Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Year in Allies

"Wikimedia has friends". This is I think the most important lesson we've learned at our Wikimedia NYC chapter-in-formation over the past year.

Us Wikimedians are an eclectic and disparate bunch, but when we organize on a local level, some interesting possibilities open up; e.g. Wikipedia Takes Manhattan 1, Wikipedia Takes Manhattan 2 (Wikis Take Manhattan), and Wikipedia Loves Art. This is not so much because of great efforts on our part, but rather that our ordinary experience as Wikimedians gives us the skill-set to enable outside parties to contribute to the projects in unique and exciting ways. As community gatekeepers, we hold the key for institutions who need only a helping local hand to get started in this work.

All Wikimedians should be conscious they are part of a broader movement, the Free Culture movement, itself a kissing cousin to the Free Software movement. And we're not a peripheral part of this movement either, but we are almost certainly the most successful Free Culture project in existence. This is in spite of, or maybe even because of, the fact that the great majority of our workaday contributors are not yet activists on these issues.

This is a movement of many faces, including of course Creative Commons, but the standout for us at Wikimedia NYC has been Students for Free Culture, with their particular enthusiasm and numbers of activists. We have worked with the Free Culture chapters at Columbia and NYU, but there are chapters all over, and likely in your city as well. These dedicated student activists with their weekly meetings are determined to get things done, and to do it all in fun and creative ways. And they are great friends of Wikimedia.

Forming a working relationship with your local Free Culture chapter is a great way to jump-start your local Wikimedia activities. These clubs have always been gracious and open to me and other local Wikimedians, and they have always considered our proposals. These students have an admirable industriousness, and they are always actively looking for new projects. If you engage with them seriously, they are likely to embrace your project and will be glad to work together with you closely, almost as a virtual Wikimedia chapter. Indeed, they are more effective than us Wikimedians on many counts, hard-working, anxious to engage with the broader world, and better activists generally.

I cannot praise these good people enough. And indeed, with Wikimedia NYC we have consciously tried to adapt their activist model for our own chapter-in-formation.

And engaging with groups like the Free Culture clubs can be an important step in laying the groundwork for working with more institutional actors. With our work with great folks at The Open Planning Project, we found ourselves engaged with a group that is halfway in the Free Culture movement, but that also has a broader focus as a non-profit. And recently we've taken a further step toward the establishment in working with the fabulous Brooklyn Museum, a big institution with a progressive heart, that is now making its first steps into the Free Culture world.

(And, if you have problems contacting your local Free Culture chapter, don't be discouraged; usually with a little detective work you can get clued into the right person's e-mail)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Chapters in 2009

Chapcom has received it's first sub-national chapter application (from New York City), although a final decision is probably not expected until the new year. The WMF board's next meeting in in January, and they are expected to decide on the application from the UK, and maybe the application from NYC if the chapcom can make a decision on it by then.

The UK's application is a little bit tricky because the resolution would require that the old defunct UK chapter be un-recognized first, and then the new chapter be recognized. I don't want to make any guesses about how the board is going to deal with this issue, but the Chapcom approved the measure so it' probably can't be a total wash.

2009 could be the year of sub-national chapters, and already I've heard interest from a number of groups who think that sub-national is the way to go. I'm hearing about renewed interest from India, where an effort to create national chapter was all but abandoned in 2007. I've heard from some people in Canada who say that sub-national chapters might be the way forward for them too, since their efforts at a national chapter have since stalled out.

Are there any other groups I haven't heard about that are pursuing a sub-national chapter?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wikimedia New York City makes a move

I'd like to update you folks on our Wikimedia New York City group, an applicant chapter hopeful to be accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation in representing and coordinating the efforts of contributors and volunteers from the Greater New York metropolitan area, a region home to some 19 million souls, or approximately 7% of the total population of the United States.

We've just filed our application with the Chapters Committee, and this presents some special issues, as we are the first sub-national group (excepting perhaps Hong Kong) to seek to organize as Wikimedians at this level, as well as the first applicant chapter of any sort in the United States. We hope that we can work with the members of the Chapters Committee, as well as Andrew, Erik, and Kat on the sub-national chapters working group, to come to answers for the unanticipated questions that may arise during this process.

The occasion for application is the completion of the draft of our bylaws, and the concurrent organization of an interim board for our group.

