Wikimedia Stammtisch München
Wikimedia in Munich, Germany
The Munich "Stammtisch" (German for a table where the regulars sit in a pub and transferred to the group of regulars themselves) meets regularly since December 2003, making it the oldest Wiki-Meetup group. Our first purpose is social, as writing for Wikipedia and the other projects can look like a lonely hobby done in front of your own computer. So it is nice to meet others with the same activity, have a drink of Bavarian beer or non-alcoholic beverages and share ideas. Ideas are many: Munich Wikimedians regularly collaborate, for example on composing lists of heritage monuments and taking pictures of listed monuments.
On the other hand we go on excursions and have workshops. Three to four times a year we go hiking in the alps, visit an historic garden or cycle through the city following the long drained or still existing medieval creeks and canals that once powered water mills or hosted professions that depended on running water. Our guides on these excursions usually are members of our group, who have researched and written the corresponding articles. We have done training courses in catalogue and database research with a librarian at our most important research library, the 450+ year old "Bavarian State Library" and visited a collection of mainframe computers from the 1960s to 1980s, including playing with punch card printers and readers and getting access to a Cray.
Our biggest event so far was the celebration of the ten years anniversary in January 2011. We held a conference at the Literaturhaus, a highly respected local cultural institution with 125 attending. As in our optimistic plans we had arranged for seating of 60 we had to add quite a lot more chairs before we could begin. The topic was Wikipedia from the inside as well as external views, followed by a workshop in Wiki editing.
We meet once a month, always on February 2nd, March 3rd, April 4th and so on, thus rotating through all days of the week, while still making it easy to remember. But in January it is 11th and in August we meet always on a Saturday for BBQ in the small garden of a core team member and everyone can edit the charcoal grill. The first of these BBQs was in August 2004 and Jimbo attended as he was in Germany at the time anyway. July and September meetings take place at a traditional beer garden, the others in a "Gaststätte", which is something like a pub.
It might be unusual for Wikipedians, but our meetups are offline. We all spend so much time in front of a monitor that we prefer to look at each other when we meet face to face. The core of our team are some ten to fifteen people, the BBQs brings more together. Over a year about 50 people participate in meetings, workshops and excursions, while we can reach out to many more onwiki and with our mailing list. We come from many walks of life: Students from computer science to politics to physics, lawyer and patent lawyer, tech writer, journalist, retired history teacher and pretty much everything in between.
Relationship with other Wikimedia groups
The Munich team usually is pretty self-contained. We have visited meetups nearby or elsewhere and had visitors from other German and Austrian groups, but interact little with the German chapter in Berlin or the Foundation in San Francisco. Last July the Munich team collaborated for the first time explicitly with Berlin, as they organized the Landtagsproject Bayern: setting up a professional photo studio at our state parliament for two days and taking pictures of the politicians. The Munich and other Bavarian Wikipedians brought in local expertise and staffed the front desk, talking to the politicians and inviting them in as well as working with those members of parliament who wanted to go through their articles.
Historically, Munich was quite influential for Wikimedia, as two of the earliest German Wikipedians come from here. Fantasy, who is fluent in four languages, was among the first generation of stewards. He contributed first to the English Wikipedia and later joined the German one where he cared especially about welcoming newbies to the project. Elian organized Wikipedia presentations on trade shows like Cebit, an exhibition for the fifth anniversary of Wikipedia and the first Wikimania in Frankfurt and she set up an international press contact team, doing interviews with all kinds of European media. She still is a participant at our events, while Fantasy went on to a different volunteer driven organisation.
Our future plans are not set in stone. As this summer will be the tenth BBQ, we got the idea to invite Jimbo back and combine our BBQ with a public conference/unconference/barcamp/workshop the day before or after. But this is about as far as the planning for the event progressed. We will have new mountain hikes and hold workshop between edit-a-thon and seminar on Wiki editing for interested parties, including members of the German chapter that so far did not edit. Later that year we will visit a small but historically important town north of the city and have guided tour there. Other than that we are looking for ideas, from our members and from some of the newly formed User Groups all over the world, because sharing ideas is what this process is all about.
Why a User Group?
As there is an established chapter in Germany, why would anyone need a Wikimedia User Group? On one hand, there are lots of issues on a regional or local level: We hope to exchange ideas for activities with other User Groups all around the world, inspire them and learn from others. A network of locally operating groups can fulfil different tasks than the chapters. And within Germany, the Chapter reacted almost enthusiastic when we inquired about the possibility of a User Group. The chapter is focussed on their own work out of the Berlin office and with supporting individual community members. To have a level in-between seems very attractive to them.
Access to grants from the foundation is not our first or foremost issue, most of our activities do not need any funding, and for the bigger projects the German chapter is incredibly helpful. But who knows, some day we might have an idea that fits into a global initiative and we will work with San Francisco.
The future Munich User Group in short:
- Munich, capital of Bavaria in southern Germany. The city has 1.4 Million inhabitants, the metro region 2.5 Million.
- regular meetings since December 2003, meeting monthly and special activities
- core members 10-15, reaching out to 50 people plus the general public
- offline activities: social meetups and collaboration
- workshops (library research, wiki editing, etc.)
- excursions from hiking to historic computer collection
- visiting relationship with nearby meetup groups
- access to resources of Wikimedia Deutschland
- archive of activities (reaching back to the first meeting in 2003, in German language): de:Wikipedia:München/Archiv
- de:Wikipedia:Stammtisch München - the virtual meetup space of our group with current information and discussions
- de:Wikipedia:WikiMUC - the real world meetup space of our group with current information and discussions
- Our mailing list - invitations to every meeting and occasionally other events