Taiwan: What's Next After Wikimania 2007?

Photograph taken by halafish from flickr

Wikimania 2007 at Taipei ended on August 5th. To members promoting Mediawiki in Taiwan, this international conference is a wonderful opportunity for exchanging ideas. Among organizers and contributors, we can find five IT-related research institutes in Taiwan, including Institute of Information Science, Academia Sinica and Department of Computer Science and Information, National Taiwan University. National Digital Archive Program and National Science Council, which are strategic units from local government.

They provided very good support for the conference. It shows that most of the core members in wiki community of Taiwan share similar IT-oriented backgrounds. At Wikimania, Taiwanese IT workers took the chance to exchange ideas about the technical meanings of wiki with international wiki researchers. Take the display of double-bit words for example, which has been a plaguing problem to many; participants from Asia had put forward their suggestions in the technical conference, said local blogger Bob Chao[Zh]. Through such dialogue, people came to realize that global internet users share similar problems.

This conference not only constructs a platform for intensive conversation and regional cooperation, but also a beginning for future development.However, when it comes to social issues like citizen journalism, sharing economy and Creative Commons, participants from Taiwan have far less feedbacks than they did in those technology-related workshops. In fact, the number of bloggers, community workers and academics from Taiwan attending Wikimania 2007 is actually relatively small. In Taiwanese blogosphere, Wikimania 2007 is not a hot topic before or after the conference. It reflects that Taiwan, as a hub of global IT industry, is still an engineering-centric society. The social awareness that wiki promotes is quite new, or even alien to Taiwan.

We can somehow notice this phenomenon by looking at local volunteers that take part in this event. Michael Tang and Ivin Tsai are both college students. They find volunteer recruitment via a student club website, AIESEC[zh]. By being voluteers, they want to know different people and to have more experience in an international conference like this. However, their understanding toward wiki doesn't go beyond the research function that wikipedia can provide while they do their assignments in school.

To Ding Ding, Luchia and an anonymous female volunteer, Wikipedia is also all they know about wiki. Their volunteer recruitment info is from Ptt, the largest BBS in Taiwan. Luchia participates in order to work with a group of friendly people. Through the process, he learns more about how to organize a conference than the nature of wiki. Ding Ding and the anonymous volunteer points out, most volunteers are here for conference service. People who are interested in technology will not be volunteers, but attendants.

When asked about what they know and how they view Wikimania, Ding Ding notices that during the conference, local media only introduce Wikipedia in a general way. Journalists focus more on OLPC on display than the spirit of wiki, and this is not helpful in understanding wiki, he says. Anonymous female volunteer takes citizen media session in the unconference as example, while international participants discuss every aspect of citizen media, local attendants still try to figure out “what is citizen media?” She also says she does not have a clear understanding of citizen media yet.

Volunteeers interviewed are all local college students. Their majors range from electronic engineering, business administration, economy, law, etc. They ought to have different perspectives towards this conference. However, they never have edit Wikipedia, and they are not familiar with any wiki projects. Unsurprisingly, they use BBS more often than blogs.

Ilya[Zh], researcher of Academia Sinica and long-term blogger in Taiwan, is deeply involved in conference preparation. He points out, conferences with international presenters as majority like wikimania 2007 are rare in Taiwan. To online community in Taiwan, the major impact that wikimania 2007 provides is not what we have solved, but who we have met. Volunteers are wonderful, he says, but they seem not that enthusiastic in participating in the conference. If internet community and volunteers are eager to reach out through Wikimania 2007, they should be curious about why people come, what the connection is among people, and what feedbacks Taiwan can have.

After Wikimania 2007, what's next for Taiwan? The future may not lie in the venue, but out of it. During the conference evenings, renowned blogger Issac Mao[Zh] from China had several gatherings with local bloggers, including Carol, KEN, Vista, etcs[Zh]. Several feedbacks come from blogosphere after Carol described those gatherings on her blog. Another local bloggers tmas68 has also been inspired by wikimania 2007. He believes more unrestricted gatherings of similar kinds are needed in Taiwan. These will help bloggers to know the current trends and future cooperation. In the closing ceremony, regional promotion plan by wikimedia foundation and iCommons is disclosed. This makes people more eager to know how wiki will develop regarding to social relations. To Taiwan, the end of wikimania 2007 may be just another starting point of a long journey.

Originally written in Chinese by HOW


  • The people in Taiwan made the event great. I think we should come up with a new ruling that every such event should be held in Taiwan.

  • Allen

    Well, there was one local volunteer who majors in Arabic at a local university in Taiwan. I was glad to see him actually practicing Arabic with several Middle Eastern visitors.

    Several volunteers that I talked to do know about the Uncyclopedia and have visited the Chinese version of it.

    While many volunteers may be somewhat ignorant of the various Wikimedia projects, they showed a lot of volunteer spirit and I hope volunteer spirit will continue to be a tradition in future Wikimania conferences.

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