As the Wikimedia movement has grown and changed over time, so too has its annual, global conference Wikimania. The number of bids for next year’s event is a record low, with only two cities vying for the opportunity to host the event.
Perhaps this is signalling a change. Is the problem that groups of Wikimedians around the world (of which there are many) are logistically unable to play host to such a large group of people (last year’s conference in Washington, D.C. was the largest yet with around 1400 people in attendance)? (Granted the state of the global economy is doing little to help, too.)
Back in 2005 when the first Wikimania was organised in Frankfurt, the global community was not of the same size as it is at the moment. Last year, there were many global conferences about Wikimedia – aside from Wikimania: things like WikiSym, GLAMcamps, and large multinational WikiConferences (WikiConference India, for instance had many attendees).
So is it time for a new type of event? The downward trend may well continue as people feel unable to follow a hugely-impressive and well-attended event (like DC was last year, and the London bid – if it wins – promises to be for 2014).
One new model could be to only have a global Wikimania every other year, with large, conferences being organised every other year (for example an American conference, and a separate Eurasian conference, and others). This could well remove the appeal of Wikimania for some (that is, travelling to, and meeting editors from foreign climes).
Something will change very soon, either the increase in people attending these conferences will level off, there will be more emphasis placed on regional events, or Wikimania will change, greatly.
Edit: February 17 2013
The coordinator of the 2014 London bid made some comments on Twitter.
Interesting points. Join in the conversation in the comments below or on Twitter (I’m @TheRockDrum).