Learning patterns/Preparation for Wikimania

A learning pattern forconferences
Preparation for Wikimania
problemThe pattern aims at providing future Wikimania participants with tips on how to prepare for the conference.
solutionParticipants at Wikimania should follow a step-by-step process of preparation that will help them acquire skills and knowledge for personal development, share own experience with the other participants and reporting the insights from the conference to the interested groups in a more efficient way.
created on08:28, 30 August 2017 (UTC)

What problem does this solve?


Wikimania is the official annual conference of the Wikimedia movement, which every year gathers hundreeds of people from different Wikimedia communities, cultures, countries and regions. Its first edition took place in Frankfurt in 2005 and the conference has since taken place in diferent places around the world. The conference programme includes a variety of topics related to the Wikimedia projects, outreach activities, open-source software, free knowledge, legal advocacy and related initiatives represented in the form of presentations, workshops, panel discussions, roundtable discussions and meet-ups.

The overall success of the conference in terms of advancing the Wikimedia movement by building the capacities of Wikimedia organisations and developing the skills of Wikimedians necessarily depends on the quality of participation. A quality participation is reached when people show competencies that help contribute to the advancement of the Wikimedia movement in a straightforward way. For this to be achieved, participants need to undergo a process of preparation in order to make the right decisions that affect the success of the conference.

This learning pattern presents a step-by-step process of preparation for future Wikimania participants.

What is the solution?


The process of preparation for future Wikimania participants includes the following steps:

  • Step 1: Exploring.
  • Step 2: Defining expectations.
  • Step 3: Planning resources.
  • Step 4: On-site participation.
  • Step 5: Reporting.

Step 1: Exploring


Acquiring information


The first thing that future participants at Wikimania should do is to explore the conference. In this context, it is important to find out general information about the conference and specific information about its next edition. General information typically gives answers to questions such like What is Wikimania?, Who can participate at Wikimania? or How many editions of Wikimania have taken place so far?, while specific information to questions such like Where will the next edition of Wikimania take place?, When will the next edition of Wikimania take place?, What are the topics that will be covered in the next edition of Wikimania? (examples of global and specific information are shown in the table in turn).

Type of information Question Answer
General information What is Wikimania? Wikimania is the official annual conference of the Wikimedia movement.
Who can participate at Wikimania? Everyone who has registered can participate at Wikimania.
How many editions of Wikimania have taken place so far? A total of 13 editions of Wikimania have taken place so far.
Specific information Where will the next edition of Wikimania take place? The next edition of Wikimania will take place in Cape Town, South Africa.
When will the next edition of Wikimania take place? The next edition of Wikimania will take place from 18-22 July 2017.
What are the topics that will be covered in the next edition of Wikimania? The topics that will be covered in the next edition of Wikimania are pertaining to the advancement of Free Knowledge, the role of academic and cultural institutions within the movement, privacy and rights, and the role of technology to further those objectives.

Scholarship application


There are many interested participants who cannot afford themselves to cover the expenses associated with attending Wikimania every year and therefore it is higly recommended to investigate the possibility for obtaining a scholarship. Scholarships are dispersed to interested participants by the Wikimedia Foundation and other Wikimedia affiliates every year on the grounds of certain criteria that have to be met. Usually, the scholarships offered by organisations other than the Wikimedia Foundation are intended for people from specific communities, countries or regions; while eligible for the scholarships offered by the Wikimedia Foundation are people from the global community. Detailed information regarding the types of scholarships offered, the application period and the application criteria are usually available in public on the wikis of the organisations that award the scholarships. For the scholarships awarded by the Wikimedia Foundation, the organising team launches a call for scholarship applications, which is announced on the official wiki for that edition of Wikimania as well as in the central notice banner on all Wikimedia projects.

