, issuing receipts etc.)
- We have already made many decisions together as a group, including our choice of venue and our preliminary budget. We use a consensus-based approach, and when necessary, we use tools such as Doodle polls. For handling logistics and financial aspects, we recognize the importance of having nonprofit corporation status. We are pleased to be working with Wikimedia New York City, Inc., a nonprofit corporation in the State of New York. Washington DC is about 250 miles south of New York and we have a strong relationship with them. Additionally, we have taken the first steps to form a DC-based corporation through which we will handle logistics for this conference. We hope it will eventually become recognized as the Wikimedia DC chapter, after going through the chapters committee process. (Two attorneys are a part of our team.) Absent a new tax-exempt corporation, we will be handling financial details through Wikimedia NYC.
- For registration fees, we can use PayPal (and possibly Payflow Pro, PayPal's merchant system for accepting credit cards) for accepting payments in numerous currencies, with a similar sort of infrastructure as used for handling donations and issuing receipts. We also plan to re-use the registration system that the Haifa team is using, with any necessary modifications by our tech team to meet our needs.
- Will you take a production company or produce the conference yourself?
- We have appropriated funds for a conference consultant to help us, such as with sponsorships, but our volunteer team will handle nearly all of the conference organizing itself. Several members of the Committee have produced events in the past and are experienced with events of similar size.
- An estimated 500 attendees will come to the conference – will the Wifi be able to support such a large group? Was this tested?
- The Wi-Fi is already used by a university population, larger than the size of Wikimania, during most of the year with no problem. During the summer, most of these students will not be on campus, and so we won't have to worry about sharing it with them.
- Most countries of the world require a VISA to US, and it is not always given, have the attendees already approached federal government in order to facilitate this?
- We are coordinating with the U.S. State Department to help ensure, to the best of our ability, that those who want to attend will be able to. Together with our State Department contacts, we can ensure each consulate is provided with information about our conference, and who the attendees are that will be applying for visas. As well, we will issue letters of invitation to conference registrants, which should be included in registrants' visa applications.
- Can you detail what are the meals in the schedule provided by the conference (all? Some?) and what are actually breaks were people purchase their own meals.
- We plan on providing breakfast, lunch, and beverage breaks, which is the precedent. The meal expense line in the budget is contingent on sponsorship and advanced registration levels, and will be revised up or down as sponsorship funds and attendance levels become more certain.
- Is the list of hotel rooms checked with the hotel or is it the entire amount of rooms in the said hotels? If so – will the registration to accommodation be done through the organizers or directly through the hotels?
- We have the entire Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center reserved.
- We are working to add additional dorm rooms at Georgetown, and should those dorms be unavailable, perhaps at the Mount Vernon Campus of George Washington University and we have definite, confirmed arrangements to use the dorms at Marymount University. We have not finalized our registration procedure for the Marymount dorms because we are trying to structure it to include shuttle bus service to the Conference Center. It may be more efficient if the Marymount dorm reservations are handled as a part of the Wikimania registration process. Should we be able to secure enough dorm rooms at Georgetown, then we may not need use of dorms at Marymount.
- We are also in the process of negotiating discounted rates with other nearby hotels, including the Georgetown Holiday Inn and Savoy Suites.
- For the Georgetown Hotel and Conference Center, attendees can book directly with the hotel, using a special discount code. We will explore the possibility of incorporating hotel and dorm accommodations into the registration process, using the same (and improved) software that's being used by the Haifa team.
- The entire 146 rooms in the Conference Center hotel will be committed to us. We will designate the size of the room block in each hotel as we finalize the preferred provider/discount arrangement with each facility. The other dorm arrangements reflect the fact that other summer programs may be using the dorms, thus we have no guarantees yet that we will be able to use dorms on campus at Georgetown, but we will make every effort to arrange use of the Georgetown dorms.
- Dorm prices are somewhat high compared to previous years (45$ pp/pn) – can these be lowered?
- $45/pp/pn is the rate for a double room at Marymount, and each attendee staying in a double room would pay half that. We can try further negotiations on dorm prices, but the final rates are set based on University budget decisions that have not yet been finalized. We will offer a range of rates depending on the degree of private bathrooms and lounge space in each dorm building. Rates for dorms at Georgetown are $48/night for a double room, according to the Summer 2012 rates. Each attendee sharing a room would pay $24/night. (Note: Rates at Hosteling International here in DC are $29-$45 per person, so this dorm rate is within the going prices on the local market.)
