My First Wikimedia Conference Experience (Berlin,Germany)

The 2017 Wikimedia Conference was held in Berlin, Germany, as usual the Wikimedia Ghana User Group, which I am a part of, was tasked to nominate two people to represent Ghana at the conference. I looked up at the criteria to be chosen and put in my application to represent my user group at this year’s conference. One Sunday afternoon, I was doing my usual social media monitoring at home and editing a few pictures I had taken the day before when an email came through confirming me as a representative for the Wikimedia Ghana User Group at the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin. Getting this news simultaneously brought a mixture of excitement and anxiety, as I was scared I wouldn’t represent our user group well enough. After a laborious and stressful process going through my visa application at the German Embassy in Accra, I was finally given my visa to attend the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin.

On my way to Berlin Pictures by: @OwulaKpakpopho

My flight from Ghana to Berlin was an evening one and it was a 7 and half hour long. I took off from Ghana at around 10:30 pm on the 29th of March; I was transited at Brussels to Berlin with Brussels Airline. The first part of the flight to Brussels was a long one sat for close to 6 hours on the flight since we took off at night in Ghana. I got to Brussels airport 6 hours later but 2 hours shot due to time zone difference so I had to wait for close to 3 hours to connect a flight to Berlin. During the few hours, I had to spare in Brussels I used that opportunity to take some few photos of the Airport and how organised operations were. I got to Berlin around 9:30 pm after an hour-long flight from Brussels. On reaching Berlin Tegel Airport it took as close to 30 minutes to get our luggage and another 20 mins to locate which bus to pick to our Hotel and Conference venue in Hermannstrasse. My first Berlin experience hit me when I missed my bus stop so I ended up roaming Berlin U Bahn and S Bahn with my luggage for close to an hour before someone finally gave me an accurate direction to my Hotel.

First Day in Berlin Picture by: Justice Okai-Allotey
Candies around the world Wikimedia tradition Pictures by: @owulakpakpopho

I got to the hotel around 12pm in the afternoon, the conference was happening in the same hotel I would be sleeping so I didn’t have any difficulty settling in. Checked in and got my room, then I headed straight to the conference venue that was on the first floor of the hotel. I registered got my picture taken and got my badge for the conference then I went on the mission to meet new people and search my roommate and buddy (which I would explain later in this article). After settling in I run outside to a supermarket where I bought a new plug-adapter for my computer since they used a different kind of socket in Berlin. As a conference rule there was a friendly space policy, which every conference participant has assented to where people, would respect each other’s privacy. There was also a buddy project as I alluded to earlier where newbies to the conference are paired with oldies to the conference. Unfortunately for me my buddy Anasuya Sengupta didn’t arrive to the conference early for the official launch of the buddy project where everybody looked for their buddies and started engaging them.

Buddy Project at the Wikimedia Conference 2017

Next day Friday, the conference started in earnest where all participants met in the main hall where the local organising team Wikimedia Deutschland’s Executive Director Abraham Taherivand officially welcomed us. After the various opening addresses the conference started with a movement strategy discussion that every participant was involved in. Then we went for our first coffee break, where we still got to know each other more and I happened to meet my buddy and had an interesting encounter with her, she brought me chocolates too. The Wikimedia Conference was hinged on three programmatic tracks namely; movement strategy track, movement partnerships track and capacity building and learning track. Since we were two representing our user group I agreed with my colleague that I would undertake the capacity building and learning track whiles she does the movement strategy and partnerships track. I never regretted wanting to be in the capacity building and learning track one thing I can beat my chest it did for me was, it made me a better Wikimedian and I became more aware of the workings of the Wikimedia movement. I can’t share details of some of the learning’s in this article I would do that in my subsequent articles. The conference could not be complete without occasional night outs and a Saturday night pasta party with beer on the side for all participants, which was one of my favourite Berlin experience.

Wikimedia Conference 2017
Pictures by: Jason Kruger for Wikimedia Deutschland

I couldn’t have been in Berlin without visiting the various monuments they had there, which I have captured as #MyBerlinDiaries on my Flickr and various social media accounts. Some of my takeaways from the conference was I have been a better Wikimedian, I have understood some of the nuances in the Wikimedia movement, I have been more charged to devote more time to volunteer a lot for Wikipedia and its sister project. This Wikimedia conference happened to be my first travelling experience outside Africa, which gave me a much better perspective of how the world works outside Ghana and Africa in general. I want to thank first of all the Wikimedia Ghana User Group for the opportunity they gave me to represent them in Berlin, the Wikimedia Foundation for such opportunities and all the wonderful colleague Wikimedians I met in Berlin y’all have been awesome.

Do you want to be a Wikimedian and volunteer for Wikipedia like I do then join the local community: Wikimedia Ghana User Group.

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Justice Okai-Allotey

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