User:Ziko/Hong Kong diary

Hong Kong, city of skyscrapers
City of shopping
City of very few monuments

In August 2013, the international Wikimedia conference Wikimania took place in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. This is a personal report, similar to my Berlin and Washington diaries.

General topics edit

The hosting country edit

My first trip to China has shown me still a very tiny and non representative piece of a huge mosaic. Hong Kong remains a special city in a special situation, in a way a Western, though definitely very Chinese place. If you don't speak the language of a country, you are bio mass but not a part of society, I keep saying to residents of the Netherlands who refuse learning Dutch. In China I felt this very much myself; there are many levels on which people speak English, and you can never know whether the person you address can answer or not.

Chinese Garden in Kowloon Park, looking more modern than the Chinese gardens I know from Europe. In general, much was very different from the input on China in my childhood or my contemporary Dutch environment

Although I did not encounter hostility of any sort, I was foreign and often the only Western looking person anywhere I looked around. Possibly, if I wasn't a head or half a head taller than most people, I had felt less secure than if that was the other way round. Everywhere in Kowloon and Central are signs trying to keep you on the good way or assure you that government takes the right measurements. People seem to be rather disciplined, for example, when I stood in a long line for the Peak tram. But maybe the Peak attracts a certain segment of society, and my impression may be, again, not representative. The rest rooms at the airport or the big museums were impeccable, those in a central shopping mall in Kowloon rather the opposite.

It is tentative to confuse the comfortable situation of a Western visitor with real life of the majority of the Hong Kongers. Walking through the streets just a little off the touristic roads gives a little bit of insight. When I hurried to a meeting I took a quick soup at a 7-Eleven grocery store (a place that is inside more Chinese than it sounds) the old men standing there reminded me of their counterparts I would see in a typical Trinkhalle in Germany. Everywhere in the world it seems to be possible to recognize certain types, behavior and patterns, and that makes the foreignness ambivalent and more endurable.

Hong Kong is certainly not the place to enjoy monuments and other relics from the past. Immigration waves in the 19th and 20th century made it change its appearance several times, drastically. Still, in spite of the modern layer, traditions and Chinese-ness are strong and an important fabric of this Chinese New York.

The Wikimedia movement at the moment edit

Despite the hopes of the year 2012, the movement remains pretty much the same. The Wikimedia Foundation is busy with the most important technical and legal proceedings, the national organisations (chapters) integrate non Wikipedians and are engaged in outreach, education and cultural collaboration in their own countries. There is hardly a wave of new thematic organisations and user groups, and those who have been recognized by the WMF, are hardly more active than their organisational predecessors before. Up to now, the new affiliation models have served mainly as a way to make the Catalan organisation officially a part of the movement.

In 2012, the larger part of the Wikimedia chapters had established a federation called the Wikimedia Chapters Association. No incorporation, no resources, and not a remote chance to get direct WMF funds, that was the disillusioning result of 2012 and the first half of 2013. The WCA urged itself to come up with practical initiatives to make the chapters stronger as organisations. But so far very few individuals ever contributed to those initiatives, and the WCA Council did not prove to be an efficient organ bringing the WCA further.

An attempt to map the Wikimedia movement

It is my genuine belief that the movement has always suffered, and continues to suffer, from a fundamental lack of political education among the activists. By political education I don't mean party politics or the spectrum of left and right, but an understanding of some basic concepts and ideas:

  • What is power and how it can be used to make things happen
  • How democratic processes work, how groups come to consensus
  • Why formal organisation is important, and how to behave within it

Only a small minority in the chapter boards has this education and/or has the time necessary for board work. This is even true for the largest chapters, and also, if my perception is not mistaken, for the WMF board of trustees. The cure must be to invest in those activists who are willing to learn, and to attract new people to the organisations.

A good example was the decision of the WCA Council to open up the WCA for the thematic organisations. As the thematic organisations are treated by the WMF more or less like the chapters, and as there was no monster wave of a myriad of thematic organisations approaching, this was hardly a strange move. But before and during the Wikimedia Conference in Milan (April) Markus had talked to some Council Members (especially one very negativist person) and did not dare to let it come to a vote already in Milan. We issued several mails and discussed it on Meta, we had telephone conferences, and finally in July Markus presented the question to the Council Members. Suddenly, several members voted against, and we had to contact a lot of members to make them vote at all. We did finally reach the quorum and the necessary majority.

