[Foundation-l] thank you

phoebe ayers phoebe.wiki at gmail.com
Tue Jul 29 02:47:47 UTC 2008

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 :)

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