I thought I should also give a little background on our group, and what our activities have been. I think it is important that have not been merely biding our time waiting on the Chapters Committee to help us (though that help is greatly appreciated), but have made genuine efforts to reach out to our local community and prove ourselves as an organization. We have done this outreach though a series of events, including bimonthly Wikimedian meetings at Columbia University, but importantly also in several events reaching out to non-Wikimedians, and in budding contacts with fellow local cultural groups and institutions.

In particular, we have been strengthened by our partnerships with the Free Culture Columbia and Free Culture NYU student groups, as well as the local non-profit The Open Planning Project, in organizing the photo scavenger hunts "Wikipedia Takes Manhattan" and "Wikis Take Manhattan" (see video) in April and October of 2008, and we hope to hold similar events in future.

We are also currently partnering with the Brooklyn Museum, a leading local art museum with a distinctly progressive view on the world, in our successor "Wikipedia Loves Art" photo event, scheduled for February 2009, and which is now also being extended to museums in Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and London. We also have many other project ideas on our plate, and it is my hope that with our joining the international club of Wikimedia chapters we can move on to bigger and better things yet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chapters November Update

Here's a quick update about the current world of chapters.
  1. The new Wikimedia UK group is really moving along well now, and are making great progress. They have weekly meetings on Tuesday at 20:30UTC in #wikimedia-uk and #wikimedia-uk-board on freenode. They've been in close contact with Chapcom, and are on their way to becoming a chapter soon.
  2. The group in New York city is doing really well also and had a large meeting last weekend that, unfortunately, I was not able to attend. Kat did, however, and gave them lots of new information and answered a few questions. The ardent observer will notice that the current draft of their bylaws includes not only the state of New York, but also New Jersey and Connecticut as well. Looks like this could be shaping up to be a true "Wiki Northeast", especially if they grew any larger. There are fledgling groups both here in Philadelphia and in Boston who might do well to be added to this larger whole.
  3. Chapcom added a few new members a while back, among them Michael Bimmler (formerly an advisor to the committee) and PrivateMusings. PrivateMusings was added to the chapter as a "communications advisor", in hopes that he could increase our communications with the outside world and manage some of our processes. Both of these two have been doing amazing work, streamlining our processes and helping to keep the committee organized. These aren't the only new additions we've added lately, but there has been a lot of confusion and delay in getting our other appointees confirmed, so these two are the only ones who have had a chance to do anything with the committee. Anyway, things are looking up!
That's all I have for now, but I'm trying to get into a more regular blogging schedule here so I'll dig deeper for news if I have to.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Two new chapters

Business between the Chapcom and the Board have been a little bit slower lately, because the chapcom liason to the board, Frieda, has recently resigned. I haven't heard yet about whether there will be a replacement for this position (which I hope there is). I also haven't heard yet whether any of the new Chapcom members have been approved by the board. Prior to getting this approval, I'm not going to announce here who all has been added to the chapcom.

We have heard news that two new chapters have been approved: Indonesia and Brazil. Congratulations to organizers of both chapters! We at chapcom aren't resting on our laurels though, we have two other chapter applications in the pipeline right now. Also, we know the board was supposed to have talked about the whole concept of subnational/regional chapters, and I don't know how those talks turned out either.

I guess what I'm saying, the short version, is: Congrats to Indonesia and Brazil, and we need to wait to hear some kind of announcement from the board to know what else is going on.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Delphine, Goodbye and Hello

Foundation-l received a message today that Delphine, the Chapters Coordinator for the WMF is stepping down from her position. In her three years, she's overseen an explosive growth in the number of chapters there are.

She's not leaving us entirely, however. She is going to remain an active WMF volunteer and a member of the chapcom. In her message she talked a lot about a "reboot" of the chapters situation, and I'm very interested to hear all the ideas she has. I've been feeding her a lot of my ideas (I'm a radical liberal when it comes to chapters), but she's been in a position where she couldn't always feed hers back. Now, I'm hoping that we can get some real creative energy and enthusiasm together to make cool things happen.

One thing that I've been pushing for personally, sometimes alone in the dark, is the idea of a more freeform idea of what a Chapter can be. Heretofore, Chapters have been tied to Nations, you could have a Wikimedia Italia for instance, but not a Wikimedia New York. For many years, this is what seemed to come naturally to groups, and it's what the Chapcom/Board have been suggesting. Now, however, things seem to be changing.

People in the USA are organizing at a local community level. We have an overarching presence in the USA in the form of the WMF board, what people are increasingly interested in doing is on-the-ground activism. People are actually wanting to walk into a library, or university, or government building and say "I'm from the WMF, I want to partner with you to bring open content to the people". People want to collect donations, not only of money, but of time, talent, and content. Local groups that can meet each other face-to-face and can walk down the street to conduct business in person are the kinds of groups that are forming, be they the wikiwednesdays in Portland, or the Wiki takes Manhattan in NYC.

