Wikimania 2007 is a failure

Wikipedia is still growing exponentially, so it is thus such a shame that Wikimania 2007 is a failure in comparison to Wikimania 2006, when by all rights it should have been a much larger occasion. The problems all boil down to location, location, location. Wikimania 2006 was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which was a very convenient location not only for Americans but also for Europeans, who could get cheap flights. Wikimania 2007, however, is being held in Taipei, Taiwan, which is surely a nonsensical location to be hosting it. It’s convenient for Taiwanese and maybe Australians, Japanese, and South Koreans. It’s not convenient for the Chinese, of course, because they can’t exactly just hop over to Taiwan.

Wikimania 2006, which I was at, had an attendance of around 500. The attendance for Wikimania 2007 looks to be less than half of that, at least according to the registration numbers. Few people from anywhere but Taiwan were able to make it; I certainly wasn’t able to justify the multiple days spent flying and the $2,500 round-trip ticket. Yes, there look to be a good number of Americans registered, but many of those are Foundation employees or Board members who are only able to go because of the free tickets, and in comparison to the huge size of the English Wikipedia, having a roughly even number of Americans as Taiwanese attending is not a good showing at all.

The other serious bid for the location of Wikimania 2007 was Italy. That would have been a much better location for pretty much everyone except for the Taiwanese (Australians seem irrelevant, as the numbers attending the convention in Taiwan are abysmal). Attendance would’ve easily been double what it is in Taipei (if not triple or even quadruple). The choice of Taipei simply doesn’t make any sense, and the only motive I can come up with for choosing it is the Board saying to themselves, “Which destination would I rather travel to for free?” Of course, choosing a destination for its foreignness and attractiveness of a free fare (a free $2,500 ticket is a better “value” than a free $600 ticket) will lead to pretty much opposite parameters being considered than if the location is actually being chosen based on its convenience for how many paying travelers can attend.

The Board screwed this up big time, and the sad thing this they may not realize it just yet, but everyone who wanted to but ultimately wasn’t able to attend is very well aware of how poor the choice was. For next year, the Board needs to re-evaluate their selection criteria and not just pick an exotic destination they’ve never been to before. This isn’t a vacation, it’s a meeting. Italy would be nice. Heck, really, any place in North America or Europe would be good. But picking a place in Asia? That just makes no sense. It’s not that I have anything against Asians, it’s just that geography discriminates.

One Response to “Wikimania 2007 is a failure”

  1. denny vrandecic Says:

    Almost every major conference does travel around the world, Africa/Europe, the Americas, Asia/Australia. This is in order to ensure that it is reasonably “cheap” for everyone at least once in three years. And sitting at Wikimania right now — which does indeed have more than 500 attendees this year, the numbers you have quoted are out of date — and looking around, it is obvious that there are much more attendees from Asian countries — not only Taiwan, but also India, Japan, Mainland China, Hong Kong. For them it would be much harder to travel to Europe or America. And it is an active way to *not* discriminate against geography. 2500$? I flied for about 900€, coming from Germany. It’s actually cheaper than Boston last year, for me.

    You claim that the board has chosen the place for personal gain? I doubt that claim highly. Why would they then choose a location like CTOYAC, a youth hostel? Why would they then have decided for Taipei instead of Tokyo? Because Taipei is far cheaper than Tokyo.

    The Japanese Wikipedia is one of the biggest ones, and so is the Chinese one. They have big communities living in East Asian Countries. Why should they not get the chance to go to a Wikimania as well?

    The US, by the way, are much harder to reach for many Wikipedians than Taiwan. It is often hard to get a visa, and a letter of invitation coming from the Wikimedia Foundation is not always a big help.