Wikimanía draws to a close
Wikimanía 2015 drew to a close in Mexico City, Mexico. An "annual conference celebrating Wikipedia and its sister free knowledge projects", Wikimania features remarks from some leading players from the Wikimedia Foundation as well as the free knowledge movement. Overall, most attendees "were really quite impressed with how smoothly the conference went", according to Andrew Lih, who added that in terms of food and venue it was much like a corporate conference.
WMF executive director Lila Tretikov gave a presentation entitled United in Knowledge in which she encouraged Wikimedians to "be bold, break your own rules", much to the chagrin of some attendees, who view that as a misinterpretation of WP:BOLD and WP:BRD. Lih said that although the speech was somewhat unrefined, it is difficult to communicate effectively with newbies and veterans simultaneously. "I do think Lila needs a few more of these before she gets her message calibrated and seasoned", he said. "Part of it is English as her second language, and part of it is that we have a real demanding community."
Additional reaction to the keynote speeches is in this week's Wikimanía report from Peaceray, a conference attendee.
Perhaps the biggest downside, according to Lih, was the lack of video recording; only keynote speeches were recorded, leaving attendees to do their best with limited equipment – many of them expressing outrage on the special Wikimania mailing list and Twitter at what they felt was an unconscionable oversight. Speaking to the value of video recording, Lih wrote,
Even WMF staffer Asaf Bartov expressed agreement that the lack of video recording was problematic. The issue was even raised in June, but received no reply, something Hydriz called "rather disappointing." Other posts focused on the perceived value of video when weighed against the cost. On Twitter, one tweet bemoaned, "I thought the idea of video recording sessions was that you dont [sic] have to (go) yourself."
Ultimately, some sessions were recorded in audio only, and others with smartphone video capabilities, and posted to YouTube. At this point, it is unknown who is at fault for the lack of video, but Lih says that Ivan Martinez, the event's local coordinator, told him that "hiring the hotel or local team to do it professionally would have been very expensive", so the plan was for the WMF to handle it. Unconfirmed reports are that the staffer who was supposed to be in charge of that aspect of the conference is no longer employed by WMF. The Signpost emailed Ellie Young, the WMF's conference coordinator, multiple times seeking comment on this and other aspects of the conference. We received no response.
However, on the mailing list, WMF storyteller Victor Grigas reported that based on his conversations with "the team doing video recordings", only certain talks would be recorded because last year it was expensive to record everything, something he emphasized was not his decision. More interestingly, he said, "All the footage that the video team is shooting will be owned (copyright) by Wikimedia Mexico per their contract, so if there are particular clips you want later, contact WMMX." WMF was unable to clarify the remarks due to multiple staff vacations. The Signpost will run a follow-up story next week.
The conference was also not without technical glitches. According to several attendees in contact with the Signpost, Internet service was down for upwards of 20 minutes at one point. "[T]here seemed to be a major hiccup each day ... but otherwise I'd say it was pretty solid. Compared to other Wikimanias, I'd rate it very good. But all you need is one 20 minute stretch, at a critical time, to ruin your day", Lih said. Other attendees complained that the Internet was slow; a Phabricator ticket indicates at least one problem was rectified.
Other conference highlights included Jimmy Wales' speech, which focused on issues of Internet freedom and noted that of 234 governmental requests to remove content from Wikipedia, none were granted. Wales also gave away the bride at a wedding of two Israeli Wikipedians at the conference, Darya and Avner Kantor, whose love story was featured on the WMF blog earlier this year.
As Wikimania 2015 draws to a close, attention turns to the 2016 iteration of the conference, slated to be held in Esino Lario, Italy. Although there are serious questions as to whether infrastructure available in the small Lombardy town is conducive to a large conference such as Wikimania (see previous Signpost coverage), at the site presentation in Mexico City, Iolanda Pensa (Iopensa), the lead organizer for the conference, answered the question "Why Esino Lario?" simply by saying "Because we can."
Lightbreather Arbitration case
Even before it closed on July 17, the Arbitration case involving Lightbreather attracted widespread comment. Lightbreather herself posted a banner on her userpage on July 1 declaring "Retired due to sexual harassment", only returning two weeks later to make edits to the talk page of the proposed decision.
The language in one of the proposed principles attracted widespread comment. Regarding the inability of the community and the Committee to effectively address serious cases of harassment, the principle suggested that victims should consider "lowering their profile until the threat is past". This prompted objections on- and off-wiki. SlimVirgin wrote that the proposed decision supports the idea that "women who are being baited are expected to keep quiet or stop editing". A number of the Arbitrators agreed. One of them, Euryalus, wrote "I opposed the reference to people being advised to keep quiet and lower their profile of harassed, for precisely the reason you outline - it tells people to let the harassers win. What we should be telling people is to make a fuss about harassment through the right channels, and for those channels to work well enough that the harassment gets dealt with." The offending language was removed by Roger Davies on July 13 "in an endeavour to achieve consensus".
Despite this, the final decision, which included a site-ban for Lightbreather, was still controversial on-wiki and attracted comment offsite. Brianna Wu, a game developer who has been the victim of significant harassment herself, tweeted: "The whole case is shameful. She asked Wiki to take action against sexual harassers, they didn't. They ban her, no punishment for harassers." On User talk:Jimbo Wales, Robert McClenon placed the blame on the Wikimedia Foundation, not on the Arbitration Committee: "My opinion is that the WMF has not done enough. Off-wiki harassment of Wikipedia editors is an existential threat to the neutrality of Wikipedia...Off-wiki harassment is a threat both to the neutrality of Wikipedia and the editors of Wikipedia." CorporateM began an RFC asking whether or not Wikipedia should have "a sexual harassment policy or a part of the harassment policy focused on sexual harassment."
Coverage of the case itself will appear in next week's Arbitration Report.
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