electronic brain surgery since 2001

WikiSym 2008 Day 1

For the third time I'm attending the annual WikiSym conference. This year it's hosted in Porto, Portugal. This is the biggest WikiSym so far with about 120 attendees. And while there are some familiar faces I'm missing quite a few of the guys that were on previous Wiki conferences. Most notably Ward Cunningham, Sunir Shah, Eugene Eric Kim, Evan Prodromou and Mark Dilley. But there are a lot of new people to meet which is a good thing of course.

I started the day with a tutorial on XWiki which is an engine I hadn't looked much into before. I was impressed by their slick user interface which uses a lot of Ajax to speed up things. XWiki is one of the wikis claiming the label “Enterprise Wiki” by implementing a way to put structured data and scripting into the wiki. XWiki provides some wizard to create document classes and document templates and combines this with Velocity powered scripting on top. This seems to be very powerful but requires a lot of knowledge of Velocity scripting for sure.

What I liked is that they seem to stick to the same paradigm everywhere. For example, their templates or skins are just Velocity scripts using the same XWiki API available to scripts in the pages as well. They also stick close to the “everything is a wiki page” idea. For example their user groups are just wiki pages listing users but being wrapped in a slick Ajax user/group manager.

WYSIWYG is a reoccurring topic on every WikiSym and so it is on this one. But the current shift seems to be that everyone is implementing it without believing in it. To roughly quote the XWiki guys: “people are looking for excuses to not use collaborative tools - providing a WYSIWYG editor is giving them one excuse less”.

I later attended a talk by the Wiki Evangelist Stewart Mader, which didn't have much new information it self but was quite entertaining. Stewart also gave some insight on how he approaches wiki consulting which I found really interesting. It basically boils down into four steps:

  • A strategy session on what are the goals and the timeframe of wiki implementation
  • A special event to create buzz where he gives a talk on what wikis can do for a company
  • Starting a Pilot and Workshop where the initial Wiki is implemented with small group
  • Manage Growth and measure ROI where he helps with spreading the wiki and analyzing the benefits gained from it

Speaking of consulting I had an interesting conversation with Wilfried Kraetzig from Germany who is planning to implement a company wide wiki in his enterprise and is currently looking for the right software. I guess he will have a deeper look at DokuWiki now at least ;-).

I also talked to Andy Webber who is using DokuWiki at Oracle for documenting security guidelines for their 1500 different products there. Andy has a really interesting job - he's actually trying to break Oracle's software before any blackhat hacker does it ^_^.

Dario Taraborelli from WikkaWiki is here as well and he talked with me about a project to measure wiki statistics from different wiki installations and how to implement a common interface to do that. It's somewhat similar to what the popularity plugin does for DokuWiki right now. There will be an OpenSpace session on it tomorrow so I can probably tell you more about it then.

The day closed with about 12 people visiting a restaurant in the old town of porto having some local food and beer. I ended up at a table with Alex Schröder from Oddmuse, Marc Laporte from TikiWiki, Christoph Sauer from WikiCreole, some MediaWiki guy and a guy from Microsoft (sorry forgot the names). As Alex put it, we had one of the most geekiest discussions possible about emacs vs. vim and stuff like that. It was great fun :-)

This post was originally published at cosmocode.de
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