Wikipedia is because we are
A wholly thematic conference this year, Wikimania in Cape Town focused on the African continent, coinciding with celebrations recognizing the birth of Nelson Mandela a hundred years ago.
"Two things: there's a need for African knowledge and perspectives to help inform and build a better, stronger Wikipedia, both in English and other international language versions of Wikipedia as well as in their own language", says Douglas Scott, president of Wikimedia South Africa, while talking to anchor Rene Del Carme of CGTN America in Cape Town at the conference venue. "The second one is for us, as an existing community of editors, is how can we be more inclusive but still maintain the ethos that we have of trying to present a neutral point of view, fact-checking, all that sort of stuff – basically, be a better encyclopedia. But we can't be a better encyclopedia without a diversity of opinions and voices in our community."
"The challenges in Africa are mostly lack of infrastructure for Internet and affordability of Internet, inability of people to be able to access Internet-enabled devices", Felix Nartey, the 2017 Wikipedian of the Year, tells Del Carme. "Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia. Everybody can edit it and nobody gets paid for editing Wikipedia; however, the spirit of volunteerism – that is not embedded in our culture."
Focus on the Foundation
With no fewer than 31 Wikimedia Foundation employees making presentations (some of them several), and many more attending, it would not be too great a leap to assume that the conference once more is a staff event focused on the work of the Foundation. This is in contrast to what one would assume and expect it to be: an event driven by the unpaid volunteers who provide the content, maintain the projects, organise the events, and select its scholarships and programmes. Of the 79 slots in the official programme, 22 were filled by the Foundation – that's nearly 28% (not far from a third!), with one employee alone occupying no less than four of the available slots with topics as diverse as:
- A Gentle Introduction to Wikidata for Absolute Beginners + Wikidata Query Tutorial – part 1 & part 2 (85 minutes each);
- What can we learn from the Feminist movement for knowledge equity? (25 minutes); and
- Building capacity with communities: WMF's Community Capacity Development program (25 minutes).
Nevertheless, they were well-presented and were facilitated by a seasoned and routined public speaker. Four presentations in the timetable were given by the German Wikimedia chapter, as well.
- "Don't photo me!"
- "Don't touch me!"
- "Don't look at me!"
- "Don't talk to me!"
An unfortunate incident involving a well-known, well-liked, and enthusiastic volunteer organiser caused a storm on the Wikimania public mailing list. The actual details have not been released and probably never will be, but the volunteer – banned from further activity by James Alexander, manager of Trust & Safety – was sufficiently concerned about the extent of his punishment to post his experience on the mailing list.
The vast majority of comments came out strongly in support of the volunteer, but by some 20 or 30 emails later the discussion had mutated into a call for a variety of warning badges or stickers to be worn by conference attendees. Suggestions range from the stickers to limiting the use of cameras to authorised photographers. The exchange continues.
Under the directorship of Jan Eissfeldt, Trust and Safety (T&S) serves the Wikimedia Foundation, contributors, and the public by providing support to Foundation initiatives with a focus on community consultations, governance, and training. Formerly called Support and Safety (SuSa) and Community Advocacy, the team addresses trust and safety concerns – including threats communicated on our projects – and helps ensure the safety of attendees at Foundation-supported events. It comprises a team of no fewer than nine employees and is also responsible for conduct at Wikimania.
As of publication, the organisers have not released any attendance figures.