Wikimania scholarships every year help hundreeds of interested participants to attend the conference. Yet, as the number of scholarships awarded is less than the number of applicants, only those with the highest rated applications can be successful, which leaves many other interested participants who cannot attend the conference. The application consists of filling in an application form with questions requiring from applicants to state their involvement in the movement. The decision on whether a scholarship application will pass or fail depends on the scores assigned by the scholarship committee. The success of a scholarship application is mostly dependent on the applicant's relevant experience in the movement. Considering that applicant's relevant experience is known and given as an absolute category, applicants should strive to make a quality application that will increase their chance for success. A quality application is made when the application form is filled in in a way such that the applicant's involvement in the movement is articulated in a comprehensive way and abstracted to highlight the most important achievements. Some useful tips for applicants while filling in the application form are the following:

  • Study the selection criteria for scholars. The selection criteria for scholars can be typically found on the scholarships page of the official wiki for the edition of Wikimania in question. These details are particularly important in understanding the evaluation process and give valuable insights on the form in which the informationshould be provided.
  • Review the content of the entire application form before filling in. The application form typically consists of questions requesting information in different forms (multiple choice, checkboxes, short answer and paragraph answer). Throwing a glance at the structure of the application form to get a general idea of what information should be provided is always recommended before starting filling it in.
  • Pay attention on the time limit for filling in the application form. Sometimes the application may stipulate a time limit in which it has to be complemeted. This is something that applicants need to check before engaging in filling in the form in order to prevent any loss of information as a consequence of the time expiry.
  • Pay attention on the substance of the questions and subquestions with paragraph answers. The questions focused on applicant's involvement in the movement usually request paragraph answers. These questions usually consist of multiple subquestions that guide the applicant to integrate the answers into a comprehensive statement.
  • Pay attention on the word limit of the questions and subquestions with paragraph answers. Sometimes the questions with paragraph answers may impose a word limit as a guideline for the length of answers. The applicants should focus on abstracting their statements to highlight the main points that answer the questions. That said, a quality answer is not the one with the high number of words but the one that is rich in substance.
  • Save a copy of the application form and the answers. Before completing the application, it is useful for applicants to save a copy of the application form and the answers that they have provided. This is important because some of the questions may be repeated in the future application forms and the statements in the answers are a very good starting point for improvement in spite of the application's success.

Sample questions from the past application forms with tips on answering them are presented in the table that follows.

Question Analytical note Tips
Tell us about your involvement in your home wiki or the broader Wikimedia movement. What have you built or contributed to in order to improve your wiki or community? Have you lead or organized any of these activities? The question consists of three subquestions. First, it requests introductory information on the applicant's experience and involvement in the movement both on-line and off-line. Second, it seeks information on the activities that the applicant was involved in and the resulting outcomes. Third, it intends providing information on whether the applicant took any leadership role while being involved in these activities. * consider dividing the statement into several paragraphs
* consider starting with a brief introductory paragraph containing general information
* consider separating the on-line from the off-line experience
* consider using more enumeration and less explanation
* consider making a summary of quantified achievements
* consider ending up with future plans and considerations
* consider providing links to pages with relevant information
What collaborations with other Wikimedians or Wikimedia organisations are you most proud of? The question explicitly requests information on the collaborations with other Wikimedians from a perspective of an individual or with other Wikimedia organisations from the perspective of a member of a group. * consider off-line collaborations
* consider collaborations with high number of people involved
* consider collaborations centred on attracting new volunteers
* consider collaborations involving people from different communities
* consider providing links to pages with relevant information
How do you usually share your experiences (or things you’ve learned) with your community? Examples of on-wiki summaries/reports, blog posts, meetup talks, etc. are welcome here. The question seeks information on the ways the applicant is sharing experiences or learning with the other community members and beseeches links to pages containing relevant information. * consider using enumeration on the ways of sharing experiences or learning
* consider providing links to pages with relevant information
Please use the space below to tell us about something great that happened as a result of attending Wikimania previously? What are your goals for attending Wikimania again? The first sentence requests information on positive outcomes that resulted from the past participation at Wikimania (if any). The second sentence is future-oriented and seeks information on the plans and goals of future participation at Wikimania. * consider separating each participation in a new paragraph
* consider mentioning participation in the conference programme
* consider mentioning activities were conceived or resulted because of the participation
* consider providing links to pages with relevant information

Session proposals


The main programme of every Wikimania is made up of few sessions containing lectures or presentations given by keynote speakers and most sessions containing lectures, tutorials, workshops, lighting talks, posters, panel discussions, roundtable discussions and meet-ups facilitated by people from the movement as well as sessions facilitated by keynote speakers. Keynote speakres are usually invited by the organising team of the conference. For the other sessions, the organising team launches a call for submissions, which is announced on the official wiki for that edition of Wikimania as well as in the central notice banner on all Wikimedia projects in a similar way as with the call for scholarship applications.

