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Whether it's those of you who are preparing to go to Alexandria and
those of you who are going to get tired of hearing the stories from
those of you that did, you probably didn't expect to see that as a
subject line quite yet.
However, I'm writing this email now, to allow an ample amount of time in
advance of the bidding process to begin to set the dates. This is done
for several reasons; not the least of which to allow those interested in
bidding ample time for getting their bid ideas into place.
I believe that bringing up the dates for Wikimania 2009 was advantageous
for several reasons; the first being that it allows a specific 2009 team
to learn from the 2008 conference. The question now is whether bidding
for 2010 should take place in the fall, shortly after Wikimania 2008, to
take advantage of the momentum generated by the current conference,
while the event is still fresh in people's heads; or should we wait
until the beginning of 2009, like we did this year with Wikimania 2009.
I'm sure this will be somewhat of a discussion during this year's event.
~ I'd also like to involve as wide a representation of the community at
large in the process; this is why I'm sending this email out now, while
Wikimania is on people's minds.
Your continued donations keep Wikipedia running! Support the Wikimedia
Foundation today: http://donate.wikimedia.org
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Phone: 415.839.6885 x 601
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It's now been a week since I got back. I enjoyed the actual conference, and
meeting everyone in person. However, I have made up my mind that I never
want to go to Egypt again, nor the next Wikimania.
First off, the planning for this conference was pretty poor with regards to
information. What I mean is, I had to pester people on IRC to get any kind
of information regarding how to get to the shuttle, what to do on arrival
etc. The schedule the team was supposed to be following wasn't followed. The
scholarships were very late indeed, and when I finally received my "I'm
sorry, but..." email, I'd already booked.
The fact there was very little info *on the wiki* is atrocious. I had to
pester Mido on IRC several times a week, to try and squeeze any information
out. It got to about a week before I was due to leave, and still with no
answers to basic questions, I sent an email to this list, begging for
information. Eventually it was answered, but it was never put on the wiki. I
spoke to some people, who don't subscribe to this list, so didn't ever
receive this important information.
The whole shuttle thing was a disaster. We should not have needed to sign up
- just run a "shuttle" every 4 hours as stated. No where did you mention
where the shuttle would be on arrival (until I explicitly asked on the list,
even then it was wrong). The shuttle for me on return left at 7:30am when my
flight was at 5pm. Why was there not a later shuttle?
On arrival, I was with Charles Matthews, and we spent several hours waiting
at the airport, then we realised we were in the wrong hall. So, after
meeting with two other Wikimanians, we waited a further two hours for the
shuttle, which was very late. We arrived in Alexandria at 1am-ish. I was put
in a room that was a different one to the one I had been told I was in.
After a very nutritious breakfast, we went to the first day of the
conference bright and early. The schedule changed several times, there was a
lack of plugs in the halls, and some of the talks were frankly dull (this
applies to all three days).
There was not really anywhere suitable to go for lunch, so we sort of sat
around on the floor... not good. How did Alexandria get chosen in this
respect - the social areas were basically non existent.
On returning to the dorms, I found that I had to change rooms, again, still
not to the one that I was put into originally. The beds were rather hard, no
sheets were provided, and there was no toilet paper in the toilets (luckily
I had brought my own as I imagined something as basic as that would be left
The next two days went similarly I suppose. The end of conference party was
done badly again. Why did we have to get a sticker? No one even checked I
had one when I got onto the coach. The party was OK, and the food was
probably the best I had the entire time I was there.
I left the next day, with Brianmc (sharing a cab). We got to Cairo airport,
but the wrong terminal for me. I had to make my own way to Terminal 1, after
being tricked by someone into paying money I shouldn't have had to to get
there. I was then harrassed by a man who claimed to be an "honest policeman"
who charged me £300 EGP for the use of his cab. He wouldn't let me leave,
even after I spilt water in his car. I tried to walk away, and he grabbed my
arm demanding I paid him. I don't think I'd ever felt so awful in my life.
It was the most horrible experience of the conference. Why are people like
that allowed to roam about the airport, looking for weak, defenceless (and
rich) tourists like myself? It's ridiculous.
