RCC in North America: Current planning makes me leery

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Laura Hale

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Jan 30, 2012, 12:16:42 AM1/30/12
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I'll be pretty awful and pretty blunt: I love RecentChangesCamp.  RecentChangesCamp has provided me with fantastic opportunities in my life.  I have met some fantastic people as a result of RecentChangesCamp.  They have helped me do things I would not have been able to do otherwise. 

The reason for this is because RecentChangesCamp was open to anyone, it was about addressing needs in the wider wiki community, and it was not WMF centric.  If it had been WMF centric, I doubt it would have been as useful.  I think the Open Space facilitation is key.

I'm extremely leery of the following:
* Pete and Steve backed out of organising RCC 2009 in Portland, leaving most of the work to Mark Dilley, Nicole and myself.  He hasn't been that involved in planning 2010 or 2011.  He didn't help with Australia at all.
* Having it in California again on top of WestCoastWikiConference is a problem of location.
* The event appears married to the WMF.  WestCoastWikiConference was a WMF centric event.  Wikimania is a WMF centric event.  GLAM Camp is a Wiki Centric Event.  Sarah and Pete and Steven are WMF people and often think of WMF first.  RCC was created because of the lack of opportunities for non-WMF people. The WMF organising contingent is exclusionary to the very community the event sought to attract. Their involvement just excludes people because wiki =/= Wikipedia.
* WMF centricness means WMF needs to put up all the costs for the event as I can't see previous sponsors wanting to sponsor a WMF conference.  There is very little benefit to wiki companies to sponsor a wiki event that their contributors cannot represent themselves at.
* wikiHow is not being considered and the participation of their members, and the participation of Wikians, is being made secondary to WMF participation.
* Costs.  It would be great to have 150 people to 250 people.  Before going further with that, it needs to be priced out.  Who is paying for that?  Why do we need that many people?  How many people will attend?  Who will attend?
* There does not appear to have been efforts to engage the non-WMF community that traditionally has attended the conference and helped organise the conference.

It is seriously annoying the major wiki conference for non-WMF wiki folks in the United States and Canada is being co-opted by WMF folks who have not attended RCC in the past, where the format is being changed to suit them.  If WMF folks want a similar event in San Fransisco to RecentChangesCamp, they really change the name to say "West Coast Wiki Conference."

--
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Eugene Eric Kim

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Jan 30, 2012, 1:17:04 AM1/30/12
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You're right, Laura. That was both blunt and a little bit awful.

I'm glad that you expressed your leeriness. This should be a safe space for all members of the community to express themselves, and you clearly have some strong feelings about WMF. I hope this is an opportunity to heal some of those wounds, as I've found that this community is particularly good at doing that.

I haven't seen anything but good intentions expressed by anyone so far, and I haven't seen any attempts to co-opt anything. If longstanding members of the community have the energy to organize, we should encourage that, and if — for some reason — that energy goes away, we should forgive that. I personally have been a beneficiary of that from this community, and I have always been deeply appreciative of that.

I met Pete at the same RCC as I met you, Laura. Even though his entry to wikis was Wikimedia, he has always embraced and supported the wider wiki community, and I think he's been one of our best community members, along with you. He's also not affiliated with WMF at all — not that that should matter. Some of the most active supporters of WikiOhana over the years have been Wikimedians, personified by folks like Phoebe, SJ, and Brion, all of whom are officially affiliated with WMF.

Laura, you have really been tremendous over the years in carrying the RCC torch Down Under. I can say without exaggeration that RCC and WikiOhana has subsisted over the years thanks to your leadership along with folks like Nicole, Anne, Mark, and Jack. Personally, as someone who cares deeply about this community, I'm very appreciative of that. I hope you can continue to demonstrate that leadership by embracing and encouraging the energy expressed by the folks on this list. I know that they would deeply appreciate it.

=Eugene
Eugene Eric Kim | ee...@groupaya.net415-513-5385 | Twitter: @groupaya | http://groupaya.net/



Peter Kaminski

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Jan 30, 2012, 1:36:37 AM1/30/12
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Wow, Laura -- pretty heavy stuff.

Thanks, first, for all the energy you've put into RCC.  It's been great to see both you and RCC Down Under blossom together.