Of course, if someone has a different opinion about a proposal and makes use of the numerous mailing list discussions, Meta wiki talk pages, conferences etc., to raise his concerns, giving the proposer the chance to modify the proposal, to answer questions, or at least to know whether the proposal has a majority, that is okay. It is not okay to ignore all those discussions and surprise the proposer with a 'no' only in the voting itself and risk to destroy weeks or months of work. Needless to say, other organisations could have made the decision within a much shorter time with much less hassle for the chair.

Personal tech report edit

Telephone in the Jockey Club Auditorium

This was the first long range travel which I undertook without a laptop or netbook, only with the tablet. It went quite well, although the iPad is still not an optimal working instrument (due to some bad choices of Apple). With an external keyboard at least the typing problem is solved. What I do at home with the Firefox browser is on the iPad shattered over several apps and browsers. It turned out to be impossible to upload a pdf in my mailbox to Wikimedia Commons, I had to send it by mail to a friendly colleague (who had a MacBook). Editing Wikipedia is still no fun, and the Visual Editor had major problems with my iPad edits. In other respects, the iPad is extremely useful, like taking and sharing pictures, but I cannot really compare it to other tablets.

Another new evolution I felt after a Wikimedian talked in a book store about a book he recently read. While we were still standing in the store, he was eager to send me the pirated e-book via mail. The book market is likely to change radically within the shortest time, similar to music. The mobile use of the Internet will make a greater difference than we may realize today, and with good reasons the Wikimedia Foundation tech people have 'mobile' high up on their agenda.

Tuesday, August 6th edit

Campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnical University

Even if you believe that you have prepared everything weeks or at least days before, something happens the day before or at the very same day. I had taken over the responsibility for the Wednesday of our WCA Wikimedia Organisations Seminar; several people at the last moment cancelled their participation on the panels; the room had no hand microphones, the air conditioning was noisy etc. The responsible person from the Wikimania team being not on campus on the decisive day was not so handy.

Handy indeed: our WMNL director Sandra booked us at the same hotel as the WMF and WMDE. Many contacts were established or deepened at the breakfast table or in the lounge. With Markus Glaser (Council Chair, and Council Member appointed by the members of WMDE) I had the occasions to make final preparations and talk some things through.

Later I heard that someone nearly did not come to the seminar because she thought it was a working session of the Council. Our Meta page said clearly otherwise, but indeed, this was an indication of the way people perceived the WCA.

On Tuesday I went to the Polytechnical University, the venue, and met already some old friends. It is a huge, modern campus, and I thought of many students there whether they might be attendees of Wikimania. But then I considered that they of course all so nerdy, as this is a Polytechnical University.

Already the day before I had, in a sleepless jet lag night, written down a speech for the WCA meeting on Thursday. Markus then read it and found it quite dark; maybe it expressed more of his feelings than he originally was ready to admit. He was afraid that one, two certain people of the Council would make a scene; I tried to take of that in my wording but ultimately did not change much.

Wednesday, August 7th (preconference/WOS, day 1) edit

Wikimedia Organisations Seminar edit

Sandra Rientjes in the self presentation part

Rather few people showed up in the morning, ca. a dozen or less, although I had scheduled the opening of the seminar for 9.30h instead of the original 9.00h, and we actually started at 9.45h. My time scheme was flexible; but I regretted that the concept of Wikimania treats the preconference a little bit like a step child. There is no common opening, just a few separate conventions like ours.

Garfield Byrd at the seminar

Markus' introduction addressed the WCA and its initiatives such as the chapters manual and peer review, mine provided the growing audience with some general thoughts on organisations and the Wikimedia movement specifically. What is the difference between a closed but binding Gemeinschaft and an open and bridging Gesellschaft, and what should the Wikipedia community be, how do certain narrow-minded attitudes harm the movement, how to interpret the movement with the systems theory, and which is the supersystem and the subsystem, the Wikipedia community or the Wikimedia movement?

