Wikimania 2010 notes

It’s been a few months since Wikimania 2010 in Gdańsk. I had a few notes I wanted to share, but I was waiting for the Wikimania videos, which were never delivered. I’ll just go ahead and publish my notes now.

I went to Wikimania with my staff hat on, mainly to present and discuss the Multimedia usability project. I briefly presented the results of our research, then went on to demo the Upload wizard and play videos from our UX study.

The supporting slides are available on Wikimedia Commons; you can also download the PDF directly (2.36 MB).

I also submitted and coordinated a UX panel to provide a venue for users to ask their questions to the UX team. During this session, both the panel and the audience took notes collaboratively, which we found was a pretty effective means to maintain audience engagement!

The venue for the event was lovely; after WikiSym, hosted at the Music Academy in Gdańsk, having Wikimania in the Polish Baltic Philharmonic was awesome. Then again, I'm biased towards concert halls.

Program & Sessions

I wasn't necessarily a big fan of the "Wikimania madness" concept at first: I personally hate to be rushed through something. But if you prepare your 30-second intro, the idea actually works quite well — provided everybody plays by the rules and speaks for only 30 seconds.

The overall program was awesome; with all due respect to the previous Wikimania conferences I attended, whose program was great too, I feel this year's Wikimania was the best in terms of quality of talks. Huge props to the Program team!

The downside of it, obviously, was that it was extremely difficult to choose between concurrent sessions. For example, I missed the sessions about Talk pages and LiquidThreads, Semantic MediaWiki and Semantic Result Formats. I have some thoughts on how to solve this dilemma that I'll publish later.

On Friday evening, we had the opportunity of attending a gala concert performed by the Gdańsk Baltic Philarmonic, directed by Felix Reolon. I'm hoping the recording will be made available, but in the meantime there's an extract of the concert on YouTube. The concert was lovely, even though the audience didn't necessarily measure up.

Many Wikimania sessions were better than the ones I attended at WikiSym. Harel's talk about Conflicts between chapters and communities was both painfully accurate and delightfully funny. I feel a large part of the audience recognized themselves in both groups.

Another highlight was the presentation of the German mentoring program, by Tim Moritz Hector and his friends from the German-language Wikipedia. Their system seems to be fairly effective, and this talk was particularly relevant in a context where many criticize the unfriendliness of established editors towards inexperienced participants, but few act on it.

I was eager to watch the world premiere of Truth in Numbers, the documentary about Wikipedia, whose early cuts I had had the opportunity to see at Wikimania 2007 in Taipei. I ended up being quite disappointed, and the audience had mixed feelings about it overall.

Staff are people, too

The thing I like most about Wikimania is obviously the Wikimedians. Many of them interact a lot online, and sometimes become friends. Yet, most of them never get to see each other in person except once a year at Wikimania. This gives the event a rare intensity that I was looking forward to.

Unfortunately, I didn't have too many opportunities to catch up with Wikimedians I know, or to meet new ones. When I talked to some of my Wikimedian friends online afterwards, they told me they had been reluctant to "using my time" for "just socializing" because it had become "more precious"  since I was an employee, and not "just" a volunteer.

While it was very nice of them to have that concern, I was still a tad disappointed. Wikimania is about meeting people, socializing and catching up with friends, more than attending presentations. Employees are not different than volunteers in that regard, especially when they've been long-time Wikimedians.

In a nutshell: Don't hesitate to hang out with me (and other employees) at Wikimania next year!