Hi all,

I appreciate the transparent, detailed and professional planning of
conference and I am sorry I couldn't take part in WikiConference related
planning earlier.

For those who don't know, I am a Tamil Wikimedian since 2005 with 20,000+
edits. My major interest lies in outreach and policy decisions concerning
Tamil Wikimedia projects.

http://toolserver.org/~quentinv57/sulinfo/Ravidreams

Am I qualified to express my opinions now ? ;)

I have two major concerns:

1. The overall budget. It is huge even if we get 100% commercial
sponsorship. We could do more useful things with this budget.

2. The amount of money that is being granted from the foundation.

Given the indication that this may be an annual event, here are my ideas on
*how a WikiConference shall be arranged. *

* WikiConference need not be an annual event.

* It should be planned well in advance ( a year in advance at least to allow
time for planning and fund-raising )

* Let's not have an ambitious plan and wonder for funding. We should have a
realistic estimate for non-grant funding and plan accordingly. *Bidding city
/ community should show guarantee to meet at least half the budget by means
of commercial sponsors and other revenue sources.* If they cannot provide
this guarantee, they should revise the budget.

* Tie up with local universities / academic institutions for free venue /
dorms and look for the dates when these can be available. WikiConference is
a media event and I am sure there will be many hosting partners for a brand
like Wikipedia. If we can convince schools to run campus ambassador programs
why not they be convinced to host this?

* Need not be a 3 day event. Even a 1 or 2 day event will be good. (will cut
down logistics, accommodation costs) .

*What if this is 2001 with no WMF and grants? How will we plan and organize?
*

*This is not a corporate conference to have 100% professional and rocking
experience at any cost. This is a community conference and that spirit
should be kept. *

*Here are some ways to minimise expense and generate revenue:*

* We are getting lakhs of eyeballs for sponsorship / participation
announcement and they all land in WikiConference India home page. But
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/WikiConference_India_2011/Sponsorship has no
info and I couldn't find sponsorship related info anywhere else. This should
be the highlighted info in conference homepage asking for sponsors.

* Why not convert the conference itself into a fund-raiser? Open a donation
booth. Have an agreement with chapter / foundation to get 50% donations for
conference expenses and donate the rest to the movement. Can we place a
banner of this budget in the conference venue? Will our expenses be
justified to a common man? Will people be motivated to donate? If not, we
are doing something the wrong way.

* Registration cost should be at least 300 INR per day. ( The current budget
allots 200 INR plus per day for food alone). The value of the conference is
in the knowledge they gain and not in the goodies we give. Meritorious
candidates can apply for sponsorships. We don't need a crowd. The local
crowd may come and forget it as yet another event. The prime focus should be
to bring together best minds already active in Wikimedia at one place. The
attendees party can be free for scholarship recipients but others can pay.
If you compare that a movie going experience in Mumbai should cost at least
200 INR per head, we need not feel shy to charge where it is due.

* Sell Wikipedia souvenirs including T-Shirts, mugs etc.,. Or give them as a
freebie when people make large donations.

* If we can make the event a two-day conference, we can cut down logistics
and accommodation costs. Even an international event like Wikimania has some
less quality presentations. Have four tracks: Language Wikipedia projects,
English Wikipedia, Tech and General. ( I found only two seminar rooms in the
budget and assume only 2 or 3 tracks) Have only the best papers and move the
rest to lighting talks.

Personally, I am not so happy with some of the ways WMF, chapters are
spending the donated money and I know there are more people feeling this
way. If even regular Wikipedians feel like this, we should be more
responsible in how we project ourselves for the public. I have been a
regular donor to WMF but will reconsider from this year on. A good idea will
be to apply to join the grants committee or take part in the discussions
there. So, this is nothing personal against WikiConference India.

Personally, I have experiences running a whole day blog camp for 200 people
with less than 50,000 INR with no registration cost and free lunch. In
another instance, Tamil Wikipedians ran a 3 day Wikipedia workshop for 1000s
of people with less than a 20,000 INR budget. So, I can't help compare the
value brought forth by some of the items in the current WikiConference
budget. There have been tens of outreach programs by local communities so
far with zero grants and zero cost. Special mention can be made of annual
Wikipedia meetup, CD releases by Malayalam Wikipedia and State wide article
contest by Tamil Wikipedia. Just because we have a chapter and grants now
doesn't mean we can spend it somehow.

We shall look for unconventional ways to invest wisely which will have
maximum ROI. Here are some examples:

* Once, a financially striving Tamil Wikipedian was contributing regularly
by spending his own money from a browsing center. We managed to collect some
cash from the community and presented him a PC with internet connection.
Cost: 25,000 INR. You can guess his edit activity now and the lifetime value
it brings.

India is still a developing country and there may be many more such
Wikipedians. Why not develop a Laptop scholarship program for qualified
Wikipedians?

* http://www.noolaham.org is a volunteer driven NPO that aims to digitize
Tamil resources from Sri Lanka. Their annual budget for 2010 was roughly
8 lakh INR and they have digitized 1000s of books so far. This is a
significant achievement for a regional language given their civil war
situations. When we wonder about lack of citations for Indian languages,
imagine the impact of similar projects bootstrapped for all Indian
languages.

* A resource center with one or two full-time professionals can be run for
each Wikipedia with an annual cost of less than 10 lakh INR and this will
have a huge impact on the quality and quantity of the Wikipedias.

Finally, every Wikimedian has his own way of contributing to the movement.
He cannot and need not take part in all activities but if he has an opinion
on what is done in the name of community, I believe it should be discussed
with an open mind.

I will not be able to attend this year's WikiConference due to personal
reasons.

My best wishes for the event and special kudos for the organisers.

Regards,

Ravi
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