What's been talked about so far with respect to a 2012 North American RCC doesn't seem at all married to WMF, nor have we really been talking long enough for all the wiki folks to hear about it.

I think Portland is a strong location for RCC because of Ward and AboutUs.

Despite the presence of WMF, I think the San Francisco Bay Area is a strong location for RCC because of Wikia, wikiHow, Blue Oxen, Atlassian, LocalWiki, Twiki, the wiki heart of Socialtext, and yes, the ambidextrous folks who are both WMF and Wiki.

Also note that Sean Parker (of Founders Fund and other notabilities) said he'd be "open to provide financing for a West coast event", over on the San Francisco Bay Area Wikimedians <wikime...@lists.wikimedia.org>.  This is a generous offer that I hope the organizers can follow up and discuss with Sean.

I'm willing to help organize an event in the SF Bay Area.  I was one of the co-organizers of RCC 2008 in Palo Alto.

Maybe let's get some more voices involved, and see where it goes?

Pete

Mark Dilley

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Jan 30, 2012, 2:04:54 AM1/30/12
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"nor have we really been talking long enough for all the wiki folks to hear about it."  +1

I appreciate the movement generated by your recent question Laura and am excited to see folks putting energy into RecentChangesCamp.

Sarah Stierch

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Jan 30, 2012, 9:28:51 AM1/30/12
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Hi Laura and everyone else,

I also echo what has been said in response to this, as said by Peter,
Mark and Eugene. It's obvious that you are frustrated about perhaps
more than just RCC. We are all working with good faith to brainstorm
aspects of RCC on the Etherpad, and so far I think we are making
quality efforts.

As someone who was deeply saddened by the anger and concerns your
post, and as someone mentioned in it, I did want to take a moment to
attempt to clarify a few things that you addressed in it. And perhaps
it'll help you, and everyone here, better understand WMF's involvement
in this thus far and your other frustrations.

*First, regarding Pete: to not be inclusive of someone who has
been extremely supportive of the movement and of planning events just
because of a few bumps in the road or his lack of participation in
your recent event is very frustrating for me to see. I'm sure Pete
could comfortable express his concern about your comments regarding
his good faith contributions. I think everyone here is excited to have
his energy, expertise and passion being used to plan RCC in the US.

*Having the event on the west coast is a great idea - SF and
Portland are hotbeds for tech and open source. It's been a year since
WestCoastWikiConference happened, I believe. It also seems that the
majority of people who are interested in volunteering to plan the
event have more interest in making it happen out west, than elsewhere.
I'm sure if some east coasters or Midwesterners wanted to voice their
thoughts about where the conference was held that would be encouraged.
(Perhaps your hometown Chicago? :) )

*The event is not married to the Wikimedia Foundation and I do not
believe there has been any notion of people stating it is or will be.
In regards to you mentioning me: I am a part time student fellow at
the Foundation, not a "staff" member. I've been a community member
since 2004, a lot longer than I have been associated with the
Foundation (1 month!). Pete has not worked for the Foundation for
quite sometime, and from what I know Steven (I presume Walling?) has
not expressed interest in participating in this RCC. So I hope that
clarifies some things for you in regards to your concerns about WMF
taking over RCC. Don't fret! And just because I have not attended an
RCC at this point doesn't mean I'm unaware of the history, the mission
and the goals.

I'm sure if there is interest in having WMF sponsor RCC there is
an opportunity there. Also keep in mind that Wikimania is not fully
sponsored by the Foundation, they are a sponsor, but they are not the
organizer of the event. Also, we already have sponsorship interest
from people in the tech industry, so I think we're going to be a-okay,
WMF or not!

*I'm not sure where you go the idea that wikiHow is not being
considered, and other Wiki-folk. If you look at the Etherpad you'll
see, in the "People to be sure to invite" section that every type of
Wiki-person is encouraged to attend and participate! And if we are
missing something, by all means, add it! The only person mentioned who
is connected to the Wikimedia Foundation is Sue Gardner. As a leader
in open source, I think it's fair to assume of course she'd be
encouraged to attend. (I'm shocked Jimbo wasn't added to the list!)

*RCC "US" has only had 24 hours or so of brainstorming activity.
Funding and resources regarding the attendance of 150+ people is being
considered. As stated previously, funding for an event of this level,
and with a great team of planners, will be easy for us to acquire to
make sure that we have a large and successful RCC without compromising
the mission of RCC. We will come to that stage, and I hope you'll be
able to use your insight and experiences to advise!

