There's A Meeting for That

Inside a Wikipedia Conference

What happens when enthusiasts of the online encyclopedia meet face-to-face?

Illustration by Carmen Segovia
Illustration by Carmen Segovia

WikiConference North America was organized just the way you might expect that contributors to the world’s largest online encyclopedia would approach the task: using the “wiki” collaborative approach. “None of the core organizing committee lived in California, so the planning was done virtually, with multiple calls each week,” according to co-organizers Sydney Poore and Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, who even collaborated on writing answers to questions emailed by Convene.

It was the third conference of its kind, and sought to promote knowledge transfer among Wikipedia enthusiasts and volunteers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico about organizational development. Another goal: providing outreach about Wikipedia to the general public.


Working partner-ships between Wikipedia contributors and staff at galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) began to form after it became apparent that Wikipedia — not the cultural institutions’ own websites — had become the most popular online source of information. At the Wiki Culture Crawl 2016, a preconference event in Balboa Park, Wikipedia editors worked to improve articles about 15 San Diego cultural organizations based at the park, while also educating and training the organizations’ staff about the Wikimedia movement.


Wikipedia editing events — edit-a-thons — were held each day of the conference, centered on San Diego and Balboa Park; women philosophers, dedicated to a recently deceased Wikipedian who had been an advocate for creating women’s biographies on Wikipedia; chemistry (sponsored by the American Chemical Society); and indigenous peoples of San Diego County. 


On the last day of the conference, participants announced the creation of the WikiConference North America User Group, which will document best practices and share lessons learned with other Wikimedia groups planning and hosting conferences and similar events. 


Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.