- Will the (potential) distance between residential options, between each other and the conference venue, create a dispersed community during the course of Wikimania?
- It should not have to. Since we plan on renting shuttles on a day-long basis, we will be able to regularly run trips between Marymount University and the Georgetown University Conference Center. As a result, no one will feel pressured to be in any one place at one time. People can be at either Marymount or Georgetown knowing that they won't have to catch the shuttle at a specific time; likewise, people do not need to feel like they are stuck at one place for a long period of time, and can switch back and forth with ease.
- We very much hope and will work to make arrangements to use dorms on Georgetown University's campus, but may not have any definite arrangements until around November and nothing is guaranteed at this point. Should we be able to use Georgetown dorms, there are several dorm buildings located adjacent and very close to the conference center.
- In the evenings, we will plan group activities to help keep people together, should they want to stick with a group, and can arrange group dinners at various restaurants in DC.
- Should we need to use dorms at Marymount, we will organize a shuttle bus from the Marymount University dorms to the conference center. To the extent that we can offer Georgetown University dorm rooms, no additional transportation is required and attendees staying in both the conference center hotel and dorms would be close together. If we also use the dorm rooms at the Mount Vernon Campus of GWU, we would have a shuttle van to that location.
- Overflow hotels including the Georgetown Holiday Inn and Savoy Suites, which together should meet our needs, both have shuttle bus services. It's also very walkable from the conference center to these hotels.
- Do you have price quotes to support the budget figures (such as catering?)
- The conference venue, attendee party and VIP reception costs are based on hard estimates. We have menu price quotations from the catering office at the conference center and dorm price quotes from Marymount University and Georgetown. We have quotations for a number of smaller items such as cloth bags and t-shirts.
- 20 VIPs who need accommodation is a large number – who are they?
- We have since revised this number down to 10. VIPs include predominantly keynote speakers.
- Travel expenses for VIP's is very high – is it reasonable?
- If someone is traveling from outside the United States, we could anticipate a $1,000 expense for airfare and we have VIP accommodations budgeted separately.
- What is the "technical" item in the budget? It seems a bit small?
- We will have a volunteer-based video team. The technical item, which we have since increased to $5000, is to cover AV equipment, the travel and lodging for our video team, and any additional tech-related services, such as video post-processing.
- The "Wednesday night early attendees party" is rather small – what does it include?
- This would have been a small reception for those who are at Georgetown by Wednesday night, featuring a DJ and light refreshments. We have decided to remove it from the budget due to more important budget items, and instead may arrange special tours on Wednesday afternoon/evening such as at the National Archives or Library of Congress (free), followed by a group happy hour/dinner (cash bar).
- In your estimated revenues, you seem to want to raise a significant portion through registration fees: is it feasible to do so? Additionally, given that the point of Wikimania is widespread public participation, is it desirable to do so? What is the cost of keeping the event open, i.e. to have registration at no cost, and how might this alter your financial estimates?
- We have since lowered the registration fee for everyone, but especially for student attendees and attendees from the Wikimedia community. We have also eliminated the VIP registration option, since we have decided that it is not likely to yield much return for a conference like Wikimania. (A revised version of our budget will be posted on our bid page soon.) That being said, a conference without even a token admission fee would be unworkable, since our major expense -- food -- is variable, based on the attendee count. Having some registration cost helps greatly reduce the number of no-show registrations. We are indeed interested in making the conference as accessible as possible, and we are pursuing all possible avenues to reduce costs. This includes comped registration as a scholarship option, as well as for conference volunteers, such as university students. To this end, $50,000 of our budget is dedicated to scholarships, with additional scholarships possible depending on amount of sponsorships for the conference.
- Is it feasible to expect individuals to pay large amounts for registration, creating tiered participants, and is it possible instead to consider going for the large-scale corporate/foundation support you also envisage, since getting large amounts of money from individuals might be more complicated and time consuming than pursuing a few key institutions?
