electronic brain surgery since 2001

WikiSym Part 4

I'm really tired and using an unreliable net connection so I can't proveread… will do so later when I'm back home….

Opening Talk

This day started with a talk by Mark Berstein about “Organic Hypertext Structure and Incremental Formalization for Everyone's Everyday Tasks”. Despite the rather complicated and hard to understand title he gave an enterntaining talk about how knowledge research is actually an everyday task for every one - not just professional knowledge workers. He emphasized on things that need to be written down but are not nessarily for a broad audience. Eg. keeping your diary or writing down a shopping list for your your husband. What I did like about this aproach was him looking at Wikis as a simple writing tool. This was somewhat suprising on a conference that seems to focus very strongly about the communtiy aspects of Wikis and how the success of every Wiki seems to be bound to it's community. He did show that wiki have their use and succes even without a community by using them as a personal tool to structure personal knowledge.

A second aspect of his talk I found quite interesting were his experience of previous hypertext research of the last 20 or something years he shared with us. Many of the proposed concepts from the 80's are now commonly used in modern Wikis, some of the concerns people had back then when the technology for their concepts didn't exist haven proven righteous silly. Eg. the fear of having too much links and “getting lost”. Today we use Wikis and encourage as much as interlinking as possible. Some other concepts I noticed that where thrown away over the time seem to be come back now that technology advanced. The idea of typed links for example seems to be come back with the semantic web movement.

Semantic Wiki

Logically following the oppening talk there was a block of presentations on the current state of Semantic Wiki implementations.

The first one by Michael Buffa was about a newly developed engine called SweetWiki introducing not only tags but the possibilty to inherit tags and cluster them to tag hierarchies. Another interesting aproach in SweetWiki is the use of a simple ontology to describe wiki pages and inks and then use existing semantic analysers to gather interesting data from this implicit meta information. There where some interesting technology names involved, which I donn't know yet and have to look up: GRDDL and SPARQL being the important ones.

The second talk was about some research about semantic Wikis by the FU Berlin. The main thing I took out of this presentation was the idea to build an “Wiki Object Model” for standardisation of ontologies and APIs to build interacting services in a “Worldwide Wiki”. So using semantic (computer understandable) metadata could help to automatically access relevant data from external wiki sources.

The third talk in this semantic Wiki block didn't fit in too well with the other talks. The topic presented by Angelo Di Iorio was about Wiki restrictions. I didn't see the whole presentation because I went over to the open space rounds but what I got was the question on how open Wikis really are. The interesting fact to consider is that there are many constraints even in completely open wikis. Either implicit ones like general rules or guidelines on how to edit on the wiki or more explicit ones like what kind of syntax is allowed to appear within other syntax and so on. What I understood was his proposal was to make the user aware of possible constrainment violations with enforcing the contraintments. Angelo called them “Light Constraints” and suggested to implment them using some kind of validator.

The future of Wikis

The proposed panel on the “Future of Wikis” by Eugene Kim was spontanously tuned into a group discussion where all participants where divided into five groups where each group first tried to imagine possible futures of Wiki and then all groups presented their views to see some common ideas. Personally I didn't really liked this part because it seemed too forced and too less tangible. But I'll try to list some points that came up here. One thing each group seemed to had come up was some kind of distopia where some large and evil cooporation (of course Microsoft was the one called up here) creates their own omnipresent Wiki tightly integrated into the most popular desktop OS and thus invalidating all community discussions and effort to agree to certain standards with just thir huge amount of market share.

Another thing many seemed to agree that the Wiki concept won't die but Wikis as we know it may completly vanish in the next years and even the word might go away. People where talking about seeing wiki feature being integrated in all kinds of products and being extended beyond editing texts. On thing I especially like was about differentiating between wiki as a tool and Wiki as a concept and the implication that the tool will probably evolve much faster than the concept.

And a final point coming up in the discussion was that not only tools and concept of Wikis may change but that the most impact will be done by how the users will change. An example where school kids now growing up with Wiki techology instead of getining it to know at highscool and how todays schoolkids will work with wikis in Highschool will be totally different from today.

Open Space

I was a bit disapointed on how Open Space worked out today. Only very few people suggested new topics and of the suggested topics only a few really happened. But I found some interesting discussions to join non the less.

One discussion which wasn't a planned open space event but came up somewhat spontanously was about Wiki Creole a supposed simple common denominator for Wiki markup but I won't talk about much it now because I will have to say much more about it tommorrow after attending the appropriate workshop.

Another discussion with Alex Schroeder, Angela Beesly and others took up the idea of Wiki Ohana I talked about yesterday. The question was how to build the feeling of a global interwiki community and how using welcome messages as one aspect of the effort.


The final panel for today was presented by Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse and many other things) and Eugene Kim. Doug was joing through a Video conference from the USA. Unfortunately the tech had so much problems (sound not working, stutters, video not playing, and anything else you can imagine) it was really hard to follow Doughs talk. However the second part by Eugene was really interesting as it introduced a new way to display Wiki content by breaking it down into smaller chunks and making it possible to link to certain chunks of data and also making it possible to link to certain view on the data. In fact the whole thing seems to be a continuation of Eugenes purple number thingy. I don't want to go into any more detail now because it's really late already and I need to get some sleep now but the system, called Hyperscope, is supposed to be publically available on September the first at hyperscope.org.

This post was originally published on cosmocode.de
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