Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wikimania Alexandria

Wikimania has come and gone. For me it was as good as I could expect. There were many really nice people, I stayed at the dorms, they were cheap and cheerful, I met really nice people there and we had a great impromptu party on the balcony with music blaring from the internal speakers of a laptop allowing for great conversation. 

This Wikimania was different in several ways.
  • The Bibliotheca Alexandrina co-hosted with the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • There were no hacker days; I missed them and the folks that come for them
  • Egypt is in Africa, but there were no black Africans at all this time.
  • The organisation of the WMF is more mature, it showed
  • The keynote speeches were streamed there and then and are now available for your enjoyment.
Bibliotheca Alexandrina was a revelation to me. Its building is beautiful. Its director Dr Ismail Serageldin gave two inspiring speeches. It is developing Open Source software. It is digitising Arabic documents in two shifts and it has the only copy of the Internet Archive. All in all it provides inspriation what we can do when we have the money to realise our dreams.

This was the first Wikimania without what used to be the traditional "hacker days". I do not know why they were not there, probably because nobody organised them. I missed them. It is not only that the "hackers" did not come, with them many of the people managing wiki organisations did not come as well.

I was asked what did this Wikimania bring for Africa. I had to answer nothing. There were no people from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Uganda. This was the first Wikimania without any people from black Africa. For the Arabic world however, this Wikimania was really important a lot of publicity has been given to our projects and ideals. The early indications are that we can anticipate an increased interest resulting in many new editors.

Most if not all of the WMF staff was at Wikimania. Much of the work of the WMF is reaching out to people and other organisations, where better to do this then at our own conference. Last year the emphasis was very much only on the board, I can imagine that next year Sue will be part of what is currently the board panel Q&A.

The Bibilotheca Alexandrina proved itself as well by streaming some of the key speeches on the Internet and making them available online. This is awesome. Many more presentations have been recorded, among them the one that I gave (these are my slides). I would really appreciate to be able to see the presentations I missed.

All in all this Wikimania was for me a great success, I am ever so happy that I went, I loved what I saw. The Egyptian people I met were genuinely nice people .. It is again a tough act to follow :)

PS I promissed myself to write about Wikimania once I got home. I did get home but I fell sick. This is my first opportunity to write.
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