Wikimedia Community User Group Malaysia/Reports/WMCON18
This report offers the perspective of a delegate from a small and new User Group of a developing country.
The overall experience is extremely positive for the attendee. As the notes below show, I have better insight on how to grow a Wiki Movement and community.
It will take time to apply what I have learnt. Actual follow up action, partnerships activities, or maintaining network is limited largely due to the very small numbers of active volunteers. Focus will thus be on building awareness through talks, sense of community via social media, and more independent action.
The attendee had also experienced ESEAP 2018. The later had sessions more suited to the needs and size of WCUG, but a sense of the fun, energy, and potential of the global movement was less apparent in the smaller event.
In February 2017, I was informed via WhatsApp that the Vice Presidents were not able to attend the conference.
I contacted the organizers, filled in the application, and was deemed qualified as a sponsored candidate to the event.
It should be noted that by the time I enrolled, the official entry had already closed (January 15, 2018).
I think this meant that I was not able to attend the Pre-Conference Learning Days.
This point is crucial for small or new user groups as attending the main conference alone can be overwhelming, and the sessions then are geared more for larger chapters.
Missing the Pre-Con also meant I lost a chance to have the paired/ buddy/ mentor session.
In my part I could have been more proactive and sought out connections, read the materials more thoroughly, or asked my committee for more guidance before my arrival.
There was an effort to make contact with the mentor of the previous delegate but he was not attending and the communication fell through.
For an idea why I qualified for the delegation, please visit my profile.
- Small or new usergroups should still try to have a two person delegate to fully benefit from the rich experience.
- Greater effort to distribute news on conference and find potential candidates.
Communication, Financial & Travel Advice for Malaysian AttendeeEdit
Ticket purchasing and lodging arrangements were provided by the organizer through their travel agent, but on my own web search I was able to find a cheaper deal and had the means to pay for it first, thus I was able to save a few hundred Euro for the organizers. Payment was refunded to me before my arrival.
My travel dates extended five days past the conference date because I wished to do some traveling on my own. A delegate can have a very budgeted trip as even travel to the airport is covered, but any further adventures requires some investment in time off work and finance.
Malaysians do not need Visa for most European countries. It is recommended that attendee check that their credit or debit card has international transaction allowed. Ensure transits flights take into account possible flight delays and time spent in security.
It takes some time to digest the information from the conference website, making preparations, and investing in following the communication channels: Facebook Group, Whatsapp Chat, Telegram (more Europeans).
Bring sweets and also a good sense of what the group has accomplished, its challenges, presented verbally or via posters.
Laptop is optional. Friendly disposition and name cards is a must.
- Even with full sponsorship, a delegate requires some investment in time and money to attend a Wikimedia Conference.
- Editing alone involves learning a lot of in-house rules and practices. Being a part of the movement requires another layer of knowledge.
Please find details to program and presenters here.
|Orientation for Newcomers||Session was 45 minutes but still too short and felt rushed. Attendees sounded like veterans.
Server costs led to requests for donations, and a foundation was created to manage the funds and develop the site.Germany has an influential position because the chapter and donation is sizable.Between 2013 to 2017, the community experienced a rocky period. Site co-founder Jimmy Wales was sideline and the five year strategies set aside. Relationships with chapters experienced a shakeup, a major result being certain chapters were shaken up or derecognized, as well as emergence of user groups. Also mentioned was the Haifa Letter, a call for greater accountability in way funds are distributed.
|Start Together||Very inspiring to see hundreds of attendees from all over the world. This was perhaps one of the most diversely represented conference.
The practice of 'safe spaces' at the conference made an impression, so did gender balance and respect for those who did not want to be photographed. The event facilitator took the audience through various ice breaking, explanation of the three event tracks, and orientation exercises. We were reminded Wikimedia vision of sharing the sum of all human knowledge, and the more reason goals of knowledge equity and service.The absence of those who could not attend was duly noted.
Towards the end I managed to meet Katherine Maher and chatted a little on my concerns on the commodification of Wiki data by major tech corporations.
|Community Capacity Mapping||Azaf Bartov's mapping tool is useful for any community to access their strengths and weaknesses. It takes into account the robustness of certain qualities being dependent on specific volunteers. If the volunteer goes, that capacity can collapse. Leadership circle should be widen to avoid this problem. The entire map has around 40 types of capacity. It should be possible to have a small and light version of this assessment to avoid intimidating smaller user groups. When using it, take into consideration which language, period, and wiki project the map refers to. In the case of Malaysia, the problem comes with the number of language editions related to our country.|
|Growing Editor Community. 4 Approaches||1) When editor numbers declined, Wikimedia Germany used banner ads to attract volunteers from its large pool of readers. Online training materials are reusable and scalable. Identify the different types of users and their problems/ interests. Growth takes time to see results. Use well timed campaigns and events. Event Germans have issue concerning awareness of Wikimedia roles and activities.
2) Amical Wikimedia (Catalan) uses the existing networks of librarians to promote wiki events and ask librarians who they think would be interested. Praising helps. Map your librarian network. Motto: 'Come for the impact, stay for the philosophy'.
