Report of ESEAP 2022 by Gnangarra

group photo taken day 1

ESEAP conference 2022 for me was an amazing learning experience from the word go, I was part of the organising team as an ESEAP representative. I supported writing the grant application, ran the scholarship part of the program and was part of the programming/cot discussions, and yes even I admit sometimes I was very optimistic, and squeaky in discussions. Much of that squeakiness comes from desire to see the community grow and a deep appreciation of the community can do when given a nudge. I arrived late on the 16th, when that was planned the purpose was allow me to adjust to sydney time due to a medical issue and to have someone who could be on the ground to help arrivals if necessary, this day would later become a meeting of Wikimania 2023 COT and WMF staff supporting it. I was scheduled to present during the second day of WoW, during WoW I took photo's using both the commons app and a camera as it was part of the resources need for day 2. During the ESEAP conference I become the tech person in the Koala room, supporting the each of the speakers. These roles gave me an opportunity to observe from a unique perspective which I hope I can bring to Wikimania 2023.

COT event organisation

a room full of people sitting at tables watching a presentation
Kangaroo room at closing of event

As one of the original COT members and ESEAP organisor I support WMAU hosting the ESEAP event in conjunction with Worlds of Wikimedia 2022. Wikimedia Australia was already considering an Australian meetup following WoW as had occurred previously in 2019, I had suggested they expand it to allow for an all of ESEAP conference. The funding application was process was very short and put together over about a week the speed of this process would later contribute to some issues around costs and attendance. Conference wise the COT accepted my optimism and we planned for 100 attendees, with 60 scholarship places being funded via the WMF Conference grant with the balance being made up of WMF staff and people being funded through other means. While I'm happy my optimism was followed I do acknowledge that these numbers did place a heavier burden on the whole organising team and highlighted real concerns about our capacity to handle those numbers.

One of the first areas of concern was the COT capacity to organise travel, support visa applications, and accommodation for this WMAU engaged Maxims to do this work. That wasnt well planned for in our original budget it was not an oversight but rather not having the experience to consider all the implications with this process. I have some reservations about how that worked with Maxims but I was outside that process so cant really comment with any depth or insight beyond anecdotal discussions with attendees.

I participated in the programming discussions we had many good ideas put forward and those that we accepted were well received. One area of concern was the pressure from the WMF and various strategy working groups to try to accommodate all of their wants. This pressure raised some issues, first was from my perspective that it was ESEAP's conference and our choices on what mattered for ESEAP wasnt always being accepted. The lack of a single communication point for the demands of every group was another issue that could be explored. The communication and consultation from the team when initial plans were made the teams clutched to initial email response with plans not accept that the programming team had to make compromises in the dynamics schedule as it was being put together. This caused friction around the amount of time for presentations, what ESEAP wanted from the sessions compared to what the WMF teams wanted.

Scholarship lead

The scholarship was a complex process the Grant application was for 60 scholars. This was to be divided into multiple sectors the first portion of scholars was each recognised affiliate to invite two person to be in the room. The reasoning was that two people;

  • created a redundancy information getting back to their communities,
  • it meant that every attendee had someone they knew and could turn for support,
  • trying to avoid creating just one conduit to any affiliate.

The second part of the scholarship process was to support any members of the organising team, guest speakers, and other people necessary to support the logistics of the event. The remainder would allocated to an open call process.

Open Call process

We created a google form for applicants to fill this didnt include any sensitive data which would be requested through the ticketing process where necessary. The form asked;

  • Email address
  • Before filling out the application please check you meet travel requirements both to enter Australia, and to return to your home country.
  • In which country do you live
  • What is the closest International Airport from where you can depart?
  • Do you choose to identify with a language or cultural group, and if so which group?
  • What is your gender identity (this information is for diversity reporting only and will have no bearing on your application).
  • How old are you
  • What is your level of understanding of English (0 is no understanding; 5 is native speaker)
    • If you require translation support, in which language?
  • If would you like to give a presentation during the conference please include a brief description. A separate submission process will be completed after scholarships have closed.
  • Username
  • First edit date
  • Main project to which you contribute, example id.wikipedia Other projects you contribute to (1)
    • Other project (2)
    • Other project (3)
  • What is the most important Wikimedia activity in which you have personally been involved? Please give details.
  • If you participate in global activities, which groups are you involved in?
    • (1) Can you speak about that group's activities
    • If you are involved in a second group, please add this also.
    • (2) Can you speak about that group's activities?
  • Which affiliate/s are you a member of?
    • If you have held any leadership roles, please specify.
  • Is there any other significant activity you would like to tell us about
  • What was the last activity in which you were involved? Please provide a link to any reporting or the landing page of the event What was the date of the last outreach event in which you were involved?
  • What was your involvement?
  • Have you been involved in any other activities you would like to highlight?

Many of these questions were help establish a diverse selection of voice to compliment those who would be there. I put together a team of seven trusted people myself, 2 from WMAU, 4 from across ESEAP to assess the applications, the selection criteria was to find people who could both add value to the conference and then take back learnings to their communities. Some of the questions were more about a person knowledge of the projects, ie when was your first edit date, Username, and what project(s) do you contribute to. Others were primarily just for statistics around diversity and to help ensure we had broad collective voices at the event. We also had a couple of questions around affiliates to ensure that independent voices outside the leaderships groups were also able to attend.