Again, I do hope that this has helped to clarify a few misconceptions
and concerns. I think everyone here, regardless of affiliation, is
excited to make this happen and thank you for being a catalyst for
encouraging this event. I also hope you will use your role as Vice
President of Wikimedia Australia, and as a leader in the Wiki World to
support us.

-Sarah

Nicole Willson

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Jan 30, 2012, 11:32:25 AM1/30/12
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As someone who is from the wikiHow community and has been involved in organizing RCC for going on four years now, I just want to speak to a few points here.

I may not be angry at the WMF necessarily, but at the first Wikimania I remember feeling like the ugly wiki stepchild because I was from a non-WMF project that was for-profit and didn't use the same licensing (ironic now). I didn't get to meet any of the people Eugene mentioned in his email and probably if he did things would have been different. It wasn't until RoCoCo that I realized I could go to a conference and be around non-wikiHowians that knew about wikiHow and were appreciative about what we were doing. I've never had the ugly wiki stepchild experience since then, I think largely because of the community and experience I had at RoCoCo. I was really put off by wiki conferences after attending Wikimania and very nervous going into RoCoCo, so I'm glad I started attending RCC and didn't give up going to wiki conferences altogether. 

Since RoCoCo, RCC has really been the go-to wikiHow conference, and for wikiHowians there aren't any other events that do what RCC does that we can attend. I think the academic scope of Wikisym isn't seem as being relevant to some of the community and the expense of both the conference and travel can be off-putting. Wikimania is usually too far away for most wikiHowians to attend and while some of the content can be applied to wikiHow, I don't think it's as useful as having a format where wikiHowians can suggest sessions on issues that directly effect wikiHow and learn from how other wikis handle those issues. The 100% open space format has worked for wikiHow. Maybe another format would work for wikiHow and other wikis. I just feel that more input from other wiki communities is needed before we do an event format that isn't 100% Open Space. 

Right now the format change is just a suggestion, and probably what will end up happening will not look 100% like West Coast Wiki Con, but I think for me to see West Coast Wiki Con mentioned so much in the initial planning was off-putting to me.

I think trying to get newbies is great, but some communities also need the supporting the existing Wiki Ohana part of RCC and can't get it elsewhere. I think getting newbies will take a lot of discussion and thought and sometimes it's hard enough to just get an event together. I know with Boston I wanted to do a wiki 101 event and do more outreach to local non-profits since many non-profits are interested in wikis as a low cost content management solution. The problem was that people bailed out, so I didn't have enough volunteers to help do outreach. 

Sarah, I don't know if you are aware of that part of RCC's history -- developing bigger plans and then not being able to carry them out because the people who said they would do things couldn't follow through --  but I think it is a significant part of the RCC organizing experience. I think that's why many people are so hesitant to organize, because those close to RCC organizers know how stressful things can be especially if you end up being the one tasked with way more than you expected. With Boston, attempts were made to make things easier by tasking people with very specific things and having a 5 or 6 committee system involving former attendees/organizers in other cities.

In addition to getting wiki newbies, I think we should also focus on getting attendees who are just new to RCC and attendees from communities that haven't been represented at RCC before. 

In terms of money, maybe it's easier to get money for wiki events in San Francisco given the amount of wiki companies head-quartered, but for Boston it was very difficult given the recession. I think for the future, we should try to do more to get donations for RCC. Yes, it's a free event, but I think there are people who would donate money  who aren't being asked. I've worked in fundraising and most donations come from individuals, not corporate sponsors. I know the process of becoming a 501c3 is tedious, but I do think being a registered non-profit organization would make some aspects of organizing RCC easier. I also think that if at all possible, we should be looking for more gifts in kind, even if it's just donated food. I remember once in library school we had a SkillShare where the food was donated by a local restaranteur who loved libraries. Surely,  there's some restaurant owner who loves wikis enough to donate some food. I don't know how we find that out, but I'm just throwing it out there. 

In terms of inviting Sue Gardner, I'm the one who suggested it. I did not suggest Jimmy Wales because he has never attended an RCC event or expressed any interest that I know of and I think he's aware of it. If you think you can get him to attend, great.