I am still struggling to see how Egypt was chosen to host Wikimania. Yes,
the people at the conference were nice and friendly, and the conference was
enjoyable enough, with a few minor issues, but the country itself is the
worst I have ever been to. You cannot cross the road without risking being
killed by the mad drivers (who beep at all hours of the day for no apparent
reason). They should save painting lanes on the roads, as no one bothers
following them. There was a family living in the street, the same street the
BA is situated on. Just goes to show what a mix of life there is.
I was so disturbed and put off by my experience of Egpyt, there is no way
I'd consider going to Buenos Aires. While I'm sure they are very different
places, I don't want to risk anything like the harrassment, the poor hygene,
the dangerous roads and the poor organisation again. It'll be way too
expensive for me as well, and I doubt I'd get a scholarship. I'd rather go
somewhere closer to the UK where I live, or where the culture is more
similar to here.
I'm sorry my words are harsh. This is not a dig at anyone, just my honest
concerns about how this whole thing turned out. I know for sure others feel
the same way I do about a lot of the things I said.
For the people who were at Wikimania, there was a lengthy thank-you
session at the end where we got to applaud the volunteers and staff
who worked hard on the conference. But I would just like to reiterate
that, and give my personal thanks to:
* Mido, for leading the bid and planning (with all of the stress for
months on end that entails -- just ask any of the former organizers),
thereby giving many of us the chance to meet our Egyptian colleagues
and have a great conference
* Moushira -- I recognized and sympathized with the way you were
frantically running around during the conference :)
* Nada, Abdel, Ahmed, and lots and lots of other people I didn't meet
(and people I did meet but can't remember the names of); you guys
pulled it off!
* The BA staff generally, but especially Drs. Ismail Serageldin and
Noha Adly for being supportive of the conference, for putting the
considerable organizational weight of the BA behind it, and for
offering up your resources and space to us; I hope that we are able to
work together in the future, as two organizations with truly shared
* Delphine, as always, for tying up a thousand loose ends,
coordinating Foundation-side work, making reconnaissance trips to
Alexandria, and on and on :)
* The Foundation staff, especially Jay and Cary for getting little
things done like press and scholarships
* Lodewijk and Jakob for doing nearly all the organizational work on
the program, off-site and on; and all the program reviewers
But thanks especially to everyone who showed up, especially those who
took the risk of flying in from far away, and those who came from
nearby who didn't know much about Wikipedia and wanted to find out
more. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. I did not
work on the organization of this year's conference as much as in past
years, so I got the somewhat novel experience of going as an attendee
-- you get to attend sessions that way, it turns out :)
Here were some of my favorite parts of this year's conference:
* Learning more about the Arabic Wikipedia and the challenges it
faces; listening to a heated debate in the lightning talks about
whether educated Egyptians should contribute in Arabic or English
* Learning about the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's efforts to digitize
their Arabic-language collection, using OCR software they developed
* Meeting some of the librarians of the Bibliotheca Alexandria,
especially the children's librarians and my compatriots the reference
librarians; giving an ad-hoc talk to them about how Wikipedia works
* teaching a dozen Egyptian children how to make sockpuppets
* 75 piastre (15 US cents) falafel (especially hearing Mako wax
enthusiastic about the falafel all weekend)
* eating (delicious!) fish in a restaurant overlooking the
Mediterranean while talking about academic impressions of Wikipedia
* getting to applaud the third! Board Chair of the Foundation; it
really does feel like the organization is finally mature
* being in Egypt itself (despite being hot and sick): things like
getting in a taxi then waiting for the driver to fix his engine before
we could go; sitting out on the corniche in the evening along with
everyone else; finally realizing how small the Sphinx actually is
compared to the pyramids
* Singing "I Will Revise" at the final party
In my personal view, Wikimania shouldn't be thought of as just a
holiday, a chance to meet friends, a way to introduce the projects to
people in the local community, or a way to have organizational
business meetings, though of course it is all of those things.
