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Introduction to Wikimania/Notes

From Wikimania


Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.

In January 2001, Wikipedia was started as a feeder project for Nupedia, an encyclopedia that was going to be written by experts and put online for free.

After two years, Nupedia was taken offline because Wikipedia was so much better. Before Wikipedia was four years old, there were versions in over 160 languages, and by the time it was seven years old, it was the biggest encyclopedia in human history. Nobody, not even the people who started it, had expected this. As one user said: "Wikipedia only works in practice. In theory, it's a stupid idea."

In 2003, when Wikipedia was two years old, it started getting expensive to run, so the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation was created to raise money and run the project.

Building on the success of Wikipedia, a number of other collaborative projects followed, starting with Wiktionary in December 2002, and with WikiVoyage finally becoming a full Wikimedia project in 2013.

At least as far back as 2003, Wikimedians started meeting in person and organising into user groups, and since 2004 they started creating official national organisations (chapters).

The work required to fulfill the vision of our movement is done by two groups of people:

  • The volunteers who work unpaid to write content, create online tools, and organise their work locally and globally, online and offline.
  • The employees of the Wikimedia Foundation and the various affiliated groups who raise funds, write software, manage organisations, run servers and provide legal defense.

Introduction to Wikimania: Program and resources

Wikimania is structured like a scientific symposium. There are posters, booths, workshops, exhibitions and talks. There is so much amazing content that it's sometimes difficult to remember what you want to attend next.

My recommendations:

  • Join the social media groups listed at Delegates Connect. There you can ask questions and get answers quickly. Telegram is particularly useful, but you'll probably have to mute notifications.
  • Check out the talks on the online program beforehand. Look what seems interesting to you, and follow the link to see more detail about the talk.
  • Use the paper copy of the program to mark which talks you want to attend, and make sure you know which room is where.
  • You will probably find that you can't attend all the talks you want to attend. Some of them will be recorded, so you can watch them again later, and if you tell a speaker that you couldn't attend their talk but really want to know more about the topic, they'll almost always be able to make time to talk to you.
  • Talk to people. Tell them you're new. Wikimedians love telling new users all about the things that excite them about the projects. You don't have to know whom to talk to: just go up to anyone who looks as if they know what's going on around them and say "Who can tell me about X?" You're sure to get help.
  • You don't have to sit alone. Ask any group of people "Can I join you?" and ask them about what they've seen, what they're doing, etc.
  • Attend meetups. They're a great way to meet Wikimedians who share your interests.

Major themes of Wikimania

The theme of Wikimania 2018 is "Bridging knowledge gaps, the ubuntu way forward." That means that we want to open a two-way communication:

  • The people who can't or don't access the knowledge provided by our projects need to be given the tools to access it.
  • The people who are under-represented on our projects need to get the opportunity to share their knowledge with the rest of the world.

Ubuntu is a word that means "humanity", in the sense of "humanity towards others", or the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all people.

The talks on the program are arranged according to various subthemes.

  • Access (What is blocking our readers and editors from accessing our projects?)
  • Advocacy (How can we better advocate for free knowledge?)
  • Africa (Issues specifically affecting Africa)
  • Collaboration (What is standing in the way of our users collaborating effectively with each other?)
  • Communication (Communicating between cultures, between users, etc.)
  • Education (Wikimedia in Education, both as a source of information and using editing as a learning tool)
  • GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums)
  • Language (Language support, multilingualism, supporting minor languages, etc.)
  • Offline (Accessing Wikimedia without an internet connection)
  • Outreach (Connecting to new editors and new communities)
  • Research (Learning about how Wikipedia is used, how it grows, who uses it for what, etc.)
  • Strategy (What should we be doing to ensure that we keep delivering our vision while the world changes)
  • Technology (New features and tools to make Wikimedia projects better)
  • Wikidata (The database that holds statements in a form that can be used by all our projects.)

Inclusiveness and Friendly Space Policy

Wikimedians as a group care deeply about inclusiveness: we will fail in our quest to make the sum of human knowledge available to everyone if we don't include everyone. That's why Wikimania abides by the Wikimedia Foundation's friendly space policy.

You should read the whole policy (it's not long), but the basics are:

  • Don't make offensive comments related to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, physical appearance, age, race, ethnicity, political affiliation, national origin, or religion.
  • Don't display sexual images in public spaces
  • Don't intimidate or stalk people.
  • Don't follow, photograph or record people if they don't want you to.
  • Don't disrupt talks
  • Don't touch people inappropriately or give anyone unwelcome sexual attention.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by special badges, and you can also come to the information desk.

The Wikimedia Foundation

Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation

The Wikimedia Foundation exists to keep the Wikimedia projects running. It is led by the Executive Director, currently Katherine Maher.

The staff of the WMF

  • takes and manages donations
  • runs the servers that host the projects
  • provides legal support to make sure that our work stays free when companies and governments try to attack us
  • along with volunteers, writes and improves the software (for example MediaWiki)
  • supports the community, by providing funding and supporting the management of user organisations
  • supports community initiatives like cooperation with cultural institutions
  • helps to organise community meetings like Wikimania
  • administers the WMF (HR, financial reporting, etc.)

Wikimedia Foundation Board

The WMF Board of Trustees oversees the foundation and its work. It makes strategic resolutions on what needs to be done, and delegates the implementation of those decisions to the committees.

