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  • Wiki Wednesday, October 2007

    At least four Wiki Wednesday events are coming up this week, in San Francisco, Montreal, Portland, and London.

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, Citizen Space is co-hosting an evening to talk about wikis and nonprofits. Our featured speakers will be a team of IT folks from local public television station KQED. They’re a non-profit organization that uses wikis heavily, and they’ve got insight to spare — especially for other non-profit organizations or internet media gurus.

    Speakers will be Lauren Somer, Content Coordinator; AJ Alfieri-Crispin, Interactive Systems Engineer; and Craig Rosa, Interactive Producer, all from Quest at KQED. Quest is a web site that explores science, environment and nature in Northern California. It uses wikis, Google Maps, and other tools to set up “Quest” explorations for each TV segment and radio show, inviting people to go to a park, follow along with printed guides, gps, photos, and to upload their own photos and observations. I’m very interested to see how they use wikis to manage all this multimedia content.

    In London, there will be an open discussion, as well as their usual line-up of lightning talks. ?WhatIf! Innovation is hosting the event along with David Terrar, and speakers who have signed up so far include Anne-Fay Townsend, Gordon Joly, Alan Wood, Julie Callick (a WhatIf-er and Wiki Chick), Paul Youlten, and workflow geek David Wynn, who promises to explain how to “instantly automate meeting action lists”. They tend to take great notes at the London Wiki Wednesdays, and someone, probably David, posts them diligently on the wiki, so maybe we’ll all learn the instant automation of meeting action lists. I’m crossing my fingers.

    The Portland Wiki Wednesday will be held at the new AboutUs.org office. The meeting is being held as an “Open Space” type meeting — please feel free to bring ideas and projects to help them create the itinerary during the event. Space will be made for an “introduction to wiki” discussion as well as some group barnraising projects. Last month’s meeting notes are up on the wiki. So far it’s mostly AboutUs and Wikipedia folks showing up to kick back with pizza and beer, with Ray King, Ward Cunningham, Tak Kendrick, Ted Kabusa, Pete Forsyth, Steven Walling, Jessie, Bob Lehman, Ian Osgood, and Geoff Burling.

    Last but not least, the Montreal meeting will be at Caféo, corner of rue Rachel and rue St.-Denis, also on October 3rd.

    This month I’ll also be going to the She’s Geeky conference in Mountain View at the Computer History Museum, Oct. 22-23rd. I plan on doing one-on-one knowledge exchange sessions; it seems like a great idea to pair up with another person and teach each other at least one useful thing. I’m happy to teach lots of blog and wiki tricks, as well as setting up for learning basic programming. What I’d like to learn is more great blogging workflow tips and tools.

    I’ll also be in Beijing in mid-October, meeting up with bloggers, BarCampers, and wiki geeks who I met through WikiChix. Let me know by email or on Dopplr or Facebook if you’re in Beijing and want to connect!

    Wiki interoperability, Wiki Wednesday, Wiki Ohana

    Last week at the San Francisco Bay Area Wiki Wednesday, we had a great talk and group discussion on wiki interoperability, led by Eugene Eric Kim of Blue Oxen Associates. The day before, Eugene led a discussion on the #wikiohana irc channel on irc.freenode.net. We talked on #wikiohana about WikiCreole, a project to build a wiki markup that can continue to converge between different wikis.

    Creole is a common wiki markup language to be used across different wikis. It’s not replacing existing markup but instead enabling wiki users to transfer content seamlessly across wikis, and for novice users to contribute more easily. Creole will create a community of wikis users and developers that forms a Wiki Ohana.

    This made a lot of sense and I’m impressed with it as a great model for collaboration. In the IRC discussion, I also learned about the UniversalWikiEditButton project, to create a standard button that will signify “you can edit this page, it’s a wiki”. Like the familiar orange RSS icon, it will spread a shared understanding across applications and across languages. Personally… I like the bright green squiggle as a wiki edit icon! It seems friendly, graceful, and inviting.

    At Wiki Wednesday, we touched on some of these issues. Everyone in the room came up with problems with wikis today, and solutions or opportunities. This boiled down to: 1) editing and markup 2) data and data structure migration 3) interconnection, or “one big wiki”.

