User:Econterms/Draft report on WCNA 2021
WikiConference North America was held on Friday-Sunday, October 8-10, 2021.
The organizers had attended the conference in the past and had compatible visions and goals. The previous year's conference had been online and had gone fairly well although we wanted to expand and improve some things.
We committed ourselves early in a series of weekly meetings to certain goals or frames for the conference:
- (a) making the event inclusive, especially to Spanish speakers, by arranging captions or audio interpretation across languages, which would be new to the WCNA conferences;
- (b) a theme of global-and-local frames implemented in several ways;
- (c) supporting local events and being able to sponsor attendees who needed funding to make time or get equipment to attend
- (d) offering workshops and training for both new and experienced editors, not just one-to-many broadcasts of presentations.
Technologies, platforms, suppliers
Many software platforms and services were involved:
- Hopin: Stages, sessions, expo room, Streamyard
- Kudo: Enables virtual interpretation rooms
- Tlatolli: Interpreters
- Pretix: Registration
- Slack: Organizers communication
- Telegram: Public communication
- YouTube: Two tracks, the "stages", were visible on YouTube, generally both with English audio and Spanish audio.
- Etherpad: For notes on sessions
- Zoom: Used in a couple of sessions, because a session organizer was already set up to use it, and/or would invite people who were not otherwise attending the conference.
- WorkAdventure and Menti -- After hours leisure time
- Unfinished: processing videos and making them available on YouTube and on Commons.
Sessions and spaces
We had about 65 scheduled items on our Schedule. (Describe these types of locations/sessions)
- Stages: These were broadcast presentations, from Streamyard. The audience was not visible and could not speak. Often the presenters showed slides or a browser tab/screen. These were recorded by Hopin and interpreted between English/Spanish, and generally shown live on YouTube. A moderator was present backstage
- Pre-scheduled sessions: Those in our "Green track" were generally not recorded. They did not have language translation/interpretation. The people attending could choose to be visible generally, unless there was a pre-designated moderator deciding.
- Editathons, lightning talks, and unconference sessions - Open chat, mostly "sessions" on Hopin; a couple were zoom meetings
- Expo: We had a few prepared YouTube videos. Attendance was light but it meant people could see some presentations before or after the scheduled time.
See Figures 1-3. (We may not be able to replicate these on meta, depending on copyright stuff, but we can cite them.) Overall over 300 registered, but this includes a number of duplicates and people who could not or did not actually attend. 186 logged in to our Hopin event at some point. The peak attendance at one time was 92 people, early on Friday afternoon, possibly when Carmen was giving her invited talk. In the first chart, attendance never drops near zero even at night because there was no need to log out. On Thursday evening we invited attendees for a social/test time on the platform.
- (Three?) editathon events linked from the conference program were held on Zoom. These gathered perhaps 20 participants overall, most of whom were also conference attendees.
- English/Spanish interpretation: In (about half) of the sessions, those on Hopin's "stages" (our red and blue tracks), attendees could click for interpretation and select a language, English or Spanish. It went well overall, with some glitches. The systems are complicated. Show diagram. Interpretation services were offered in the large presentation rooms, which we called Stage Red and Stage Blue, but not in the "breakout rooms" for workshops, editathons, unconference discussions, or lightning talks.
- Safe space matters: There weren't safe space issues during the conference. We had prepared. A team went over training materials in advance and wrote up a document of what our practices would be at game time. We edited the safe space policy. Volunteers signed up for shifts and sessions. We think the document is worth sharing.
- Local events: We had in-person events on Sunday afternoon in various locations. NYC picnic (photos) and Mexico City, funded by the grant. A parallel picnic was held in San Diego. Our grant anticipated having more local events. There was less interest than anticipated, and we did not push the point; there was interest in the online event, and caution about the ongoing covid pandemic.
Evaluations by attendees
We distributed survey questions of attendees, and got 35 responses between Oct 11th and Oct 19th. We invited ratings from 0-10 on their overall conference experience and 28 of the responses were high, in the 8-10 range. The main platform, Hopin, got 25 responses that high, but a number of attendees had difficulty and expressed frustration with it. We asked about their experience with the live audio interpretation, and 14 said they used it, and of these 12 said it worked well. We invited specific comments about difficulties or matters of special interest, and there were a variety of interesting answers. They are hard to summarize, but generally positive and informative, and worth reflecting on for next time.
Our original budget was set by a grant from WMF, totaling $US 24,508. Our actual expenses varied from this, exceeding the budget by perhaps 15% (Peter to clarify). We had small revenues from selling t-shirts and mugs with the WCNA 2021 logo, savings from previous years, and donations to make up the difference.
The effort to scale up to over 200 registrants and English/Spanish interpretation raised our costs over other conferences. We made decisions late in the process to scale up, getting Hopin's "business plan" (which lasts a year and includes some support), and the high-end Kudo software service to integrate interpreters. These raised costs but it was not clear we could succeed with smaller-scale, lower-end components. It leaves us with a year-long subscription to Hopin which our component organizations can use again, and plan to use for Meta-day.
For the future
- It would help us to hold future events if WMF Events scaled up the services it offers, notably so as to offer some prearranged subscriptions to platforms and services, more of which would have open-source commitments. We were short of time and skills to evaluate these platforms and did not have bargaining power to negotiate for our one event -- but WMF affiliates hold events every week around the world.