2010 chapters meeting/Andrews notes

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General notes

Pavel travel update.jpg

The first day was almost entirely lectures of some form in the main conference room at Zanox Campus. It had become clear by the middle of the day that this volcano was more than a simple inconvenience - four chapters had incomplete delegations and 5 of the 10 WMF staff were stuck at airports around Europe. Wikimedia DE director Pavel Richter's "travel situation updates" became a regular feature of the event (see picture). Feeling that we should bring something Australian to the meeting, Sarah had brought souvenir pens and I had brought soft toy koalas and kangaroos - they now occupy homes and offices all over Europe and North America and appear to have been well received.

By the second day, the chapter delegates had all arrived, so we concluded the "state of the chapters" briefings before splitting up into Working Groups. There were several available, so Sarah chose External Communications and I chose Educational Institutions, which I served as note-taker and speaker. We both attended the "Outreach Case Studies" stream in the afternoon.

The third day was fairly light on content but I attended a useful group session on professionalisation in the morning. A wrap-up (and a final travel update!) later, we had a group photo taken, participated in the birth of "Wikimedia Asia", and headed back. Unfortunately, I was struck down with a bad flu the day after the end of proceedings - as it seems were a number of scattered delegates, no doubt due to the questionable ventilation in the main room.

First day

Sarah took a lot of notes - read hers for overview/detail, these are additional.

State of the Chapters I

  • Swiss chapter has 93 members split across 3 language communities. This presents its own challenges as each language has a large, mature chapter in a neighbouring country, so the challenge for WM CH is to find a role. They use English as a median for communicating with each other so as to "depoliticise" the issue.
  • Czech chapter has 30 members of whom 7-10 are active. They feel they are suffering burnout issues amongst their active membership. They used a WMF grant to take pictures of municipalities, which included buying a chapter camera. As with many of the language-community chapters, their link to Wikipedia is much more pronounced as is the case with ours. (Estonia and Poland also have municipality projects.)
  • German chapter is board driven not community driven, partly because many of the "community" members are not related to Wikimedia projects. They have 12 "preposterous statements" as goals, with the idea that if you don't have something to aim for, you won't achieve anything.
  • A number of chapters are looking at talking to schools. Different views as to what this means (more WP focussed vs more community focussed).

Strategy Plan Walkthrough

(More impression than detail - refer Lodewijk's notes at [1] which give a good summary of the session, and Sue's slides.)

  • Huge emphasis on statistics from an agency named ComScore.
  • Main emphasis of strategy appears to be to try and consolidate European and North American markets where they are already successful (Australia falls into this) while trying to grow in the "Global South" (ex-"Third World") where they have little or no reach at all at present. English and German Wikipedias, by far the largest, are exhibiting a phenomenon whereby their active contributors appear to be in decline and there are questions of burnout; WMF is unsure whether this represents a problem or just a natural development phase, as there's no precedent research to draw on. Beyond those two, 10 others have more than 1,000 regular contributors, 31 have 100-1,000, whilst all others have below 100. These ones are in the "nascent" or "emerging" category and are vulnerable (burnout can be a major problem on the smaller projects too as a small core of contributors represent almost all of the activity).
  • WMF will commit some pretty serious resources in this direction (developing world) in the 2010-2015 period.
  • Noting many contributors in that region will not be accessing from a computer but from mobile devices, Wikimedia mobile technology will also be a key goal.

Movement Roles

(see [2])

Presented by Arne and Jan-Bart, the idea was to communicate to us how the plans for formally recording roles within Wikimedia's organisation were coming along. However, at times, there seemed to be a distinct lack of clarity and agreement as to key terminology used such as what the "movement" was and who qualified as a "volunteer". As a result, the session was less useful than it could have been, although information about the timeline was conveyed to us.

Volunteer recruitment

(see [3])

Different chapters have different needs. Ours is fairly unique because geographical realities mean we have five (or more) separate communities rather than one community, so each centre needs its own activities. Many chapters have a deficiency in volunteer numbers, or have a central group who are very active and risk burnout while the rest do not participate much. Others have no problem finding volunteers to do specific practical tasks (eg. staffing events), but have real trouble finding leaders or coordinators. There is also the difference in commitment level by volunteering online vs volunteering in real life (the latter is more likely to feel committed).

