[Foundation-l] Wikimania 2008 and reflecting on what Wikimania is all about

Austin Hair adhair at gmail.com
Thu Aug 17 21:10:53 UTC 2006

I'm personally of the opinion that Wikimania should remain very much a
community event, and in fact bring it back to something closer to a
retreat than anything else.

Venue is obviously a big factor, here: more people will drop in off
the street for a well-publicized conference at Harvard than at a youth
hostel somewhere in Europe.  We were mindful of this when we chose the
location for Wikimania 2006, of course, and felt that the various
other benefits outweighed that drawback, but I was still disappointed
to see less community interaction this year than at Wikimania 2005.

A bigger factor, however, and a somewhat controversial one, is the
ability to buy conference passes for a single day only—especially the
day of the conference, on-site.  This year we did very well with
preregistration, and actually booked over our numbers for catering and
room capacity.  We closed registration altogether a few days before
the conference, and although I made a number of exceptions, only one
of them was for a Wikimedian.

In the last two weeks before the conference, the ratio of those paying
the "outsider" rate to those paying the community rate was running
just under 3:1.  Although I don't yet have the final numbers, total
attendance was split roughly 50/50 community/outsider.  (This is a
point in itself.)

For community members, the ratio of full conference passes to day
passes was roughly 6:1.  Outside the community, that ratio is 1.4:1.

These numbers should come as no surprise to anyone.  It's common sense
that Wikimedians don't wait until the last minute to decide whether or
not they're coming, and that they're interested in the whole
conference, not just seeing Larry Lessig.  I wanted to be perfectly
clear that the facts actually reflect that, however.

Day passes are fine for trade expos, but this is Wikimedia—our goal
should be the opposite end of the conference spectrum.  This isn't to
say that a Wikimedian whose circumstances suddenly change three days
before the conference can't buy a pass, or that someone who can only
get out of school for a day has to pay the full rate, but I don't see
the single-day pass coming back next year; neither can registration
continue in full force up until the day the conference opens.

I think we need to market Wikimania very differently in the future,
but the way we do that depends entirely on what form it takes, whether
it's split up into alternate/sub-conferences, and how.  This is where
Delphine's "real question" comes in, and I'm glad it's being
discussed.  I have my own thoughts on the matter, but I'd like to see
what people's initial thoughts are first.


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