3) Wikimedia Serbia organized small 3 days camps for young university students. Trip is funded. 'Increase motivation by giving significance'. Usually 70 applications, 18 selected. Retention sounds high.
4) Wikimedia Israel used an interactive educational software in the Students Write Wikipedia program. A visit to their page shows many more approaches.
Q. Are they all full time volunteers?
|Introducing Financial Planning||Financial planning talk was more suited for larger and stable chapters. Fundraising and plans are made months ahead, and should fit the goals of the chapter/ group. Projects that are in line with grantor, partner's and foundation goals also makes for easier funding. Set strategies, priorities, revenue targets, conservative to high estimates, make adjustments, and operating reserve aggressiveness. Use logic model theory of change for planning.
For our small user group, the active members should have a rough idea of their plans, time, and budget they are willing to spend in a year for Wikimedia activities. If there are clear plans, a rapid grant would be the most suitable source of funding.
|New Challenges for Supporting Wikipedians||Presenter is the main advocate for 'safe space' event and stated that the session follows Chatham House Rules. Sharing should be made anonymously and situation should be hypothetical. Wikipedia deals with knowledge and as the saying goes, knowledge is power and power corrupts. Issues discussed: temporary Wikipedia Shutdown in Turkey, financial influence of donors, paid editing, censorship, identifying contributors, shaping of 'official' knowledge, arbitrary application of codes and laws, pressure on Wikimedia Foundation to release information, role foundation plays in protecting its community from persecution, legal aid, toxic members, abuse of administrative power, evil bots, spread of malicious info, rising ignorance because of info-action ratio, over information, apathy, law of unintended consequences, etc.
Attendees shared their experience or knowledge: Some countries, assistance and contribution to government departments were acceptable, some not so much. Events should be made open to avoid exclusive training to questionable groups. A solution to fake news is a citation black list. To reduce influence, donation sources are limited, remember the pillars: Good Faith.Different language communities can adjust rules to context. Sharing stories keeps the discussion going even if we do not know the solution.
|Regional / Thematic Meetup||Attended the Asian Wikipedian Meetup organized by User:Satdeep_Gill
Indian delegate is well represented, oriental ones less so. See here for more information on Wikimedia Asia-Oceana
Some discussion on the way volunteerism may have to be adapted for Asian / developing country contex.
India for example, has centers where hardware is available for volunteers to come use, and also laptops provided to qualified individuals, with only an honor system that the devices are used for Wikimedia related efforts. Another notable project is the Tiger Writing Contest. Thailand has a mentorship program. Punjabi Wiki is looking to make an animated promotion. A point was made about how the new strategy can benefit the global south.
|Technical Tools for Programs, Events, and Grants||Tools introduced were:
The Grant Metrics tool (https://tools.wmflabs.org/grantmetrics/)
The Outreach Dashboard (https://outreachdashboard.wmflabs.org/)
Future tools are being discussed in the Toolhub project.
The overall goal is to help affiliates with their events and programs, because 'counting is boring work'. Improving the tools require feedback from its users. Again, for small groups, such tools may be another layer of technical knowledge and bureaucracy that a volunteer needs to commit to.
After the conference, further research led me to this page Wikimedia Resource Center, where the most relevant section for our user group would be Wikimedia Resource Center/For affiliate organizers.
|Governance in Smaller Affiliates||Wikimedia Ukraine shared their experience in governance and growth. The talk was targeted at board members of small affiliates, which is defined as groups having 'less than 120k USD budget; no staff or less than 5 staff members'. All three presenters were women. Gender representation only skews a little towards men.
Some of their advice: Governance comes from experience, it is important to avoid a concentration of power/ micromanaging, plan for transitions, accounts and passwords for services should be shared, board member may not necessarily be an active editor, skill in management can be different from skill in editing, having an organized group makes it easier to approach partners, over time the group may gain full-time staff, contract workers, ticketing systems to address reader /volunteer problems, an active village pump, a log to record and pass on accumulated knowledge. Be bold!
This repeated emphasis on setting up a board, having financial plans and reports, and clear goals seems very intimidating and unrealistic for very small groups or those planning for a community. However the tenacity and dedication of those who grow their movement, stumble, and grow it again are incredibly admirable.
|Wikimedia and Digital Equity (Education)||Wikimedia Education Program works in line with UN's education goals to narrow the Knowledge Gap and create digital equity. P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning skills emphasizes 4Cs: Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Collaboration. Countries that have signed the charter with the UN will likely have programs that should fit such goals. Those who wish to offer Wikimedia as an educational tool could use the 4Cs and a way to frame their program and partnership plans. Using Wikipedia or technology for education or outreach in developing has had its problems and failures. Track them (with the dashboard) and try to learn from mistakes and also adapt to the needs of your context and audience.