The participants presented themselves and reported about similar problems in their organisations, giving you the feeling that you are not the only one facing them. Alas the protocolling on the Etherpad has not been very consistent, and the seminar was not recorded by audio or video equipment. In a future Wikimania, this would be great to make more use of the investments of money and time that are the fundaments of such a convention.

Still, we had already in the beginning a wide range of countries and organisations represented:

  • Ziko van Dijk (Ziko), president of Wikimedia Nederland and deputy Chair of the WCA
  • James Hare, President of Wikimedia Washington DC
  • Matej Grochal (Jetam2), Wikimedia Slovakia
  • Marek Blahuš (Blahma), Wikimedia Czech Republic, Esperanto Wikipedia
  • Kirill Lokshin, secretary of Wikimedia Washington DC
  • Ginevra Sanvitale (Atropine), Wikimedia Italia member
  • Susanna Ånäs (Susannaanas), Wikimedia Finland vicepresident
  • Claudia Garad, Wikimedia Austria Executive Director
  • Sandra Rientjes, director of Wikimedia Nederland
  • Lorenzo Losa (Laurentius), Wikimedia Italia secretary and WCA council member
  • Asaf Bartov, Wikimedia Foundation
  • James Heilman (Jmh649), president of Wiki Med Foundation
  • Jon Davis, chief executive of Wikimedia UK
  • Luis Villa, deputy general counsel WMF
  • Charles Gregory, Wikimedia Australia
  • Cornelius Kibelka, Wikimedia Deutschland
  • Pierre-Selim Huard, Wikimedia France
  • Gabriel Thullen, Wikimedia CH board
  • RYU Cheol (Ryuch), chair of South Korean prechapter committee
  • Katie Chan, Volunteer Support Organiser of Wikimedia UK
  • T. Vishnu Vardhan, CIS-A2K, India
Second panel discussion

Organising the panel discussions was not very easy as many attendees did not register in the public list on the Wikimania2013 wiki, and those who did did not always answer my mails at all. Some agreed to be on a panel but finally did not show up or wrote that they could not come. This made the organisation quite time consuming, and the panels represented the diversity of the movement less than I intended. (For the schedule of the seminar and the link to etherpad, please see the wiki page.) The panel discussions evolved very well, with even more audience participation then I imagined before, and made good use of the chance to talk some things through, for example the controversial topics concerning 'the role of money' in the last panel.

German talks edit

Anja Ebersbach, WMDE board member, and Markus Glaser, WCA Council Chair. The couple may know what it means to be in congregations with difficult sheeps

I don't recall well whether it was exactly this evening when I had an interesting talk with one of the German board members. He was very determined on a specific initiative he wants WMDE to support. It became obvious soon that he rigorously refused any other opinion or even question marks: what will be the costs of that project, how is it supposed to work, who will do the work, what will be the positive outcome for the movement. His ill perceptions, his unfamiliarity with the movement, but above all his unbelievable fury and expressions (one of them starting with F, meaning the same in English and German) made everyone around feel embarrassed, and the young Chinese waitress did not know what to do.

With Markus I talked that evening about the second seminar day. Alas, there was not much preparation, and we decided to send the people to the 'chapters dialogue' session instead (there wasn't much coordination with this WMDE initiative, which also seemed to boycott the WCA seminar). The other topic of our conversation were the rumours that the French chapter will retreat from the WCA. My sarcastic reaction: What? How shocking! I didn't know the French were a member at all! When did they join?

Earlier, in July, the WCA Council had decided that Council Members can nominate 'substitutes' for real life gatherings. I knew that this would mean even less commitment from the Council Members than before. In a skype call I told Markus that I'd prefer to step down as Deputy Chair, having given the WCA a whole year of chances to find its own productive rhythm. Instead, the WCA became a laughing stock nobody took serious, and by right. Markus urged me to stay, and I thought of waiting for Wikimania. At the evening before the WCA meeting in Hong Kong, it was difficult to Markus to let go the WCA when there was still so much work to do. Our idea was always to make the WCA support the chapters who are in desperate need, but who supports the supporters after several more than questionable decisions of the Council?

