Last night’s London Wiki Wednesday was held at the BCS offices, and a load of BCS folk came along. They’re a funny old bunch, and judging by their comments, they found the wiki wednesday people rather odd too.
I explained one detail of using wikipedia to somebody who had been experimenting with editing there. Basically I had to show him the finer points of picking through a wiki history display to figure out what had happened to his contribution. I guess this isn’t the easiest thing for a newbie to grasp. Interesting to follow through useability problems from a newbie’s point of view. I wonder if there’s scope for interface innovation to make that easier.
Someone had reverted his contribution, and explained why in their editing comment. Perhaps the thing which really went wrong here, was that the explanation was very brief and therefore unclear (the newbie didn’t even register that this was the explanation) Wikipedia these days is full of people who will revert edits in a somewhat cavalier manner, and this is surely putting off a lot of potential new contributors. On the flip-side though, wikipedia articles need to withstand a bombardment of sub-standard edits somehow. I guess “defenders” of wikipedia need to try hard to engage people with useful explanations about how to improve their contributions. Basically we should always assume good faith, but when faced with people pushing biased viewpoints or promotional links, engaging in conversation can be the last thing you want. Not an easy balance to strike, but I do think a lot of wikipedians are too harsh and disdainful with their reverting these days.
But wikis are not just about wikipedia! Wiki Wednesday discussion came around to MediaWiki several times (a pleasant change from the usual “enterprise” slant) This was despite starting out with a discussion on the evils of Microsoft Sharepoint, which I don’t really have much experience of (thankfully!)
It was good to meet Dario Taraborelli. If I was doing a PHD, I’d want it to be on topic like his. Interesting stuff! He showed us some of his work on wikitracer and analysis based on spidering to gather wiki metrics across many different wiki websites.
This is something I’ve experimented with myself. More than two years ago now, I was practising my skills with ‘TIBCO BusinessWorks’, and created a web-scraping bot to generate a list of wikis by response time to help with early building of the database at wikiindex.org. Bots are fun! That reminds me. I need to fire up my more recent java creation again some time. The “most active london wikipedians” bot.