Ideas raised to deal with these issues included:

  • Finding ways to portray the chapter as something other than a "club of Wikipedians" - design events which draw in more widely
  • Make specific calls for leaders and working group heads, don't just assume they'll turn up
  • WM Indonesia had the idea of awarding diplomas for completion of workshops - this is a strong motivating tool in their culture.

Grants

Erik Moeller gave a very useful presentation on how WMF allocates grants. The most interesting thing from our point of view is that they have a large amount of money to allocate, and are happy to fund reasonable projects within Wikimedia's mission which are set out on the required form and which undertake to complete reports on how the money is used. A failure in one project by a chapter is not taken into account when considering whether to award other grants. Non-financial requests, such as participation or involvement by WMF head office, will be considered provided sufficient notice is given.

meta Grants:Index will be used as a central information point. Successful grants last year, among other things, covered a project for the Czech chapter to buy a camera and take photos of municipalities; for the NYC chapter to run an internship program (more on this later) and Indonesia's "Free Your Knowledge" project.

Grants for 2010-11 close on 15 May but applications will be considered out of remaining funds after that point on a case-by-case basis.

Second day

Education working group

Sarah went to External Communication while I went to Education, a group I ended up note-taking and speaking for. My full notes will be published elsewhere. A lot of the discussion related to Wikipedia and Wikimedia generally, and I understand the Usability people are interested. The secondary stuff is probably of most practical application to WMAU.

  • Tertiary and secondary education require different approaches as it's not simply a level difference, it's a cultural difference. Staff at tertiary instutions are often subject experts and researchers in their field while staff at secondary institutions are more focused on the teaching itself. There is a level of politics in the outcomes of secondary education which doesn't really exist at tertiary level.
Tertiary
  • The group considered mainly the topic of how to make Wikipedia a more congenial environment for subject experts to edit, and bridging cultural gaps. The relationship can be collaborative if we get it right, but mostly, we don't - many first experiences are negative. A lot of this is that WM volunteers don't understand the needs of experts (they're busy people, they're working for free, they know stuff, why are others so hostile?) while experts may not understand the Wiki culture (research work != good Wikipedia editing, not much room for originality or nuanced expression, occasional "mess-ups" such as getting students to edit Wikipedia for a grade, etc).
  • One interesting idea raised was a "checkpoint" review system similar to Featured Article, but externally driven by experts, who could nominate a diff on the talk page as an expert-reviewed version. This allows Wiki editing to proceed regardless but provides a service to readers. Another was to get experts to review weaker articles, submitting a list of lacking or missing areas or areas needing work, which Wikimedians could engage with and address.
  • Inter-chapter collaboration - different people are trying different things and we can share successes and lessons learned. (A section on Outreach Wiki has been opened up which will give this a space in which to occur.) Some good work is occurring in non-English languages (Polish was mentioned in particular) - we should endeavour to get translations of these resources.
  • An understanding of the hierarchy in tertiary institutions and how staff rise within it (reviewed works, a sort of "point" system) may be of use to Wikimedia - can we help them reach their goals in return for them helping us? For example, inviting them to be keynote speaker at conferences so they can get their conference papers published in specialist magazines.
Secondary
  • The poor reputation of Wikimedia projects needs to be addressed. This has arisen due to both adverse media coverage and adverse coverage within the educational sector of what Wiki is.
  • Key points to establish to schools - we are not trying to replace the library with a website. We are a good point for starting research into an area. Quality does vary, but there are reasonable rules of thumb for identifying good and poor articles (referencing and structure mainly), and it shouldn't be forgotten other sources have flaws too. One big difference - if teachers or students come upon obvious mistakes on Wiki, they can fix them! Plagiarism from Wikipedia is like plagiarism from any other source and should be regarded the same way by teachers. Also value of other projects such as Wikisource (esp to social science or languages students).
  • One interesting idea (probably the most practical) to come out of the session was the idea of running Professional Development (PD) days for teachers on Wikimedia projects. Teachers must attend a certain number per year and these get reported back to the schools so any information we can convey may have a "magnifier" effect in that it reaches many people who don't go. These would be chapter-run and either part of a bigger PD on technology in the classroom (saves us admin costs but gives us much less time) or run by us (admin costs, but the fees paid to attend will almost definitely result in a profit for the chapter after deducting costs and speaker's fee). I am thinking of drafting a proposal for this and running it past some educational people here in WA - the other chapters are very interested in this but obviously we don't know whether the same system applies in their jurisdictions.