The presenter Nicole Saad has done work in Malaysian schools before.
|Defining a Successful Workshop||Presenter has the following recommendation: Big events ideally are planned 18 months ahead; consider thematic events; language focus; Form organizational team; Do your homework; Prepare necessary set up before event (opening accounts - there's a limit on how many is created in a day-sock puppets warning); Find an article before hand; Focus on visual editor; Reduce talking, more editing, adjust expectation; Align your goals with organizing partners and attendees; Consider some self-care (be clear what is in it for you); Focus on subjects you are familiar with or find help; Consider audience experience; Follow up; Takes time for events to happen; Wikipedia workshop sounds better than 'edit-o-thon' / computer literacy workshop; Take care of I.P limits(?); Potential problems: training vandals, wifi connectivity, pages blocked, mobile editing, government or public relations seeking editing training, mix of newbies/ experienced editors, complicated guidelines, bureaucracy; consider variations - Wikipedia Town Full Day Event; If less volunteers, need more time; Other wikis have events and projects too|
|Thematic Inputs and Conversations||Board of Trustees presented, many areas covered but minimal recall. Some issues mentioned: Relationship to giant corporations like Google, need for greater diversity, decolonization, less paternalistic and savior syndrome, Eurocentrism, etc. There is a desire for events and funding to be more widely distributed.
This idea of smaller events may have the downside of having less 'wow' factor but possibly more adapted to the needs of the communities.
|Party||Venue was hot and food kinda bland, but the people were wonderful and colourful.|
|Six Pillars of Community Support & How Affiliates Without Staff Support Their Volunteers?||Volunteerism is a very challenging work. Those who do are often very few and their commitment can lead to burnout and bitterness. The presenters of these two sessions shared their experience and ideas on how to keep volunteers happy, productive, and sustainable. Some techniques: Tokens of appreciations for veterans, caring for newbies and setting expectations, awareness of a support network, matching volunteer's skill with a project (photographer/ language enthusiast/coders), partnership with other knowledge generators (FB or Reddit), finding people who already have an existing network or task related to the knowledge area that requires growth, like forest trails and outdoors tracking enthusiast, framing terms that is clear - wikipedian / article contributor, providing certificates of appreciation for attendees, making sure that volunteers do not feel alone in their work, watch for burn out. Sometimes partner expect professional standard of work when working with you and do not realize you are just a volunteer. Understand that volunteers are just rare.|
|How to Use Design Research to Plan Your Next Program||Design research is a process that composes of four parts: research, analysis, synthesis, realisation. The talk used the experience from research in new editor to conduct a workshop. They taught us the technique of using personas/ user stories/ motivations, and shared their findings: Reactive Corrector, Audience Builder, Box Checker, Joiner-Inner, Knowledge Sharer, Social Changer. The actual task was too focused on reusing their previous research material. Could have been more abstract.|
|Closing Ceremony||The closing ceremony saw another activity that bought all the attendees together by performing a collaborative performance. What struck me again and again was this notion of Knowledge as equity and service that contrasts with information as power and commodity. The leadership of Katherine Maher and the optimistic energy of the many senior volunteers were also impressive. There is a card that I am suppose to send as a follow up. I have yet to do so. Upon returning to Malaysia, I have my professional and personal life to attend to but with time, I hope to align my life activities closer with those of the Wikimedia community.|
Minor Impressions/ Random notesEdit
- Choice of terms affects perception and framing: Wikimedia/ Wikipedia, Edit-a-thon, volunteerism/ collaboration, Wikimedia France/ French Wikimedia, volunteer contributor/ editor, etc.
- Wikimedia sister projects have very minor presence while the big stars are WikiCommons and WikiData with desire for Structured Data
- WikiVoyage has a dedicated leader
- There is a cute animal club
- My roommate is a representative of WikiSource in India. Religious texts make up a large chunk of the scans, but he himself is not religious.
- English is the lingua franca.
- Servers are in the US, thus Wikimedia is subjected / protected by US laws.
- Artists and creatives can contribute to commons, by using the works that are moderately successful.
- When you have low budget, be patient, flexible, and persistent.
- Identities can be very complex.
- Westerners are more at ease socializing and talking about work.
- Some individuals I met: Cahyo Ramadhani, Rachmat Wahidi, Balaji, Ankan, Balaji, Rinto, Jessie Mi, Chia Yi (Taiwan hired staff), imacat, Athikun, Panchalee, Gu Eun Ae, Gabriela, Cornelius, Emily Jack, Edgar Rosero of Equador, Bojana Podgoria of Bosnia, Ben Vershbow (GLAM), Daniella from N. Carolina, Emery the aeronautics engineering student, Dana Dekel who does Feminist Edits, Conraad Loubster who brings wifi to rural areas, Erica (Manager, Community Liaisons, Wikimedia Foundation)
- Individuals I chatted but names I do not recall: UK chap who deals with grants, the French Esperanto expert, South African living in Germany,
- Stayed in Mecure Hotel, more working class area, weather was lovely, room lacked air conditioning
- Roomate had some unfortunate encounters
- Souvenirs and gifts for promotion
- Communication with wider global community declines rapidly but FB connections maintains
- Parts of the events were reported in social media apps like FB page amd WhatsApp groups