This session documentation was approved by one of the speakers.
The Wikimedia Conference has grown from a small event with a dedicated scope and audience to a conference with more than 150 participants and a broad range of topics and expectations. In this session, we would like to start the conversation about the future of this conference and reflect on questions like: What is the purpose of this conference? Is the current format, scope and audience still the best way to fulfil this purpose? How can we improve the programme development process? How can we make sure expectations are met? How can we make the Conference more sustainable?
Presenting learnings and experiences identifying common challenges. Participants get useful advice from peers about problems they face.
Nicole opened the session with her view on the Wikimedia Conference. In her point of view, the schedule shows too many isolated sessions and topics; it is trying to cover all and nothing. Many sessions are lectures and participants are not encouraged to contribute. She fears that is is not clear to everyone what their contribution actually should be and what they can get out of it and bring back home. WMDE has introduced the Program and Engagement Coordinator for the first time this year, to secure sustainability and continuous engagement. But his success is depending on the content the program team created and the level of engagement of the participants.
She sees three main topics at the current conference: Strategy/movement roles questions, capacity building and socializing. She stressed that meetings away from keyboard are essential for the movement to develop trust and empathy. This should be acknowledged when designing this
conference. But what she thinks this conference should also be is an efficient working meeting, one that brings real results. She added that all three parts are important and essential for the conference, but is considering splitting up the different themes in separate tracks or even separate events.
Jan-Bart attended several WMCONs and knows most of the participants. He expressed his feeling that there is an increasing difference between experienced and well-known attendees on the one side and newcomers on the other side. Asaf seconded Jan-Bart and added that the conference became bigger and the content changed over the last years. However, he said that he sees an improvement, as previously the sessions were not as prepared and planned as they are today. He also noted an improvement of the programme itself in the last year. In his opinion, the session should be a place for actual discussions and actual skill sharing. He expressed the wish for better preparation of contents by the participants to further improve the conference.
After this introduction, the audience split into several groups and worked on different profiles of a typical conference attendee they could choose from (for example newbie, experienced board member, experienced staff member, new volunteer etc.). Having done the group work, the facilitators picked several groups and asked them to explain the “Typical journey of a WMCON attendee” they had worked on. Unfortunately, these posters got lost during the conference.
Several groups presented their posters, then the stage was opened for further questions, feedback and comments.
Three participants commented that they would like to have to a programme divided by tracks with specific topics such as governance or metrics. They said that a division is not necessarily bad as long as a mentorship relation between experienced and newer ones is kept.
One participant suggested to add tags for the knowledge level for sessions, similar to the language tags ("babels"). One participant commented that the former title "Chapters Conference" was no more appropriate when to user groups etc. came, but Wikimedia Conference weren’t correct either. S/he proposed "Wikimedia Affiliates Conference” to be a good title for the conference.
Nicole closed the session with appreciating the feedback and comments and pointed out that aspects were really important, e.g. the missing invitations for the conference. She added that WMDE will take the lead to come up with an improved concept for the next conferences, based on the participants’ input and closely coordinated with the WMF. This proposal will then be presented to the movement to gather feedback and finalise the concept.