The USA isn't the only example either. Organization in Canada has cooled off substantially from where it was three months ago, and even the people who most ardently supported a national chapter then are talking about provincial and even metropolitan chapters now. It's hard to organize with people over email and phone and IRC, it's much easier to generate enthusiasm when you can meet people face-to-face. Those aren't my words either, but are words that i've heard from several people on the wikimedia-ca mailing list.

In a different region of the world, Delphine and I both heard some very impressive and convincing arguments from Catalonians who are spread out across several countries in southern Europe. They're talking about forming a chapter through 4 or 5 countries, two of which already have national chapters in place that would be overlapped! How do we reconcile the idea of a national chapter when it forces together people who are separated by geographical and lingusitic barriers, but deny chapters status to groups who are very close regionally and all speak the same language?

The board, we have all heard, is looking to discuss the idea of regional and sub-national chapters at their next meeting, and I sincerely hope that they think on it long and hard. If wikis have taught us nothing about volunteerism, it's that people can't be forced to do something they don't want to do, and that people are going to pursue things that maybe we hadn't intended. If people want to organize in a particular way, and if that way is natural and efficient for them, that's the way they're going to do it. If we tell the Canadians "it will be a national chapter or no chapter at all", then I them for the foreseeable future that it will be no chapter at all. If we tell the catalonians that they must join Wikimedia France or Wikimedia Italia, or they must somehow overcome the problems facing a Wikimedia Spain, it is likely that all the Catalonians will not participate and will return home dejected and disenfranchised. If we tell the Americans that all their organizational efforts have been wrong, and that they are completely barred from those two seats the board promised the chapters could select, there will be hell to pay.

It's going to be interesting to see what all Delphine really has to say about all these issues, and what ideas she has for how a "reboot" will occur. I doubt she'll agree with me on everything, disagreement is the price radicals like myself have to pay. However, I can tell you that things will change, even if slowly and incrementally. Let's all hope that change is for the better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chapters-Related News

A few news items to point out to people:

  1. Chapcom has decided on it's new members from the pool of applicants. I won't say anything here because the WMF board still has to approve our appointments, and I'm trying to get personal confirmation from all acceptees that they still want to be part of the committee.
  2. Delphine has posted that she's stepping down as the WMF's chapters coordinator, but she's staying on as a member (in what specific capacity I have not yet heard) of the chapters committee.
  3. We have Chapters applications in the pipeline for Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, and Norway. Hopefully at least some of these applications will be decided upon and sent to the board for confirmation within the next few days. We like to send them to the board in batches, so we are waiting on a few details to get more of them ready for confirmation.
  4. The NYC group is moving ahead at full speed. I have offered for Pharos to post an update here about it when he is ready, and I'm looking forward to that very much, as I'm sure many other US wikimedians are too.
That's all for now, I'll post more news updates as I get them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lots of Chapters news today

For people who were paying attention to foundation-l, chapterscommittee-l or wikimediauk-l today, there was a huge amount of activity. Again, I know this isn't strictly USA-related, but it's chapters news, and there isn't much new from the USA right now.

  1. One of the remaining 4 directors of WMF UK resigned this morning, prompting Alison Wheeler, the director, to call for the disolution of the ailing chapter. Lots of mailing list activity over this issue (some of it is misfortunately negative). Already, there is talk of creating a new chapter to take it's place. If you're from the UK and would like to get involved, this might be the best time to do it.
  2. A new chapter is in development in Brazil. We've heard from them that they are serious about becoming a chapter and are interested in starting to move forward with the process.
  3. The ChapCom is still accepting applications from people who want to join. We're looking for both members and advisors, so we can take applications from people with busy schedules. We're looking for people who are hopefully multilingual, globally-minded, energetic, and interesting in playing a fundamental role in the coordination of Wikimedian volunteers. If this sounds like you or somebody you know, send an application to the

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some chapters-related news

This post isn't strictly on-topic, but news has been scarce in the area of USA chapter development so I am trying to fill in the gaps with other related news.

First and foremost, the Chapters committee is looking for new applicants to fill it's ranks. We are looking to fill spots for both members and advisers. We don't have a set quota of seats to fill, but at the moment we are probably looking to fill more seats then we have received applications. Ideal candidates will have some interest in existing chapters and in the development of new chapters. We would like people who are multilingual to help in communications, but we really need people who have some level of english fluency to communicate with the committee.