Thursday, August 8th (preconference/WOS, day 2) edit

Chapters Dialogue edit

The 'chapters dialogue' session started promising, with two persons of WMDE presenting the initiative. The idea is to talk to the chapters and ask them about their findings and aspirations. Had Nicole and Kira attended the WCA Seminar the days before, though, they had received already some of the input requested in our sessions.

The session in a rather small room then tried to collect input from the audience; this tedious effort caused a WMF staff member to twitter about the waste of time. He later corrected himself by mail pointing out that he did not mean the initiative by itself but this kind of real life input that can be done better on wiki. I might add: Wikimedians tend to be very detail oriented people with few regard for the rest of the audience.

WCA Council Meeting edit

Second day of the preconference, with the WCA Council meeting

The Council Meeting in the afternoon was very well visited; certain announcements with provocative titles are useful indeed. I delivered a speech as the Deputy Chair, and although the Signpost called it 'lengthy', I don't think that 10-15 minutes are excessive after more than one year of work.

Dear friends of free knowledge, I would like to make a personal statement. I apologize in advance, usually I do not write and read my speeches, but this one is difficult for me.

It is more than one full year ago that our WCA has been established in Washington, and that Fae (Ashley van Haeften) and I have been chosen Council Chair and Deputy Chair. We all dreamt of a powerful association, with resources to support the chapters, and Council Members serving as a transmission belt collecting the thougths and emotions of our entire movement. But look around now - measured by our reasonable expectations, our investment in time and energy has proven to be a genuine failure.

Only three votes for Tomer: Washington, July 2012

I would like to tell you a story about Johnny. Johnny does not exist, he is a fictitious Council Member. I don't say that all Council Members are like Johnny, or that most of them always behaved like Johnny. Though, tragically, Johnny's story is also the very story of the WCA. It began in the weeks after the meeting in Berlin, April 2012. I had talked in Tomer Ashur to become the leader of a committee to set up the new Association. Tomer, the chair of Wikimedia Israel, is one of the finest Wikimedians I have ever met, but when he came and asked me to take over one task, writing the standing orders, I had to say sorry. Sorry, Tomer, but I am already the chair of Wikimedia Nederland and probably won't have time for this task. It turned out that everybody let him down.

Then in Washington, July 2012, the Council elected Ashley and me. Still, the Association needed a secretary-general for the executive position. Tomer volunteered, and so did two other fine people. But to Johnny, Tomer and the others were just not good enough. Tomer, he said, accomplished nothing, and the two others Johnny talked about as if they were the most stupid and most evil persons in world history.

Then, the Council in Washington came up with an ambitious plan and schedule to establish the Association soon as a legal body and hire a secretary-general. Two committees were established to support Fae, the Council Chair. Who, by the way, has never candidated to do so, but his love for the chapters made him accept the challenge.

Fae had to understand soon that he could not expect any help from those committees, and arranged a great proposal to gather resources from the chapters (mostly the big chapters). Why establishing a new legal body, if for example his British chapter could let us use its bank account? (In the WMF grant process, this is nowadays called a 'fiscal sponsor', by the way.) Also, the WCA does not have to hire somebody itself - a chapter can do that.

When the Council in October voted on Fae's proposal, suddenly Johnny raised his voice in contempt and voted 'no'. Didn't the Council decide otherwise in Washington? And can we trust the big chapters at all? Why not simply establish the WCA as a legal body as planned, it just takes a couple of days. Obviously, Johnny had no idea about establishing a legal body, and, of course, Johnny created with his "no" a lot of work for others, not for himself.

Then, in February 2013, the WMF board of trustees ultimately lost faith in the WCA. It announced that it will not give money for a WCA employee; instead, the WCA should show some useful practical work, not waste its time with discussions on legal framework.

Johnny, who by the way has always hated the WMF, suddenly cried out: What a great idea, the WCA should indeed have done that long ago. Not politics, but hard work will make a difference for the chapters.

At that time, I had already together with Fae scheduled a WCA meeting in London, which proved to be especially useful right then. Some Council members, and two WMF board members, invested their time to talk some things out and set up new initiatives: the WCA Action teams.

