Experience at Wikimania 2018

Before going on to explain my Wikimania journey, I would like to throw some light on ‘What is Wikimania?’. Let me start with Wikipedia, as many people have used it. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, is a project driven by Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikimedia Foundation has a lot of other projects as well which you can checkout here. Every year since 2005, Wikimedia Foundation has organised an annual conference across the globe, titled as Wikimania. A lot of Wikimedians from all over the world come to Wikimania to meet, discuss and collaborate for brighter success of Wikimedia’s projects.

So this is all about Wikimania, and I had attended my first Wikimania i.e. Wikimania 2018 in Capetown, South Africa this year.

My First Wikimania: and my expectations

I woke up late after a series busy days. I was sitting with my room-mate over coffee and I was browsing my inbox. My eyes were still half closed, in amid of my inbox journey I saw the subject “Wikimania ’18 Scholarship Award” with Congratulations” written on the thrid line. That was all I saw, before I closed the phone and had a big sip of coffee. Now my eyes were open, mind filled with thrill, I began reading the email slowly from the beginning. Human’s brain is complicated, even before I could complete reading the mail, my brain started to wonder how would it be to at Wikimania. What it would be like to meet people whom I have conversed with but never met. The thoughts flooded across my mind. To understand what Wikimania is all about, firstly I checked the Wikimania’s official site but even this could not stop flooding of expectations. After spending some time on Google Search, I found pictures from previous Wikimania on Wikimedia Commons. This allowed me to comprehend what it would be like to be at Wikimania.

Learning before departing for Cape Town

My learning stared even before leaving New Delhi. The very first Wikimania scholar that I met on the airport: Satdeep. After that I met Rupika, Sailesh, Gyana, Krishna and Dr. Subas Rout on the Delhi airport itself. I felt a special feeling, feeling of being a part of community. Satdeep and Rupika shared about their contributions towards Wikimedia projects. This was the very first time I had talked to someone outside tech domain. The conversation was an eureka moment for me, to understand what people were doing for a collaboration. I found Rupika’s project ‘Wiki loves Love’ to be amazing, and she told me that she was planning to have discussions over the project during the meet ups at Wikimania.

Experience before the Preconference

I, along with a few other Wikimedians, arrived hotel, 2 days before the preconference. On the evening of the day of arrival, I met my roommate Mhenni Habib. We discussed our contributions to Wikimedia projects. During the conversation Mhenni told about his hobby for photography and how he used Wikimedia Commons to upload his pictures. He enlightened me with the concept of licenses, that is required to upload something on Commons. I met Anirudh, founding member of Wikimedia India Chapter, only I was the who did not knew him and asked I had asked how do you contribute to Wikimedia. I got learn about more founding members of Wikimedia India Chapter and they have contributed for the Chapter. During this conversation I had learnt about the Wikimedia Chapter and User groups and their responsibilities. Belonging from technical background and coming to Wikimedia culture through Google Summer of Code, I wasn’t aware of these Wikimedia nomenclatures which I learnt during my first Wikimania. The same night, a large group of Wikimedians (atleast 35 people) went for dinner to a nearby café. It was fun to learn about each other’s diversity. That evening, I met Armine, who told me how they encourage young school students to contribute for Wikipedia.

The next day, a group of 15+ people gathered to visit Boulder’s beach to see penguins. The day trip began on a nice sunny day. On the train towards Boulder’s beach, I got to know about the Odia Community through Sailesh and Gyan. How they organise editathons in order to contribute to Odia Wikipedia. I got learn about Sailesh’s amazing project in which he had collaborated with government of Orissa to bring image content from Government’s repository to Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons License. It was also fun to know that Orissa became the first state in India to do so. Kudos to Sailesh.

Learning during Preconference

During the preconference I majorly participated in Hackathon. Being new to the community, I wanted to solve a problem which had some impact. For this, I discussed with a lot of people about the problems they were solving and a problems that they were facing. I’m glad that I met Miriam and Deigo from Wikimedia Research team. I think, I learnt a lot about the research development in Wikimedia during the conversation with them. Diego told me about his interesting work that he was doing on Natural Language Processing in the field of Data Science. He shared a few problems at hand to work on, and we had a long discussion over solutions to solve. Miriyam, introduced me to Andrew Li, as Andrew was working on a problem involving Wikidata and computer vision. I had prior experience on solving Computer Vision problems so I buckled up to understand Andrew’s project and during the hackathon I worked on training a Convolutional Neural Network, which would suggest a few tags for the painting from a museum. This was a problem in short which Andrew was aiming to solve. I felt glad to be a part of the hackathon event.

Learning during the Conference

On the first day, during lightning talks, I came across an amazing project called as ‘VideoWiki’. The talk by Prateek on this project covered various ascpects discussing why no VideoWiki had emerged so far. His talk made it clear that how innovators of VideoWiki have eliminated those problems. This is one of the projects in education which I found to be solving the problem using an out of the box approach. The conference event was full of learning, I came across the WikiData events where I learnt about SPARQL. I utilized this learning while I was working on my hackathon project. During AI meetup, I got introduced to the opinions of the general community regarding the Artificial Intelligencce. During the AI meetup, I met Aaron Halfaker during ORES presentation. I was amazed to know about an AI system already deployed to prevent vandalism. I hope to contribute to this system soon.

In a general view, Wikimania was a very different experience as compared to conventional conferences. It is all due the amazing community.

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