If you're going to send in an application, we would like to hear a little bit about you. Where do you live? What languages do you speak/read/understand? What are your opinions on chapters as they currently are? What do you think we can do with chapters in the future? What is your level of participation in WMF projects and, if any, the open content movement at large? Send an email to with the answers to these questions, if you're interested.

In other news, yesterday we had a second meeting with organizers from the Catalan group. As a recap, the Catalan language is spoken in a large area of Europe that includes parts of Spain, France, Italy, and Andorra. The Catalonians want to create their own chapter, but this would obviously overlap with existing chapters in France and Italy, and a chapter in development in Spain. I need to go over chat logs again to make sure I know all the details (I was working at the time and could only pay partial attention) but it looks like things are moving ahead slowly and cautiously. In the worst case, they create a non-profit organization but are never recognized as an official chapter. In the best case, we find some agreement between all parties involved and we get a new Catalonia chapter (or "metachapter", or some other term that shows they are recognized but not a traditional "Chapter"). It will be interesting to see where things go with this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Catalan Organizers

There was an interesting meeting yesterday around 1pm (evening for most participants) on IRC's #Wikimedia-chapters. It wasn't a private meeting as anybody could attend, but it wasn't advertised either. It's not directly related to USA-organizational efforts, but it's chapters-related and it might influence the USA situation in a tangential way. Delphine and I attended for the chapcom, although Delphine did most of the talking.

Some volunteers have been looking into organizing speakers of the Catalan language. Catalan is spoken in parts of Spain, France, and Italy, and is the official language of Andorra. Organizers, who come from all of these countries are proposing to create the first transnational Wikimedia Chapter.

This raises a couple problems, notably due to the overlapping with existing chapters in France and Italy, and another proposed chapter in Spain. The organizers were, however, very well prepared for the meeting and had a number of specific plans and ideas in mind that would indeed require some sort of legal framework like that required of our chapters. Questions and ideas were exchanged on both sides of the table, and we're taking a week for both sides to think things over. We're having another meeting next Wednesday at 1pm EST (5 pm UTC) to continue the discussion and see where we could be moving from here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Short update, I have not disappeared completely

It's been a slow couple of weeks recently, and I wish there were more to write about (and more opportunities to do the writing!). Hopefully, with Wikimania out of the way things will get back up to speed.

I have not heard anything recently about USA organization efforts. I'm sure things are happening, but I haven't had my ear close to the grapevine. If anybody has USA-chapter-related news, I would love to hear about it.

I've been in touch with Johnny and Cbrown. We're all a little bit busy lately, but we want to get back on track for a PA organization. It's certainly not preferred, but if the chapters issue isn't suitably resolved by the time we're ready, I think we're willing to move forward anyway and forgo (or forestall) becoming an official chapter. It's been over a year now that this idea has been on the table, and I think everybody is getting a little tired of waiting. If anybody is in PA (preferrably in the Philly area, to support face-to-face meetups) get in touch and help us with the organization effort.

The chapters committee has been getting a little busy lately. We've gotten a few requests from chapters-to-be, some of which are very interesting and controversial. I'll post more information about this when there is more to be posted. Also, there has been a little bit of a shakeup because some keen observers noticed that some chapcom member terms have ended. What, if anything, is to come from this milestone is yet to be determined. Delphine posted a note about possibly entertaining applications to foundation-l, and I do hope some qualified people apply. I personally would like to see some fresh blood added to the committee, but I can't really talk about it any more here.

Again, if anybody knows anything about the progress of organizers in the USA, I would love to hear it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wikimedia DC Chapter discussed at meetup

At the recent DC #4 Wikimeetup, which was attended by around 20 people, we briefly discussed, and formally announced, the creation of a working group for the Wikimedia DC Chapter. While discussion was limited and brief, we identified some of the bigger issues that we will have to work through in the next weeks: 1) How will the chapter organize itself internally? 2) How will the chapter organize itself legally? 3) How will the chapter work with the other surrounding chapters in the northeast region?

These are difficult questions and there are no easy or ready answers for them. However the working group is committed to working our way through them and coming to the best possible result for our constituency. To that end, I invite all readers to visit our site, WP:DC on en.wp or Wikimedia DC on meta and offer your opinions.

-(posted on behalf of) Dan Rosenthal
Wikimedia DC Working Group coordinator

Sunday, May 4, 2008

It Hits The Fan!

