Feb 24 2009
I just returned from a weekend up in glorious Portland, Oregon, where I went to Recent Changes Camp, which is a little community unconference about wikis. We followed barcamp/open space format, as in years past, and there was a pretty decent turnout, maybe 80-100 people. We had representatives from most of the big community wikis, and some prominent technology people. RCC is nice — compared to Wikimania or WikiSym, the other two conferences about wikis, both of which I am involved in — because it is focused on community and what we call the “Wiki Way“. (An ongoing debate was over our overall level of hippy-dippyness at this event; as we stood in a circle and talked about our feelings about community, my friend leaned over and whispered “we’re hippy-dippy. Citation not needed”). At RCC, we’re also not focussed on a single project, unlike Wikimania (my core conference, my baby) which is all about the Wikimedia projects. It’s nice at RCC to hear all about other wikis’ work and values and people and in general what’s going on out there in the world with the technology.
A couple of the things that I learned or that came up:
* people have done some gorgeous and really cool mediawiki hacks recently; see Wikia’s floating edit summary bar and WikiHow’s video search and upload widget
* I’m not the only one interested in the art of teaching wiki technology and culture; we should have a wider and more accessible group (oh I know, a wiki?! )
* the idea of “community curated work” has traction, and we need to collectively explore it more (this resonated with me and the other librarian there)
* everybody basically hates the English Wikipedia for spoiling everyone’s notions of what a wiki is like; I call us the 800-pound gorilla, but someone else said it was more like the 800-pound incontinent gorilla, which is more accurate.
I also made a resolution, as I do almost every year afterwards, to edit more; I think I’m going to run an experiment trying a new wiki every few weeks, working to contribute content as a new editor and see how I am treated. I think this would be super interesting, especially if I write about it; more on this later.
Other fun things that happened:
* We had a crazy drunken party at the (amazing) AboutUs offices where we all made crafts (using WikiHow directions!), including: ribbon bookmarks, duct tape wallets, modeling clay fun, origami, and sockpuppets. (If you’re not from a wiki, see why is this hilarious). The sockpuppets were my contribution, following up on the crazy fun of Alexandria, and involved a last minute flying run to Michael’s to pick up supplies. It was super great. There’s nothing like seeing the leaders of the wiki world walking around having sockpuppet fights with actual sockpuppets.
* Through sheer chance, I got to see Andrew Bird in concert, which was wonderful. Andrew Bird is incredible, particularly live, and I had never gotten to see him before aside from touring with Ani DiFranco, so a chance free ticket just felt like good karma landing in my lap. Check this amazing shit out. Here was one of my favorite new songs that he played. It almost makes me cry. The video doesn’t do it any sort of justice. Here’s an arty video that captures his signature sampling-on-the-fly thing.
* I had lunch with Ward Cunningham. In his house. I am cooler than you are. Well, maybe.
* We went to Powell’s books and I actually found my actual book on the actual shelf. That was pretty sweet. Never mind that it was on the bottom of a dusty shelf in the dusty technical books store, buried in between “Priceline.com for dummies” and “Yahoo for dummies” — it was still pretty sweet. There are pictures.
* In just a final touch of sweetness on the weekend, I got to have dinner with and , and a couple other friends. Both happened to be randomly in town on Sunday night. That was pretty great.
All in all a highly satisfactory weekend; I’m glad I decided to go.
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