By now, you have already figured out what Johnny kept doing: behave like a submarine. Staying invisible most of the time, then resurface, fire a torpedo, and dive again.

In the board of Wikimedia Nederland, we earlier discussed about the future of the WCA. Aren't we flogging a dead horse? Won't the chapters remain in this vicious circle? Who will support the supporters?

In July the Council Members nearly unanimously voted to introduce substitutes, to allow someone else represent a chapter in a meeting. For me, this answered the questions the Dutch board provided me with. Substitutes at meetings meant even less commitment, even less continuity. How nice for Johnny who already went to the Wikimedia Conference in Milan without attending the WCA meeting.

Please explain this to me: who should take the WCA serious, if even Johnny doesn't? Those questions kept coming to me.

I don't want to go on with my fictional Johnny, but let me use him for a final summary:

  1. Johnny does not elect volunteers from outside the Council, like Tomer, as he thinks little of them.
  2. The big chapters, those with the resources, want to dominate the movement and cannot be trusted, says Johnny.
  3. Johnny does not contribute to make the WMF believing in the potential of the WCA.

So tell me, where is the power for the WCA supposed to come from?

I don't want to end this speech in the same bitterness with which I started writing it on Wednesday's early morning. Of course, when you are pointing with your finger at others, three fingers of the same hand point to yourself.

Feeding the multitude, cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

Without claiming to be a practising Christian, I allow myself to read for you a quote from the Bible. "Feeding the multitude", Luke 9, 12-17.

Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. [English Standard Version]

Friends of free knowledge, I already used this quote two years ago in my anniversary speech for Dutch Wikipedia, as it tells us the power of sharing. The man from Nazareth didn't want to say that the five thousand people didn't like the fishburgers. He meant: Give, and it will be given to you, and you shall have a fine Wikimania.

Thank you very much.

Then the vice president of the French chapter, Christophe Henner, declared that the chapter will retreat, and Markus made the announcement that he and I step down. The following discussion proved my statement contribution by contribution, one of the attendees remarked cynically. I was grateful for the thoughtful remarks of Asaf about chapter people being unprepared and not ready for the task given to them.

A WMF staff member later came to Markus and me and thanked for the grace which with the ended the WCA. Also, I witnessed a Council Member expressing his regrets to Tomer that he did not support Tomer in Washington. I was told that the French move did not contribute much to the popularity of some board members on Wikimania, and that one Council Member came to Markus and promised sycophantically that he will work hard from now on. Too late. With Ashley's October proposal rejected, with the failed incorporation efforts and the inactive Action Teams, the WCA has had its three chances. The WCA is de facto sleeping now, and we will see how long it will take until a Prince Couragous will come to kiss this difficult Sleeping Beauty (as I expressed it in the Journal on Meta).

I feel liberation rather than disappointment, having no cause to defend that isn't defendable any more, and hold nothing against the people who were such a burden on the WCA. It was also a relief when later Sebastian Moleski confirmed to me that he had never foreseen such a failure. Did the goals and charter of the WCA expect anything superhuman from the Council Members? We will see what our individuals and groups can accomplish in future to foster the movement.

Welcoming party edit

Sky100. First, we enjoyed day light, then the darkness revealing a sea of lights

The 'Wikimaniacs' met in the evening at the 30th elevation of Sky100. Looking down at Hong Kong from 330 meters gave me a very strange feeling; with all the skyscrapers, it first didn't look so high. It took me some time to let the impression sink in. This was three times as high as the platform of the Cologne cathedral tower. You could look onto the roof of a 20 storey building.

I belonged to the lucky half of the attendees who managed to get some food; the noise of the crowd started to make it difficult to follow conversations. I didn't even understand well that Jan-Bart told me that he became the chair of the WMF board, and apologized later by mail. This decision made me happy, and I am looking forward to make something of it on consequent meetings in the Netherlands.

Friday, August 9th (day 1) edit

Opening ceremony edit

Wikimania was officially opened in the impressive auditory of the Polytechnical University. Jeromy-Yu Maximilian Chan, the only 26 year old leader of the organising team, welcomed us and introduced the first key note speaker. The Japanese was not an outstanding speaker personality, but a friendly person who showed us how a wiki can make a real difference after a humanitarian catastrophe.