Outreach Case Studies II

Both Sarah and I attended this session which included two presentations by Jose Spierts of Wikimedia Nederland and one by Tomasz Ganicz of Wikimedia Poland.

Wiki loves bieb!

(Bieb = Dutch slang for library) In the Netherlands, the library sector has similar ideas to Wikimedia with regard to sharing of knowledge and are looking to digitise content, particularly that with relation to cultural heritage and oral history and the like. A collaboration offers the benefit to Wikimedia that it isn't simply a passive transfer of content but can also incorporate the expertise and knowledge of library staff who can supply context and metadata. This presentation reflected WMNL's efforts in establishing a collaboration with the Dutch Association of Public Libraries. The main advantage of the approach appeared to be that WMNL (a chapter almost exactly the same situation as ours with regards to size and actively participating members) only had to support and provide feedback to the library staff; all the funding and staffing came from the libraries. Some discussion focussed on how to handle information which was not suited to Wikimedia projects.

Media Literacy

The second presentation reflected WMNL's efforts in the education sphere. They targeted 14-18 year old students, using teachers as multipliers. There was no focus here on editing Wikipedia but more on the correct use of Wikipedia (reflecting some of the conclusions of the Educational Institutions working group above). In this model, the teachers do the teaching, but Wikimedia provided the teachers with the information necessary. Considerations regarding how to proceed were influenced by the high number of schools which are IP blocked, as well as the low quality of the editing which often results from "let's edit the wiki" projects. As a result of the discussion following this section (and in part due to a question from myself), the section on the Outreach wiki for education was created.

Wikiexpedition

The Polish Wikimedia chapter organised an event over 10 days using 4 cars designed to take photographs across a remote, poorly-covered region of Poland which would benefit Wikimedia projects, particularly Wikipedia and Commons. Including accommodation and such (at hostels and B&Bs in the local areas), total cost came to about A$2,500, although significantly more had been budgeted. They worked with local tourist agencies and small businesses who provided significant help and advice to them based on local knowledge, and it even got in the local media. It seems that there were quite a few lessons learned (re errors in electronic maps and not planning too precisely before one goes), although the result was extremely productive - 200 articles enhanced and 2000 articles improved. More importantly, it fuelled a sense of camaraderie and community engagement amongst those involved.

Party

I attended a party on board the Eastern Comfort boat on the Saturday evening, which was a fantastic opportunity to network with some people I'd seen around but not yet gotten the chance to chat with, including Bence Damokos of the Hungarian chapter, Goran Obradovic from Serbia, and Martin Lück, a young WMDE volunteer who has pioneered a newbie mentoring program with reasonably demonstrated success which Frank Schulenberg is looking to use in particularly the middle-sized language projects.

Third day

Professionalisation II

Sarah attended the Institutional Partnerships session whilst I attended the Professionalisation session - it turns out both were extremely useful for our purposes. The Professionalisation discussion on the Friday had apparently not been terribly productive due to disputes between chapters over what they meant by "professionalisation". In essence it was found that there were three groups of chapters: mature (eg. DE, FR), middle (eg ourselves, CZ) and emerging. The "mature" chapters saw professionalisation almost entirely in terms of acquiring offices and hiring staff, whilst the "middle" chapters saw professionalisation in terms of helping volunteers to work more professionally.

We split into two groups, with Australia, Czech, Denmark, Italy, Norway, NYC and Poland being represented in the volunteer professionalisation stream. Most chapters have the same problem - a core of (mostly board) volunteers who shouldered the great majority of the work, and a wider community of supporters who waited for said core group to do the work.

