Wikimania 2023: Musings of a First-Time Attendee

February 3, 2023. The day I created my Wikipedia account for a grad school assignment. All I had to do was find a Wikipedia article and write a paper suggesting future edits and analyzing the article’s edit history. If you asked me in February whether I thought a single assignment about Wikipedia editing would have such an impact on my life, I would have said absolutely not. Fast forward to August 14, 2023. I landed at Changi Airport in Singapore to attend Wikimania 2023, the annual conference for Wikimedians, on a scholarship from Wikimedia Canada. 

As someone new to the movement, there was lots for me to learn about the various Wiki projects as well as Wikimedian culture. Some important things I learned include:

– When you introduce yourself to someone new, they’ll ask which project you work on (Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons) or how long you’ve been with the movement (only 6 months). This was so interesting to me because although of course Wikimedia projects are a collective effort, I had never really thought of myself as a part of any movement. Until then, I was just one person, writing articles or uploading images by myself in the comfort of my own home. Now, I feel like a true Wikimedian.

— Wikimedians love to trade small tokens from their home countries. One of my favorite parts of each day was visiting what I dubbed the Trading Post. People would drop off things like stickers, bookmarks, coins, small treats, and more that anyone was welcome to sample.

– Not all attendees contribute to a specific project. Some are involved with their local Wikimedia chapters and focus on governance. I met a number of representatives from Wikimedia Deutschland, for example, who spent their time negotiating with local public broadcasting agencies to openly license their content so it could then be added onto Wikimedia Commons. The governance structure of the WIkimedia Foundation, as well as the various local chapters, is something I’m continuing to learn about.

– Most importantly: Wikimedians are incredibly friendly. There were many times where I walked alone into the main hall to find a spot for lunch but I was always able to find somewhere to sit and make new friends.

First-Time Tip: Bring unique treats from your home country to carry around in your bag if you are ever lucky enough to attend a Wikimania! They are a great conversation starter and trading treats with other Wikimedians made for a fun pastime between sessions at the conference. 

Another First-Time Tip: Explore the host city! This was my first time in Asia, let alone Singapore, so I was deeply excited to experience its sights and sounds. Some extracurricular activities I was able to participate in include a tour of the National Library of Singapore, a walking tour through Tanjong Pagar (a historic district near Singapore’s Downtown Core), and visiting the National Museum of Singapore.

Wikimania 2023 is an event I will never forget. I met a number of fantastic people from around the globe and learned so much in just a few days. I want to thank Catherine Bernier, Jean-Michel Lapointe, and Louis Germain from the Canadian delegation for taking me under their wing at my first, and certainly not last, Wikimania conference.

Chelsea Chiovelli – recipient of a scholarship from Wikimedia Canada for Wikimania 2023