Back in August, 2006 I attended Wikimania (my blog post from 2006). At the time, this conference and Wikipedia were "where it was happening" in terms of the web. However, if you fast forward to December 2009, has Wikipedia lost its mojo? In a recent article posted by the Industry Standard's managing editor Ian Lamont, he notes:
"Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia built on the backs of a seemingly never-ending supply of free labor, is in a bit of a bind: Many contributors are throwing in the towel. As reported in a page one story in Monday's Wall Street Journal, "unprecedented numbers of the millions of online volunteers who write, edit and police it are quitting." And, the article adds, not enough new blood is coming online to replace the quitters."
Let's return to Wikimania. This conference is Wikipedia's annual event. Back in 2006, attendance was free and the presenter list read almost like a "who's who" of the web. I took time off from work and hung out in a Harvard Law School dorm for $20 per night. Friendships I developed during that conference are still maintained today, and I've even built schools in rural China thanks to Dj. Since the Summer of 2006, the conference has never again been held again in the USA.
While I understand the need for Wikipedia to be a global organization, they need a big annual event in America. In my professional life I lead collaboration projects for a Fortune 100 company. While virtual collaboration is nice, it is critical to physically bring together design teams on an occasional basis. In the corporate environment, we understand this fact (i.e. the need for face to face interaction). Does Wikipedia understand this need? Although I've never contributed a huge number of edits to Wikipedia, unlike most netizens I have contributed. Organizations need to grow and expand their user base, and by this I mean more than those folks who just read Wikipedia's content online.
I wish Wikipedia good luck, and if they ever have another Wikimania in the USA, I would seriously consider attending. 2010 is scheduled for Gdansk, Poland.