Wikimedia Conference 2012/Feedback

Lessons learned on logistics edit

General edit

  • DON'T do the event around Easter (flights and hostel are booked quickly and prices are higher)

Data edit

  • SINGLE DATA SOURCE ONLY FOR ALL (one master list for participants, hostel, visa...). this is crucial base!

Registration edit

  • have the registration form fields such as dates FORMATTED in ONE way, do not allow any custom format
  • Clarify the arrival in Berlin item in the form - people are confused and rather fill the date they'd like to depart from their place
  • Flight / train bookings - have the field like "I can come/depart day or two earlier" - sometimes flights are much more cheaper on days around and people can come
  • I can not depart from my home earlier than / I can not come to my home later than
  • Too many fields - confusing
  • Validation (weird data submitted)
  • be sure there are no typos in registration form data selects - like this year "Arpil 2"
  • set the deadline for until when we are able/willing to take care about unusual flights (dates outside the schedule, preferred flights, wants to travel with somebody etc...), requests after this deadline may result in either not fulfiled in favour of regular flight offer or applicant has to book on his own
  • be sure to triple check all dates in documents (especially when copypasting from last year)
  • registration form - passport number needed for accomodation too, make it mandatory
  • have an item in form to recognize student (or any other) discount status
  • have a special code for staff members so they can be filtered out easily (e.g. for the list of participants)
  • if more groups of participants (chapcom, board, staff, chapter ppl, movement roles, Wiki loves monuments etc...) are coming with different payments, be sure it's clear who is paying for what before the registration

Visa edit

  • create an automatical tool to create invitation letters and fill them with data given on registration form
  • publish the step by step procedure of issuing of invitation letters and flight tickets
  • have the chart with names on meta?
  • try to get infos from embassies / ministry of foreign affairs about their needs or how to speed up visa issuing process - some countries provide "pre-registration" process for conferences, particularly the way organizers come to ministry, provide dates about applicants and they are being pre-considered visa granted so then participant only comes to embassy to get the sticker/stamp...

Paperwork edit

  • Too many documents, hard to track things, necessity of copypasting of many data -> increase of possibility of mistake
  • be sure to triple check all dates in documents (especially when copypasting from last year)

Accomodation edit

  • be sure of checkouts on last day of conference
  • breakfast packages for those who are leaving early on last day
  • avoid moving from room to room during the conference
  • get a room plan from the hostel and book the entire floor and half - that's the easiest way how to deal with room mates wishes and late registrations. it also allows stuff like 2 bed rooms etc. for those who are looking for something more comfy than 4+ bed
  • consider sponsorship from any 3* hotel to get the prices similar to hostel (it should still be off season, so they should be happy for such a big group, besides staff/board and participants could stay together, which is one of the often mentioned comment by people)
  • ensure about smoke free environment
  • ensure about enough capacity of wifi (number of connections, reach) and power

Transport/travel edit

  • set the deadline for until when we are able/willing to take care about unusual flights (dates outside the schedule, preferred flights, wants to travel with somebody etc...), requests after this deadline may result in either not fulfiled in favour of regular flight offer or applicant has to book on his own
  • check periodically the data for bookings and flights, do not rely on old data in datasheets - errors can occure because of cross updates or wrong copypastes
  • tell people to have *all* documents with them and have them all *in original* - no copy (but encourage them to make copies for backup)

Venue edit

  • Create own navigation, do not stick to their, they don't know our needs, much better marking of rooms and paths and overall navigation
  • be sure to know where aircondition control panel is, light panels are, internet equipment etc. so we can operat it ourselves in case of necessity
  • ensure about enough capacity of wifi (number of connections, reach) and power
  • There has to be some central "lobby" area (detached from the main hall) where people can both hang out and notifications can be clearly posted (on billboard, LCD, loudspeaker etc).
  • Ideally, everything has to happen on the same floor with all spaces within a short walking distance from each other.
  • 1 - main hall 2 - lobby 3 - smaller rooms for working groups 4 - informal rooms (like the lobby, but for work purposes)
  • additional small rooms for personal discussions / small groups / interviews etc. were very handy, try to have them always
  • WiFi! obvious!

IT edit

  • dedicated notebook (it can even be very cheap netbook, no need for any special performance) for showing static presentations (such as program, Twitterwall etc.) as well as for speakers presentations (ideally one ntb per beamer) is much more practical then rely on team people or particpants to use their own - especially team members need to have their ntbs handy

Team edit

  • set up the rights for assistant - what (s)he can decide him/herself and what not and must be confirmed by manager (applies to stuff like acceptance of higher price of flight, booking/rebooking of accomodation etc...)