Jimmy Wales in Hong Kong

State of the wiki: this year, Jimmy Wales asked the attendees not to stand up according to the years they are already editing Wikipedia, but to indicate in this way how many Wikimanias they attended. Only a handful left who went to all nine of them. He mentioned some 'article number mile stones', and said that after the retreat of the Dutch queen earlier the year, the WMF has now a new king from the Netherlands, Jan-Bart de Vreede.

Wikipedian of the year became the (not attending) chair of the French chapter, en:Rémi Mathis, who answered the press after the radio station incident. According to a joking Wales, the French censoring decision concerning that Wikipedia article was made obviously not by a very stupid subaltern military officer, but by a very smart tourism official: the article about that not so obscure station exists now in more in 29 languages.

Audience at the opening ceremony

Wales called Edward Snowden an American hero and used his case as an example of how the media, even quality papers, deal with a subject nowadays. Not the NSA, spying on citizens, or cryptology was the main topic, said Wales, but human interest stories such as the underwear picture of his 'heart broken' girl friend. 'This is not an announcement', he claimed repeatedly, but he would like to brainstorm with Wikimedians about new ways combine e.g. journalists with a community of volunteers.

A video followed with volunteers and staff members of the WMF with short comments on Sue Gardner, the executive director who will leave the WMF later this year. Jan-Bart remembered how impressed they have been by Sue Gardner who was extraordinarily well prepared for the job interview. Philippe Baudette: She has an incredible knowledge of details, one must really look out. Stu West: Sue has been perfect for Foundation and movement.

Friendly space edit

Ad pointing to the Dutch slides at the chapters village

Our Dutch board member Ad Huikeshoven led a discussion group about creating a friendly space online, making Wikipedia a place with more compliments and less mobbing. One participant noted that in some countries to beat up homosexuals is a positive value; in Wikipedia the beating of 'spammers' or 'uncyclopedic idiots' is a positive value. Another attendee asked what admins are admired for, for a quick block, or for good conversations? A young German pointed out that admins are actually supposed to do to different jobs, a more technical and a more social one. Maybe one should separate both positions.

Future of Wikimania edit

An especially interesting session talked about the Future of Wikimania. Deror gave an overview on the history of the annual main conference of our movement, adding that the Haifa Wikimania of 2011 was the most stressful for him (being in the organising team). On the panel, the size of the conference was one of the major issues. According to Sue Gardner the large Wikimanias were not necessarily worse than the small ones, and James Forrester noted that a Wikimania that is larger by factor x does not cause x times more work. Wikimania should be inclusive, and one should make use of the work that has to be invested anyway.

Sue Gardner did not want Wikimania to become more academic, although some contributions can be categorized as such. Wikimania is according to her not a fun event or reward for certain people but a place where individual practitioners come together. 'Personally, I think it should be about the practical ways to create an encyclopedia, wiki news etc.'

The Future of Wikimania

Should there be requirements for a chapter before it can apply a bid for Wikimania? James Hare, who chaired the Wikimania team of Washington 2012, said that all chapters needed to be supported by the WMF for Wikimania, even the German one. (Which was, by the way, nine years ago in a very different movement.) Forrester: Who has no infrastructure for media contact etc. needs to work harder and needs more support. But the chapter must know that by itself, one should not impose rules from above. Sue: It is important to have an intact team with the experience of dealing with larger projects. Several panel members said that more professional support from the outside world would be good, but Manuel Schneider warned that we are nerds who don't like to be told what to do. Sue Gardner: The budget is not the issue. The issue is what kind of conference we want. Someone in Washington told me that we don't offer much in our programme for new comers who read Wikipedia and would like to learn more about it and the ideas behind.

I noted as my personal thoughts that the idea of a conference committee is certainly a good one; it may deal even with other large international conferences besides Wikimania. It is also not unthinkable to introduce formal requirements for a chapter that wants to host Wikimania, e.g., having already handled a larger international conference such as the international hackathon or a GLAM event. One should not fully trust the chapters themselves to judge whether they are mature enough or not.