The issue of USA chapters has hit the scene in a big way. This week, the WMF Board of trustees announced a reorganization plan that described how seats on the board are to be filled. Most importantly for our purposes, two seats on the board are to be reserved for members to be selected by the chapters. The exact mechanism by which the chapters are going to select candidates for these seats is not yet known. However, this raises a very important and relevant question: What about the people in the USA? What about this community, which is arguably one of the largest and oldest groups in the entire WMF? Are these people to be completely disenfranchised because they don't have any chapters? Florence sent a very important email to foundation-l about the USA topic specifically. Here is an excerpt:
It does not mean that we yet know what these chapters would do
it simply means that on the principle, we'll be happy to approve a USA
chapter ... or USA chapters, or USA chocolate cake, or something, that
will make it possible for USA citizens to get involved at board
membership level.

Hear that everybody? The board would be happy to accept, in principle, a US chapter or "chapters". This is good, because "chapters" is what we have forming right now. We have people talking about organizing in PA, NY, OR, and CA. This discussion has even revealed that a new group has started organizing in Washington DC. I've even extended an invitation to Swatjester, one of the people organizing that group, to become an author on this blog to help get them some more exposure! I have even heard, through the grapevine, about people organizing in other states: MA, TN, AZ. I would love to hear more about other organizational efforts, leave a comment or send me an email if you have any information about these.

I've been in touch with Delphine, and I've also been hard at work trying to draft a proposal on the issue that the chapcom can present to the board for approval. Our intended proposal will be very open-ended to help encourage thinking and discussion. It should help put the final puzzle piece in place, and finally open the floodgates for US chapter creation.

On a side note, I now regret renaming this blog to "Wiki Northeast" because I would love to extend it to include the entire US organizational effort. However, renaming is a total pain, so "Wiki Northeast" is what we are stuck with. However, I am more then willing to talk about organizational efforts in other US regions as well.

I am looking to recruit more authors and guest authors for this blog. Applicants must be an active participant in some kind of organization effort for a USA-based chapter. If you or somebody you know is actively organizing and would like a little soapbox to talk about it, please send me an email. If you don't want to become an author, you can email me news updates short stories, or one-time posts, and I can put them on the blog for you. I would really love to hear from the people "on the ground" about how things are going. I look forward to posting more updates on these topics as things progress.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wikipedia Takes Manhattan: Our First Outreach Project

Team "New York Dolls": Our 2nd-place winners

I'm glad to announce the results of Wikipedia Takes Manhattan, our first real outreach project at the nascent Wikimedia New York City, held with great help and sponsorship from Free Culture Columbia and Free Culture NYU.

In the first event of its kind anywhere, we held a photographic scavenger hunt for places around our city needing photos for their Wikipedia articles.

The idea was to reach out to Columbia and NYU students, while taking Wikimedia and free content "to the streets" (literally, in this case) in creating a gallery of local sights. This was a project we pursued in lieu of a Wikipedia Academy for now, while hopefully building the way for bigger and better things to come.

We have tentative plans for a "Wikipedia Takes Manhattan 2" in the Fall, and hopefully a local Wikipedia Academy as well. Already, there are ideas for a Wikipedia Takes The City-type contest brewing on the Dutch Wikipedia, under the name "Photohunt 2008".

Judson Memorial Church designed by Stanford White, one of our 92 successfully photographed targets.

This really was a great adventure for the participants, as you can plainly see from the incredibly cool gallery on Commons, which shows all the sights the different teams visited over the course of the day.

And I was really impressed by the enthusiastic energy on display, with several of our teams going all the way out to the far Bronx or Queens for those distance-based bonus points we offered.

A member of Team "New York Dolls" told us how this unique itinerary really let her appreciate the Upper West Side, where she'd lived for years as a student, but had never had an opportunity to really get to know the area. I've always been a fan of learning with your feet as well as your fingers, and if her pictures encourage more people in exploring their own neighborhoods (and sharing their discoveries), I think we'll have put the world of free knowledge up a notch in more ways than one.

Hard at work uploading. Barnstars and prizes up front.

But the extraordinary thing about this event I want to communicate to fellow Wikimedians is this: it was not primarily organized by Wikipedians/Wikimedians. Sure, we compiled the list and set up the mechanisms online. But the outreach to the students, the printing of instruction packets, the iPod shuffle prizes, the uploading party and its 15 pizzas, all this was done by our amazing friends at the Free Culture student clubs (mostly Columbia, but both were great).

