It's a lot of work, last week before Wikimania Mexico the coordination team slept less than 4 hours each day. But for me being honest was not a shaming time, was great. And we can have people intended to keep Wikimania annual and run similar challenges.

Harry, we had here 72 committed volunteers working without paid and we are not a major developed economy.

Darius, I think that "motivations criris afterward" must also be considered in the planning and prior call for Wikimanía volunteers and can be avoided. In Mexico we always tell to people that we did not want them just for giving the best of themselves for three days around, but we wanted to keep them with Wikimedia mission. A month ago we broke a Guinness record and 60% of attendees were Wikimania volunteers. It is a matter of long preplanning, I think.

2016-07-10 15:03 GMT-05:00 Harry Mitchell <>:
Yes, London was big, and the two Wikimaniae since have been on a smaller scale, but I'm not sure a ~1,000-person conference is significantly less of a headache than a ~2,000-person conference, and actually I'd wager that Esino was more logistically complicated due to the location - for example having to arrange buses to Varenna and the airports (which were around 50 miles away). Not that that should be taken as a criticism of the Esino team - they did a fantastic job in a beautiful location and I'd love to have another 'scenic Wikimania'.

I'll let Ed tell you about what he did. I know I saw him spend a lot of time dealing with the venue and the programme and discussing finance and logistics, but I'm sure there are lots of other things. Speaking for myself: those volunteers in red shirts? That was my contribution. The volunteers on the helpdesks, running sessions, meeting and greeting, tweeting, photographing, doing odd jobs and generally making things run smoothly ... I recruited most of them*, got to know them, trained them, split them into teams, did a lot of the scheduling (easier said than done - lots of moving parts!). During the conference, they looked after the attendees, and I looked after them. And I've never worked with such an amazing group of people. It was a truly humbling experience, but it was a lot of work. At one point I was receiving something like 200 emails a day just relating to Wikimania and was having to set aside time at the start and end of the day to answer the ones that didn't require an immediate response. I also devised the scheme of reporting and emergency/contingency planning for volunteers (thankfully this wasn't necessary, but the death of a Wikimedian at that year's Wikimedia Conference was painfully fresh in our memories), and spent a lot of time trying to drum up and channel interest within the UK Wikimedian community. I'm sure there were other things, but those roles alone took up a significant amount of time - certainly in excess of 40 hours a week in the final few weeks before the conference.

*(Not wishing to take credit from anyone else; I worked closely with lots of other people on all these things, particularly Hera Hussain, and Fabian Tompsett and Chris McKenna who were at the time employed by Wikimedia UK.)   

Harry Mitchell
Skype: harry_j_mitchell

On Sun, Jul 10, 2016 at 7:40 PM, Lodewijk <> wrote:
Thanks Harry, Ed,

Of course London was a bit of an exceptionally big Wikimania - but did you evaluate your effort somewhere, and note what you spent your time on somewhere? Just to get an impression which components take most effort (as Dariusz suggested)? 


2016-07-10 20:25 GMT+02:00 Harry Mitchell <>:
I agree with Ed here. Organising a conference of this size is a huge undertaking to ask of volunteers. I wouldn't want to see Wikimania go down the road of being organised by a team of professional conference organisers because then it would lose the organic community feel that makes it so special, but we shouldn't rule out stipends for the local team. Otherwise we end up with the slightly odd situation of the WMF or local chapter bringing in paid staff to fill gaps left by volunteers but the volunteers still effectively working full-time unpaid. I had a much smaller role in 2014 than Ed and others and was fortunate to be in a position to dedicate a lot of time to it; I certainly wouldn't be in a position now to devote as much time as I did for free and without wishing to speak for Ed, I doubt he would be either even if he was willing. 

If that's a problem in major developed economies, I'd imagine it would be even more of a problem in places where people have less disposable income.

Harry Mitchell
Skype: harry_j_mitchell

On Sun, Jul 10, 2016 at 4:22 PM, Edward Saperia <> wrote:
Thanks for that comment, Dariusz;

Wikimania London took over two years of preparation, and occupied me full time for six months in the run up to the event. It's a massive undertaking, and in retrospect it seems deeply unfair to expect volunteers to do this.

There was a bidding process, so there was heavy pressure to minimise/understate the budget - which mostly comes at the cost of the volunteers. I think the community just has to be more realistic about what it costs to put on a 1000+ person event.

Were I to do it again I would absolutely include subsistence for the organising team in the budget. It needs professional commitment and professional skills, even with WMF staff support.

I do think that the movement deserves an annual event, and particularly that the WMF should capitalise on it more from a comms perspective. Wiki*edia is a significant entity and we should be presenting ourselves as such.

Edward Saperia
Conference Director Wikimania London
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In the same time, I've seen the following problems over the years, not directly linked to the financial cost (which in the face of our relative financial stability can be justified by the benefits, depending on how we define them):
- huge WMF staff involvement (most Wikimanias run smoothly also thanks to countless hours put in by the staff),
- huge volunteer local organizers involvement (in fact, my observation is that many chapters organizing WIkimanias suffer from a motivation crisis afterward). 


While we can get the money (at least for now), the human involvement cost is something I would not dare to dismiss just by emphasizing the benefits of Wikimania for the movement.


Instead of discussing whether we should have a Wikimania every year or not, perhaps we should try to list and discuss the reasons why it is such a big strain? If it is clear  that we can't afford it every year (because of the human cost, probably more importantly than the finances), the decision to break with the annual format will be a natural consequence of such an analysis.  

Dariusz Jemielniak ("pundit", a current Trustee). 

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