Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My thoughts on Wikimania 2007 bids

My main concerns in choosing venues include that the venue should be consistent with Wikimedia's core principles, that the venue not be located in a place likely to be hostile to Wikimedians for religious, political, or social reasons (and more specifically due to GLBT discrimination), that the venue be otherwise interesting to visit, and that the venue is affordable for most Wikimedians to get to and to be at. I am also concerned about long-term diversity in venue.

Regrettably, these principles do exclude a significant portion of the world, for a variety of reasons. To people who live in areas excluded by these principles, please change your legal and social practices, then reapply.

I have several principles regarding diversity: first, that we should alternate English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries; second, that we should not hold Wikimania on the same continent two years in a row; and third, that the relative frequency of each continent should be roughly proportional to participation. Based on recent data, that means that, out of any given six years, Europe should be about three, North America about two, Asia one, and one in Australia, Africa, or South America.

So, on to the individual bids:

Alexandria

While I like the appeal of having it at the reborn Library of Alexander, and the connection with archive.org is doubtless appealing, I am not thrilled at the idea of holding Wikimania in a country rated "very dangerous" for GLBT individuals. I'm also concerned that there will be little to do other than at the venue itself; and I'm reasonably certain that I won't be able to sit at a bar and drink with Danny. I'm reasonably certain I will not attend if we hold Wikimania here.

Taipei

The main problems with Taiwan as a host country are (a) high travel expense for European and North American travelers (who make up probably three-quarters of Wikimedians) and (b) the possibility of negative political consequences with respect to the negotiations regarding China's firewall.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has similar expense issues as for Taipei. There are also immigration issues for Mainland China and Taiwan to deal with. Hong Kong is arguably an English-speaking "country", although not entirely and I'm willing to count it as being non-English-speaking for this year. HK does not have the political consequences that Taipei might have.

Singapore

I have concerns about Singapore from a GLBT standpoint as well; homosexual conduct carries a maximum life sentence there. Furthermore, the country's draconian anti-free-speech policies might actually result in a significant proportion of Wikimedians being nominally subject to arrest because their contributions to Wikimedia projects violate Singaporean law. I think that it would be a mistake for Wikimedia, an organization dedicated to open, uncensored content, to support the economy of a state so opposed to it.

Istanbul

The main problem I have with the Istanbul proposal is the ability of the local community to support the bid. As far as I can tell, this bid is being forwarded mainly by a single proponent whose connection to the rest of the community is rather tenuous. Travel expenses from North America are also quite high. Istanbul is also expensive. Not a bad idea, though. Turkey, while not as problematic on GLBT issues as several of the other suggested venues, is also not the most open of nations.

Torino

Torino looks to me to be an excellent bid. The operational and attendee costs look to be extremely low. Italy does not present very many political difficulties, and is extremely convenient for most Europeans and not too difficult for North Americans.

London

London is likely to be very expensive; in any case it is excluded from my consideration, at least, because England is an English-speaking country and is therefore excluded from consideration in a year following a United States location.

Orlando

Orlando, aside from being just a pathetically terrible place to visit in August, holds no appeal at all to me in any case. In particular, Orlando's main tourist appeal is Walt Disney World, an entity which is actively repellent to me. Disney's business practices and attitudes toward intellectual property law are irreconcilably inconsistent with Wikimedia's principles; we should not support them in any way. The bid is also very sparse on details, and in any case this venue is triply-excluded (repeat country, repeat continent, repeat primary language).

Conclusion

At this point, I favor the Torino bid for 2007. It really stands above the others in my eyes. My second choice would be Hong Kong, with Taipei a close third and Istanbul a distant fourth. The remaining bids I deem unacceptable.