Welcome back from Wikimania 2016!
My main area of work, besides being a fairly busy admin, is the research and development of controls of new content and ways of providing useful information and help to new users who create their first articles.
This was my 4th Wikimania and my first Foundation scholarship. Attending Wikimania as often as I can is of vital importance to the work I do on the en.Wiki (my home Wiki) because I actually live in almost total isolation in the depths of Southeast Asia, and am therefore rarely able to attend meetups and organised events in the UK or the USA. Unfortunately, my proposal for a presentation on a cross-Wiki critical issue was not retained by the organisers.
Esino is a very pretty village but due to the distances between the various locations for presentations, meetings, accommodation, and designated meal places, and exacerbated by my problems of mobility (asthma) I was only able to attend three of the several presentations I had originally earmarked. Those presentations, all by WMF staff, fell somewhat short of my expectations (some simply told me what I already knew) and all were timed to allow for very little free discussion with attendees. Nevertheless, the rest of the time however, was spent in long conversations with individuals and ad hoc, informal discussions in small groups. This form of contact was priceless - it enabled me to gain enormous feedback from members of minority language Wikipedias, and also to provide them with help and advice, especially during the hackethons.
I was able to use my time very effectively building up new contacts within the Foundation, and I am particularly indebted to Tilman Bayer (WMF) who sat with me for over two hours one evening, helping me to better understand how the WMF is now organised since its major turn around in staff. As a professional linguist, I very much appreciated a long talk with Amir Ahoroni (WMF Language Team) whose presentation I later unfortunately had to miss. I had insightful talks with Quiddty (WMF) and as a result I will be interviewed by the Foundation later this month concerning the way we reach out with editing help to new article creators and how we control new content - of special interest to me as one of the original pioneers of the project that led to the development of the Page Curation tools.
Thanks also to Erik Möller (former VP of the Foundation), Jacob Rogers (WMF), Chris Schilling (WMF), and other staff for their time. Too numerous to mention are the renewed personal contacts to long-time friends and collaborators and especially all the members and staff of the WMUK Chapter, Andy Mabbet and his wonderfull training sessions, to HJ Mitchell for literally dragging me up those long steep hills in the village, and to my room mate and good friend Bluerasbery from NY.
A special mention for Ellie Young (WMF) for her complex and not altogether easy part in the organisation, and making it possible for me to attend, and many thanks to the local Esino team and village residents who all went well out of their way to make us all most welcome.
While Esino was an interesting departure from the traditional concept of an international conference, I did not find the overall programme of presentations particularly appealing and I would have wished for more talks from the communities of volunteers, and more faciltation by volunteers at the discussions. That said, for those more agile running up and down steep mountain roads from venue to venue, the channels were hard to follow even with the near perfect mobile app (what an excellent idea - top marks to the developers!). The food and accommodation was really excellent compared to other Wikimanias I have attended, and transfers to and from the far-away airport were very well organised in spite of the lack of advance information. The contracted travel agency should be made more aware of the availability (or non availability) of online check-in in less developed countries in the absence of proper e-tickets.
Finally, I still live with fanciful dream of organising and hosting a Wikimania here in Thailand in Bangkok, one of the most central, most modern, most accessible cities in Asia, with its superb amenities, a high level of use of English, and above all, for the budget conscious, a cost of living only a quarter of those of Europe, USA, Singapore and Hong Kong. And one of the most liberal, visa-free entry systems for the nationals of most countries of the world.