Tag: Wikimania

Wikimania 2019

Digital Support Librarian Lauren Smith reports on her first-time attendance at Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden.

My conference experience

Once I’d got my head round the different buildings, room numbering systems and Wikimania room naming conventions, I was able to find my way around the beautiful campus and lovely spaces fairly easily. I found the event inclusive, accessible and conscious of its social and environmental responsibilities in how it was organised and conducted, which was appreciated. The friendly spaces policy was an important aspect of this, as well as the distribution of reusable water bottles and eco-friendly name tags.

Session identifiers in the programme were particularly useful and helped me pick which sessions would be informative for a newcomer to Wikimedia, and I unashamedly hopped about between sessions to make sure I could attend the things most interesting to me.

Learning

I enjoyed the keynote address by Michael Peter Edson, co-founder and Associate Director of The Museum for the United Nations, who encouraged attendees to share their own stories about how technology and their work with Wikimedia relates to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Subhashish Panigrahi’s session ‘Behind the scenes of the Odia Wikipedia how-to video tutorials’ was an especially valuable and timely session to attend, because I am currently involved in producing videos for our library service to support users’ understanding of how to access and use the information and resources available through the library and more broadly online. I took away a lot of hints, tips and good practice principles about things like scripting, b-roll and editing that I’ll be putting to work immediately!

I found myself most drawn to the Library sessions (obviously) but also the Education strand, as someone particularly interested in innovative pedagogical approaches to supporting the development of critical information literacy. Finding out about how people advocated for the introduction of wiki-related educational activities centred around social justice initiatives (such as addressing the gender gap) in their institutions and how they overcame challenges was good food for thought for planning my own potential future work.

Panel discussion: Enhancing Awareness to the Gender Gap through EduWiki (CC-BY-SA Lauren Smith)

Other sessions focused on discussions of the limitations of traditional models of open educational resources such as textbooks and how approaches to personalised learning may be more effective, examples of work taking place in schools and universities using activities within Wikipedia and Wiktionary to empower students and support public access to diverse knowledge, challenges to scaling wiki in educational settings. Of particular relevance was the panel discussion ‘Education & Libraries: Opportunities Explored’ (video available on page). This panel discussed the benefits, challenges and opportunities of EduWiki initiatives collaborating with libraries, how the Wikimedia & Libraries community and the Wikimedia & Education community could work better together. This is something I am looking forward to learning more about.

It was great to hear about the work taking place to make the metadata from library collections and about library spaces themselves available through Wikimedia to improve public access to education and information resources. It’s inspired me to find out more about what’s happening at the University of Edinburgh, as a newcomer to the institution with a newfound interest in all things Wikimedia.

Overall

As a newcomer to both the Wikimania conference and the field of Wikimedia in general, I found the experience a little overwhelming and wasn’t able to keep up with all the varied and technical discussions about the work taking place, but what was very clear to me was the good intent and belief in the potential for positive outcomes from the wide range of work taking place, often under people’s own steam, but with the support of the wider community and the Wikimedia Foundation. One criticism some attendees had was about the breadth of the conference and how this meant there was almost too much choice, and I think perhaps this was part of the challenge I had in getting to grips with what was going on! However, the opportunity to explore such a diverse range of work was eye-opening.

Beyond the conference, on campus I of course explored the university library…

Stockholm University Library (CC-BY-SA Lauren Smith)

I also made the most of the electric scooters available for hire, and found my way to an excellent yarn shop…

Scooter adventure (CC-BY-SA Lauren Smith)

Next steps

I need to bite the bullet and learn how to edit Wikipedia articles before I can really take any more steps in terms of implementing any of the ideas I have in practice, but I’m hoping to develop some plans with colleagues around how we can embed information literacy activities into the curriculum using Wikimedia as the basis of activities and projects centred around critical perspectives on information, social justice and representation. I also want to learn more about the EduWiki community and the kind of work taking place there to support digital and information literacies, for examples of good practice and perhaps to join a supportive community as I start to engage with this area.

Many thanks to the Learning, Teaching and Web Team for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference.

Hot Topics and Cool Cats – Wikimania 2016 (22-26 June)

 

Wikimania
Wikimania

The annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sister projects was held in the alpine town of Esino Lario in the province of Lecco, Northern Italy, this year.

It was my first but I am led to believe that this year’s venue, and this year’s conference in general, was quite different from the ones in years gone by; certainly the rural location was quite different from the Hilton Hotel in Mexico City in 2015 and the Barbican in London in 2014.

This time Wikimania really was going outdoors.

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Listen to a podcast roundup of Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario, Italy, recorded on a bus after the Wikimania conference.

There was another gathering going on the day I left for the conference however: the EU referendum vote. Given that I was due to catch a 7.45am flight from Glasgow Airport on the day of the EU referendum, I left my vote in the hands of my girlfriend to vote on my behalf. (The thunder storms that delayed the flight from landing at London Heathrow should have been a portent for the political turmoil to come.)

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However, I was in good spirits despite the delay and, even when the consequence of the London storm was that I missed my bus connection from Milan airport to Esino Lario, I was busy contemplating how it might be nice to spend a bit more time travelling by train from Milan Central to Varenna-Esino. Fortunately, I found myself in the same boat as Lucy Crompton-Reid, CEO of Wikimedia UK, who had been on the same flight. A quick chat with a terrifically pleasant Italian gentlemen at the Wikimania greeters’ table at the airport and a taxi was arranged to take us both the rest of the way to Esino Lario.

