Last 3 days I’ve been at the 2010 edittion of Wikimania, one of the biggest yearly wiki events. This year it was in Gdansk, Poland. I went by Plane from Eindhoven, together with Maarten, a moderator on the Dutch Wikipedia with >5 year history, who drove me to the airport.
I’ll start with the things that where not nice, basically the heat and the dormitories. It was 30+ °C practically the whole time, and the dormitory I stayed in, which was reserved by the event organizers for the attendees, was more like a sauna then a dormitory. It was located right next to a viaduct, so when opening the window at night, you’d get a lot of noise. On the last night the people from the event could not stay at that dormitory, and had to go somewhere else. Me and another attendee from Belgium got assigned some dormitory a few km away from the event. Saying this was a crappy one is an understatement. Furthermore, the payment was not arranged, so we had to pay for staying, while it should have been done by the event organizers as we paid for it?!! In any case, this amounted to me having less then 10 hours of sleep over 4 nights 🙁 And they don’t have Club Mate in Gdansk o_O!!!
I think the event itself was great, with lots of interesting talks, awesome people and good food.
On the first day I missed the keynote since my flight arrived to late to see it, and only followed some non-technical talks, of which the most notable one was about Liquid Threads, the totally awesome extension by Andrew Garrett and now also some other people. I left early, skipping the deinner and following events, and went straight to the dormitory, to get some sleep (which failed >_>)
I gave 2 talks, one about my Google Summer of Code project, now titled Deployment, and one about Maps and Semantic Maps, both on the second day. The Deployment talk went pretty bad, as I was extremely tired. Hopefully I got the core message across of the importance of having a solid and user friendly way of deployment. Apologies to all the people I forgot to give credits to! Daniel Kinzler had some interesting security concerns which we discussed later on the day, together with Markus.
On the second day of the event there was a series of Semantic MediaWiki talks and workshops, kicked off by a presentation about the concept and what SMW has become over the past 5 years by Markus. This was followed by a workshop by Hans-Jörg Happel and Frank Dengler about Semantic Result Formats. Daniel Herzig gave a talk about AskTheWiki, and promising extension he is developing. There where two more SMW related talks focusing on the advantages of SMW and how it can be deployed. Later on the second day I gave my talk about Maps and Semantic Maps, preceded by one of Tim Alder, who presented the capabilities of the geo-related work on the toolserver. Luckily I was awake to some extend during this talk, and it went reasonably well IMO, although I had to rush through it, cause of to little time.
The second day was closed by the word premier of the movie “Truth in Numbers“, which aims at giving people an idea about the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation, and how it works. It shows arguments from both people involved or enthusiastic about the foundation, and those who think the world is going to explode if you go to Wikipedia for whatever reason. It will be interesting to see how this movie gets distributed and what effect it will have. I’m a little sad about how the creators choose to distribute it though, as it will require you to pay for it. It would be a lot more awesome if it was free with a big donate button. All the footage, which is a lot more then what’s seen in the movie itself includes, but not edited, will be released for free under a creative commons (or similar?) licence though.
The third day I found the most enjoyable as I did get some amount of sleep the night before. (In other words, I was awake enough again to program during the talks : ) The most interesting talk for me I followed here was definitely the one by Roan Kattouw about writing MediaWiki extensions, which mentioned some things I did not know about yet (such as build in MediaWiki support for Memcached o_O), as well as provided a nice overview of the things you need to keep in mind. I wish I had seen it a year earlier though, as I would have learned a lot more from it then, and not made a lot of the noted beginner mistakes. In the next session I attended several strategy sessions, which gave me a nice idea of what all the strategy fuss is about. The last session I attended was about Wikimedia credibility, including a talk by Maarten about how information (esp the incorrect) spreads to other media. The other talks in this session where similar, and although obviously none of the issues addresses are technical in nature, I found several of them rather amusing.
It was great to meet all the people involved with SEMANTIC MediaWiki in person, as well as a bunch of people I only knew from IRC and other online communication tools. Sadly enough Yaron Koren and Brion Vibber and several other people I’d like to have seen there could not be at the event.
On the way back to Belgium I tackled a lot of small design issues that have been present in Maps and Semantic Maps for months, resulting in one big refactoring commit for each extension, which I made as soon as I was back home. After that I went to sleep, and woke up 19 hours later O_o
Next years Wikimania will be in Haifa, Israel. I’m probably going, but seriously hope it won’t be so insanely warm there 😛