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Sarah Stierch

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Jan 30, 2012, 12:00:49 PM1/30/12
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Good morning everyone, and Nicole!

Thank you for sharing your past experiences with the list. I can only
imagine what kind of experience you had at Wikimania, and I'm sorry
that it was unpleasant for you. I must admit, I do come from the non-
profit world, and the Wiki's that I participate in tend to usually
fall into that arena, and as someone who primarily works on Wikipedia
and related projects, this is a very exciting opportunity for me to
get to know other people in other communities. Perhaps you'll even
consider revisiting Wikimania (it is in Washington, DC, this year), as
I know one of the goals of the conference this year is to make it
inclusive of the broader open source community. But, I understand also
if you are deterred due to past experiences.

It's really wonderful that Recent Changes Camp has provided that haven
that you and your fellow wikiHowians have needed. That really says a
lot about the camp itself, and the importance of maintaining that open
environment. I hope that my previous email was able to confront any
fears that people had about Wikimedia "taking over" RCC. This is more
of a chance for me to explore and get to know other people who use
Wiki's, and hopefully find opportunities to improve the overall
culture and get to know others.

In regards to history, thank you for sharing your thoughts about the
struggles you and others have had. I have heard about some of the
struggles and more about the successes, at past RCC's, and from
personal experience - I completely sympathize. While I have not
planned a RCC, I've witnessed and experienced people backing out of
participating in events, and I have experienced that feeling of being
"abandoned" as a planner and left to find new help or fend for myself!
I'm hoping we can take the experiences we have all learned from RCC
and other events and channel those experiences into something of
value.

And I hope folks who are signing up to participate here understand
that this will be a commitment. Or, I like to think! :)

I'm so glad we're on the same page about newbies - as a newbie to RCC,
but not to the community, that makes me feel welcome, so thank you.
Also, great points about how it'll probably be easier to find funding
for the event on the west coast. And yes, in kind for sure (make sure
that's on the etherpad!)! SF and Portland both have extremely close
communities who have strong relationships with local businesses.
Brainstorming potential in kind donors surely needs to go on the to-do
list!

-Sarah

On Jan 30, 11:32 am, Nicole Willson <artisticaltru...@gmail.com>
wrote:

phoebe ayers

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Jan 30, 2012, 12:07:47 PM1/30/12
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As many of you know I have been involved in organizing and instigating
a whole lot of wiki-related events in the past 6 years, including
getting the San Francisco meetup group going. It is often exhausting
and thankless work, and it is not particularly easy to always keep
one's enthusiasm going, knowing how much work it is to plan an event.

So, given that, I'd like to thank Pete publicly for picking up the
ball and seeing what interest there is in the community for a North
American RCC, and to everyone else for constructively working on the
idea.

Re: West Coast WikiConference -- I can't say I've looked at the RCC
wiki, so I don't actually know what's being talked about. But, for a
bit of background for those who weren't there, WCWC was a one-time
event that was quite successful -- it drew people from SoCal & Oregon
as well as SF, and despite being centered around Wikipedia's 10th
birthday there were quite a few non-Wikip/media folks there, including
people from WikiHow, LocalWiki, (I think?) Wikia, and various other
projects, including non-wiki projects. The infrastructure left over
from that event is a domain, some blank name badges & supplies that I
have stored in my bedroom, and what I think is quite a good conference
name, if I do say so myself. Naturally, anyone who wants to use any of
these things to plan a event is welcome to them.

best,
Phoebe

p.s. who knew Sean Parker was subscribed to the sf-list?? Not me!

Eugene Eric Kim

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Jan 30, 2012, 12:08:30 PM1/30/12
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Thanks for sharing such a personal story, Nicole. It reminds me how important and how hard it is to be inclusive and welcoming, even when intentions are good. Anne, Evan, and all the good folks in Montreal did a remarkable job creating an inviting space for RoCoCo. Your story also reminds me of the importance of the core wiki practice of welcoming others. We have a great opportunity to practice these things now.

Which reminds me, welcome to the list, Sarah. :-)

At RCC, I think it would be great to have an open space session on this topic, as it's a challenging issue that's very real in the wiki community right now. Ironically, the power dynamic you described seems to be an internal dynamic that the Wikimedia community is grappling with right now. And frankly, I'm sure it's all a dynamic we've experienced in some parts of our lives, wiki or otherwise.