We had 59 applications from within ESEAP, plus 6 who identified as not having passport or didnt agree to the UCoC and 13 from outside ESEAP, we discussed the outside ESEAP application and chose as a group to focus on those from ESEAP as the conferences focus was on Reconnecting ESEAPs communities post covid isolation. Each scholarship team member was asked to chose 20 people from the 59 who fit the selection criteria, from those choices I scaled the result based on those with the most support. The scholarship again met to discuss the outcome of those recommendations, in our selection we had identified 5 people who were already assigned through their affiliate. We identified none in the Pacific/Oceania region outside of NZ or Australia and one applicant Timor Leste community. There were applications from 11 countries of which people from were selected in the first round of offers. Trom there the list of recommendations were handed across to WMAU and the their travel agent to make offers to next person on the list should someone decline or they fail to obtain a visa and to extend as many invites as possible based on the available funding.

Affiliate Selection

We chose to give every recognise affiliate in the ESEAP region the opportunity for 2 voices at the conference. The organising team placed trust in the affiliates as to how they selected their representatives for the most part this worked very well. There was one exception where there was a complex on Wikipedia language protect disagreement over the final selection. The User group was relatively new, and there were people editing that language who are vocal opponents of any user group in their country. The apparent concerns are that the UG would take control of the online language Wikipedia where these people have built their own power base, IMHO from I can understand based on using various online translation services the incident should be referred to the WMF T&S. From an ESEAP perspective I dont see a failing in the selection process as many options were exhausted during the process but rather an incident of opportunism that has cemented a person(s) in a position power outside the values of the movement. The Usergroup involved has made some structural, procedural, and documentational changes though it is just more of an acceleration of growth that all affiliates have normally made over longer time periods. To my observations this is perhaps a growth that Affcom could have supported or even laid down as part of the approval process as a UG is created, yet it will be something an ESEAP hub will be able to support for all new affiliates in the future.

Wikimania 2023 meeting

As part of the ESEAP conference we brought together the team organising Wikimania 2023 on behalf of ESEAP. On the 17th the team minus one person whos visa didnt come through until that day, and one person who was unable to get on their flight due to illness meet in the Areal Centre of UTS. We had a video hookup with the steering committee liaison and the team member still waiting for their visa and flights, this work well and proved the concept of being in the room for a discussion. When Robert arrived he added a gadget to laptop acting as the zoom link which vastly improved the audio. We had a quite lengthy agenda many of us thought it would be unlike we'd get it all completed, yet we did within the that day.

WMAU team arrived to join us for lunch and take a tour of the venue in preparation for the ESEAP conference, this proved a very useful insight especially as the Wikimania team could add their experiences of the venue so far to help give a Wikimedia perspective.

WoW attendance

WOW2022 was held at University of Sydney just a mild walk from the hotel. The WOW conference was organised by Bunty and Francis, WMAU was a sponsor and due to the number of ESEAP people wanting to attend it had to change to a larger venue. On the first day James and Belinda from WMAU were greeting everyone at the door and ensuring all the covid protocols were being passed along and followed. I found the wide variety of presentations interesting and it gave me the opportunity to set extra examples for my own presentation on the Commons App planned for the following afternoon. The highlight being able to have an image of the opening available on Commons within 2 minutes of the event commencing.

I had an additional purpose beyond the presentation and being an attendee, as part of the Wikimania 2023 COT I want to experience the and see how audience and presenter interact during the event when the presenter was using "zoom type" tools to be in the room. WoW offered some very significant insights;

  • The room during Worlds of Wikimedia 2022
    the Audience feed back to the presenter was limited
  • presentations needs to more interactive so the both the audience and the presenter engage
  • reading slides is even more pronounced
  • audience appeared to be enable to disengage and do other tasks without insulting the presenter.
  • questions from the floor after the presentation worked well

From all of these I see that we need to focus in on make such presentations more interactive bring questions into the presentations making the room more of a discussion, this will be even valuable with the third aspect of people watching on zoom. While these session will potentially end up longer they will also keep all parties engaged. This perhaps will need addition resources at the presenter end with duel screens to enable both the slides(slides presented from another place) and the viewing of the room as well as an insert on screen in the room of both the slides and the presenter. It will also need careful time management as one presenter was zooming in at 2am their time and the presentation was missed on day 1 rescheduled into day 2 then the connection dropped tow 2qm mornings are not healthy for presenters even with out any technical issues.

I am thankful of WOW this is a whole new area for conferences where we are learning as we go along how to make it work, every event is another refinement of the approach, training, tools, and technologies we'll need to improve future events.

Due to time constraints I never did get to present on the Commons App and how its an effective tool for outreach.