    I especially liked the discussion of sister wikis and tying similar content in multiple languages together. For example, in Wikipedia, if I’m watching a page on the biography of Gabriela Mistral, I’d like to be able to track recent changes on the English, Spanish, versions as well as versions in other languages. With some way to know there is content in other wiki on the same or similar subjects, we could potentially improve content quite a lot. Eugene pointed out that being aware of the existence of other contexts – especially the context of language and culture – adds immeasurably to general understanding.

    wiki wednesday

    Phoebe Ayers talked about the main three wiki conferences: Wikisym, Wikimania, and Recent Changes Camp. She’s involved with all three conferences, and she encouraged us to come to them or to help out with planning and organization. I heard that there will be a Recent Changes Camp in the Bay Area in March 2008!

    Most of our discussion is on the transcript of the SF Wiki Wednesday. If I got your name wrong, please fix it on the wiki.

    The #wikiohana IRC meetings will be happening each month, the first Tuesday of the month, 21:00 GMT.

    Thanks to Tara Hunt and Chris Messina for co-hosting the event at Citizen Space, a San Francisco co-working space.

    Other Wiki Wednesdays took place in London, Portland, Stuttgart, Montreal, and Sydney. I’ll write up a review of what happened there in a separate post.

    Also, we have interest from SondraC, a top contributor at WikiHow, in starting up a Wiki Wednesday in the Orlando area. Sign up here if you’re in that part of Florida and are a wiki enthusiast or developer!

    Socialtext developers at YAPC::NA

    Today at YAPC::NA, Luke Closs gave a talk on Hacktastic Wiki Tricks including demonstrations of efficient wiki editing in wikrad, updates on blog views in wikis, and wiki-driven test automation. I use wikrad for gardening, searching, tagging, and very fast wiki browsing. It’s awesome to be able to navigate and edit with vim commands, especially with real-time collaboration through sharing a screen with others. Luke demonstrates wikrad in a screencast, take a look!

    It is usually easy to find Luke because goes to conferences and does stuff like this:

    User Generated Circus

    Kirsten Jones is also at YAPC and on Wednesday she will give a talk on Hydra, a tool to put multiple “faces” on wiki content. Hydra is in use right now for the Perl Foundation web site, which keeps its contents in a wiki, but has the look of a non-editable web site. Kirsten describes the project, originally developed at one of our Wiki Wednesday Hackathons,

    Social applications like wikis are great for encouraging collaboration, lowering barriers to entry, and allowing both technical and non-technical people to work together to generate content — but they’re not always the best way to *present* that content. People often want to use a wiki to create and maintain information, but then deliver it some other way, outside of the original wiki environment.

    It’s very slick! This, and tools like it, will become more and more important as wikis become a popular way to develop content. Yet I think the point of Hydra is that a wiki doesn’t have to bear the entire burden of publishing and serving that content.

    Casey West gave his “Abuse Perl” talk today, and on Tuesday will talk about Mochikit.

    Bill Odom, who I also work with at Socialtext, will be giving the closing keynote for the conference. I don’t know what he’ll talk about, but what I like about his talks is that he makes sense and doesn’t BS. Not to imply that anyone else *does*. It’s just that Bill is often the Voice of Just Plain Common Sense in a refreshing way. So whatever he has to say about Perl is likely to be good.

    I’ve found some good notes on Larry Wall’s keynote speech from Jesse Stay – and I’m hoping to follow more liveblogging from YAPC over the next few days. I notice they’re having a hackathon on June 28 and 29th, after the conference ends. I bet that will be amazing.

    Socialtext people at OSCON and elsewhere

    I’m missing OSCON right now where a lot of our developers are headed this week. Ross Mayfield will be speaking on a panel, Who Gets to Decide What Open Source Means?, along with Danese Cooper, Brian Behlendorf, Chris DiBona, John Roberts, and Michael Tiemann. Meanwhile, the CPAL license submitted to the OSI by Socialtext is still being considered by the board. Russ Nelson’s comment is interesting:

    Let’s give attribution requirements another chance in a simpler
    license. If such a licensed software does not achieve the Open
    Source effect, it will put the issue to rest.

    A reasonable attitude — pass it and see how it does in the wild. I’m especially interested because I worked pretty hard on getting the CPAL together, going back and forth with open source community members like Dan Bricklin, and lawyers, and Ross, before the license proposal was submitted. Though I didn’t speak up much in public, I read through quite a lot of debate on the OSI mailing lists and on many blogs to get an idea of all the background of open source licensing issues, like attribution and external deployment.