Observations on native speakers edit

'Can you read a Chinese newspaper?' - 'Yes, for example the South China Morning Post...'

There was one session I didn't follow much because the speaker was difficult to understand. I tried to make use of it anyway and wrote down what can be the problem with native speakers of English who behave in a global convention as if they were talking to Americans only. Speaker was a young, highly educated woman from the United States with several communication issues.

Speed is not the only or even not the main problem with a native speaker; several of them speak quickly and are still very well to follow for me (e.g. Sue Gardner or Jimmy Wales). Complicated or unfinished sentences, untidy articulation, or an obscure terminology or too colourful language are a serious barrier to understanding. Even if I could figure out what the speaker meant, it took me a good deal of concentration. Isn't it sad that sometimes I can understand other non native speakers better than those who grew up in English? How about if the Wikimedia Foundation makes lessons in Global English obligatory?

OSM Mapping Party edit

Two OSM activists in Tsim Sha Tsui

By chance, when leaving the campus for the hotel, I met Kolossos from German Wikipedia who is also an activist of OpenStreetMap. He showed me how he had printed OSM maps of the vicinity and now noted on them by pen what the houses where used for (shop, offices etc.). Later Kolossos joined again with Liang from Taiwan, and they compared the results and went on mapping together. The evening ended with the actual 'mapping party' including the upload of the data.

Saturday, August 10th (day 2) edit

en:Charles Mok. One Internet two systems? Every country is a system of its own, despite of the universal Internet technology, says Mok.
China and Hong Kong

Day 2 saw the powerful speech of Charles Mok, a Hong Kong legislator. China's censorship is technocratic micromanagement, he aid. It is difficult to compare it with the NSA because we lack the background information (laughter in the hall).

'We don't want to be jerky lawyers', said Geoff Bingham from the WMF legal team in a legal session. It refused tough demands to remove content, 'office actions' are extremely rare, like one or two cases a year. Privacy (with the ongoing discussions about the so called check users) is 'more than a policy', Geoff explained, processes are needed too. They help to enforce the policy. On Meta Wiki there is now a draft for a new privacy policy.

Barbara Fischer and others tried to outline the possible future(s) of Wikipedia. Her introduction, read but well written and presented, had the title 'My beautiful life in 2022, thanks to PLV', with PLV meaning Personalising, Linking-up and Visualising in the net. Maybe in future we will regard it a human right to be online all the time, and donate money to make that possible for everyone on the planet.

One speaker made several attempts to expand his own speaking time by stealing time from the following speakers in his session (often, three speakers shared one session between two official breaks). I cannot express in words how rude I found this; such a behavior comes from the attitude believing to be much more important than everyone else. Luckily the volunteer Haggen, who attended the sessions, showed no wrong permissiveness.

My own (and only) contribution to the Wikimania programme dealt with considerations on how to present and teach Wikipedia. I gave some examples and think that the response was very positive.

Sunday, August 11th (day 3) edit

Goodbye, Sue Gardner edit

Sunday, the last day of the conference, saw the key note of Sue Gardner, her last one as executive director of the WMF. She dedicated a lot of time to the major topic editor retention (how to keep more of the people who once made an edit). The movement, she said, has invested much energy to understand things. 'We cracked it and now we know how to help and we do that.' A small team works at the WMF to make small changes to the interface, which has to become more intuitive, more friendly, more welcoming.

Sue Gardner was pleased about the first year of the FDC, the volunteer led group that focusses mainly on the infrastructure of grant making. Next year up to eight million dollars will be disseminated. What kind of programmatic activities should we do more, how can we use the energy better, that is the following big question.

The Visual Editor has the purpose to let people edit without learning wikisyntax. This is not only something for new people, she and the team hopes, over time the interface will be user friendly for most editors, it will be useful for most of the things you do as an editor. Not now, but in the long run. She then shows why we need the VE, with videos from the 2009 study when the WMF asked people about the user interface. Those people could have been editors, they were educated and had life experience, but when they saw the edit window, they said things like 'I feel kind of stupid', 'I don't know much about computers', 'more than I am willing to mess with it, forget it'.