Public info edit

  • publish the step by step procedure of issuing of invitation letters and flight tickets
  • Communicate better existence of Twitter hashtag, mailing list, IRC channel

Catering edit

  • be sure to have still water (at least tap one) available
  • knowing the provided snacks beforehand is handy - then we can buy our snacks to match (eg. if only salt snacks provided, we'll buy sweets etc...) or even nothing

Processes documentation edit

  • make notes continuously (like these ;-)) not retroactively

Funds and logistics edit

  • Flights are ever more expensive, and so many chapters rely on WMDE funding for that. I personally think another mechanism has to be found for this. If it's too expensive to fly in the ~40 chapters x 2 representatives, maybe the golden rule of everyone-is-coming has to be dropped. Another option: force even poor chapters to pay some symbolic share of the ticket price, say 10% or 20%. This way they "feel" they actually paid for the participation, and learn to appreciate it more. What you don't pay for, you never learn to appreciate.
  • My personal opinion as a spectator: it's crazy for WMDE to act as a travel agent taking care of all the minute details of flights and accommodation. The default should be for attendees to take care of that themselves based on some information and links provided by WMDE. Only very special cases (people flying for the first time in their lives, or from remote places, or with really bad English) need to be handled by WMDE.

Social Events edit

  • Welcome event - I'd say it wasn't very useful except for handing out the name badges. The place is rather small and the opportunity to mingle wasn't that much, people just sat with a couple of old friends.

Name badges edit

  • I think they were too perfect, with too much effort spent on making them so perfect. We could have had less sophisticated badges with less effort in preparing them. It's fine if they look less professional. Most people know each other well without them (which is a kind of problem in its own right).

Lessons learnt on the programme edit

Overall goal edit

  • how much politics, how much sharing - it's really dependent on the year. Not every year will be as political as 2012 - this year was special in many ways and the program just reflected that fact. But clearly smaller/younger chapters have different needs [more about starting out and what to actually do with their chapter status] than bigger/older chapters [more interested in politics, funding issues, governance etc], and maybe program tracks have to be aligned according to those lines.
  • The goals of the program have to reflect the "Zeitgeist" of the movement. Don't ignore what goes on - but reflect the happenings in the movement.
  • Be realistic about time and expectations
  • People will always be more caring about internal politics stuff.
  • Is it everyone's politics or just one or a few Chapters' politics - try to keep that apart.
  • A good mixture during the day and conf

Work-flow / Role of coordinator - conference staff (WMDE) - facilitators edit

  • Make roles clearer beforehand - go through the program in detail beforehand
  • room allocation
  • formats
  • influence by certain participants
  • what kind of participation do we include, what parts/aspects are we strict about?

Role of program coordinator edit

  • how independant is he/she - ideally, I'd say that s/he has to be totally independent. But there's no such thing as ideal. Various parties might try to influence the program, it's not necessarily a bad thing. The fact that a chapter (WMDE) is the "employer" can create a problem. Maybe this will change when the Chapter's Association comes into play.
  • There's a lack of input from the community on the program before the conference - people are just not interested enough, then in the last minute they suddenly have issues with the finalized program. So one way to force them to think and care about the program is to force attending chapters to have an active ("lead") role in a session. One can even say that otherwise they're not invited - the program has to be "theirs" to prepare - it's not some meal that someone else is cooking for them and they're just coming to eat.
  • try to get in touch with each chapter/participant personally, not via mailinglist or wikipages
  • Coordinate working groups (Open Thursday)

Role of the facilitators edit

  • facilitation during the conference
  • can give input regarding formats during schedule design

Program coordinator and facilitator working together edit

  • Who decides what?
  • Is program planning the facilitators' role?
  • A face to face meeting a few weeks before the conference can be beneficial, but if it works out just a couple of days before the conference (like this year), then it's not a biggy. But give it enough time, and some F2F meeting before the conference must take place.
  • Chemistry between facilitators and program manager :-)
  • Some attendees feel they are in a positoin to "bully" the program according to their will by "bullying" the program manager or the facilitators or anyone else :) How do you handle their requests without losing control of everything?
  • Don't be afraid to improvise during the conference and change session time slots, seating arrangements and all that.
  • OR: define clear roles (program manager, facilitators, WMDE as host, WMDE staff, etc.)- who's in charge about every thing. Roles can change from year to year to reflect the personalities of the specific people, but they have to be clear for each year individually.
  • Work as a team :) High-fives every end of day are cool :)
  • Make sure you have more wrap-ups (at least once a day).
  • Some experienced (and external?) conference progam organizer / facilitator has to review and comment on the program from a logistic POV: are the breaks long enough, are there many enough wrapups, room allocation makes sense etc etc. For this the specific layout of the venue has also to be clear.

Participation edit

  • Try to have the chapters send the right people who are really able to contribute anything to the conference. Maybe a rule has to be set up so that people can't come for the 3rd time to the conference (with some approved exceptions).
  • The board meeting, if it keeps colocating with the conference, should be made on the day before the conference, so that board members have a real chance to take part in the actual conference, and not just drop in for a couple of hours then disappear altogether.
  • Have the chapters (force them to?) send delegates who are capable of speaking English and representing their chapter in a representative and active/engaging/outgoing way. Ask them to "apply" for their attendance at the conference to make sure that people are really capable of the situation.