- The budget is not final and is subject to change. The VIP registration option was pursued as an avenue for sponsorship, to allow them to make a "donation" and be able to expense it. We have since eliminated it in favor of more large-scale sponsors.
- You list embassies as being potential sources of sponsorship of foreign attendees, but in my experience, this rarely, if ever, works. Given a potentially large bill for travel outside the US and Europe, do you have particular plans to raise extra money to foot such bills? Or is the alternative to keep it mainly available to those whose travel costs to Washington will be minimal.
- Our plan does not rely on embassies, but rather, considers them as an option. Most of our sponsors will be corporate sponsors in the region, and we will approach the Open Society Institute to see if they would sponsor Wikimania scholarships, once again. If we succeed in getting some embassies on board, it will likely be as supplementary scholarship money to bring attendees from that country to Wikimania. We aim to make scholarships available to both those volunteers coming from other countries, as well as those in North America, based on criteria of merit similar to those used for Wikimania 2011 scholarships.
- Do you have in mind certain Keynote speakers? How many?
- We have compiled a list of about a dozen speakers to invite to the conference. These plans are still tentative.
- Do you expect this Wikimania to be primarily attended by invited guests and local (i.e. North American) participants? I imagine that Europeans and residents of high-income Asian countries will have no problem with visas, they won't need any, but for people outside these geographies, the process might be complicated and lengthy. How do you plan to pace yourself in order to provide adequate time for people across the world to apply to enter the US? And would this mean bringing a lot of the planning forward - i.e. doing it in advance of what one would normally do?
- While a DC conference would be more convenient for people in North America and the attendee demographic may be skewed toward North America for that reason, it is by all means our intention to make this as global a conference as possible. With our sizable scholarship budget we hope to bring as many attendees from distant countries as possible. With our contacts at the State Department, we will give them the information necessary to help make the process of entering the country more convenient for attendees. We are doing as much advance planning as reasonably possible, but it is important to consider that without the legitimacy of being the sure site of the conference, it is harder to make solid plans.
- Is there anything else you would like to tell us about what you want to have happen at Wikimania 2012?
- As Internet access expands, efforts to enhance online resources and use them to narrow the knowledge gap around the world becomes increasingly more important. According to the International Telecommunication Union, the number of people with access to the Internet has been sharply and steadily increasing in developed countries since 1996. While slow to start, online access in developing countries has seen a slow and gradual rise between 2000 and 2005, and, since then, the rate of availability of the Internet has been sharply increasing in those countries, as well. Thus, it has now become more important than ever to maintain a free and comprehensive online resource dedicated to disseminating knowledge across the globe. The various Wikimedia projects play an integral role in this goal, and through Wikimania 2012, we hope to highlight the importance of Wikimania project participants and the impact they can make on free global access to knowledge.
- Washington, D.C. could not be a better location for achieving this goal, as it is one of the leading cities for open access to information, home to numerous cultural insitutions that are free of charge to the public, and a diverse, well-educated population. We are currently seeing a push in government here in the US to make data and information accessible to the public, and to use collaborative social media as a way of doing the public's business. The next few years offer some interesting opportunities to get in on the ground floor, and bring people together from around the world who are working in the social media spaces to trade ideas for innovation. DC is also a leading city for technology, libraries, news media organizations, and think tanks.
- As an international city, D.C. itself is like a miniature representation of the world. With the presence of so many embassies and large diaspora ethnic populations makes this one of the best cities in the US for connecting with educated people from diverse cultures with an interest in multilingualism, global communication, and eagerness to play an integral role in the community, both at home and abroad. Improving the quality of Wikipedia and its language coverage is a great way for people to share information, and Wikimania will be a great opportunity for further outreach and to tap the great potential in DC for new Wikimedia contributors.
- By having the conference in DC, we aim to strengthen the relationships between Wikimedia volunteers and key cultural institutions, including the Smithsonian, National Archives, and Library of Congress, and through the conference can do additional outreach to educational institutions, including Georgetown University, government agencies including the National Institutes of Health, local government and community groups, and more. The conference would also be an important opportunity to bring together North American-based Wikimedia volunteers, strengthen the volunteer community, and give an opportunity for them to meet and interact with Wikimedia Foundation staff and Wikimedians from other countries and chapters.