Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Too tired to go to the Web 1.0 party (and it was at MIT, too. hmph.). I will say this about Cambridge: good street musicians during the day, terrible ones at night. It seems like a city that loves and understands acoustic folk, but is interested in other styles mostly as academic curiosities. (Or maybe I'm being an asshole for judging a city on the kids trying to make an easy saturday buck. I remember russian clubbers in detroit for whom anything with a melody, or chords, or filters, or slower than 160 bpm, is crap.)

(Dr. Thompsen's Wikimania 2006 Journal. Detailed.)

Preemptive critique of the times story: it's possible that one angle that might pop up is "wikipedia takes a relative approach to truth: wikiality: truth is whatever the mob says."

But NPOV and concensus (and a hands-off approach toward differing cultural norms) are not academic philosophies of knowledge, they're practical approaches to the process of collaborative writing, imperfect but workable solutions that allow wikipedia to (dare I say) thrive.

Wikimania feature in tomorrow's NYTimes week in review the NYTimes at some point

(Update: Here it is.)

I'm at Language and cultural barriers and challenges to Wikipedia. Upstairs, small room. All the cool foreign kids.
There's a New York Times reporter here who says he's writing about us for Week in Review. (I got out of there fast after he unmasked himself (well, and after the session ended). I'm waaay too sleep-deprived to be anywhere near a times reporter.)

Update: I misread that exchange -- the reporter was saying he had an article not about Wikimania, but about language. The wikimania article is yet to be written.

The session

Should we aim for an ur-wikipedia that every language version feeds into, with every perspective? (Well, no.) How independent should each language version be? (The question becomes more complex when you look at areas in which multilinguism is common -- see africa segment below.) ("If you attempt to combine languages, some of the knowledge actually disappears." But there's not necessarily a conflict here: multimodal translation directions, etc.)

(In other news, I think I said "dutch" when I meant to say "danish". I blame the public schools.)

The Swahili wikipedia is exapanding: >1000 articles. The guy next to me, from Tanzania, is talking about using social networks and students to help it grow.* "If you want to convince people in the developing world to do something like this, that's new, you have to be very persistent. Extremely persistent." (Swahili is not an african lingua franca, contrary to stereotype. However, it doesn't belong to any particular ethnic group, so it carries less baggage. There is tension because ethnic languages are being lost as Swahili becomes more common.)

How big is the overlap between wikipedias? How many polish-language articles don't exist in the english version?

What about nations in which the cultural makeup of the bilingual crowd is different from that of those who only speak the native language. What about bilingual people who choose to write in english because they can reach a wider audience? See also.

*He's also working on a project to rewrite Tanzania's constitution using wikis.

I almost forgot:

The group is forming a new mailing list to continue the discussion and make recommendations to the board.

...and we're back. I'm at What can wikipedia learn from open source software projects? (A subject I've talked about before.)

A summary of the discussion:

Open source software has a large commercial ecosystem that interacts with and helps drive project development. But commercial interests can harm projects. Wikipedia should seek nonthreatening complementary product services!

Wikipedia has obvious advantages (more people can write english than can code C). But it also has disadvantages:

1. Monoculture means slower evolution (less mutation, because fewer projects). Open source projects borrow successful processes/institutions/best practices from each other. (But human-lanugage-based open source is young yet. It's also worth mentioning that different language versions of wikipedia have different policies. But diffusion of successful policies is hindered by ... er ... a language barrier. Personally, I think a lot of these variations rest in underlying cultural differences, and so may not be completely "portable". But they're worth examining.)

2. Software production (and industrial production, for that matter) uses automation: write once, use all over. But natural language production doesn't have economies of scale.

3. Software producers sometimes "eat their own dogfood" (use their own software). If something goes wrong, there's a high priority of fixing it.

O'Mahony seems to disagree with Lessig: open source is usually not a hacker adhocracy. Although open source coding procedures have remained similar, their framework has changed: now 2/3 of "volunteers" are actually sponsored by vendors. Corporate in-kind donations support the projects' production. (I'd argue that a broad definition of adhocracy encompasses the current situation.)

And finally a concrete example wikipedia can learn from: When projects delegate governance to a foundation, there's often a power struggle. (Luckily, the foundation hasn't gotten involved in micromanagement.)

(Sidenote: Wikipedia is less transparent than most open source projects -- that is, it's harder to follow as a whole. (Better visualizations would help there, I think. And there do exist general overview services like the Signpost.))

Friday, August 04, 2006

Man, I was tired (up all night 'till the late afternoon). Archived media -- though the videos aren't up yet.

Jimbo: Wikiwyg yet to come.

Unsurprisingly, Lawrence Lessig gives a fucking great presentation. video feed

We reject kings, presidents and voting. We believe in rough consensus and running code. --Clark

Update: Clicknoise has some interesting commentary.

I'm at Identity, Anonymity and the Wiki. (Video feed (rm))

Update: Great question about articles for deletion, and ensuring consistency: should there be case studies, like in law? Would people refer to the 2006 GNAA precident for reference? Could these be automatically generated, as in google news? (It seems like that last would be difficult.)

As I type this, I'm in Cambridge, listening to Jimmy Wales talk about talking to Jimmy Carter. (here's a live video feed

Thursday, August 03, 2006

There's a generalized Wikimania blog (not by me).

I'm one of the judges for the Wikimania awards -- I'm judging on-wiki, though, so you can follow along as I pick through cool photos.

Update: CNet's picted it up.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Wikimania Hacking Days - Day 1
Originally uploaded by fuzheado.
David Weinberger (the guy behind Small Pieces Loosely Joined) blogs about about how nervous he is about his Wikimania keynote.

In other news, there are -- At This Very Moment -- people doing what I presume are brilliant, consequential things at Hacking Days (and I'd be there if I was more geeky -- I'm at about the trough of the asymptotic geekiness distribution curve, just far enough up to realize how stupid I am compared to the real geeks).