[Foundation-l] A question for the Wikimania jury

Samuel Klein meta.sj at gmail.com
Tue Apr 1 06:05:31 UTC 2008

I have heard a number of people express the sentiment that they have no
agency to organize their own conference unless they become magically
wealthy, have their event adopted as a formal WMF project, be blessed as
"the official" or "a worldwide-and-we-mean-it" event, or find an angel to
fund their work.

To the contrary, let me suggest these events take place all the time,
organized by people with passion and no special advantages.  A single
motivated person can drum up enough support for a simple event (sometimes,
as with a good bar camp, over the course of only a few weeks), and a small
fearless team can set up a 200-person regional event covered entirely by
sponsorships, donated services, and registration fees.  To make life easier,
you may want to find an established local NGO (they do not have to be very
large) to co-sponsor the entire event by handling the accounting and
paperwork.  (In my fair city of Cambridge[II], there are a number of NGOs
that exist essentially to organize gatherings of various sizes, who could
provide an institutional umbrella for a volunteer group.)

A good wiki event can draw a few hundred people without breaking a sweat.
If your primary concern is simply getting one off the ground, you can do
anything from a wiki-camp to a full-on conference without breaking the
"frequently-pulled-off event" mold.  Some quick rules of thumb
 * wiki-themed bar camp [cost: O($1000), covered by local space/materials
sponsors.  volunteers: 1 lead bosfacilitator, a 1:20 ratio of volunteers to
attendees.   people help barnraise the entire event when they arrive, from
presentations to meals]
 * university-hosted jam [cost : O($30) per person per day, a 1:15 ratio of
volunteers to attendees, funds to support one or two cool speakers; minimal
housing and meal support]
 * full-on conference [cost : O($100) per person per day, a 1:10 ratio of
volunteers to attendees, catered group meals, more detailed support for
media, students (simple accomodation options, scholarships) and
hard-to-please guests (speaker funds, guests, emcees, nice accomodation
options).  cost often subsidized by larger sponsors.]

For specifics more relevant to your area, find a group that has run a
barcamp or community/fan event in your city, and ask them how they did it.

+1 617 529 4266

On Tue, Apr 1, 2008 at 12:16 AM, Geoffrey Plourde <geo.plrd at yahoo.com>

> Well lets see what happens.
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Dan Rosenthal <swatjester at gmail.com>
> To: Wikimedia Foundation Mailing List <foundation-l at lists.wikimedia.org>
> Sent: Monday, March 31, 2008 8:01:08 PM
> Subject: Re: [Foundation-l] A question for the Wikimania jury
> I'd suggest asking Mike Halterman the details on that.
> Considering that the cost for a conference of that size is in the 6
> figure range, raising that kind of money is going to simply be beyond
> most organizers without serious backing; and I do not believe the
> foundation can provide or will provide that kind of backing.
> -Dan
> On Mar 31, 2008, at 10:45 PM, Delirium wrote:
> > Robert Rohde wrote:
> >> Jason, you seem to be under a misconception.  Wikimanias are
> >> primarily
> >> organized by teams of local volunteers and primarily funded by a
> >> combination
> >> of attendee fees and corporate donors, so they take in about as
> >> much money
> >> as they spend.  Yes, the Foundation does have a role in planning,
> >> organization, and financing, but in many ways not the dominant role.
> >>
> >
> > An important role, though, is blessing it as the official worldwide
> > Wikimedia conference. This is what attracts most of the corporate
> > donors, and without that status, it's very difficult to get any
> > funding,
> > so therefore hard to put on a significant conference without
> > prohibitively high attendee fees.
> >
> > The Atlanta bid team attempted to turn their Wikimania bid into a
> > Wikimedia Conference of the Americas, but as far as I can tell they
> > weren't able to keep the sponsors on board once it was no longer the
> > international event, and it basically fell through.
> >
> > -Mark
> >
> >
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