A Barn raising is an event during which a community comes together to
assemble a barn for one or more of its households (...). In the past, a
barn was often the first, largest, and most costly structure built by a
family who settled in a new area. Barns were essential structures for
storage of hay and keeping of horses and cattle, which in those days
were an inseparable part of farming.
Barn raising occurs when a community actively decides to come to the
same place at the same time to help achieve some specific goal. The goal
may be of direct interest to a subset of the community or it may be a
superordinate goal, of interest to the entire community, such as an
Make the impossible possible. It's pretty much impossible for one person
to raise alone a barn. The main part of the process is taking two framed
walls that have been built lying on the ground and raising them to
vertical. Thus barn raising demands collaboration in a way that other
activities do not.
Make friends. A barn raising tends to be a situation where you raise the
walls of a barn, then you have a big party with everyone who's around.
That's where the social aspect of it comes from. Lift some walls,
rejoice, have beer, and dance.
Benefits to the community, and to the individuals involved:
A typical barn raising generates a sense of accomplishment within a
short period of time. This is a collaboration booster, and generates
The people helping expect to learn about how to raise barns which will
help them when it comes to their own barn.
Barn raising is fun, as a social event! Having a barn to raise does more
than just get people together and let them talk. It gives them something
to talk about.
When the entire town helps someone build a barn, then that person is
beholden to the entire town, so it creates new and strengthens existing
Asynchronous collaboration liberates us from the need of proximity, but
it also weakens the bond. When the work is done, you're drinking alone
and you have no one to dance with.
Wikis thrive on asynchronous, gradual improvement, and barn raising
events are rare, but important.
Barn raising is not church raising. Although often it is valuable to
build an immaculate example of some ideal or utopian philosophy, these
projects often require a large investment and religious zeal to hold
them together. Sure, churches are often beautiful, but they are
impractical en masse. Conversely, barns are practical, functional,
cheap, full of horseshit, and you don't need to be a hallowed Prophet to
make one. Don't we prefer barns to churches here ?
However, barn raising does requires humility, trust, accountability,
commitment, and sacrifice from and among its community.
Barn raising is not GroupThink. The individual grants the Collective
influence over how she acts, but not how she thinks. Each barn raiser's
motivation may differ, so it doesn't matter if the community disagrees
as to the purpose of the barn, provided that it agrees that a barn is
Sources: Wikipedia, Meatball wiki, and some personal tweaks
What does it teach us ?
It may not matter so much that the entire community does not fully agree
with the purpose of the conference. Frankfurt's event may have been a
proof of concept. Boston's may have been a PR event. Taipei's may have
been an asian reachout. Alexandria will perhaps be an arab and public
institutions reachout. And perhaps in the future, London will be a
fundraising event; Paris a political event; Antartica a "save the ice
event". Who knows ?
We will never all agree, and that's fine. Wikipedians can be influenced,
but no one can tell them what to think. They may participate, or not,
they may have different motivations, they may have a different vision,
but that is not what is really important.
What is important is that we collectively agree that an event, which we
chose to call Wikimania, is necessary.
What is important is that we organise this event together.
What is important is that bids are proposed by wikipedians themselves.
What is important is that bids are selected by wikipedians themselves.
What is important is that the program, the speakers, the social events
be chosen and organized by wikipedians themselves.
What is important is that the event be meant with wikipedians and
wikimedia projects in mind.
Get to know other participants. Get to make friends with some of them.
Fight, sweat, scream, cry with them. Damage your nails on the wood. Get
too short nights. Struggle for that hammer. Compete for the jug of
water. Disagree with which paint should be put on it.
But in the end, get the feeling of accomplishment with the others.
Want to kill the barnraising effort ?
Make it an event in San Francisco every year, organized by a
professional team, with a clear agenda defined by the ED (400 people,
must accomodate the press, must be an opportunity to raise money, should
involve 3 international big speakers, opportunity to announce new
software development). This event might be interesting, but that will be
the death of Wikimania.
This is my vision of what Wikimania is.