  • Australia - I brought forward our discussion regarding the membership/information kit which aimed to arm members with the necessary information and materials to confidently approach institutions or organise events.
  • Norway contracted an external company to write courses for the same purpose which would be released on a CC-by-SA licence and would train the volunteers. They had tried to do it themselves previously but lacked manpower and ended up deciding to spend up and go external.
  • NYC had a successful internship program where they advertised in universities for graduate students who would receive a $500 stipend and spend 50 hours over 6 months working with the chapter as part of their own professional development - they applied in a manner not dissimilar to a job application and it was intended to be competitive. The three interns they ended up hiring specialised in video work, legal issues and the "Dot NYC" wikis for neighbourhoods. The time was not laid out well, however - it worked on this occasion due to the commitment of the individuals concerned.
  • Another idea from NYC was "asset-based community development" where the chapter surveys the skills of its members and then can directly approach them when something comes up (or do it all in one go from a "portfolio of ideas") rather than putting out general requests for help which people can freely ignore.
  • Poland's base in a language-specific Wikipedia enabled them to try things we can't - they had a "Submit an error" menu item added to the Polish Wikipedia which directed questions to an error management system which WMPL volunteers could then address. They have active volunteers all over the country and primarily use IRC to collaborate. I got the distinct feeling that Poland's connection with PL Wikipedia is very strong.
The other discussion

We had a shared session afterwards where we traded the overall results of our group work. The other group had found three models of professionalisation in effect - the German model of executive professionalisation, the French model of hiring project people, and the Polish model where the staff were purely supportive or administrative. Considerations included:

  • Convenience vs Goals
  • Short term vs Long term - it was put that one should always *think* long-term, so even hiring short-term staff should be part of some long-term plan. In some countries, hiring and firing staff is very difficult. Always be adaptable.
  • Wikimedian vs External - the external person may add capacity, be more objective or add value - but of course may not know the landscape, there may be a "learning curve" for them and they may not even be a good fit. Good planning and communication should address these issues for the most part
  • Types of people to hire - lawyers? Media/PR people? administration? executive director?

Report to the World

This was fairly general in nature and hard to summarise, but "good vibes all around" would probably pick up the general sentiment. In brief summary, several participants suggested this meeting had been more collaborative and productive than the last one as some issues had been resolved in the interim. People were clearly thinking in terms of inter-chapter collaboration in areas such as professionalisation, projects, education, work on developing nations and the like. The exchange between small, younger chapters and the mature chapters was also appreciated.

We then had a final meal together and then a photo shoot, the aim being to have people positioned roughly in terms of what part of the world we were from (placing Australia at the far right end with the Asian delegates), before saying our goodbyes.

Wikimedia Asia

Four separate conversations/interactions which predated the meeting combined on the second day into a proposal for a "Wikimedia Asia" brand, which was somewhat formalised during lunch on the final day. Essentially the motivating factors for this are as follows:

  • Some Asian chapters feel rather isolated in a hierarchy or community which is mostly (or, more correctly, mostly seen to be) Western European or North American in focus.
  • There is a general sense of goodwill in that Asian chapters feel they can assist each other and work together on regional projects if they have a framework in which to do so. Many countries for either legal or regulatory or social reasons will never have chapters, and this gives people in the region willing to work with Wikimedia an additional option beyond incorporating which bears no legal burden.
  • The WMF has made the "Global South" a high priority for 2010-15 for both funding and activities, and much of Asia falls within this region.
  • Particular issue for Israel - it wants to use its experience and knowledge to assist emerging chapters in the Middle East region (eg Egypt) but political realities prevent this, so it can work with Islamic countries outside the Middle East who can then directly assist these new entities when they arise.
  • Both the WMF and the local chapters recognise that there is some hostility towards the "corporate west" in the communities in which they work, so approaching governments or communities with an independent, explicitly Asian "brand" is an advantage. (The WMF will obviously assist wherever it can - Eugene Kim and Tian Chan were both at the formation meeting).

Among the key principles established at the meeting were:

  • This must not be a level of hierarchy in itself - it is a loose grouping of autonomous entities and individuals who agree to use a brand name for some purposes (eg hosting conferences or providing delegations to events).
  • The main manifestation of the grouping will be a mailing list.
  • Anyone who falls within the scope or is sympathetic is welcome - we're looking to be as inclusive as possible. (eg Asians living abroad, people in countries which do not have chapters, also Australia and New Zealand due to their extensive links with Asia.) The enthusiasm of the Asian chapters to include us must not be underestimated - the Hong Kong chapter especially is keen to work with us.

Those who are interested and wish to participate on the WM-Asia mailing list should contact the committee.