Avar and Brion

During the Wikimedia Conference on April 3. to 5., MediaWiki developers and other technologically inclined people met at the c-base in Berlin. The idea was to meet people and get new (and old) projects moving. And I think it worked!

The biggest topic was probably the Integration of OpenStreetMap into Wikipedia (notes). This project should soon provide us with automatic maps for places, rivers, countries, etc. It will also provide interactive maps which can be panned and zoomed, similar to Google Maps. Highlighting places and objects and integrating sattelite images is being worked on. Wikimedia Germany is supporting the project by providing servers.

Another prominent topic was the Usability Initiative (notes) which has the goal of improving the user interface. Recently, the interaction of new users with the Wikipedia website has been studies in order to identify the things people have most problems with. The results should be available soon and will be used right away to improve the site. Meanwhile, Wikia is working on a WYSIWYG-Editor which greatly simplifies not only editing text but also makes the creation of tables and infoboxes much easier. Better methods for uploading and embedding images and other media are also being researched.

We talked about a lot of other things too, liked a system for systematically testing extensions, improving the handling of reports in Bugzilla, and the WikiTrust system, which can identify and highlight dubious changes in article text. The improved search was also discussed – some of the improvements can already be seen across Wikimedia sites, like the type-ahead suggestions when typing in the search box; others, like result from sister projects, are still limited to the English language Wikipedia, but should be available to all soon.

In the course of the event, I also presented WikiWord (Notes), which is the basis for the impending multi-lingual image search for Commons. The idea is to list the articles a word could refer to in a given language, find the corresponding pages or categories on commons, and present images from them. A prototype is available on the toolserver, but it has no images yet.

I found the meet-up very exciting and I hope that all participants has at least as much fun as I did. I would like to thank again all the people who made this event possible: Sebastian and Guillom, who organized the Wikimedia Conference as a whole, Henriette, Thomas and the rest of the Wikimedia Germany team, who managed all the things big and small that make such an event work, from accomodation to city maps. I want to thank all the volunteers who contributed their time, and especially the kitchen crew, who provided us with such great meals. My special thanks go to  Lucas who helped me moderate the event and acted as my voice while I could hardly speak. Thanks also to the local folks of the c-base for their support and hospitality. And finally, I want to thank all the participants, who filled the event with life!

In conclusion I want to mention a few lessons learned: we need to have registrations much earlier, and have to make it clear that registrations are not definite until confirmed. We need to know how many people are coming before we decide on a venue, next time. The fact that we had to close registration early and even had to tell some people to stay home was really really sad. It really shouldn’t happen again.

Another point is that a schedule of prepared presentations might have helped giving an overview of topics and people. On the other hand, the flexible OpenSpace approach worked nicely to bundle topics and get people to sit down and talk. Perhaps next time we will do it like this: have a schedule of presentations ready for the first day, and leave the second day for more spontaneous discussions and demos. That way, we keep the creative chaos alive.

Indeed, next time… I’m sure that there will be a next time, hopefully next year already. Until then, we have Wikimania!

Pictures: Raymond