She also presented a video about the impact of Wikipedia Zero. This project helps to bring Wikipedia on mobile devices to people in the 'global south'. Ten years ago the Internet was something you accessed from a desktop pc, now the global south comes in und may never make this experience. Wikipedia might not remain something that is written by people in rich countries for people in poor countries. A video of children in South Africa having now access to Wikipedia and use it for school makes some eyes in the auditory wet. Sue Gardner: 'There have been many jokes in the press about Wikipedia and the Wikipedians. For those children, Wikipedia is not a joke. They are using it.'

Having put on the projector a thank you echoed by the audience

'I'm proud to be part of the movement,' she said. When she came, the WMF was broken, tiny, vulnerable. 'Yesterday I watched our legal team talking here about legal matters. I see that you are save, you are protected. We do great engineering projects. [...] I think that I made a contribution. I am happy.'

'Some of us remember life before the Internet. We imagined the Internet like a city. Commerce, banks, restaurants. But we also imagined that there will be more, parks, libraries, schools. A friend of mine said once, and it took time for me to sink in: Wikipedia is the only popular high profile public service uncompromising web site. That is not totally true. But, Wikipedia is the exceptional thing, not the usual thing. I tried to figure out what kind of contribution I can make to the Internet, that it is not only a commercial wasteland, but a place where people can share. I have loved my time whith you. I was not only your executive director, but always will be your friend and supporter.'

Bits and pieces edit

After the closing ceremony
Group picture. The guy with the hat somewhere in the last row is either me or Garfield

Erik Moeller, WMF vice director: 'It will be impossible to replace you, Sue, what we are is a movement that is used to do the impossible.'

Sam Klein, WMF board of trustees: 'Our community and our audience is changing very quickly. First since Wikipedia was founded there is a new outreach to new people who didn't edit before. A year of demographic change.'

Alice Wiegand, WMF board of trustees: 'People ask me what is the outcome of your [board] meeting this year. Everybody was scared of a new letter, like the Haifa letter. But there is no letter. There is no really interesting outcome for you as movement: mostly internal things, very boring. A switch is in front of us. From procedural internal discussions to more substance and subject discussions which will affect you. I cannot promise that you will like everything we are going to do the next months and year. There will be much more exchange to find the best way for the movement.'

Jimmy Wales, WMF board of trustees: 'Getting someone to edit for the first time is relatively easy. But then, are new people appropriately welcomed by the community. That is much less something about the WMF but about the community. [...] I think the Visual Editor is already much better than just a few weeks ago. That editing will be a new experience for all editors, that is easy to say for me - I am basically a talk page troll. The easy thing is to start the Visual Editor, see it not work, and want to go back. But we have to avoid emotions and anger.'

Sandra Rientjes, WMNL director, to Jeromy-Yu from the Wikimania team: 'You must be a very happy man.' Jeromy-Yu needed a few seconds to understand that this was not said in irony.

Monday, August 12th (postconference) edit

Hong Kong and London together in one room

One of the meetings I attended on Monday was the gathering of the Wikimania Hong Kong and the Wikimania London team. Dealing with volunteers was as much a subject as the contacts with the press. Some media threaten you with bad press if you do not comply with their demands. One advice: have some coverage in the quality press, and don't care much for the others. A Hong Kong organizer: 'The day before, my phone went like 60-70 times. Afterwards, it's soon over. [...] Some media people wanted to ask me very basic questions. I didn't have the time to do that.'

Some points:

  • Make sure you have double food.
  • Some people in the audience were nasty to the facilitator.
  • Some people in the IT in Hong Kong are socially awkward.
  • Don't have dormitories outside walking distance to the venue.
  • Many young people in the team. Needed a little more female people here.
  • Our chapter has now 100 more members (but it is easy to become a member)
  • Never before I spoke five days in a row all day English.

The latter wasn't quite true for me, but maybe added to the exhaustion Wikimania meant for me (again). But it is an exhaustion with a smile, having met and talked to so many people from the different segments of our movement. And, of course, my time in Hong Kong created a certain pile of work. Wikimania in Hong Kong will be with me for quite some time, in many aspects. This is why I drink soy bean milk right now.