electronic brain surgery since 2001

RoCoCo Camp Day 1

This was a long and interesting day. Obviously the WiFi at my hotel still works, though my access code was meant to be valid for a day only. Let's see if it lasts. Anyway, here is what happened today.

Evan opening RoCoCo When I arrived at the location they were still in the process of setting up everything, and there was no coffee, yet. So I just registered and grabbed a T-shirt. After checking my emails and some small talk the whole thing was started by Evan Prodroumu talking about the overall topic of the camp being “accidental linking”. Meaning the case of someone editing a text and adding a link to add some indepth info later, just to discover the page he was linking to already exists. This kind of accidentally meeting like minded people is quite a good way to describe the spirit of an open conference like this.

As RoCoCo Camp being an unconference, there is no real agenda, instead the Open Space technology is used to get people talking. The concept was introduced after Evan's speech and some introductionary words in French and English. The whole conference is planned as bilingual one. Listening to longer talks in alternating languages is quite a bit distracting and not improving the flow of things but because most (or all?) attendees speak English all OpenSpace sessions I've been too where in English only so that was okay.

RoCoCo Sponsors So let's speak about those sessions. The first one I've attended was run by Reini Urban about using Semantics in Wikis. He presented his implementation for PHPWiki which uses a similar syntax as the semantic web extension for MediaWiki. The ide is to have a way to define properties and attributes to pages. Eg. you could have a Page about Berlin with a link like [is_in::Germany]] or an attribute like [2.4 Million|population:=2.4 Mio]] (that's PHPWiki syntax) and then use the semantic search to search for cities in Germany with more than 1 million people. To me this sounded like some way of extended tagging as all these relation identifiers are completely free form. Evan joined us and told us about how he uses MediaWiki templates to add some kind of semantic metadata to WikiTravel pages which then can be exported as RDF. I asked him if anybody uses this data and his answer was “no, but they could”. He then explained they're working with OpenGuides to work out some way of sharing data between both sites. He also showed some pretty nifty AJAX inplace editor to edit certain data. I was thinking about how to implement this kind of semantic linking to DokuWiki and from how I see it we would need some database which holds link information, this could also help with listing orphans and wanted pages - a feature still missing form DokuWiki.

I then joined the end of session about distributed software development. There wasn't much I heard about the discussion, but one thing that was quite interesting to hear was one developer saying he just resigned from volunteering developing for CouchSurfing because of a much too restrictive non-disclosure-agreement he was asked to sign. Which did strike me as quite odd for a community based website.

Wiki Evangelism After a short break I joined a session about Wiki evangelism lead by Sunir Shah who recommended a book called "Crossing the Chasm" which talks about the differences between technophiles and pragmatics and how to overcome those chasm between their approachs to technology. Sunir gave the Firefox and Ruby on Rails campaigns as excellent examples of how to “market” an Open Source tool by providing “Full Service Products” with documentation, support, pragmatic examples and role models. He then pointed out Stewart Maden's WikiPatterns website (which I recently featured in my Linkblog) as one way to market the “Wiki Way”. One catchphrase I really liked came from Stephane Thibault saying “if you can write an email, you can contribute in a wiki”. Eugene Kim then brought up the issue about using a common logo for Wikis and someone suggested it could be as successful as the well known orange RSS feed icon. There are already some Ideas but I'd prefer some cleaner icon. There was an agreement about using a wiki worldwide contest to find such a logo. I had a short talk with Stewart about Wikipatterns after the session and we agreed to get in contact to think about interlinking Wikipatterns and WikiMatrix.

After a nice lunch with tasty lasagna I joined a session named “For Profit Wikis - Good or Evil” which took WikiHow as an example. It's owner (sorry forgot the name) told about his ethics with advertising, like no inhouse advertising to avoid conflict of interest and not accepting Venture Capital to avoid loosing control. So the answer to the initial question was a clear “it depends” - namely on the ethics behind the company. A guy from the WHO said that companies might be even better fitted to do good things because they are not bound by politics. He gave the example of Google visualizing the conflict in Darfur which the UN couldn't do without stepping on someone toes. He also said he couldn't do the same for visualizing the spread of HIV without creating an international affair.

The last session I was at, was about how to find graphic artists and user interface designers for Open source projects and was started by Marc Laporte of TikiWiki. I suggested using a contest pointing to the way we've got the beautiful DokuWiki logo created by Esther. Someone else said that mockups of possible UI designs can help to discuss new interfaces.

At the bar After the Open Space sessions a lot of us went to a nice bar near the conference location to have a few beers and discuss some more. There were all kinds of Topics including cyberstalkers and edit lunatics and how to fight them and their proxy hopping bots.

It was quite an eventful day and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I probably missed a lot of things. Check out the conference wiki for more info.

photos by Montreal Tech Watch and Eugene Kim

rococo, wiki, event
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