    Back to OSCON. Casey West, Kirsten Jones, Bill Odom, Chris Dent, Matthew O’Connor, Melissa Ness, Luke Closs, and Jon Prettyman (did I miss anyone?) are all up in Portland at the conference or hovering on the periphery. Whenever a bunch of them get together, no matter what else is going on there’s some late night hacking and mayhem. So I’m really curious to see what will come out of their trip in that dimension… something new built on the REST API, maybe. I’ve been following Chris McMahon, another of our developers, as he writes up a very interesting guide to developing with Ruby and the Socialtext REST API.

    At BlogHer in Chicago, I’ll be speaking on two panels relating to blogging, identity, and community. One is on intolerance, diplomacy, and civility: “Does the Blogosphere Need an Intolerance Intervention?” and in the other, “Blogging: the Voice For Silenced Communities”, I am filling in at the last minute for Grace Davis. I’ll run a Wiki BOF and also will organize a wiki-related session during Sunday’s open space BlogHer run by Kaliya Hamlin. While I might not be hacking at this conference I will be wiki-ing, blogging, and talking to hundreds of great people.

    And at the Socialtext office and in fact at our co-working office, we are helping to host a Meshwalk for entrepeneurs and investors, on August 1 — see their site for details.

    Wiki Wednesday, July report

    I was excited last week to have Ezster Hargittai, a sociologist, as a guest speaker last week at Wiki Wednesday in Palo Alto. In the Web Use Project she and her team gather data and analyze ways that young adults use the Internet. What are their skills? What explains differences and patterns of use, consumption, and creation? Eszter’s research into online skills of thousands of college freshmen expose subtleties in the digital divide. Some social inequalities persist strongly even though people have nominally equal access to the Internet. Class privilege, gender, and race correlate to patterns of digital media use. My detailed notes on Eszter’s talk are over on the Wiki Wednesday site, and “A Framework for Studying Differences in People’s Digital Media Uses,” a paper related to the talk, is here on Eszter’s site.

    Wiki Wednesday

    When Ezster asked what web apps we thought had been most often used by her sample of college freshmen, we all got pretty excited and wanted to show off. I predicted (wrongly) that YouTube would be more popular than Wikipedia and that Myspace would win out over Facebook. In fact, the top results were Wikipedia, 85%; YouTube, 81%; and Facebook, 79%. We also had fun contemplating her survey asking users to assess their own familiarity with various internet terms like “bcc”, “podcasting”, “social bookmarking”, and of course “wiki”.

    Wiki Wednesday

    Her research should be a touchstone for anyone who creates Internet applications. Usability and user interface designers, developers, technical writers, and product managers especially should take a look at her work to get ideas about how to communicate with users more effectively. Especially since most software is created by people who come from privileged backgrounds, I think it is important for them to look at their own assumptions and “check their privilege” against data like this.

    Wiki Wednesday

    After a break we heard short demos from several people. Tim Bonnemann asked some questions about how we can design wikis or wiki software to facilitate political conversation. We had no easy answers, but concluded that the most active political wikis started out as extensions of existing online communities. Gordon McCreight showed us how he is keeping his wedding planning information on a site that scrapes information out of a Socialcalc spreadsheet. Then he gave a cool demo on some further extensions of pageoftext.com. This simple idea, which I think started at RoCoCo in Montreal, now has links and RSS capabilities. But the nifty bit that made me think was the way that visibility of links functions as access control. In pageoftext, you can only see a page if you know its url — for instance, http://pageoftext.com/gordon_mccreight. The url functions as the password. But now since links on a page give you the urls to other pageoftext pages, changing the starting root node gives access to a tree of other wikis.

    Wiki Wednesday

    After Newton Chen demonstrated his mashup of Flickr, Google Maps, and upcoming.org, Steve Bang and Peter Kaminski had an interesting conversation about adoption and use patterns in large companies. Then we watched a short video made at the Vancouver Wiki Wednesday by Luke Closs, showing off his wiki hack, a bug tracker:

    Meanwhile, London had another huge and fantastic Wiki Wednesday with many speakers and great writeups of what happened by David Terrar, with links to even more blog posts by participants like Paul Youlten and Dennis Howlett, who describes “wiki thinking” vs. “wiki tools” — in other words the tools cannot competely determine the culture surrounding the use of the tools. “IT is a fashion business where consultants can readily sell in new concepts that sound cool but which are capable of being hijacked by managements insistent upon hierarchical control.”

