WikiConference India 2011 – More Personal Thoughts

After a long time, User:AroundTheGlobe and I managed to put out the report on WikiConference India 2011. Here’s the announcement on the mailing lists.

The making of the Report could become a report in itself. Here, I wanted to share a few things that I wanted to say but could not on the Wikipedia Report page since it is a co-authored work. Now, let me contradict myself. Some of the Report does contain accusations and events that User:AroundTheGlobe wanted to put out but I was not comfortable putting out. This made us want to fork the report in two, a private Report and a public one. Further thinking made me feel that this created a potential for a leak and could become a source of more controversy. I, therefore, pushed for a single Report. In exchange, I had to be comfortable against some of these accusations, although I was not completely confident about said accusations. I can only say that there are some undercurrents running through this Report that it could have well done without. The Report, towards the end, was also done a little hastily than I would have.

I am not sure if it’s totally great to say what’s above along with the Report. I have been debating about it with myself. When I spoke to User:AroundTheGlobe today, he said that he wanted to say the things stated in the Report publicly. It is this conversation that makes me want to put my point of view out in the open. It is, for me, a way to close a chapter – The Wikipedian phase of my life.

There is a concern that the Report does not provide much for the future organisers of the Conference. I would like to rebut this point to say that that is our main point. Any future Conference must necessarily come out of a request for such a Conference from the Wikimedia Community in India and then be legally led by the Chapter. Until we reach that phase, the Community will not feel ownership of the Conference and will not be able to help the Organizers with 100%. Sengupta had suggested that the Conference be run like a BarCamp, in the run up to the 2011 Conference. I do not think any other conference can be run in a more BarCamp like manner than a Wikipedia conference truly supported by the Community. As I said, we’ve provided all the guidelines we could provide.

There has been a lot of politicking around this Conference. While it has attracted fresh blood into the Movement, as you pass through certain channels, you become aware of the politics amongst Wikipedians. Many seasoned Wikipedians have experienced this, I believe. It is not all pervasive on Wikipedia. You find it more on the mailing lists and off-list conversations. I have felt this is a bad thing but it is not yet affecting the Movement as such. People have tried to draw me towards these politics and I have fought hard to stay away. I do not know if I have succeded or failed. This is one of the reasons that I quit Wikipedia. It has affected the fun I had when I edit, thinking about some of the fellow editors words. It reduces trust, somehow.

One of the things that deeply affected me during the Conference in 2011, was the off list conversations and the intrigue. I despised it at a fundamental level but enjoyed it since I was not involved in anything at this scale before. Some of it was forced us on by restrictions on time and some because we felt that it was the only practical way of moving ahead. In the end though, it made me really tired and made me ask myself many questions.

In the end, things did get enough out of hand, that the only means of escape seemed to me to let Wikipedia go. There are many people who’ve expressed to me, an interest in knowing this politics deeply. I have evaded these questions telling them that I’d write about it someday. Really, I am still not sure of all the connections and anything written with half-knowledge is sometimes more dangerous than anything written with full understanding of the facts.

Quitting Wikipedia has helped me immensely. People are no longer interested in me and leave me alone. I’ve cancelled my membership. I maintain contact with a few Wikipedians who became friends and hopefully, will remain friends. It has removed negativity, freed up time to work out in a gym and go out to movies and have more fun. More time is now free. I miss some of the things I learned because I edited something on Wikipedia, but it is a small price to pay for my mental well-being.

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