There is really so much more we can do when we work with like-minded people, and for an organizer to just (for example) make a decision to start attending meetings of groups in your area can be incredibly productive. As a start, I'd recommend you check out Free Culture clubs around the US (and more on cooperating with local groups in later posts).

And a good time was had by all.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Wikipedia Takes Manhattan! Event this Friday.

Important note: You MUST MUST MUST register here by Thursday 8 PM EST, if there is any possibility you plan on participating or coming to the party that night.

Wikipedia Takes Manhattan (see link for full schedule) is a scavenger hunt and free content photography contest aimed at illustrating Wikipedia articles covering the wondrous sights on the island of Manhattan.

This event is being held Rain or Shine.

The goal is to take as many photos as possible for Wikipedia articles that currently don't have any pictures.

We're doing this event with the sponsorship of Free Culture Columbia, with cooperation from Free Culture NYU.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wikinortheast Blog

Many people undoubtedly saw the excellent previous post by Pharos, about the benefit of big discussion tables at Wikimeetups. This is one of what I hope to be many posts about on-the-ground wiki activism.

The USA currently does not have a chapter like so many other countries do. There have been some other attempts in the past to create such a chapter, but none of those attempts have reached the necessary critical momentum. There have been some efforts to create state-based chapters as well. This is easier in many respects, I think, because when you're local you can get together offline and build up enthusiasm in a real way. There was one such effort in PA to create a chapter, although that is currently dormant. There is also a very impressive effort happening in New York, and we've all heard a lot about their efforts.

I've also heard some very encouraging things from other people as well, especially from some of my newly-created contacts in Oregon. In Portland, several wikimedians have been participating in a "WikiWednesday", a monthly informal meetup.

Pharos, one of the prime movers in the NY group, came to me with the suggestion of expanding my PA blog to cover the NY volunteers and others from the region. So, I turned this little blog into a group blog that people can use to talk about wiki activism from the Northeast region in the USA. If other people are interested in joining this blog and trying to build up some enthusiasm, leave us a comment about who you are and what you are doing. I'm not going to strictly define "northeast", so consider the boundaries to be extremely fuzzy.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Big Table Required: How to turn a Meetup into a Meeting

Many cities in the US have had occasional meetups, but these are often held erratically, and usually without agenda. We've had some notable successes with organizing in New York City recently, and our group even seems set on becoming the first Wikimedia "affiliate chapter" in the United States.

How did we do it? A big table. With: people sitting around it, engaged in discussion. Without: A banquet and drinks setting (unfortunately).

The important thing is to have a clear space where you can hold real group discussion, pursue content projects and educational outreach with other local groups, and open a mini-conference where members can make presentations on their Wikimedia areas of expertise (more on this in later posts).

All you need is someone WP:BOLD enough to organize. You just need to set a date (and stick to it), advertise like hell, write a preliminary agenda, and find the right space. It's not very hard to get ahold of a space with a big table, and it shouldn't have to cost anything to reserve a room. Our first big table meeting was in November at a public library. Our meetings in January and March were in a room at Columbia University, arranged by one of our members who is affiliated there. We've been holding a meeting once every two months, and I would recommend that for other groups as well.

While Wikimedia has been incredibly open to the contributions of volunteers online, there has been relatively little scope for real-life volunteer activities, because of the small footprint of the Foundation on-the-ground. There has been constant talk of a nationwide "US chapter" online for years, but very little progress.

I believe that the solution is not a theoretical bureaucracy of American Wikimedians on Meta or IRC, but rather a diversity of local chapters capable of engaging in real-life meetings and activities on a regular basis. And that extends not just to New Yorkers, but to Wikimedians in all major metropolitan areas, who can all have something to contribute through on-the-ground activities. Indeed, the whole point of this blog is to show that it can be done in other cities too.

And the good news is: You can still have that banquet and drinks setting. We still do, every time, because social settings are a large part of what people come to meetups for. But we do it after the afternoon meeting, when we can take our evening stroll together, and set out for a neighborhood restaurant and some well-deserved laid back wiki-chat.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Renaming And Merging

Pharos, one of the leading members of the Wikimedia NY effort and somebody who has been doing some very exciting things recently, has contacted me about joining efforts with this blog. The NY group has been picking up steam in a time when the PA group seems to be losing it. They've also been forging valuable partnerships with other like-minded organizations, and that's something that's invaluable to any group.

This will be the last post for the blog After this, the blog will be moved to to reflect it's new scope. I'm also going to be adding Pharos (and anybody else who has something relevant to say) as an editor. This is an exciting time for everybody, and this change will do a lot of good.