Learning patterns/Choosing to meet up virtually or in person

A learning pattern forevent
Choosing to meet up virtually or in person
problemWhen a meeting is being scheduled, someone needs to decide if the event will take place via teleconference, videoconference, IRC, instant messenger service, or an in-person event.
solutionSeveral factors could be considered in deciding how to meet.
creatorBgibbs (WMF)
created on04:10, 28 December 2014 (UTC)
status:in progress

What problem does this solve?


When a meeting or event is being planned, someone needs to decide if the event will take place via teleconference, videoconference, IRC, instant messenger service, or an in-person event.

What is the solution?


Things to consider

Screenshot of the HexChat IRC client
"Anne Richard, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, participates in a Google+ Hangout..."
Videoconferencing (with tools like Hangout) and teleconferencing may work well for
  • Meetings with small numbers of participants
  • Meetings that are relatively brief
  • Meetings that are held on short notice
  • Meetings where the time-loss and cost of travel outweigh the benefits of an in-person meeting
  • Meetings for which there is insufficient time or funding to accommodate travel and lodging
  • Meetings for which legal, political or safety conditions make it risky or impossible to have an in-person event
  • Meetings where all participants have access to reliable and compatible communications methods
IRC and instant messenger meetings may work well under similar circumstances to videoconferencing and teleconferencing, except that
  • Internet bandwidth requirements are often low for IRC and IM services, which may enable more people to participate
  • IRC may require a higher level of technical proficiency than IM, videoconferencing, or teleconferencing
  • IRC and IM meetings allow participants to record logs of the meetings, which may or may not be desirable
  • IRC and IM may make it difficult for participants to communicate their emotions and to understand the emotions of other participants, because the vocal and visual cues for emotions are absent unless participants express their emotions in writing.
  • IRC and IM, unlike visual and verbal forms of communication, lack the social cues that cause conversation to follow an orderly pattern, which can result in people talking over each other. This is especially a problem with larger meetings.
In-person meetings may work well for
  • Meetings that will involve dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of participants
  • Meetings that will require many hours or multiple days of participation
  • Meetings that are intended to be motivational
  • Meetings of participants who lack reliable and compatible methods for videoconferencing or teleconferencing
  • Situations where we want to give people an opportunity to experience a local culture or work environment
  • Situations where we want to give people an opportunity to personally meet other people such as board members, staff, contractors, volunteers, and/or external partners
  • Situations where we want to get people to stay involved after the meeting itself, for example with an after-meeting dinner



Examples of meetups in Wikimedia include those listed below. Meetups with virtual participation options are noted.

Large meetups


The Wikimedia Conference


WikiConference USA

Large hackathons European MediaWiki hackathons Zürich Hackathon 2014


Wikimedia Foundation monthly metrics and activities meetings (in-person meetup in San Francisco, with additional participation through Google Hangouts and IRC)

Wikimedia Foundation all-hands meetings

Smaller meetups

Wikimedia Foundation office hours (on IRC)

Wikimedia Foundation Board meetings

Wikimedia chapter annual meetings

Small MediaWiki hackathons

Local meetups

Individual Engagement Grants Committee meetings (via Skype and Google Hangouts)



Travel and accomodations may be expensive and complicated to arrange.

Internet and voice communications services can be unreliable. In parts of the world where Internet connections and phone connections are very unreliable, it may be best to arrange in-person meetings.

Both in-person communications and electronic communications may have less security and privacy than you wish. For example, it may be possible for the operators of electronic communications services to eavesdrop on communications that pass through their services.

People who are invited to meetings may have practical reasons for wanting to teleconference or videoconference instead of attending in person. These reasons may include:

Hot tips

  • The most common videoconferencing tool among Wikimedians appears to be Google Hangouts. Many Wikimedians also have access to Skype.
  • IRC is commonly used by Wikimedians and the Wikimedia Foundation on the Freenode network. Meta-Wiki has information about IRC.
  • Before committing to a videoconference, ask all of the essential participants to test their videoconferencing hardware and software.
  • Firewalls may interfere with the operation of videoconferencing software.
  • Youtube has a humorous and informative video about the downsides of teleconferencing.


  • I made some small edits throughout. Wikimedia DC makes the decision to spend significant sums of money on travel when we wish to engage people as long-term volunteers to do outreach work. Our preliminary data suggests that in-person training events allows the participants to network and share ideas, which helps them with future projects that further the Wikimedia movement. harej (talk) 05:07, 28 December 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • Very helpful Nanna1704 (talk) 16:39, 2 July 2015 (UTC)[reply]

See also


Elsewhere on Meta