=Eugene


On Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 8:32 AM, Nicole Willson <artistic...@gmail.com> wrote:
As someone who is from the wikiHow community and has been involved in organizing RCC for going on four years now, I just want to speak to a few points here.

I may not be angry at the WMF necessarily, but at the first Wikimania I remember feeling like the ugly wiki stepchild because I was from a non-WMF project that was for-profit and didn't use the same licensing (ironic now). I didn't get to meet any of the people Eugene mentioned in his email and probably if he did things would have been different. It wasn't until RoCoCo that I realized I could go to a conference and be around non-wikiHowians that knew about wikiHow and were appreciative about what we were doing. I've never had the ugly wiki stepchild experience since then, I think largely because of the community and experience I had at RoCoCo. I was really put off by wiki conferences after attending Wikimania and very nervous going into RoCoCo, so I'm glad I started attending RCC and didn't give up going to wiki conferences altogether. 

Since RoCoCo, RCC has really been the go-to wikiHow conference, and for wikiHowians there aren't any other events that do what RCC does that we can attend. I think the academic scope of Wikisym isn't seem as being relevant to some of the community and the expense of both the conference and travel can be off-putting. Wikimania is usually too far away for most wikiHowians to attend and while some of the content can be applied to wikiHow, I don't think it's as useful as having a format where wikiHowians can suggest sessions on issues that directly effect wikiHow and learn from how other wikis handle those issues. The 100% open space format has worked for wikiHow. Maybe another format would work for wikiHow and other wikis. I just feel that more input from other wiki communities is needed before we do an event format that isn't 100% Open Space. 

Right now the format change is just a suggestion, and probably what will end up happening will not look 100% like West Coast Wiki Con, but I think for me to see West Coast Wiki Con mentioned so much in the initial planning was off-putting to me.

I think trying to get newbies is great, but some communities also need the supporting the existing Wiki Ohana part of RCC and can't get it elsewhere. I think getting newbies will take a lot of discussion and thought and sometimes it's hard enough to just get an event together. I know with Boston I wanted to do a wiki 101 event and do more outreach to local non-profits since many non-profits are interested in wikis as a low cost content management solution. The problem was that people bailed out, so I didn't have enough volunteers to help do outreach. 

Sarah, I don't know if you are aware of that part of RCC's history -- developing bigger plans and then not being able to carry them out because the people who said they would do things couldn't follow through --  but I think it is a significant part of the RCC organizing experience. I think that's why many people are so hesitant to organize, because those close to RCC organizers know how stressful things can be especially if you end up being the one tasked with way more than you expected. With Boston, attempts were made to make things easier by tasking people with very specific things and having a 5 or 6 committee system involving former attendees/organizers in other cities.

In addition to getting wiki newbies, I think we should also focus on getting attendees who are just new to RCC and attendees from communities that haven't been represented at RCC before. 

In terms of money, maybe it's easier to get money for wiki events in San Francisco given the amount of wiki companies head-quartered, but for Boston it was very difficult given the recession. I think for the future, we should try to do more to get donations for RCC. Yes, it's a free event, but I think there are people who would donate money  who aren't being asked. I've worked in fundraising and most donations come from individuals, not corporate sponsors. I know the process of becoming a 501c3 is tedious, but I do think being a registered non-profit organization would make some aspects of organizing RCC easier. I also think that if at all possible, we should be looking for more gifts in kind, even if it's just donated food. I remember once in library school we had a SkillShare where the food was donated by a local restaranteur who loved libraries. Surely,  there's some restaurant owner who loves wikis enough to donate some food. I don't know how we find that out, but I'm just throwing it out there. 

In terms of inviting Sue Gardner, I'm the one who suggested it. I did not suggest Jimmy Wales because he has never attended an RCC event or expressed any interest that I know of and I think he's aware of it. If you think you can get him to attend, great.

Eugene Eric Kim

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Jan 30, 2012, 12:24:41 PM1/30/12
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And I'd like to repeat before what I said about Laura. I've often been struck from afar by the work that Laura has done to keep the spirit alive (remember, she was the one who kicked this thread off in the first place), and I never take the time to express that. Let me correct that now. She's been important to the movement, and I'm sure many others feel the same way as I do. Thank you, Laura!

