Wikimania report, day 1

Wikimania…where it’s all happening! Coming to you from unseasonably warm Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I really love Wikimania. This is my third time after Taipei and Alexandria. It is definitely the conference with the highest proportion of attendees who might know me despite not having met me. I really like meeting Wikimedians in real life. Wikimania is definitely something that sustains my continuing wiki involvement.

So yesterday was day 0, AKA the start of the codeathon. My micro-notes start there. I went along and did my usual mix of coding, lobbying and exchanging ideas. There was a welcome dinner in the evening and, well, the company was a better welcome than the food. :) But BA is notoriously not vegetarian friendly, it seems. Trying to ensure that foods with ham, fish or chicken in them are not classed as sin carne is not an easy task.

Today was the first main day, and it opened with a keynote by Richard Stallman. I was disappointed that he used (abused?) his keynote position to air his favourite nitpicks about particular Wikipedia disputes he has been involved in or made aware of. I mean, licensing change, anyone? And to then shout down with a microphone audience questioners is just cringe-worthy.

The venues: the keynotes are in a theatre around the corner from the main venue, Centro Cultural General San Martín. CCGSM is very good: four floors. The basement “cave” is where the codeathon is. The first floor has heaps of couches and chairs and is really excellent for casual conversation. It is not too noisy and there is really a lot of room. The rooms themselves have lots of chairs, and a couple of them are set up with simultanous interpretation, which is really something magical. (I wonder if it is hard, if the interpreters are not familiar with wikis or software…)

Oh… and there is streaming video!

The schwag: conference bag, t-shirt, 2x stickers, and a really gorgeous notebook! With a bilingual survey in the back, no less. I think the Argentinians have had a designer on board. I really love the graphics (like the one above).

I spent too much time gabbing and missed most of the DBpedia talk. I did manage to see all of the Wikipedia survey results talk. Upside: All the reports should be released by November 2009, and all the anonymised data some time after that. Jan Philipp Schmidt apologised that the data release was taking so long, but said they had been expecting around 5,000 responses, not 175,000 (in fact that is just the valid responses, there were around 310,000 in total). I sincerely hope that results from the survey can be fed back into technical and social improvements on Wikipedia and the other projects.

During lunch we had a chapters meeting – more like a meet & greet for anyone vaguely interested in chapters. It got quite a big turnout, maybe 30 or more in the end, and the group was so diverse that it was not really possible to have a detailed discussion. There were people interested in setting up chapters from India and Canada, as well as the Brazilians and a Catalan guy, a number of WMF Board members and a staffer, and a number of people I recognised from the April chapters meeting in Berlin (which I never blogged about…….. hmm) or before. In other words, “old guard”! And funnily enough there were no Argentinians in the room! I think they were all a tad busy. :)

There are lots of interesting questions facing the chapters collective at the moment, not least being the very definition of “what is a chapter?”. I am sure many of the recurring issues will come up during the panel on Wikimedia chapters I am moderating on Friday.

After lunch, I checked out Tools for Supporting Deliberation on Project-Level Issues by a PhD student called Travis Kriplean. He’s a pretty high energy and interesting seeming guy. Hopefully he and Werdna will do some hob-nobbing and come up with some more innovations for LiquidThreads (ie MediaWiki discussion pages that don’t suck).

Now after this I got sidelined into more discussions for about two hours and missed a bunch of talks! No matter, that is what Wikimania is for. I caught the end of Jennifer Riggs’ What can Wikimedia learn from the Red Cross and other large volunteer-driven organizations?, where she was talking about how we need to identify other entry points for people to become involved, besides just moving up the editing food chain. And the final session for the day was Florence (also my roommate :)) talking about Improving collaboration.

After some more chatting, I eschewed a tango workshop to head out with a few folks to try and find an early dinner (7.30pm that is). We lost half the group up one street, but then found some others coming out of another restaurant. In the end I ate with Jack Herrick (also on identi.ca) and Nicole from WikiHow, and Roan of MediaWiki API fame. We had a good talk over dinner (despite more troubles with sin carne) and now I am keen to have a look at the tech innovations WikiHow is working with.

And so… I am skipping out on the Wikia party and conserving my energy for a big day tomorrow.

It also occurs to me that I brought my flip video and have not yet pulled it out. So if there is some thing you might be interested in that I could make a short video of (probably not an entire session), write a comment and I will work on it if possible :)

27 August, 2009 •

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