A few posts ago I mentioned I’d be volunteering at Wikimania 2014. If you’re in any way connected with me on (other) social media platforms, you’d know I was there because I kept posting about things that blew my mind every day for a week. (sorry.) But now it’s time for a proper blog post about it.
When the call for conference volunteers went out, I jumped at the chance. Wikipedia is an amazing project, and do I want to hang out with the over 2000 people from all over the world who are making it happen? Yeah go on then. I had some specific questions, of course the ‘why don’t more women do this’, or generally, ‘why don’t more people in my otherwise broad network do this’. I wanted to learn the basics, so that I can contribute to my specialist subject ‘the Hare Krishnas’ – religion being one of the hotly contested subjects on Wikipedia. And generally I wanted to immerse myself in this new network.
I wasn’t disappointed on any of these counts.
Here are a few things I learned. Wikipedia, open knowledge, Creative Commons seem to be part of a movement which stands in direct contrast to Silicon Valley capitalism, even culturally. When German Wikipedia users wanted to keep in touch with other Wikipedians they met in real life, they called the new platform ‘Persönliche Bekanntschaften‘ – it’s now being developed globally. No fancy made up words, just a title describing the thing. Rather than everyone wanting to be a founder of the next big thing, everyone is contributing. I feel so much more at home in such an environment.
This would also explain why there isn’t a whole lot of crossover with the Wikimedia and the social media community. Social Media – lots of platforms that are businesses and people who just have to adapt to the business decisions the platforms make – V Wikis which are the ultimate democracy. Nobody wants to deny that social media are still hugely useful right at this moment. But in the long term, I would argue that Wikimedia projects deserve at least the same amount of attention. So all of us who hang out on social media and get most of our news from social media need to actively look to the other side of the ideological fence, just to make sure we’re not missing anything.
Another bugbear of mine – the fact that social media platforms don’t feel the need to support people (like me) who make an effort to offer training and who get people to use them properly. Absolutely none whatsoever. (Twitter. I haven’t even been able to get near enough to talk to them about it. Imagine how much their development would benefit if they kept in touch with people who train new users.)
For Wikimedia, the organisation running Wikipedia, supporting people who support and train new editors is a central theme. GLAM outreach (which is both actually glam and also stands for Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), edu outreach which goes into universities – all are very organised, all are open for conversations around new ideas, even actively inviting them. I like that, so I will keep going to meetups. (The next one being on the 12 September if you are that way inclined.)
A few personal highlights:
The first person I actually sat down with to ask them questions at the Hackathon, before the start of the conference, turned out to be Doc James. He also happens to be running WikiprojectMed. Which I learned a bit more about during the conference, and in the end I gave a twitter lesson to the lovely Carl Fredrik from Sweden (and you should obviously all follow them on twitter.)
That time when I said to Professor Bar-Yam that I had written a blog post during his talk, and he said ‘show me’. Oooops….
Those (estimated) 37 times during the conference when I turned around to have a chat with the person randomy standing next to or behind me, and they turned out to be another amazing Wikipedian.
The women’s lunch where I met LiAnna from the Wiki Education Foundation who told me about how they are innovating the use of Wikipedia in education. (if you’ve been in education lately you’ll know teachers like to complain about the mere existence of Wikipedia, but did you know Wikimedia has an answer for them? How about asking students to write a wikipedia article instead of an essay, for example?)