Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2008-03-31/Wikimania 2009

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Wikimania 2009 to be held in Buenos Aires

By Ral315, 31 March, 2008

After over a month of deliberations, the Wikimania jury announced on Friday that Buenos Aires, Argentina would serve as the site of Wikimania 2009, to be held in August 2009, defeating finalist Toronto in the final round of voting.

In an announcement on Friday, jury moderators Phoebe Ayers, Cary Bass and James Forrester noted the strengths of both Buenos Aires and Toronto, and explained why Buenos Aires received the nod over Toronto:

The jury was particularly excited by a few parts of the Buenos Aires bid:

  • A strong, organized team, with division of labor already underway and support from Wikimedia Argentina. Many people contributed to the bid, with obvious enthusiasm for organizing the conference and quick responses to inquiries.
  • A detailed budget proposal and planning schedule. Many major expenses are being covered by the provider. The total budget is similar to Wikimania 2007's, including a larger travel scholarship fund, and they have provided detailed charts ahead of time.
  • A significant number of sponsors already lined up, with some already confirmed. They hope to cover half the accommodation and $60k in travel scholarships, which will help to ease travel costs for participants from far away.
  • A solid venue : as with Toronto, this was situated within a well-maintained cultural center in a major international city, near an airline hub; culturally open, and an international melting pot.
  • Relaxed visa rules, and easy entry from South American countries.
  • Good Spanish-language media contacts, with the promise of outreach to and the opportunity to work with the Spanish-language Wikimedia communities.

Toronto, the runner up, also provided a great bid. The jury was especially excited by:

  • Strong English-language press in the area, and media experience among the bid team
  • A very accessible venue, especially for US/European attendees.
  • An excellent venue : a university campus, with dorms directly at the venue. As with Buenos Aires, it was situated within a well-maintained cultural center in a major international city, near an airline hub; culturally open, and an international melting pot.
  • Extensive budget accommodation in the dorms; with many options for casual social space.
  • A dedicated bid team, with the hope of Wikimedia Canada being formed in time to help coordinate.

However, the jury felt that Buenos Aires' bid showed stronger organization overall. Additionally, much of the information in the Toronto bid was carried over from previous bids, and it was unclear how much of a commitment for the University of Toronto facilities there was specifically for 2009.

Argentina will become the first South American country and the first Spanish-language country to host Wikimania. Wikimania 2009 will be the fifth annual conference, and each conference has been held on a different continent:

  • 2005: Europe — Frankfurt, Germany
  • 2006: North America — Boston, United States
  • 2007: Asia — Taipei, Republic of China
  • 2008: Africa — Alexandria, Egypt
  • 2009: South America — Buenos Aires, Argentina

The choice was not without criticism, although the decision raised much less controversy than the choice of Alexandria for Wikimania 2008. Some users, including David Gerard and Dan Rosenthal, noted that an assertion made by Ayers, that "strong bids from [Europe and North America] would be welcome for 2010's Wikimania," could be read to mean that Toronto's bid may have been unwelcome due to a wish to keep Wikimania out of Europe and North America until 2010. Ayers explained her wording:

This jury isn't/wasn't in the business of deciding anything whatsoever about 2010. The statement that strong bids from North America and Europe are welcome should be taken with good faith at face

value and not as an Oracle of Things To Come or a Veiled Comment on Things Past. If you have to read anything into it, read into it an acknowledgment that we can't win when it comes to picking locations! Apparently everywhere makes *someone* unhappy, and if we don't have a conference in Europe/North America soon there will be much complaining.

Jury member Michael Snow started a discussion on Monday, on what Wikimania should be. He noted that "Wikimania is being pulled in too many directions, and it cannot be all things to all people", and noted that such a discussion may be necessary in order to weigh where Wikimania should be located:

Wikimania could be bigger or smaller, reach the developing world or only the already-developed, more expensive or less so, rotated widely or narrowly. Leaving aside the security concerns specific to Alexandria, the choice of options would have the following undesirable consequences, depending on which course is taken:

  • Complaints that the event is impersonal, lacks a sense of community, or is merely a stage-managed public relations show
  • After a cycle or two, it seems to be pretty much just the same group of people getting together every few years
  • Objections that the amount being spent is a poor use of foundation funds (depending on how it works out, this would be about either the size of the event or the travel costs incurred by the foundation itself, making distance from San Francisco a factor)
  • Inability to accommodate anyone beyond the local audience, thus being hardly different from a random meetup and failing to reflect the diverse character of Wikimedia participants
  • Rumors and misperceptions of unfairness in timing of when registration is opened or how tickets are allocated
  • Outrage over high admission charges, resembling more closely a "professional" conference

... I fear an end result of the fights over this would be to either abandon the idea of Wikimania, or simply to hold it in the Moscone Center every year like Macworld. Before we get there, let's hear some better alternatives.

Also this week:

Wikimania 2009 — Sister project interview — WikiWorld — News and notes — Dispatches — WikiProject report — Features and admins — Technology report — Arbitration report

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