    Coming up this week in Stuttgart and Kiel there are two lively looking Wiki Wednesday events. Stuttgart has over 30 people signed up. Also in SF, there was a Wikipedia meetup that unfortunately I missed!

    August Wiki Wednesdays are coming up

    Wiki Wednesday is happening this week and next, with events in London, San Francisco, and Kiel. In London, August 1, David Terrar and Alan Wood will be speaking, with others signed up for what look like 5 minute talks or demos, and at least 30 attendees.

    Wiki Wednesday

    In the San Francisco Bay Area, we will be meeting at Citizen Space on August 8. The featured speaker is Yoz Grahame from Linden Labs. Here’s his description of the talk:

    Wikis take the living library of the Web and, in pulling it into a single shared space, kick it up a notch. What wikis do for collaborative writing, folk logic platforms do for code. It’s the reason Second Life has a hundred new features every day. Social spaces that allow their users to code incubate the birth of remarkable new forms of digital life. But you can get some of their benefits with more traditional wikis too – because wikis aren’t just about text.

    I think that will be of interest to wiki developers and anyone in the new media or Web 2.0 field!

    The wiki ohana meeting will be happening next Tuesday, August 7, on irc. Details will be here on wikiohana.net.

    Meanwhile, I notice that there will be some interesting speakers tomorrow night at the New Tech Meetup. Mary Hodder, Bambi Francisco, Tina Sharkey, Caroline Bernardi, Sheryl Hamlin, and Di-Ann Eisnor will be talking about their companies, along with speakers from Girls in Tech & Women 2.0.

    I’ll report on our participation at BlogHer and OSCON tomorrow. See you at Wiki Wednesday! And if you’d like to get notices of future Wiki Wednesdays, join our mailing list or find the London or SF Bay Area Wiki Wednesday groups on Facebook.

    August Wiki Wednesday report, SF Bay Area

    This month’s Bay Area Wiki Wednesday was at Citizen Space in San Francisco. Our speaker, Yoz Grahame, gave a talk called “Folk Logic: The Social Life of Code”, easily one of my favorite talks so far for Wiki Wednesday.

    Wiki Wednesday, August 2007

    I’m twisting Yoz’s arm to give this talk again at BarCampBlock in Palo Alto, which is coming up fast! It’s August 18-19, and if you’d like to come, please sign up on the wiki. We have over 100 people so far. We’ll kick off the event in Socialtext’s offices at 10am on Saturday.

    Back to Wiki Wednesday!

    Yoz described how people learn to code and how code propagates or is propagated through social interaction. Though he was describing computer programming from BASIC to LambdaMOO to Yahoo Pipes, everything he talked about made sense when applied to wikis, wiki culture, and wiki adoption patterns. With examples from Ning, Second Life, and many references to work by Richard Borovoy et al, Yoz described the joys and dangers of creating systems that allow other people to write code. Social code, or code that works through “folk logic”, allows people to create their own code, to clone and modify others’ code, and to share data.

    Wiki Wednesday, August 2007

    Kirrily Roberts blogged the talk as it happened.

    I was left wondering — mostly — about how to implement Folk Programming in a non-centralised environment. Wouldn’t it be cool if web apps (WordPress for example) had cloneable plugins/widgets that were as easy to add as Facebook applications and as easy to modify and learn from as Yahoo Pipes?

    And by the following morning she had pinged me with a cool hack: a FolkLogic demo!

    As is fairly usual for our local Wiki Wednesdays, we had a small yet convivial group with intense discussion and connection between participants. Adina, Kragen, Betsy, Kirrily, Ariel, Yoz, and I went off into fun speculations about what we could do with social code, or wikis that allow more programming and cloning. Betsy described some of the projects mentioned at Phoebe Ayers’ recent Wikipedia meetup; one of them was a project to scan the OED; Kragen had already done it, so it was a lucky moment that will save someone a huge amount of effort! We also got deep into another of his old projects, a sort of wiki database bug tracking system, WowBar. Kirrily described a deletion discussion on Wikipedia, and the ways that wiki discussions (rather than automated voting procedures) can be productive; there was an effort to delete an entry on gay cruising grounds in Britain because it was not encyclopediac, and she wrote a history of gay cruising in Britain since the 18th century in response.

