Wikipedia Day NYC: Redefining Innovative Celebrations Implementing AI

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Wikimedia NYC has sustained a proud local Wikipedia Day tradition since 2010, and this January 14, 2024, we were able to bring it back full-scale, for the first time since 2019. We partnered with the Brown Institute at Columbia Journalism School, with a special focus this year on wiki intersections with AI and journalism. A personal reflection on the exciting event from one of our key organizers follows.WikiNYC’s Pharos

I learned the hard way that AI couldn’t throw parties. Luckily, the party I threw was to celebrate Wikipedia’s birthday. Wikipedians were there to fill in those bot gaps at every step of the planning journey.


It was the first task I volunteered for. My hand flew up: “I got a cake guy!” The Wikipedia New York City planning committee wanted to use AI to plan a celebration, and the cake was AI’s first failure. Committee members tried so many prompts. It seemed useless. The cakes were cute, but not the images we had envisioned to celebrate Wikipedia. Wikipedia Day started with fitting dozens of mini cupcakes in a Lyft. Then jeremyb and I stuffed those cupcakes in the small fridge.

Planning Communications

I dream of a day when I don’t have to switch from email chains, Discord channels, social media DMs and texts. Sadly, the one-communication platform policy exists in the country I teach in, China. No matter how much Musk wants to implement a super app like WeChat in the US, Americans still communicate in their little bubbles. This challenge invigorated me because it reminded me of my days on newsroom assignment desks, funneling information from different sources. AI was no help.

Molly Stark Dean at Wikipedia Day NYC (40064).jpg

Opening Panel

The panel was about AI, but the panelists were connections that the committee knew. I work at a journalism AI company and volunteer for a WikiProject, so I insisted on introducing the first panel. AI didn’t influence this introduction. I used a few wrestlers and wrestling promoter speeches as inspiration. Then, I added a few fun adjectives, panelist accomplishments and some inclusive pronouns. I did a similar intro at ONA23 and knew Wikipedians would understand my energy. My hair stylist directed me to “trust the mic.” The audio would have been way better if I had listened to her.

Annie Rauwerda quizzing Ryan Ng at Wikipedia Day NYC 2024 (40416).jpg

Depths of Wikipedia

Some people only require the direction “get up there and go,” and Annie Rauwerda is one of those people. The planning committee knew that she would bring people, be funny and engage with all the lovely Wikipedians who were there to celebrate the day. No bots helped her.

Bias Panel

As a Women Do News board member, I knew this panel would be compelling. My WDN colleague dropped out due to illness, so I stepped in. Facilitating and introducing Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight was the highlight of my day. 

“Once at the venue, I was, like always, so happy to be surrounded by my tribe, Wikimedians of every ilk. And there were all the people I didn’t know, that I met for the first time, who weren’t specifically Wikimedians, but who champion the work that Wikimedians do… and they are – well, look at the lineup – they are, wow! The sessions were forward-thinking and open-ended rather than a rehash of pet projects. The Lightning Talks contained unique viewpoints and stories. The hallway conversations, many about AI, had me thinking about things I wouldn’t have thought about if I had stayed home. So, was it worth it? Yes, it was!”



All food consumption was a blur. I went back and forth, reminding attendees that there was food in both rooms. “There’s pizza in the other room!” I yelled. After the pizza disappeared, I referred attendees to the Haitian patties in the other room. Patties are a WikimediaNYC tradition.

Lightning Talks

My Wikipedia Day Lightning Talk was why I wanted to write this story. I signed up to talk about the limitations of planning an event using AI. That was the plan. But as anyone at Wikipedia Day NYC knows, that wasn’t what happened. I got to the podium and talked about volunteering. I couldn’t stop talking about how inspired and moved I was. Enterprisey said he does all his talks this way: get up there and talk. I plan to sign up for all future lightning talks, “The Enterprisey Way!”

Wikipedia Day 2024 NYC by Fabian 03


The baker, Joel Coombs, proudly walked into Pulitzer Hall with his daughter, his cake and a giant smile. Helpful Wikipedians swarmed and got the cake to its final resting place. Volunteers and I kept the ravenous free dessert enthusiasts off the cake by offering them mini cupcakes. During this cupcake appeasement period, the tasty treat photography fanbase took many pictures. wileycount stepped up, in true Wikipedian style, as the only one with a knife. He offered me the first slice of WikiCake. It was the perfect way to end the day. Thank Wiki, it was delicious because I had been hyping up this cake to everyone. At one point leading up to Wikipedia Day, my husband told me, “You used up all of your mentions of WikiCake for the day.”


As I was preoccupied with introductions, panels and food, I didn’t get much time in the Playpen. The Playpen was the hack-a-thon area where attendees learned more about Wikipedia editing or how to upload images to Wikimedia Commons. Fortunately, ComplexRational was there: “I think the playpen was a welcoming environment, and there were opportunities both for editors to directly get started with editing (formally learning the basic dos and don’ts) and to talk about the world of Wikipedia more informally. At one point, there were simultaneous discussions in the playpen focusing on the basics of Wikipedia editing (in general), hacking, translation, and images. I thought that was a great opportunity to bring new people into the community.”

WikipediaDayNYC2024 Stickers.jpg


It wouldn’t be a Wikipedia event without stickers. Wikipedia Day delivered on this tradition. “We gave away over 400 Wikipedia-related stickers, including two produced specifically for the event: an AI-themed one and a steamboat Willy-themed one,” wil540 told me. AI can’t design stickers, but Wikipedians are experts at it.

Video Recording

Bots record all my meetings. They record, transcribe and take notes. Then, AI adds the action items mentioning my name to my to-do list. These bots worked well during all the meetings leading up to Wikipedia Day NYC. The meetings were typically on Sunday mornings. I will miss those meetings. I was running around from room to room so much on WikiDay that I couldn’t enjoy the great programming in the other rooms. The bots worked every Sunday leading up to Wikipedia’s birthday; however, they were kicked out of the live streams on that happy day. Thankfully, a Wikipedian had a backup stream because Wikipedians are amazing.

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“I thought it was great to interact with such a vibrant community of productive and prospective editors IRL. I see a bright future ahead for our local chapter.”

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Every time a bot failed, a Wikipedian was there to help correct its failures.

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