Today is my last day at the office of Wikimedia Deutschland. For 2012 days, I had the great opportunity and the tremendous pleasure to work for one of the greatest causes I can think of: Free knowledge for everybody. What Wikimedia does is nothing short of changing the world, one edit at a time.
This is a revolution.
So many things happened over the course of the last five years, that it is hard for me to point out specific highlights. Drafting the paper “Wikimedia’s culture of sharing: Remarks on common goals, localized fundraising and global action” certainly comes to mind, where we outlined Wikimedia Deutschland’s understanding of sharing common goals and resources within a global movement.
Being able to follow and influence the progress of the Chapters Dialogue is another milestone of my work here at Wikimedia. I learned so much from this exercise in regards to compassion, global values and regional cultures, and I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.
I tremendously enjoyed my work with the fundraising team at Wikimedia. Seeing the evolution of banner driven online fundraising from some meager beginnings (110,000 € during our first campaign) to some major successes (last November more than 400,000 people gave money to Wikimedia Deutschland, totaling more than 8.4 Million Euro!) was exciting, too!
Open Educational Resources was a learning experience for me, as well. I was not convinced that this is something Wikimedia should engage in, I thought it to be a hype that would go away. Wow, was I wrong. OER is a major driver for the dissemination of free knowledge in schools these days.
When I look back, the most important decision I took during my time as the Executive Director of Wikimedia Deutschland was to listen to Denny Vrandecic, who pitched to me a project called “Wikidata”. A “collaboratively edited knowledge base”, he said, is what the world has been waiting for. And he asked if Wikimedia Deutschland would be willing to undergo such a project.
Denny can be a very convincing guy (and, well, the case is convincing, too), so I said yes. I also got approval from my board – and wow, did that one go through the roof! Not only did I get my first (and only) mention on Techcrunch, Wikidata turned out to be the most active and the fastest growing Wikimedia project in the world. For the first time since Wikipedia started in 2001, we had found another way to collect and disseminate knowledge, successfully. Go, Wikidata, go!!
Even more important than these milestones (which are, I mentioned it, only a very few of a large number of great experiences here at Wikimedia Deutschland) are the people I met. I will not name names, but the people within Wikimedia (volunteers and staff alike) are incredibly smart, hilariously funny, dead serious, compassionate, intelligent, innovative, marvelous. Never in my life have I met such diverse people, all committed to the same goal: Free access to the sum of all knowledge. Period.
I will always look back at my time at Wikimedia Deutschland with deep gratitude for the people I had the opportunity to meet, work with, laugh.
Even so I will try and not govern from the grave, let me share a final thought about what lies ahead for Wikimedia Deutschland: They will hire a new ED eventually, and he or she will find the opportunity to work with these incredible people, share Google Docs with them, laugh with them, celebrate victories together and learn from failures together. Just like I did over the last five years.
When people asked me what I still wanted to achieve with Wikimedia Deutschland, I answered, of course, with a scene from The West Wing. After 9/11, the show had a special episode called “Isaac and Ishmael”, to address a traumatized nation. In this particular scene, Josh Lyman asks to fill the blank in “Islamic extremist is to Islamic as „blank“ is to Christianity?” I believe that this organization, too, has a blank to fill: “Greenpeace is to the Environment as Wikimedia Deutschland is to „blank„. Wikimedia Deutschland needs to find its unique understanding of its core.
And for Wikimedia movement in general? I would like to answer this one with Emma Goldman (1869-1940), an American anarchist. She was once scolded by a man that “it did not behoove an agitator to dance“. She replied: “If I can’t dance I don’t want to be in your revolution.”
Wikimedia is such a revolution – and we should all be in it with fun, with compassion, with love. We need to dance more, while we are at it, though!
Vielen Dank, Wikimedia. Für Alles. Und ich wünsche Dir nur das Beste!
The best is yet to come.