    Wiki Wednesday, August 2007

    At some point during our discussion, Betsy described the possibilities for building on a relationship database structure into Mediawiki, and the complexities of multiple languages and translations.

    If you’d like more detail, a partial transcript of the talk and our discussions will be on the event page on the wiki.

    Wiki Wednesday talks coming up soon will be on Wiktionary and handling global involvement and multilingual aspects of Wiktionary, and then another month this fall will be on wikis and non profits, with participants from Bay Area public television station KQED.

    Thanks very much to our hosts at Citizen Agency, Tara Hunt and Chris Messina, and to all the participants!

    I’d like to start videoblogging our Wiki Wednesday talks and demos, so if you’re interested in helping out with that, please contact me at liz@socialtext.com.

    BarCampBlock report, Wiki Wednesdays to come

    BarCampBlock is over, and interesting reports, link round-ups, and videos are pouring in. Search on Technorati to turn up the latest blog posts. The photos of BarCampBlock on Flickr give a good impression of the dynamic, open feel of this weekend.

    A visiting Perl developer, Kirrily Robert, did a great summary of other people’s session notes, as well as a time lapse slide show of the ever-evolving conference schedule posted on the wall:

    More session notes are here on the BarCampBlock wiki. Ross Mayfield led a discussion on Wikiality, and participated quite a lot in other sessions on social media and digital rights; read his blog post on Silicon Valley culture on his own blog, it’s good. Bill Odom and Peter Kaminski talked on Sunday about the Socialtext developer community and the ways you can start using the Socialtext API to develop useful applications very quickly. And Kirsten Jones wrote a Moveable Type – Socialtext plugin, so that you can choose to crosspost from a MT blog to a Socialtext wiki. Download the plugin from Socialtext Open community site if you’d like to give it a try!

    Since I was doing a lot of organizational and coordinating work, I didn’t participate in many sessions. I did go to Danny O’Brien and Josh Myer’s session “OMFG Privacy!” on Sunday morning, in which they reacted to the possibilities of large-scale mining of social network data. What I imagine will happen is that in the U.S., insurance companies will be slurping this data, connecting it up, and running analyses. 20 of your friends are smokers? You’ve had 5 relationships come and go in the last 2 years? Well then, you’re a health insurance risk; you are more likely to get lung cancer or an STD, so we’ll up your premiums or deny you coverage. I’ve heard many digital rights advocates say that if we don’t want information to be public, don’t make it public. As a point of comparison, it is public information that I am female, but it is illegal to discriminate against me for employment or insurance because you have that information. Our social network information could be given similar protections. Rather than forbid analysis, or public exposure of the results of analysis, we should come up with specific areas of human rights that may need legal shelter.

    I’ve posted elsewhere about organizing BarCampBlock and what a great experience it was. For me, the actual conference was a beautiful example of anarchic social structure in action. So many people are posting and writing about the great experiences they had, and the connections they made at BarCampBlock! So I hope that the success of this conference sparks not just more unconferences, but also helps to develop public trust.

    And, if you’d like to come to more great Bay Area tech events… come to Wiki Wednesday! I get great speakers every month, and always wish that more people could hear what they have to say. In September, our speaker will be Betsy Megas, talking about the details of Wiktionary; possibly about the international efforts to build Wiktionary in many languages at once. In October, we will have a team from Bay Area public television station KQED coming to explain how they use wikis internally and on their web site; I’ve had several requests for information on how non-profit organizations use wikis, and KQED stepped up to help. If you’re interested in coming to Wiki Wednesday or in being a speaker later this fall, please sign up on our site or email me with a talk proposal.

    Wiki Wednesday talk on Wiktionary and multilingual collaboration

    September’s Bay Area Wiki Wednesday featured Betsy Megas, a mechanical engineer and Wiktionary administrator, known in the wikiverse as Dvortygirl. She’s a Wiki Wednesday regular and spoke at Wikimania 2006. In her talk, she gave us a ton of information on the history of Wiktionary, a tour of its interesting features, and thoughts on possible future directions for this worldwide, massively multilingual collaboration.

    Betsy started by explaining the difference between Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Wikipedia’s goal is to capture all the knowledge in the world. Except for dictionary definitions! Wiktionary’s modest goal is to include all words in all languages. While an encyclopedia article is about a subject, a dictionary definition is about a word.

