electronic brain surgery since 2001

WikiSym 2010

After I missed last year's WikiSym in Orlando1), I attended this year again.

This year's WikiSym was held in Gdansk, Poland and was colocated with WikiMania - the major event for all Wikimedia Foundation related projects, including Wikipedia. I think this was generally a good decision as it brought quite a few people to WikiSym who probably wouldn't have been there otherwise.

Less fortunate was the decision to have an overlapping day. On Friday many people were torn between seeing the WikiMania opening sessions or attending the last WikiSym sessions.

The WikiSym organizers wheren't to happy about the low industry attendance. Indeed the conference seems to have shifted to the research side quite a bit, loosing the good balance between reseach and industry it had for example in Porto 2008. Some are even thinking of creating a new, business focused wiki conference independent from WikiSym. That wouldn't be a bad thing in my opinion, there's definitively room for that.

Nonetheless I had some excellent chats with great people again, both about DokuWiki as well as about our ICKE project. My poster about Automated Quality Checks in DokuWiki was well received as well. Users of other wiki engines than DokuWiki seemed to be quite interested to have something similar for their engines.

Highlight of the conference was as always the Open Space part, but I also saw some pretty interesting paper talks.

I was pretty impressed by Andrew West's vandalism detection tool STiki for Wikipedia. Based on analyzing edit reverts, time and location information, the tool can detect vandalism quite well without having any look at the content itself. From what I understand about the inner workings, it should be easy to adopt STiki for other wiki engines.

Marc Laporte's open space session on what is new in TikiWiki 5.0 was gave me quite a few new ideas for DokuWiki and the DokuWiki community. I also learned about BigBlueButton – an interesting Open Source web conferencing tool.

Robert Biuk-Aghai's paper on integrating a chat system into MediaWiki was also quite interesting as this was something we did consider ourselves for ICKE at some point, but dropped it in favor of other features. I think there are some interesting things in what he did, like the mix of synchrounous and asynchrounous messages and the tight integration with the wiki itself.

Hans-Jörg Happel's Woogle extension for MediaWiki has a silly name but is actually something we talked about in the ICKE project as well: making the search in a wiki more useful by combining it with user data. Eg. track what people click after search, let them edit and reorder search results and similar things. Fact learned: there's a pure PHP implementation of Lucene. I definitively have to look into that.

Oh and yes I've sneaked into WikiMania as well (I wasn't registered) and attended their usability session. These guys have quite some work there, with the millions of users to satisfy (or to enrage). Interesting fact: the main UX developer for the new Vector skin admitted that Vector is much worse than Monobook accessibility wise. I wouldn't have expected that!

The usability panel also had a nice use of Etherpad: they projected the edit session to the large screen and people in the audience transcribed what's going on live. Results can be seen here.

This year's WikiSym was well worth a visit again. I met a lot of nice people, had good chats and took quite a few ideas and inspiration back home. Looking forward to next year.

This post was originally published on cosmocode.de
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