Last night I participated in a panel discussion on Wikipedia’s future. It was quite an informal event at a the bar/club/restaurant Strand in Stockholm.
Invited were a couple of guests with various backgrounds: A writer, a poet, a politician, a journalist, a political scientist, a web entrepreneur and myself from the cultural heritage sector.
All, except me, are frequent participants in public debates and arenas. The panel thus attracted an audience that was exceptionally large and trendy for a Wikipedia event. This event was also coorganized with a PR and communication agency Skugge & Co which was a great success for Wikipedia Sweden, who has had some difficulties reaching out to a larger crowd with their events.
At least half an hour late we started the panel discussion led by Axel Pettersson, press contact at Wikipedia Sweden. He had prepared a few questions to get the discussion going and then the panel contributed with a few questions, anecdotes and opinions.
The Wikipedia representatives were few, and worked hard all evening keeping the event going. They did an excellent job, but there was some critique from the audience. First of all it was percieved to some extent as not a very coherent discussion. From my point of view we covered a broad aspect of Wikipedia, but needed perhaps to stop and put focus on certain issues. Also there were no questions from the audience, mainly because they weren’t really invited into the discussion.
This strikes me as one of the weaker points of Wikipedia, there is a large crowd of just ”users” of Wikipedia. It’s just there when you perform a search on Google. There is a need to market (I am not sure if it’s the right word to use) Wikipedia as a crowdsourced organization and service, where you’re never just a user, but a contributer in one way or the other.
Then we have the interesting meeting between Wikipedia and the trendy and very demanding audience, who attend the top social media and communication events and expect nothing but perfection (technichque, content etc.). They want to be entertained by the best. To succeed and prosper, Wikipedia Sweden will need to not only get the attention of this crowd but also an active commitment (this is a lesson I bring back to the cultural heritage sector as well). Also, I believe larger Wikipedia events would benefit from a more focused programme adressing current issues of interest for segmented audiences.
I truly enjoyed last night and I believe Wikipedia Sweden all in all did a great job. Important questions were brought up, and a few things were brought to my attention:
- The young politicians are very interested in solving copyright issues, but they are also concerned and a bit frustrated that these issues aren’t taken seriously by the government, i.e. they feel there’s a lack of understanding of the real problems and how important this new culture online is to the younger generation
- A recurring issue is the poor user interface of Wikipedia (both for users and for contributers), this seems however be taken seriously by the Wikipedia foundation who are now giving scholarships and employing Wikipedians around the world to find solutions
- For the cultural heritage sector it’s important to look outside the sector for input around collaboration with Wikipedia (in the sense of contributing to digital inclusion, making a difference in society and finding new ways of mediating cultural heritage online)
Today, Wikipedia Sweden are having a meeting at Nordiska museet. They are also making time for a meeting around the collaboration between Nordiska museet and Wikipedia Sweden, which I am particularly looking foward to. Yesterday’s panel discussion was a great occasion for reflection and networking and this weekend the celebrations of Wikipedia 10 years continue.