    But what is a dictionary? Betsy went to a library to browse dictionary collections. Some dictionaries focus on types of words: cliches, law, saints, nonsexist language. Others center around types of content: rhymes, usage, etymology, visual information. Others are dictionaries of translation. Wiktionary, because it’s not paper, is searchable, unlimited by size; it can evolve; and it has strong ties to people who edit it, and to communities of its editors.

    Wiktionary content includes audio pronunciations, definitions, etymologies, metadata such as a word’s frequency in English according to all the text on Project Gutenberg; pictures (such as this great photo illustrating the concept of “train wreck“); and videos attached to a word, for example, videos of how to express a word in American Sign Language. It also includes translations.

    We went off on a few speculations to future directions for Wiktionary, Wikipedia, and perhaps the entire web. What if links knew why they were linked? For example, why is “Lima” linked to “Peru”? Betsy thinks that we are missing out on a lot of metadata that could be quite useful. And for Wiktionary specifically, what if we had categories that were structured around the functionality of a word, for example, its part of speech?

    Betsy then went on to sketch out basic entry layout – which is different in different languages, but which for English is referred to as WT:ELE. She explains the problem of Wiktionary as “We have structured data, and no structure”. This is a problem and a feature of many wikis!

    Wiktionary has many tools to help with the tension between structure and structurelessness. It heavily relies on entry templates, which fill a regular wikitext entry box with something like this:

    # {{substub}}
    *Add verifiable references here to show where you found the word in use.

    Other useful tools depend mostly on automated detection of problems, relying on human beings to do the cleanup by hand. For example, Connel MacKenzie wrote a bot to list potentially messed-up second level article headers, but a person checks each link by hand to do the gardening.

    Structurelessness or being structure-light can be a problem for sensible reuse of Wiktionary content. Other dictionary projects such as Onelook and Ninjawords have used content from Wiktionary, but ran into difficulties with their imports. Is Wiktionary content reusable? Yes, but barely.

    Somewhere in the mix, we also discussed WT:CFI (Criteria for Inclusion) and WT:RFV (Requests for Verification).

    But then, the truly fascinating stuff about translation and multilingual collaboration. Words, or definitions, exist in many places. For example, we might have an English word defined in the English Wiktionary and the Spanish Wiccionario, and then a Spanish equivalent of that word also defined in both places. So, a single word (or definition, or lexeme) can potentially exist in a matrix of all the 2000+ languages which currently have Wiktionaries (or the 6000-7000+ known living languages) squared.

    For a taste of how the Wiktionary community has dealt with that level of complexity, take a look at the English entry for the word “board“. About halfway down the page, there’s a section titled “Translations”, with javascript show/hide toggles off to the right hand side of the page. There are many meanings for the English word, including “piece of wood” and “committee”. If I show the translations for board meaning a piece of wood, many other languages are listed, with the word in that language as a link. The Dutch word for “piece of wood” is listed as “plank”, and if I click that word I get to the English Wiktionary’s entry for plank (which, so far, does not list itself as Dutch, but as English and Swedish.) I also noted that the noun form and the verb form of “board” have different sections to show the translations.

    Ariel, another Wikipedia and Wiktionary editor and admin, showed us a bit of the guts of the translation template. The page looks like this:


    But the code behind it, which you can see if you click to edit the page, looks like this, all on one line (I have added artificial line breaks to protect the width of your browser window)}:

    nbsp;({{{tr}}})}}{{#switch:{{{3|}}}|f|m|mf|n|c|nm= {{{{{3}}}}}|
    }}{{#switch:{{{4|}}}|s|p= {{{{{4}}}}}|}}

    Fortunately, this template has a lovely Talk page which explains everything.

    We all sat around marvelling at the extent of language, and the ambition of the multilingual Wiktionary projects. The scope of OmegaWiki was impressive. As Betsy and Ariel demonstrated its editing interface for structured multilingual data, I got a bit scared, though! Maybe a good future step for OmegaWiki contributions could be to build a friendlier editing UI on top of what sounds like a very nice and solid database structure.

    We also took a brief tour of Wordreference.com and its forums, which Wordreference editors go through to update the content of its translation dictionaries.