The board is made up of:

  • Jimmy Wales, as founder
  • two affiliate seats selected by the Wikimedia chapters and thematic organizations
  • three seats nominated by the Wikimedia community
  • four seats appointed by the rest of the Board for specific expertise

The board:

Photo Name Seat Role Term ends Notes
Alice Wiegand (User:Lyzzy) Appointed Wikimania 2018 Reappointed on December 23, 2016

Christophe Henner (User:Schiste)

Affiliates Chair Wikimania 2019 Appointed on June 23, 2016
Dr. Dariusz Jemielniak (User:Pundit) Community Wikimania 2020 Appointed on August 10, 2017
Esra'a Al Shafei Appointed Wikimania 2020 Appointed on November 18, 2017

Dr. James Heilman (User:Doc James)

Community Wikimania 2020 Appointed on August 10, 2017
Jimmy Wales (User:Jimbo Wales) Founder Chair Emeritus December 31, 2018 Reappointed on November 7, 2015
Kelly Battles Appointed Wikimania 2018 Appointed on December 9, 2015
María Sefidari (User:Raystorm) Community Vice Chair Wikimania 2020 Appointed on August 10, 2017
Nataliia Tymkiv (User:NTymkiv (WMF)) Affiliates Wikimania 2019 Appointed on June 23, 2016
Raju Narisetti Appointed Wikimania 2020 Appointed on October 5, 2017

Wikimedia Foundation Community Committees

The decisions of the Wikimedia Foundation board are carried out by committees made up of volunteers and employees.

Four very important volunteer committees are:

  • Affiliations Committee (AffCom)
    • Supports new movement affiliates (user groups, chapters and thematic organisations) and advises the board on their approval.
  • Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC)
    • Makes decisions on funding users, groups and organisations to support our volunteers and deliver our mission.
  • Language committee (Langcom)
    • Supports and evaluates new language editions of our projects
    • Supports new script and localization development and policy
  • Elections Committee
    • Oversees elections to the board and the FDC

Wikimedia affiliates

There are three kinds of organisations that are affiliated to the Wikimedia Foundation, and help volunteers to promote their work. The Affiliations Committee helps Wikimedians from all around the world self-organise into chapters, thematic organisations and user groups, and to gain official recognition from the Wikimedia Foundation.

User Groups

User groups are the simplest form of affiliation. All a user group needs is an established contact person and a history of delivering projects. User groups don't have to be incorporated, and they are granted limited use of the Wikimedia marks for publicity related to events and projects. At first, a user group typically gets recognized for a year, and this recognition gets extended if things go well.


A Wikimedia Chapter is an incorporated independent non-profit organisation that represents the Wikimedia movement, and is focused on supporting the movement work within a geography (e.g. in a country or region). Chapters use a name that clearly links them to Wikimedia (e.g. Wikimedia New York City or Wikimedia Deutschland) and can use Wikimedia trademarks for their work, publicity, and fundraising.

Thematic Organisations

Thematic organisations are basically just like chapters, but not geographically based. There is at the moment only one thematic organisation, namely Amical Wikimedia, which focuses on the Catalan language and culture.

Wikimedia projects

Content on most Wikimedia Foundation websites is licensed for redistribution under the Attribution and Share-alike Creative Commons licenses. This content is sourced from contributing volunteers and from resources with few or no copyright restrictions, such as copyleft material and works in the public domain.

Content projects

In addition to Wikipedia, the foundation operates ten other wikis that follow the free content model with their main goal being the dissemination of knowledge. These include, by launch date:

Name: Wikipedia
Description: online encyclopedia
Website: https://www.wikipedia.org
Launched: January 15, 2001
Editions: more than 290 in over 250 languages
Alexa rank: 5
Name: Wiktionary
Description: online dictionary and thesaurus
Website: https://www.wiktionary.org
Launched: December 12, 2002
Editions: more than 270 languages and in Simple English
Alexa rank: 503
Name: Wikibooks
Description: collection of textbooks
Website: https://www.wikibooks.org
Launched: July 10, 2003
Alexa rank: 1,986
Name: Wikiquote
Description: collection of quotations
Website: https://www.wikiquote.org
Launched: July 10, 2003
Alexa rank: 4,060
Name: Wikivoyage
Description: travel guide
Website: https://www.wikivoyage.org
Launched: July 2003 as Wikitravel
Forked: December 10, 2006 (German language)
Re-launched: January 15, 2013 by WMF in English language
Alexa rank: 24,186
Name: Wikisource
Description: digital library
Website: https://www.wikisource.org
Launched: November 24, 2003
Alexa rank: 3,673
Name: Wikimedia Commons
Description: repository of images, sounds, videos, and general media
Website: https://commons.wikimedia.org
Launched: September 7, 2004
Name: Wikispecies
Description: taxonomic catalogue of species
Website: https://species.wikimedia.org
Launched: September 14, 2004
Name: Wikinews
Description: online newspaper
Website: https://www.wikinews.org
Launched: November 8, 2004
Alexa rank: 70,278
Name: Wikiversity
Description: collection of tutorials and courses, while also serving as a hosting point to coordinate research
Website: https://www.wikiversity.org
Launched: August 15, 2006
Alexa rank: 11,687
Name: Wikidata
Description: knowledge base
Website: https://www.wikidata.org
Launched: October 30, 2012
Alexa rank: 13,467

Infrastructure and coordination projects

Several additional projects exist to provide infrastructure or coordination of the free knowledge projects. For instance, Outreach gives guidelines for best practices on encouraging the use of Wikimedia sites. These include:

Name: Meta-Wiki
Description: central site for coordinating all projects and the Wikimedia community
Website: https://meta.wikimedia.org
Name: Wikimedia Incubator
Description: for language editions in development
Website: https://incubator.wikimedia.org
Name: MediaWiki
Description: helps coordinate work on MediaWiki software
Website: https://www.mediawiki.org
Name: Wikitech
Alias: Wikimedia Cloud Services (WMCS), formerly known as "Wikimedia Labs"
Description: technical projects and infrastructure
Website: https://wikitech.wikimedia.org