The number of proposals accepted, however, is less than the number of proposals received, meaning that there are many proposals that are rejected and thereby not included in the programme. The process of submitting a proposal is done by filling in a submission form with brief information about the proposed topic. Unlike the scholarship applications where one person can submit only one application, the session proposals allow one person to submit more than one proposal and also more persons to jointly submit one proposal. The decision on whether a submission will be accepted or rejected depends on the scores assigned by a programme committee; these scores in turn depend on multiple factors such as the relevance of the proposed topic, the type and length of the submission or the quality of the abstract. A qualiaty submission is made when the submission form is filled in in a way to briefly explain what is the topic about, why the topic is relevant, what is the core audience, what are the giveaways for attendees, how the topic will be presented and what is the length of the session. Some useful tips for participants willing to facilitate sessions while filling in the submission form are the following:

  • Study accepted submissions from previous editions. The submissions with proposed topics from previous editions of Wikimania are available on the official wikis regardless of the decision made on them. The accepted submissions, especially those on related topics, may give valuable insights on how a quality submission should be shaped.
  • Review the content of the entire submission form before filling in. The submission form typically consists of abstract and questions requesting basic information about the topic, the author, the tupe and the length of the submission. Throwing a glance at the structure of the submission form is always recommended before starting filling it in.
  • Pay attention on the substance of the abstract. The abstract of the submission is its most important part, because its primary purpose is to give a brief overview of the topic, explaining why the topic is relevant, what is the content that will be presented and what are the learning methods.
  • Pay attention on the word limit of the abstract. The abstract usually has a word limit as a guideline for its length. A quality abstract is not the one with the high number of words but the one that is rich in substance.

Samples of accepted proposals from Wikimania 2017 are provided in the table bellow:

Type of submission Title
Lecture Bringing lexicographical data to Wikidata: supporting Wiktionary and beyond
Tutorial A Gentle Introduction to Wikidata for Complete Beginners
Workshop Everything You Need to Know About Wiki Loves Monuments 2017
Lighting talk How to connect Wikimedian and Open Science Communities?
Poster Wikicheese
Panel discussion Patterns and Antipatterns in Volunteer Leaders
Roundtable discussion How to debug Wikisource metadata management?



The inerested participants who have made an affirmative decision on attending Wikimania should follow up with registering for the conference. Typically, there is a registration form that has to be completed with some basic personal information and preferences. For participants who cover the expenses on their own, it is recommended to complete the registration form earlier, because organisers usually offer discounts on the registration fee for those who have registered before certain deadline.

Step 2: Defining expectations


Participatory roles


The next step following the registration process is to specify what are the expectations from attending the conference. Expectations is recommended to be specified in the form of goals, whereas the goals should not be taken only as participant's desired outcome of the conference but also as a guideline towards achieving that outcome. The goals can take many forms and may link to different outcomes, but in first place have to be realistic and relevant. Since the achievement of the goals specified depends on the participatory role, it is important to define these two roles before setting up goals:

  • Attendee. Attendees are participants who observe the execution of the conference programme and may actively participate in discussions.
  • Speaker. Speakers are participants who facilitate the execution of the conference programme by leading sessions.

The more common role by far is the one of an attendee, while fewer participants take the roles of a speaker. This is mostly because participants cannot decide on their role and speakers can be only those whose session proposals were accepted. These two roles, however, are not mutually excludable and participants may take both at the same time (e.g. speakers do not attend the conference just to facilitate their session and may also actively participate in other sessions). Importantly, the engaging in both roles at the same time should be done in a reasonable manner in order to prevent overload. Participants engaging both as attendees and speakers should also consider prioritising their roles.

