(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hundreds of Wikipedia activists from around the world will descend upon Haifa on
Thursday for the seventh annual Wikimania conference, to discuss, debate and
deliberate all things Wiki.
The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the
hugely popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia along with a number of other
open-source projects, is expecting 650 Wikipedia editors, advocates, free
content promoters, researchers and educators from 56 countries to attend the
Jimmy Wales’s benevolent Wikipedia wisdom
'Hebrew Wikipedia is astonishing'
“The vision of the Wikimedia foundation and the
whole movement is to allow every human being in the world free access to
knowledge,” said Tomer Ashur, the chairman of Israel’s Wikimedia
“People really believe in this mission and want to change the
world by allowing people to gain access to knowledge which they otherwise
wouldn’t have,” Ashur said.
According to Wikipedia, the online
encyclopedia contains 19 million entries in total, written in 282 languages and
including 3.6 million articles in English. Launched in 2001, the entries are
written collaboratively by volunteers and can be edited by anyone. Wikipedia is
ranked by Google as the fifth most-visited website on the Internet.
the projects under discussion at the conference is a relatively new initiative
called OpenZim, which is an offline version of the Wikipedia encyclopedia that
can be used in regions without Internet access.
The Israeli Wikimedia
chapter has already demonstrated how effective this tool can be when it teamed
up last year with Hamakor, an Israel based NGO involved in open-source
initiatives, and Ben Gurion University’s Africa Center.
Wikimedia Israel with 50 old computers which were refurbished and installed with
the offline version of Wikipedia in French containing over one million entries.
The computers were then distributed to two education centers in the West African
nations of Cameroon and Benin for use by children who, until then, had no access
to libraries or any other kind of information repository.
Schneider, a 30-yearold Wikimedia activist from Germany who helped develop the
software for the offline version of Wikipedia and is attending the Haifa
conference, said that he enjoyed volunteering his time and money for the
“I feel like I’m paying something back to society but I
enjoy it so much that it doesn’t feel like I’m paying, it’s just fun for me.
“I contribute my time and effort and help other people
gain access to information which is what Wikipedia is all about.”
conference will include keynote speeches from Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and
Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director, Sue Gardner, and will feature 125
workshops and panels which will discuss issues such as free knowledge
initiatives, open content, open source, online copyright, web communities and
networks, as well as education and knowledge acquisition.
communities work much better once the participants actually meet each other,
Ashur said. “If you have positive, personal relations and interactions amongst
the people who participate then productivity will be much better and we hope
that the conference will help towards that goal.”
Wikimedia Israel is
therefore treating the array of global participants in the 2011 conference to a
choice of special tours around Haifa Bay, the Galilee, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
which will take place after the conference has ended on Sunday.
Wikimania conferences were held in Poland, Argentina, Egypt, Taiwan, Germany and
the US with the 2011 conference expected to be the biggest yet.