    I’m a literary translator, and publish mostly my English translations of Spanish poetry; so I’m a dictionary geek. In order to translate one poem, I might end up in the underbelly of Stanford library, poring over regional dictionaries from 1930s Argentina, as well as browsing online for clues to past and current usage of just a few words in that poem. Wiktionary is a translator’s dream — or will be, over time and as more people contribute. I noted as I surfed during Betsy’s talk that the Spanish Wiktionary has a core of only 15 or so die-hard contributors. So, with only a little bit of sustained effort, one person could make a substantial difference in a particular language.

    The guy who is scanning the OED and who works for the Internet Archive talked about that as an interesting scanning problem. We told him that Kragen has also worked on a similar project. The IA guy, whose name I didn’t catch, described his goals of comparing his OCR version to the not-copy-protected first CD version of the second edition.

    At some point, someone brought up ideas about structuring and web forms. I have forgotten the exact question, but Betsy’s answer was hilariously understated: “I think that the structure of languages is substantially more complex.”

    Chris Dent brought up some interesting ideas as we closed out the evening. What is a wiki? When we talk about Wikipedia or Wiktionary or most other wiki software implementations, really we’re just talking about “the web”. And what he thinks wiki originally meant and still means is a particular kind of tight close collaboration. As I understand it, he was saying that possibly we overstate wiki-ness as “editability” when really the whole web is “editable”. I thought about this some more. We say we are “editing a page” but really we are creating a copy of the old one, swapping it to the same url, and making our changes. The old page still exists. So for the general web, we can’t click on a page to “edit” it, but we can make our own page and reference back to the “old” page, which is essentially the same thing as what most wiki software does; but at a different pace and with different tools and ease of entry/editing. So his point is that wiki-ness is about evolving collaborative narratives. I’m not really sure where to go with that idea, but it was cool to think about and I was inspired by the idea that the entire web, really, has a big button on it that says “Edit This Page”.

    As is often the case, we had low attendance, but a great speaker and unusually good group discussion. I’m happy with only 10 people being there, if they’re the right people. And yet I feel that many people are missing out on this great event. Betsy’s going to give me her slides and an audio recording for this month, but next month I will try to get a videocamera and record the entire event. If any actual videobloggers would like to come and do the recording, I’d love it.

    Also, tune in next week, or September 16, for the San Francisco Wikipedia/Mediawiki meetup!

    Socialcalc 1.1.0 release

    The Socialcalc 1.1.0 release is out, and you can download it and follow development progress at Socialcalc.org. It’s a release that’s mainly meant for developers, sys admins, advanced uses, and early adopters. It adds the capability for named ranges, along with some bug fixes. The structure is in place, now, for open development on Socialcalc’s core.

    I got Socialcalc up and running on MacOSX without too much trouble. I had to get a few extra cpan modules and install them. Then it worked with perfect smoothness in my browser. I could set up a quick demo page to play around with the features, or I could set my host name, ftp and other network information to get Socialcalc running over the network. Actually using the spreadsheet, especially in collaboration with other people, will take some reading and experimentation. Maybe I’ll test it with my co-housing mates to track our bills, though I’m sure that’s a terribly boring example. The other personal use that springs to mind is that I could use it for role-playing games, for example in Amber during the auction-based character creation process where we all allocate points to each others’ personality traits. As you can see, I am not much of a spreadsheet user, but I can appreciate how nifty this software is — especially that anyone gets to hack on its code.


    It has been very interesting working with Dan Bricklin, Tony Bowden, and Casey West on the project. I’m getting a crash course in visionary spreadsheet geekitude as well as in open source licensing, legal issues, and politics. As a sort of professional dilettante, I have really been loving this job because of working with incredibly smart people who are willing to explore complicated difficult ideas.

    Casey is on his way to YAPC::NA, giving 2 talks, Abuse Perl and MochiKit:Good Tools for the Web Developer, a strangely good cop/bad cop approach. And though Tony is on his way to ITI 2007 in Croatia, he’ll also be walking through some features of Socialcalc with me, as well as keeping us real as we hash out details of the CPAL license draft. While I know Dan is busy with podcasts, especially from this week’s Open Source Summit, I’m hoping that he will also work through examples of practical application of our license draft with me; he has been amazingly helpful in explaining the details of the flaws in our existing license, with concrete examples.

    About This Blog

    Weblog on gaining business results from social software.

    On this blog, Socialtext staffers and customers explore how companies can gain the most business value from their use of enterprise social software, including microblogging, social networking, filtered activity streams, widget-based dashboards, blogs and wikis.


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