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Last week, I participated in a historic event: the Esperanto Wikipedia conference in Svitavy, Czech Republic on Oct 26-30, 2011. Esperanto speakers travelled there from all over Europe to work together on Wikipedia and learn more about the project. On the second morning, Czech national TV interviewed Miroslav Malovec about how he started the Czech Wikipedia from Esperanto. Here you can see the TV report.
After that, we had a nice ceremony with Svitavy’s mayor in City Hall. The director of the Esperanto museum of Svitavy gave the mayor some Esperanto books, including a book of the biography of Zamenhof in Czech. In turn, we received nice bags from the city with various goodies such as a picture book of the city, a beautiful calendar, a map, etc. I’m quite proud that we had Wikipedians there representing Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Netherlands, and the United States.
During the day, we split up into groups based on our experience with Wikipedia. No matter which group we belonged to, we mostly worked on articles related to Svitavy. Even there we were occasionally amused by TV cameras floating around. In fact, of all Esperanto events I have ever participated in, I have never seen so much press coverage! Anyway, since I, as the founder of the Esperanto Wikipedia, and Yves Nevelsteen, the author of Vikipedio – praktika manlibro [Wikipedia – practical handbook], were also there as trainers, we assisted experienced editors when questions arose. Marek Blahuš and Miroslav Malovec helped with the Czech students.
The following day, on Friday, we started early and I gave the keynote lecture about the history of the Esperanto Wikipedia along with a quick summary about how the English and Czech Wikipedias started out. Then Miroslav Malovec talked about his experience founding the Czech Wikipedia. This all took place in a beautiful hall on the upper floor of the Esperanto museum of Svitavy.
Also, the city’s mayor came to watch the first half of the program, even though almost everything was just in Esperanto (the opening words were interpreted for his benefit) and the mayor also gave a short speech thanking us for choosing Svitavy to hold our meeting. I have to admit that the city’s support was overwhelming. They published the event on the city’s website and informed the media well. They also provided financial support to make the event less expensive for participants.
So, after the morning program, I gave a toast to Wikipedia and its bright future after which, to my great surprise, the room burst into song, praising me for starting the project ten years ago. Needless to say, it was quite overwhelming! But I couldn’t mingle long… another TV interview. Craziness.
Then, we had more workshops. In my workshop, we talked about how to improve the article about Esperanto in every language. Before the event, Marek Blahuš painfully researched the top 10 most visited articles about Esperanto among various languages. He quantitively judged them by how many pictures were in each article, whether they mention the International Youth Conference of Esperanto, the latest year (to see how much the article reflects current events), etc. It was eye-opening to say the least.
Marek explained to us that Czech Wikipedians worked tirelessly to make the article about Esperanto article in Czech phenomenal. Pictures, current events, the Esperanto movement in Czech Republic, etc. Our plan now is to translate this article into Esperanto and then use that as a basis to integrate that information into all the different language Wikipedias. The biggest step is the first one… translating the Czech article into Esperanto. We would like to finish this work as soon as possible, since we would like to link to it extensively during the celebration of the 125th year of Esperanto next year in 2012!
After all that work, we were happy to enjoy an excursion to the historic city of Litomyšl and its castle. I would be happy to show you pictures of the inside of the castle here, except our tour guide told us, we weren’t allowed to take pictures, which was required by UNESCO, since it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Some of us complained bitterly about that, and I still don’t believe UNESCO would require such a thing. If anything, I would suppose that they would be happy for people to take pictures to help preserve this important historical building online! Afterwards, we paid our respects for the famous Esperanto author Karel Píč.
In any case, I have to say the meeting was quite a success. Although there were fewer participants than expected, I believe the quality of the participants was most important. I expect this will help the Esperanto Wikipedia push forward and will also lead the way for another Vikimanio meeting in 2013. I also want to send out a hearty thank you to the organizing team for their great job putting this all together.
In conclusion, the massive press coverage helped Esperanto and Wikipedia reach a lot more eyeballs through the press coverage, so I’m very happy about that. Also, I’m very grateful to have had the chance to work together with so many wonderful people throughout the week and I hope we will be able to keep collaborating together in the future!