ESEAP conference days

The conference opened on the Friday night with a couple hours of casual discussions and registrations, that was great social way for everyone to meet. There was a good variety of finger food and drinks the staff were very helpful. Amanda(WMAU President) welcomed everyone to the event, she start with fun memorable exercise where every one said hello welcome in their language and the room responded back in the same language. This was followed up with various songs from each community. The joy atmosphere it created ran through the whole event.

On the Saturday we started the conference discussions initially in the main room with the ESEAP quokka who had arrived from Bangkok sitting in front of the lectern. She remained there except for a few photo ops prior to being place in care of Robert and other Singapore Wikimedia's ready to greet everyone at Wikimania 2023. The first session was organised with everyone table answering question and posting them on a poster. Then people were asked to select a photo from the table those photos then decided who would move to another table for the next question, so on during the session. The conference then split into two rooms I would move to the the Koala room to be the tech person come person in charge come moderator and mc what ever was needed over the two days. One minor initial hiccup was with me leaving my charger at WoW fortunately Pru had one that matched and once Bunty arrived she had rescued it the day before hand and brought it in. The next hiccup was with sound whereby audio from my laptop was feed into the Kangaroo room(main room) took about 5 minutes to fix that.

Gathering all the slides into one community drive so we could access them as needed was a very useful decision as it enable switching rooms for speakers if necessary without issues. During the Wikimania meeting breaks I had time to look at the potential options for the group photo allowing for any weather issues. As it was nice day we used the outside area, all but one person joined the group photo, opting to be in the group was taken as permission to be photographed regardless of lanyard. That was followed by a BBQ lunch which was well received it also had a vegan option available, over the period the menu was well thought out and had good variety catering for everyone needs.

Over the program a number of sessions stood out for me;

  • The most important session to me was making the safe discussion space a place where anyone could bring forward the issue of being non binary in countries where such circumstances are illegal. I would like to acknowledge the person who share their story about helpful the their local Affiliate was in enabling them to make their own way in society. This lead the discussion with many people in the room being able to further share experiences. Board member Rosie was in the room and share step taken by Women in Red to make safe spaces for editors. We tend to forget that when making policies every person has unique yet similar challenges in life beyond the movement we need to enable all voices of the opportunity to be heard, its not just one community, or one individual who's need we to allow for to reach equity in the movement. Care will always need to taken to ensure that everyone has access and at times we all need to compromise to enable all voices to be at those tables.
  • Mike from NZ ran a workshop on contributing to Wikimedia Commons it was fun and informative covered many different needs. It was great to look through someone else's eye as where different data was being sent, my observation is that Commons is a real mess that significant resources and time will need to be invested by the WMF into how the movement embraces and simplifies contributions as more interactive multimedia will be demanded.
  • That leaves us with the Wikimania session, this was a great chance to intro the COT and staff member to ESEAP. From there we had discussion to finalise the theme for Wikimania this part was run by Butch and myself, we started with tables discussing the three options we had limited it to during our Wednesday meeting, as always happens even better came forward. We then shifted to room wide discussion on each one finally reaching 'Diversity, Collaboration, Future as the theme. This an description of ESEAP we are a diverse community with many 1000s of languages, we have been Collaborating with each for many years, the region is one that has yet to even scratch the surface of the potential that can be realised in the Future within the movement.
part of the options for breakfast in the hotel

Over all the conference was a great success it will have a lasting impact on the region. The choice of having everyone in quality accommodation and providing breakfast was a master stroke of planning. The hotel was literally across the road, with everyone heading down to breakfast around the same time much like the Wiki summit, enable so many casual and in depth discussions with everyone open to sharing a table it contributed to strong sense of community. One of the biggest conclusions is that member of the community can do amazing things with a bit of a nudge and some prodding. I'd like to single out Amanda from WMAU who did great leading the event and its organisation, James, Belinda, and Caddie WMAU staff who all stepped up to support the organisation efforts through various part of the conference. Lastly my greatest praise must go to Ghozi who stepped up and took the program co-ordinators role resulting in the amazing outcome we had. My thanks to everyone involved with the organising from the grant application through to final report it really reflects how great the community is at collaborating and how individuals everyone is so modest about their capabilities.

Harbour Cruise

ESEAP Harbour cruise passing the Opera House

No event in Sydney wouldn't be complete without a harbour cruise, the views are magnificent such group activities should be held when where ever possible. I cant comment on the food as I spent the entire trip on the fore and aft viewing platforms, yet I had many wonderful discussions. Departing the hotel we had two groups one that chose to walk, and second who needed to be driven, the taxi services in Sydney that night were a disaster in future such organisation it would be better to have chartered transport.

Sunday Photowalk

The sunday morning photowalk was what I chose to lead originally as an adjunct to the demonstrations of the Commons App during WoW. About 5-7 people join the walk we proceeded to explore the area to the south of the hotel which wasn't somewhere we had walk while participating in any of the conferences. While we compared the speed of Wiki Shoot Me to the Commons App wikishot me was faster, the Commons app allows for more diverse photos beyond a wikidata tagged location. That diversity out weighs the speed benefit of uploading using Wiki Shoot Me, this is just another example of the practical dysfunction collaboration with tools evolving around the community.

Additional Links

Discuss this page