Setting up goals


Once participants have decided on the roles that they are going to take at the conference, they can move on to define their expectations in the form of goals. The goals may be very diverse in their form and tendency to meet the expectations and therefore it is necessary for participants to specify them in an organised way. For that sake, a helpful way to set up goals is to link them to the different participatory roles. Normally, participants engaging in two roles would have at least two goals at the same time. Nevertheless, depending on the expectations, participants engaging in only one role may have multiple goals. In any case, it is important for participants to consider prioritising their goals in a similar way as prioritising their roles. That said, the goals linked to a participatory role of higher priority will logically be attributed higher priority as well.

The table bellow summarises some sample goals that participants may have linked to the participatory roles.

Participatory role Goal
Attendee Compare how similar projects are done in other communities and learn from the differences.
Learn more about the educational programmes in other communities.
Learn more about the GLAM activities in other communities.
Learn some useful tips on volunteer management within the community.
Learn some advanced features on using and contributing to Wikidata.
Speaker Share some important skills in organising community events.
Present the activities of the Wikimedia affiliate or community represented to the global community.
Arrange the session in a way that allows to get insights from a large number of people.

Step 3: Planning resources


Programme examination


The conference programme should be studied in the period immediately before starting the trip to attend Wikimania. This step involves careful examination of what topics are covered during the pre-conference events and the main conference, what topics are participants especially interested to observe, how the sessions covering the topics of special interest are distributed across the time-slots and where the desired sessions are going to take place. In case some time-slots do not contain sessions covering interesting topics, participants may think about alternative ways of spending that time, usually by arranging meet-ups with other attendees. At this point, it is recommended for participants to check the planned social events during the pre-conference and conference days as well as to plan on taking out for a sightseeing.

Providing resources


The final preparation before starting the trip should include gathering the necessary resources that participants should take with for the conference. The resources can be grouped as follows:

  • tavel documents (e.g. passport, travel tickets, travel insurance);
  • note-taking instruments (e.g. notebooks, pens);
  • technical equipment (e.g. lap-top, tablet computer, mobile phone, camera);
  • promotional materials (e.g. T-shirts, leaflets);
  • navigational instruments (e.g. maps, GPS devices); and
  • supplementary resources (e.g. suitcase, backpack, handbag, camera supplements).
Item Image Note
Travel documents
Passport Passport is a required travel document that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. in rare cases, the citizens of some countries may travel certify their identity to travel abroad by using ID card instead.
Travel tickets   Travel tickets are necessary travel documents for executing the travel itinerary.
Travel insurance   Insurance policy is a contract that guarantees its holder the pay-off of a premium in the case of loss or injury during the travel or stay abroad. This document is typically not required but highly recommended for the purpose of international travel.
Note-taking instruments
Notebook   Notebooks are necessary for taking notes from the visits and the conversations with the local residents. They may also contain a plan of things that have to be visited.
Pen   Pens are necessary complementary resource for filling in the notebooks.
Technical equipment
Lap-top   Lap-top is very useful due to its multi-functionality. It allows editing documents for taking notes, live on-line documentation of the events and contributing to the Wikimedia projects.
Tablet computer   Tablet computer is an easily-storable multi-functional device and close substitute to a lap-top. It allows editing documents for taking notes, live on-line documentation of the events, contributing to the Wikimedia projects and even taking images.
Mobile phone   Mobile phones are very useful due to their multi-functionality. Besides their primary purpose as a communication device, they can also be used for navigation, taking notes and even taking images.
Camera   The camera is useful for taking quality images from the events, which can be later used in the process of documentation.
Voice recorder   Voice recording devices complement the taking of notes, because they can fully capture the talks and the discussions during the sessions. These devices can be properly substituted with mobile phones possessing voice recording capability.
Promotional materials
T-shirt   T-shirts with a Wikipedia trade mark are a good sign of affiliation with the community.
Leaflet   Leaflets are useful promotional materials that briefly inform about the activities done by the Wikimedia affiliate or community represented.
Navigational instruments
Map   Maps are very helpful while sightseeing and provide information regarding the location of places in the city. They are also helpful in planning the route as well as marking the visited places.
GPS device   GPS devices are very useful navigational instrument providing multiple information regarding the current location, the location of the places to be visited, the distance and the estimated time to the places etc. These devices can be properly substituted with mobile phones possessing GPS capability.
Supplementary resources
Suitcase   The suitcase is a necessary supplementary resource for storing clothes and other resources.
Backpack   The backpack is a useful supplementary resource for storing other resources such like travel documents, note-taking instruments, navigational instruments, some clothes and even technical equipment. They are convenient in their carriage without hands but usually have insufficient storage capacity.
Camera lenses   The camera lenses are supplementary resource that can significantly support the taking of quality images.
Polarising filter   The polarising filters are supplementary resource that can significantly improve the quality of the images taken.
Camera tripod   The camera tripod is a supplementary resource that helps in stabilising and elevating the camera while taking images.