While we waited, and our charming Italian saviour checked our names off his list of expected delegates, we were told the sad tale of one particular delegate who earlier in the day had been told that his name definitely wasn’t on the list and would he mind checking the FIVE pages of names on the list himself to see that was the case. Perplexed, the man had taken one long look at the list and replied, “But I’m Jimmy Wales.” (Needless to say, I think he probably made it back to Esino Lario okay after that, especially after a few selfies were taken with the volunteers from the local high school.)

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A picturesque drive through Alpine country to Esino Lario in the company of Lucy’s incredibly entertaining, but incredibly dark, sense of humour and I got settled into the family-run hotel I was to spend the next four nights in. Once registered, I was able to wind my way through the narrow cobbled side streets to meet with my fellow Wikimaniacs at the central reception area.

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The experience of the first night’s good-humoured chats were typical of the whole conference; here were Wikimaniacs from all over the world ostensibly divided by different backgrounds, languages & cultures but who were all united by their passion for working collaboratively & sharing open knowledge through Wikimedia’s projects.

So it was with some shock that I discovered the next morning that the referendum result had been that the UK had chosen to turn its back on working together as part of the EU. It just ran contrary to everything that Wikimania, and Wikimedia in general, was all about. Consequently, Jimmy Wales in his keynote address at the opening ceremony could not help but address this seismic decision back home in Britain. Clearly emotional, Jimmy Wales referenced the murder of his friend Jo Cox MP, the EU referendum & Donald Trump, when he asserted that Wikipedia was not about the rhetoric of hate or division or of building walls but rather was about building bridges. Wikipedia was instead a “force for knowledge and knowledge is a force for peace and understanding.”

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The focus of the programme for Wikimania 2016, therefore, was on Wikipedia as a ‘driver for change’.

Watch Jimmy Wales’ keynote address here

Of course, I couldn’t get in to see the keynote in person. The venue, the Gym Palace, could only hold around six hundred people and with around 1200 Wikimaniacs, plus curious townspeople attending too, the venue and the wi-fi soon because saturated. Hence, a great many people, myself included, got turned away to watch the keynote opening ceremony via the live stream at a nearby hall. Unfortunately, the one thing that everyone had been worried about prior to the conference occurred; the wi-fi couldn’t cope and we were left with a pixelated image of the opening ceremony that got stuck in buffering limbo. Little wonder then that a massive cheer went up when the young Esino Lario volunteers put on a Youtube clip of Cool cats doing crazy things’ to keep the audience entertained while they desperately tried to fix the live stream.

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The town of Esino Lario itself only has a population of around 760 inhabitants so the people of Esino Lario really did invite the 1000+ Wikimaniacs into their homes and I can honestly say that we were treated extremely well by our hosts. The hope is that the experience of hosting Wikimania in such a small town will have an enormous impact on the local economy & a legacy such that their young people, who worked as volunteers to help run the events and made sure we were well looked after in terms of espresso & soft drinks while we walked in the heat of the afternoon sun from venue to venue, may hopefully look to careers in tech and become the next generation of Wikimedians.

The rest of the conference brought no further technical problems and everyone seemed to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, and stunning views of the surrounding Alpine mountains, to learn & share both in formal presentations and informal discussions in-between times. There was also a preponderance of egalitarian community discussions to determine how each project should move forward which were recorded on Etherpad discussion pages (I made good use of these during the few days I was at the conference to follow real-time discussions at several venues at once.)

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The ticketing system for meal times was a hit too as it meant you were allocated to a certain venue at a certain time so that you couldn’t stay in the same clique & always encountered new people to chat to over a delicious plate of pasta. The evening events – chocolate tasting, cheese & wine, evening hikes, line dancing, a live band, a falcon playing a theremin – all allowed for further discussions and it was a real pleasure to be able to learn through ‘play’ in such relaxed surroundings.

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In terms of content, Wikidata proved its growing importance in the Wikimedia movement with a number of sessions threading through the conference and I was also pleased to see Open Street Map and Wikisource, the free content library, garnering greater attention & affection. The additional focus on education, especially higher education, with sessions on Wikipedia’s verifiability, the state of research on Wikipedia and the tidying up of citations was terrific to see. Overall though, it was great to see further focus on translation between Wikipedias and on areas of under-representation: on the gender gap and on the Global South in particular. As one session put it, there is only one international language: translation.

Watch all the talks at Wikimania 2016 on their Youtube channel

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In a nutshell, the weather was hot, the espresso was hot and the whole town was a hotbed of ideas with people on every street corner discussing the projects they were working on or wanted to find out more about. #Brexit was the hot topic of conversation too but it felt a million miles away; completely unreal & counter-intuitive when the fruits of cross-border collaboration were there for all to see at every turn. People I had encountered only in the online world I was finally able to meet in the flesh and warmly discuss past, present & future collaborations. It was especially pleasing to be able to meet the Wikipedia Library’s Alex Stinson and my Edinburgh Spy Week: Women in Espionage editathon collaborator, Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight from WikiProject Women in Red, who deservingly had just been made Wikipedian of the Year for the work WikiWomeninRed had done in helping to address the gender gap. Warm hugs and warm handshakes about working together was what Wikimania meant to me.

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Boarding the bus for the airport home on the Monday morning, I was able to listen in on Andrew Lih’s (author of ‘The Wikipedia Revolution’) roundtable discussion with the Wikimedia Foundation’s James Forrester and Cambridge University’s Wikimedian, Deryck Chan, about their reflections on Wikimania 2016 (as it was recorded as a podcast on the bus at the table of seats nearby).

Listening to their summary of proceedings while I looked out the window at the rolling Alpine foothills & waterfalls proved a nice full-stop to proceedings as it confirmed what UNESCO Wikimedian in Residence, John Cummings, had told me first and many, many others had said since… this was the best Wikimania ever.