Wikimania is above all a chance to start projects -- to take the
relationships that we've all built by meeting people we knew online
(and those we didn't) and make them stronger, and take the things
we've collectively learned -- about the Foundation, the place where
the conference was, and the various projects that the attendees
represented -- and then make those projects stronger. For me, the
success of this year's Wikimania will be measured for in large part
not just by the last couple of weeks but by what happens next --
whether the Foundation collaborates with the BA to host public-domain
Arabic texts, whether the Arabic-language media takes a stronger
interest in writing about Wikipedia, whether the many new people who
showed up start editing Wikipedia, and whether the rest of us who
attended have renewed inspiration to work on Wikimedia projects and
stay in touch with one another, to follow up on all those
Finally, do keep the comments coming about Wikimania, good and bad; as
Patricio said, we do have another conference to work on and input is
great. Beyond that, we have the future of Wikimania to plan -- 2010
and beyond. There is going to be an effort to formally collect
feedback soon as well, and I hope all of you will participate. This
conference is ultimately a community effort, for the community; and
it's something that everyone interested should help shape.
-- Phoebe, who is already looking forward to next year
p.s. there's a whole lot of people that I didn't get the chance to say
goodbye to in person. By the last night, I had entirely lost my voice
and was basically unable to talk -- just at the moment when I most
wanted to talk to many of you. So I guess I'm making up for it by
writing this very long email :)
Alexandria was a blast, and over much too fast. I'm still processing the
photos I took (my camera was imediately snagged by my friend Julia who is
off in Thailand this week, and I forgot to offload my SD card), but I hope
to share the images from the children's library, which was fabulous. And
the last night of revelry... Thanks to everyone who helped pull off such a
delightful event! For those who couldn't make it this year, I think what I
missed most was the lack of Calvinball -- but the beach and the artefact
museum hidden in the basement of the venue more than made up for it.
I was particularly cheered by the interest and participation from local
students and hackers, and need to finish learning Arabic so that I can
follow up on ar:wp . Is there an Arabic-language overview of the
conference and related press that I can point people to? And do we have a
shared delicious tagset?
Regards to new friends and old -- say hello on Skype if you see me -- and I
hope we may meet again soon, one way or another;
+1 617 529 4266
I know that many Wikimania attendees are staying in Egypt a bit longer for
sightseeing or whatever. If you will be in Cairo at anytime after the
conference and would like to meetup with other Wikimedians, please sign up
on this page or let me know:
* http://wikimania2008.wikimedia.org/wiki/Cairo -
I am busy with my university program in Cairo, but will have some free time
in the late afternoon and/or evenings. There are also organized tours (see
the booth) if that's what you prefer. What I can help organize are informal
activities. We could meet-up for dinner, a felucca ride on the Nile, go to
Khan al-Khalili, or whatever.
I can't believe those 3 days came to an end so soon
I can't say how much I was happy with the organization of this and how it
got to show such terrific end-result, that was really awesome for all of us
I'd like to ask you one favor to send ALL of your comments about Wikimania
2008, that's important for us all and specially for the WM09 team whom we
were delighted to host their lead, Patricio, in the closing ceremony of the
Most importantly please share your special moments with us all here on the
list or on the wiki
Please share your photos on Wikimedia Commons, categorized under Wikimania
Tag your photos as Wikimania2008 on Flickr, upload to Google albums, to
write about it in your blogs, user pages, etc..
share what you have guys with the rest who didn't make it.
Wikimania 2008 volunteers pictures are currently on a facebook group at <
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=60160250547&ref=ts> more to come soon
for Egyptians, share your ideas with us what could be our next step, we will
not stop to the conference.
we need your help!
Thank you all!
on behalf of the Wikimania organizing team,
Mido aka "Mohamed Ibrahim"
Fran Lebowitz - "Food is an important part of a balanced diet."
I would like to issue another reminder for people to upload photos to
I know a lot of people photographed me in my kilt and Wikinews T-shirt.
Anyone seen any of these photos online?
I tried to upload my slides and be disallowed. I got the message
"".odp" is not a permitted file type. Permitted file types are png,
gif, jpg, jpeg, xcf, pdf, mid, ogg, svg, djvu."
ODP is safe for us I think ... can we allow the users to upload just .odp??
If I need to convert it into ... what is your recommendation?
http://d.hatena.ne.jp/Britty (in Japanese)
Quote of the Day (English): http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/WQ:QOTD
I'd just like to take the time to send this email to thank all those
involved in planning and organising such a great Wikimania conference.
It was great to be able to watch the streaming from here in Australia, and a
big thanks to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's ICT team for that!
If you'd like to view any of the archived streams, you can see them at
English Wikipedia Administrator
Wikimania 2008 Online Team Member