Step 4: On-site participation


Adapting to changes


The on-site participation should reflect an execution of the plan. The conference schedule is usually not subject to major changes, although scheduling and re-scheduling of some meet-ups is common during the conference. In order to be timely informed about every change, participants should regularly check the communication channels (e.g. official wiki of the conference, related mailing lists, group pages on the social networks) or contact with the most relevant participants (e.g. event organisers, meet-up facilitators). Sometimes the re-scheduling may result in a time overlap of multiple sessions that are of interest for participants and therefore participants will have to make an instant prioritisation. There is no rule on how this prioritisation can be done and it entirely depends on each participant's reasoning, but it is recommended to always assign higher priority to sessions that allow more direct participation and cannot be easily documented. For example, if the choice is to be made between attending a lecture and a meet-up, it is more likely that the meet-up might be more productive because it allows more direct participation and it cannot be easily documented.

On-site preparation


Besides the programme examination before the start of the conference, participants should make an on-site preparation before shortly before the start of each session. Depending on the session type, this preparation can include in-person communication with the people in charge of the sessions (e.g. presenters, moderators, facilitators; check on the official wiki or Wikimedia Commons about the availability of resource materials (e.g. presntation slides, instruction manuals, links to useful pages) and check about the room where the session will take place.

On-site documentation

See also Learning patterns/Documenting your event experience

The conference programme should be documented during the course of its sessions. This can be generally done through note-taking, on-line documentation and taking pictures. The note-taking is a common way of documenting a session, where participants write down or type important information or conclusions from a session. The on-line documentation allows group note-taking in real time on a collaborative real-time editor (e.g. Etherpad). The changes made in the editor are visible not only to the people editing the document but also to anyone else with access to it. The contextual difference between the on-line documentation and classical note-taking is that the former is done in a more structured way. The documentation through taking pictures is particularly useful for capturing the atmosphere while the session was running. This way of documentation, however, may also be advantageous compared to the note-taking and on-line documentation during workshops since it allows capturing notes presented on a flip chart.

Session participation


The session participation is an invaluable activity that adds the most to the quality of participation and the overall success of the conference. Having active participation in the programme by a large number of people from different Wikimedia communities, cultures, countries and regions inevitabely increases the level of mutual sharing, finding solutions and empowering ideas. Though active participation by attendees during the sessions seems easily achievable, some attendees face a psychological barrier to actively participate in a session mostly due to the lack of confidence about their language skills and professional competence. The main thoughts that prevent these attendees from active participation are My language skills are not at the level that allows me to comment on this topic., I have a stupid question that seems irrelevant and will end up in a big embarrassment for me. or I think it is not a good idea to ask this question in front of a large audience.. The best remedy to break the psychological barrier is to decide on actively participating in a session. Every time a participant makes a comment, the barrier weakens until it disappears. Some applicable tips that can be helpful in gaining more confidence and stimulate more active participation are given in turn:

  • Follow the course of the session carefully. The course of the session provides important information that may offer answers to some questions that participants had wanted to ask before the start of the session. The way the session progresses usually provokes comments/questions that are relevant to the topic and worth making.
  • Formulate several on-topic comments/questions. The comments/questions that participants are willing to make should be formulated during the course of the session. It is possible to make comments/questions that were prepared in advance, but the session may progress in a direction that will make them off-topic or irrelevant. Comments/questions should be short, clear and composed of words that are in accordance with the language skills of the participant.
  • Let others break the ice with comments/questions. The participants facing the psychological barrier should refrain from being first but not be last either with their comments/questions. This allows for learning from others about the approach for commenting, the substance of the comments/questions and the reasoning beyond the comments/questions. The problem with being last, however, is that it squeezes out the time remaining of the session, leaves with less comments/questions relevant to the topic and risks the audience to de-focus.
  • Signal interest for participation by raising hand. The most common way for signalling interest for participation is by raising hand. Participants should make sure to keep their hand raised as long as their signal is not noticed.
  • Make the comment slowly, clearly and in few words. Once participants get chance to comment, they have to express the formulation slowly, clearly and in few words so that the other attendees will be able to understand it correctly.

Leisure time


Wikimania is not meant to be a specialist conference at which people gather to discuss about certain topics but also a means of socialising and enjoying some leisure time. Since the core of the Wikimedia movement is made up of volunteers, many participants take days off from work in order to attend the conference. In that sense, the sightseeing tours and the social events arranged out of the main conference programme are warmly recommended.

Step 5: Reporting


The final step of the preparation process for Wikimania is the reporting. This activity involves documenting the participation with the intention to present the main highlights to the people who have not attended the conference. Depending on the target audience, the reporting can be divided into general and specific. General reporting aims at reaching to the global community, while specific reporting to a smaller group as a target audience. In general reporting, it is recommended to focus more on the learning, sharing experiences and developing general ideas; in specific reporting, participants should seek to provide more practical information that the target audience may benefit from.

The typical outcome of reporting is preparing a conference report. The report is prepared after the end of the conference and it can be delivered either in written or oral form. Written reports are usually prepared on a wiki page or in a text document, while oral reports are delivered on meet-ups with the target audience. Because of the advantages in reaching to wider audience and accessability at any time, written reports should be considered the standard form of reporting that can be complemented with oral reports. The preparation of a written report is also an obligation for scholarship recipients. In case the scholarship was awarded by the Wikimedia Foundation, the recipients are provided with detailed guidelines and a template for writing the Wikimania report on-wiki. Useful tips for writing this report are given in turn.

  • Study the guidelines with the reporting requirements. The reporting requirements are publicly available on the scholarships page. Scholarship recipients should carefully study the what is required in the reporting process, how the reporting should be done and when the reporting is due.
  • Review the content of the entire report template. The report template consists of four sections titled: Participant, Outcome, Connections and Anything else. The first section requests basic information about the scholarship recipient such as the user name and the home wiki. The second section is the essential for the entire report, because it should containt its substance. In this section, the participant is given a choice between three options: Shared Experience, Learning Pattern and New Creation. The third section seeks information about the connections that the participant has made with people from other communities, cultures, countries and regions. The fourth and last sections allows the participant to freely decide if anything else should be mentioned in the report.
  • Pay attention to the substance and the length of the report. The main purpose of the report is to give a brief overview of the participation. Therefore, its content should not be very extensive and rich in substance. Details about the insights from specific sessions, meet-ups and covnersations have to be avoided and focus should be put on the general outcome. It is recommended the section on the Outcome to be longer than the section on the Connections.
  • Use images to illustrate the participation at the conference. The use of images is very helpful in illustrating the information provided in the text. For that purpose, the selected images for the report should correspond to the substance of the report. The images do not necessarily need to depict the participants themselves and may capture other moments from the conference.

The process of reporting may include activities other than preparing a report such like documenting the conference through the upload of images from the conference and presentation slides.

When to use

  • ... when planning to participate at Wikimania.
  • ... when willing to better understand Wikimania.



See also