WikiMania 2006, Day One

Day one is over. Brain is overloaded. Very tired. Attending conference during day/evening, then working late into night — bad. Law school dorms with no air conditioning in Cambridge in August — also bad.    (KWO)

Still, much to share. And amazingly enough, I will — at least a bit. There’s something about this conference that actually gets me to blog, rather than simply promising I will. Besides, I’m going to set a new record for responsiveness to Tom Maddox, even if it is via blog.    (KWP)

It is incredibly surreal to be back at my alma mater surrounded by post-college friends and colleagues. What makes it even more surreal is that folks from all facets of my professional life seem to be here, not just Wiki folks. I mentioned having my fingers in a lot of pies, right? Well, all those pies are unexpectedly well represented this weekend. It started yesterday when I discovered that Chris Messina and Tara Hunt were on the same flight to Boston, and culminated at dinner with Greg Elin (whom I first met at the FLOSS Usability Sprint, and who invited me to join him for dinner), Daniel Perry (a lawyer who’s been an important contributor to recent Identity Commons discussions), Tom Munnecke (first introduced to me by Jack Park when I was just starting Blue Oxen Associates), and Doc Searls (who needs no introduction). Also at the dinner: Ellen Miller, Micah Sifry, David Isenberg, Britt Blaser, and Yochai Benkler. Quite a contrast from last year, when I was hanging with grassroots Wiki peeps every night. I’m not complaining, though. The conversation was fascinating, even if we didn’t talk much about Wikis.    (KWQ)

Keeping with this theme, I didn’t hear much about Wikis today, other than my interview with Ward Cunningham. I kept my questions pretty basic, as a lot of folks there had never heard him speak, but I managed to slip in a few probing questions for myself. I asked Ward about the evolution of Wiki culture, and I specifically mentioned the culture of anonymity that he strongly encouraged in the early days, but that seems mostly absent in today’s Wikis. Ward seemed resignedly ambivalent. I asked him about what makes a Wiki a Wiki, and he was decidedly agnostic in his response: anything that facilitates a permissive spirit and mode of collaboration. I’m not sure whether he was being political or whether he truly feels this way. My guess is a bit of both, but I’ll press him on this if I get a chance later this weekend.    (KWR)

I showed up late to Larry Lessig‘s keynote, but I was unconcerned, as I had heard him give his Free Culture speech before. It’s excellent, but he recycles it often. Sure enough, he was doing the same speech, and I started tuning out. Fortunately, my brain was paying partial attention, or I would have missed what may end up being the most intriguing development of the conference.    (KWS)

Larry started talking about the interoperability of licenses, and how it was silly that the FDL and Creative Commons BY-SA licenses could not be relicensed interchangeably, even though the two licenses were equivalent in spirit and intent. He then proposed an interoperability clause as well as a neutral organization whose purpose would be to classify equivalent licenses. His talk was followed by a really good panel discussion between him and Eben Moglen. This stuff is really complicated and important, but it looks like Larry and Eben are serious about working together towards a common solution. Apparently, Jimbo Wales deserves a lot of credit for getting these two to cooperate. Did I mention that I love this community?    (KWT)

Quick hits:    (KWU)

  • I shared a flight and T ride here with Chris Messina aned Tara Hunt. (Chris was presenting on Bar Camp.) Chris extolled the virtues of Voodoo Pad, which apparently has autolinking features a la my Markup Free Auto Linking Wiki idea.    (KWV)
  • Was excited to see two of my roommates from last year: Kurt Jansson, a German doctoral student and president of the German chapter of Wikimedia Foundation, and Juan David Ruiz, a Chilean lawyer.    (KWW)
  • Saw Erik Zachte in the morning, who does awesome Wikipedia work. Erik immediately told me about two cool projects I had never heard of: FON and Wikimapia.    (KWX)
  • Caught up with Rory O’Connor after my session with Ward. Rory’s a filmmaker who came to last year’s Wikimania to make a documentary on Wikipedia. What I didn’t know was that he was so inspired by the proceedings, he decided to release all 13 hours of his footage under a Creative Commons license to encourage folks to mix their own documentaries from the event. Check it out, and mix away! There’s some interview footage of me somewhere in there, and I make a cameo in Rory’s 11-minute rough cut, in the background of Jimbo’s interviews yukking it up with John Breslin.    (KWY)
  • Somehow, I got recruited by multiple Wikipedians to help with the lightning talks due to my process expertise. My expert advice: “Move those chairs into a circle, and be firm with the time limit.” Yes folks, this is why I get paid the big bucks.    (KWZ)
  • Briefly got a chance to chat with Tim Starling about the OpenID integration in Mediawiki. Tim explained that they’re going to unify the user databases across all the different Wikimedia properties. This was further validation that Yoke‘s identity proxy approach is useful. Of course, one of these days, I’m going to have to actually write down what that approach is, so that I can convince people of its utility.    (KX0)

WikiMania Hackfest

I’m in Frankfurt am Main, Germany this week for Wikimania. The conference itself starts on Friday, and I’ll be speaking on the history of collaborative tools on Saturday. With the encouragement of fellow alumnus Samuel Klein, I decided to come a few days early to participate in Hacking Days. It’s been an excellent opportunity to immerse myself with the Mediawiki developers, as well as a way to get to know some of the more active members of the Wikipedia community before the throngs arrive later this week.    (JJD)

It’s been over 15 years since my last trip to Europe, and this is my first work trip here. Frankfurt is as good a place as any to cushion folks like me from culture shock. While I’m nowhere near fluency, English is a Germanic language, and I took two years of high school German, so I recognize vocabulary here and there. Plus, most people speak English, especially here in Frankfurt, which is a European travel hub.    (JJE)

The conference itself is at the Haus der Jugend, a large Youth Hostel in the center of the city. Most of the participants and speakers are staying here at the hostel, which makes things very collegial. I’m rooming with Kurt Jansson, the president of the German chapter of Wikimedia Foundation, and Juan David Ruiz (Chile) and Ascander Suarez (Venezuela), core members of the Spanish chapter. It’s given me both an international take on Wiki culture and a bird’s eye view on the inner workings of the Wikipedia community.    (JJF)

I love the international flavor of the community and the conference itself. I had a great conversation with Delphine Menard, a French woman who handled the event’s logistics. She’s lived all over the world and speaks three languages fluently. As I gushed about the importance of being around a diverse group and about experiencing the feeling of being an outsider, she observed that based on her experiences, in the end, people are more or less the same, regardless of background. True, true. Everybody is people. When you interact with others who are different from yourself, you realize that we all share some very human values. You can’t truly reach that conclusion without experiencing diversity first-hand.    (JJG)

Watching the developers work was interesting. It was very much like watching a face-to-face IRC discussion. Folks sat around a table with their laptops open and participated in multiple conversations — both face-to-face and over IRC — and activities simultaneously. I’ve been playing ethnographer and collecting observations, which I’ll bring to people’s attention more formally on Thursday.    (JJH)

Samuel and I talked a bit about Wikiness and the aversion that hard core Wiki developers seem to have over WYSIWYG editing. WikiText is not essential to the Wikiness of Wikis. Ward Cunningham himself has stated on record that GUI editing is the next big step in the evolution of Wikis.    (JJI)

I’m in Frankfurt through Monday and in Berlin after that, so if you’re in town, let me know.    (JJJ)