State of the chapters edit

  • Beloved or not, it's just too tiring now that we have ~40 chapters which pretty much do the same thing, and by the time the morning session is over it's almost lunchtime... I think we should drop it, and replace it with something else. If chapters take a more active role in leading the various discussions, the StoC sessions will become redundant anyways.
  • I liked the interview format, maybe we can have a panel discussion format - put together two or three chapters plus facilitator and share experiences on stage?
  • A new format could maybe solve this - one alternative could be a gallery walk based on the comp cards or a variation of that. I still like the intention behind State of the Chapters - sharing where you're at and what others are up to.

Documentation edit

  • Etherpads are great, but they work *only* if certain conditions are met:
    • There's actual something substantial to document (if not, then not - no point in just protocolling some kind of open discussion that has no documentable substance).
    • More than one person is taking part in the documentation, so the documentation becomes interactive.
    • They're projected on a wall
    • Nothing else is projected in parallel - speficially no graphical documentation a la Anna Lena
  • Graphic recording
    • documentation - it's most useful in big group discussions to see patterns emerge and make discussions more effective (less repetition etc.). There should be either a presentation/etherpad on the screen or the graphic recording, otherwise it will be hard for the participants to focus
    • entertainment - people like watching something being drawn. There's a certain fascination with it and it creates a good atmosphere in the room. It also creates somewhat of an emotional bond to the whole event. Hard to explain, but in the end it makes people smile.
      • I'm just asking myself if people are not too hypnothized by it, and it distracts from their attention. I don't know. >> from experience yes, they are "hypnotized", but as there is content being drawn, it actually focusses attention and people remember better later on
    • what is drawn will be easy to remembered when people look at the picture again
    • analogue or digital - should be decided according to the format and the room/group size

Formats edit

  • BarCamp format is nice and creative and was easily understood - but I'd suggest keeping it to one day (maybe 1.5 days) and towards the end of the conference, at least for another year. Maybe in 2014 or later we can try an even more open format such as open space.
  • ideally the formats should be chosen after the goal of the conference has been defined. Barcamp is a really good format for the practical part (sharing skills and getting things done). For political discussions other formats should be considered, such as keynotes, debates, discussions, panel sessions...
  • Formats are a tool to shape the dynamics of a conference. The overall process design should consider that people are most focused and effective when alternating between tension and relaxation. Whole group main hall discussions being an example for tension, barcamp for relaxation. In other words: closed and open formats.
  • suggestion: start a format toolbox where different formats (such as barcamp) are described. Whoever will be programme coordinator in the following years can use the toolbox as a resource and build on top of it.
  • agree on specific roles, scenarios - who does what in case a) b) c)...this year

Outcome of the conference edit

  • What are the outcomes, results, next steps for each participant to take?
    • New acquaintances
    • New ideas
    • New tools (software, practices, ...)
    • Better understanding of trends and developments in the movement
    • Learn something from more experienced chapters / from professionals
    • Tell the world you exist, feel proud with what what you did, increase feeling of belonging to the movement
    • (not individually, but as a group) - finish political or procedural processes (such as fundraising debates) that work in real life much better than on mailing lists
  • Following up on ideas that were discussed during the conference:
    • The conference as one stage in a year-long process of working together on various topics, instead of an indepent conference after which people go back to "normal".
    • "Global host" ("chapter workplan coordinator") - a paid staff position (with the chapters association) who coordinates chapters joint workplans all year round.
    • If chapters come better prepared, they also follow up on the conference better.
    • Have session "leads" take on responsibility for pushing forward the themes of their sessions also after the conference. The more they care about their topic, the better it'll be.

Barcamp format edit

  • What for: skill sharing, focused one-topic group discussions, action planning
  • What it is: open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants
  • How it works:
    • set up an empty schedule on the wall with time slots and rooms
    • gather all participants, introduce the format
    • ask people to come up with topics they'd like to talk about (i.e. "Small Chapter Development")
    • have them come up to the open grid /schedule, present their session proposal and have people raise their hands to see if there's interest
    • pin the session on the schedule
    • All attendees are encouraged to present or facilitate a session. Everyone is also asked to share information and experiences of the event via public web channels, including blogs, photo sharing, social bookmarking, twitter, wikis
    • once the schedule is done, post it online and write/print the sessions on a paper and put in on the door of each room
  • What you need:
    • Time: at least half a day. In 2012 we used all of Sunday which worked well. Another option could be to half two or three half days of barcamp

room set-up: small rooms according to the number of tracks (we had four in 2012 which seemed to be a good number)

    • Material: A4 paper and markers for the participants, a wall for the schedule, maybe a printer for the schedule
  • Recommendations:
    • 45-90 minute slots
    • assign a documentor