I'm back from the WikiSym 2011 and like to share a few impressions. This year it was located in (not so) sunny California at the Microsoft Research facilities in Mountain View, a nice little town near San Francisco but not very pedestrian friendly . Luckily there was a Bus shuttle from and to the hotel. The catering at the venue was also quite excellent - probably the best food I ever had at any conference. Kudos to the organizers.
I met a lot of interesting new people and old acquaintances and had much fun talking with and learning from them.
Now instead of giving summaries of all the Open Space sessions and talks I attended, I'll try to summarize a few key points I took home from all of the events.
Forking is the new Collaboration
An interesting observation was that the connotation of a fork (in the software sense) drastically changed in the recent year. In the past a fork of an Open Source project was something uncommon, unwanted and usually only happened when something went really wrong. With the advance of git and more specifically github, forking (or cloning) has become an essential way to collaborate in software development.
Researchers and wiki enthusiasts are now starting to look into what can be learned from this model and how to apply it to other forms of collaboration.
Ward Cunningham's federated wiki idea (Open Space notes) is clearly inspired by the git model: Users can pull data from other instances and edit and save it on their own local instance. One of the questions unsolved is how to encourage the return way (think pull requests or similar).
Gender Imbalance in Wikipedia
As always, Wikipedia was a big research subject this year and a lot of research goes into the problems Wikipedia undoubtedly has. The elephant in the room is editor gender imbalance for sure. Two papers presented good evidence that this imbalance not only exists, but heavily influences the quality and completeness of Wikipedia.
Let's hope the Wikipedia community can solve this problem soon.
An Open Space session on structured data showed that we're right on track with the features we're using in ICKEwiki. Other Wikis are looking into the same direction as well. Making editing this structured data simple and usable is on of the biggest challenges.
But combining structured data with conventional wikis is only one direction you can go into. Using Wiki philosophy for things that aren't even text is another way.
Reid Priedhorsky showed some interesting insights on how to make history, undo and ACLs possible with complex (map)data in Cyclopath.
Application Development in Wikis
Christoph Sauer even uses a wiki as the underlying platform to create manufacturing execution and control system.
Wikis in the Enterprise
This year's Wikisym had a track on using Wikis in the enterprise that was also accompanied by an interesting Open Space session. Again I found many experiences from our ICKE project confirmed by others. Zeeshan Bhatti's survey on the success factors of corporate wikis for example, showed quite a few things we've also found in our own survey.
My own presentation went quite well, too.
Microblogging in Enterprises
Discussions drifted to other social software in enterprises quite often. One question frequently asked, was if there is a usecase for micro blogging. The general agreement was that micro blogs could be a good way to scale the familiarity of people from a small team to bigger companies. But research in the field seems still to be missing.
Jonathan Grubin from Microsoft research told me that microblogging use inside Microsoft (using Twitter and Microsoft's internal system) steadily climbed for the last years until it platoed at 15% recently. He wasn't sure why, though.