While I'm at it, I feel the same way about Mark, who beautifully models what it means to be a great wiki leader.

Phoebe, you get more than enough appreciation, so I'm not going to waste any more words on you here. :-P (Totally kidding, people. I shudder to think what the wiki world would be like without Phoebe.)

Okay, folks, back to organizing!

=Eugene

Anne GOLDENBERG

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Jan 30, 2012, 2:54:49 PM1/30/12
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Hi there,
happy to read you all,
people who have wiki at heart :-)

I just wanted to add two comments, about RCC history and the question of locations.

RCC and OpenSpace
My understanding of how it was born is absolutly linked to openspace.
As a researcher wanted to see what the wiki spirit was,
i wanted to attend the wiki events around me (north america)
and I think I attended the first WikiSym, in San Diego, 2005.
I was quite shy there, not daring talking to the bug names, academician and fondators, including Ward Cunningham, who I barely talk too. And there were there three nice people, Mark Dilley, Johan Abbe and Ted Ernst, who were waring a note asking us to ask them about OpenSpace. which i did and didnt really get...but it seems interesting.
they then organised the RecentChangesCamp as an openspace in 2006  in Portland. It was my first experience with the methodology and I was flabbergasted. To the extend that i wanted to organise one in Montreal then. I also remember from this that it might be difficult to explain what it is, but to live an OpenSpace is powerfull. Many of my friends just finds usual conference, but also anykinds of big talks to be annoying since :-). Well, it is I think a question of format, or design. Openspace has also been described as real life wikis. It also went back to Wikisym has the organisers have also been successfully using it in parallell with an academic format, which works pretty well.
For now, the RCC description still associate it with openspace. I deeply think it has to remain like this, purely openspace. It is to me the originality, the essence of the event. And giving a space for big talk would just change it completly. I had to fight against such propositions at both Rococo (frenchie translation for RCC) that were organised in Montreal (2007 and 2010). I think it is important to resist the modification of the format or we woulld risk to just loose the sense of this event.

Rcc organising and location

I can testify with other organisers here, how heavy it can be to organise those events, with too often not enough support. :-)
I'm happy that i did it, I learn so much, but suffered a lot too, and i'm not sure i would get involved again, or just by facilitating, which i like the most. But i think that wath we are adressing now is the sustainebilit of the format.
Rcc have occured in North America (west coast/east coast), Australia (Canberra)...
never in Europe, never in Asia, never in Africa, never in South America...
I guess it is because the organising of RCC is a benevolant doocraty. It is where the energy is, where the will is.  the first big task it to find a place and a way to pay for it. But we also have a will of inclusion which is beautiful, but requires even bigger efforts :
  - I'm very prouf of the effort of keeping the conference free, which make it accessible at least in terms of money , which is quite rare in techie conferences
  - feeding people during the days is an other generous and nice thing.
  - keeping it independant while getting fundings, not to fully associate RCC with companies that would brand/look like owning the conference direction
  - publicing the event, inviting people to come, trying to pay for some travels, helping in hosting participants.. an other layer of generous energy to spend :-)

... with all those efforts, still, location, language, level of openess to non techie people, will keep making RCC kind of exclusive.
As doocraty is not always fair, having RCC where the energy/the money/the actual involvement is,
provokes some concentration that we may not want. But RCC sustainebility is also at stake and we know how much benevolent effort it requires... Finally, we may have to take a step back and consider what RCC is doing for the Wiki community, for collaboration practices, balance that with how we experience organising RCC and think about how it should go on or change a bit .

So well, I do think that Future of Recent Changes could be a good theme for a next RCC :-).
In fact, this them it was discussed already... which among other things, held to the creation of a common wiki.
http://recentchangescamp.org/wiki/Main_Page
but maybe we had not yet enough a common sense of where this wiki community is going.
This conversation make me think that a better sense of it is arriving,
and that more is needed :-)

I wanted to add also that I'm so happy to have met, and worked with most of you,
I'm so looking forward to meet the rest of you, (Laura, soon :-) )
or to meet again,

cheers to all,
Anne








2012/1/30 Eugene Eric Kim <ee...@groupaya.net>
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