London Wiki Wednesdays – February 2011

We had another London Wiki Wednesdays this week.

For me a strange kind of circle was completed. Back in October 2009 I blogged about how London Wiki Wednesdays had helped open my eyes to more interesting possibilities for working with fun technology. At the time I’d just quit a more dull/frustrating job, in which I worked as a Tibco consultant. Tibco do big expensive “enterprise” integration software for banks telcos and other big business. Not particularly fun technology. So it was weird to hear Tibco’s name come up in relation to “social media”, as David Terrar talked about their new Tibbr platform.

I gave a talk, and rather enjoyed turning my attention back to wikis and away from OpenStreetMap and all things geo for a change. Rather like OpenStreetMap, which is always delightfully intertwined with “the real world”, I find it quite easy to imagine ways of collaborating on wikis in relation to almost any facet of real life. That’s something I chose to demonstrate with my talk. I wanted to tell a fun little story of dipping into wiki collaborations and as I aimed to learn Portuguese.

It’s a true story. A very short story (good for a 5 minute speaking slot!) and it sort of ends with this discussion here. …so far at least. If you want to be involved in what happens next, join that discussion I guess.

But there’s another thing happening next. I started learning Android app development, and after running through hello world tuturials, and diving into other people’s code at work, I was itching to make my very own Android app. This little vocabulary quiz app is a very fledgling creation at the moment. Only slightly better than a hello world tutorial, but I hope to do some more work on it soon:


…I also hope to find time to actually learn some Portuguese!

There’s a full list of presentations and links to other blogs posts etc related to last Wednesday’s event. They’ll be a london wiki wednesday pub meet-up next month, and hopefully another evening of presentations in April.

Paul Downey and London Wiki Wednesdays

Last Wednesday was London wiki wednesday again. We struggled a bit with organisation this time. The usual to’ing-and-fro’ing around finding sponsors and hosts was confounded by a problem with the website. SocialText foolishly switched it to be hidden from… well the web… which really doesn’t help when you’re trying to promote an event. Despite these difficulties, enough people came together at NYK to make for a decent gathering, with some interesting presentations. Actually the low attendance makes for some nice face-to-face group discussions.

For me the highlight was chatting with Paul Downey. I’ve run into him once or twice before, and was familiar with tiddlywiki, which he presented again. This is a somewhat wacky animated javascripty tool which is quite different in it’s interface and behaviour compared to “normal” wikis. Surely the work of an evil genius…

But it turns out Paul Downey is also responsible for this remarkable creation:

see it bigger to read the funny labels. Also with annotations on flickr.

A fascinating cartoony metaphorically abstracted representation of web technologies. I came across this a couple of years ago, while I was still an integration consultant, and I found the “SOA tower of babel” particularly amusing (and accurate)

London Wiki Wednesdays March 2010

Last week we had a London Wiki Wednesdays event, and this time I was involved helping to organise and promote it. You can read what happened here (including lots more pics) The event was hosted by NYK line thanks to Alek Lotoczko.

Pulling SharePoint Apart Andrew Berridge Ben Gardner London Wiki Wednesdays David Terrar

Alek along with me, Gordon, and Andrew managed to prod David Terrar enough times to get things moving in advance and get the event off the ground. I did some facebook messages and also created a twitter account, @LondonWikiWed, and went on a mass-following mission. All standard web2.0-social-media-promotion tactics. Sadly we’re still failing on a web1.0 level with google still sending people to a stale site which David Terrar is in charge of, and needs to sort out. The biggest thing we need to do for next time though, is sort out hosting and sponsorship in advance. As well as being the backup option for hosting, Alek very kindly forked out for some beers on the day, but we should try to find different sponsors next time. I set up some Sponsoring London Wiki Wednesdays information. A good promotion opportunity for someone I think.

The event itself was great! Lots of interesting talks. I was particularly interested to learn a bit about Pfizer using semantic MediaWiki for a patent database (but I’m still not convinced that the added complexity is a good idea as part of a normal wiki).

I gave a quick talk about crisis commons wiki, and about the kinds wiki mess which have built up there. I pointed to out-of-date information, duplicated information, and other structural and cosmetic problems. This was as a kind of case study in wikis going wrong, but I wanted to stress that these problems are solvable through clean-up work. I showed my initial efforts to do so, but this wiki is open for anyone to help with the clean-up effort, so this was an invitation for people to join in. I also put in a plug for Crisis Camp London (Something I’ve been along to a few times. When I get round to it, I’ll blog about that too)

(photo Benjamin Ellis CCBYSANC)

Slides on slideshare

OSM talk at London Wiki Wednesdays

London Wiki Wednesdays last night (Wednesday night in fact) was pretty good. It was kindly hosted by NYK line in the amazing city point tower. Here’s the slides for the little talk I gave:

‘OpenStreetMap : The Wikipedia of Maps’ on slideshare

In fact on the second slide you can see the city point tower in the aerial imagery screenshot.

My talk was explaining the similarities between this large open mapping collaboration, and wikipedia. Although mainly it was just a very quick run through of OpenStreetMap.  ( Some links related to the slides: the Flash editor, the desktop app editor, API, mapping techniques, gordo’s photo, stats, the Open License,,, Hiking Map, Whitewater Maps, bus map, CloudMade style editor, and a zoomed in map of the building  )

David Terrar is back in the wiki mood and managing to secure venues and sponsors for future months, so I think it’s looking good. It will be somewhere different in November. Check back on the London page for details

London Wiki Wednesdays are back tonight

London Wiki Wednesdays

There was a series of monthly London Wiki Wednesdays events with presentations and networking chit-chat, all about wikis, blogs and social media technology, mostly as applied to enterprise use. Sadly they stopped happening back in 2008    ….but tonight they’re back!

London Wiki Wednesdays 7th October 2009

When I first went to Wiki Wednesdays a couple of years ago, I was massively enthusiastic about wiki collaboration in open content communities such as wikipedia, entirely for fun, as a hobby (though mostly pursued while bored at work). The events really opened my eyes to the possibility of working in this arena. I wanted a piece of this action. At the same time I was getting hooked on OpenStreetMap. Wiki-style collaboration to build a free map of the world. Since the last Wiki Wednesdays meet-up I’ve ditched my more dull I.T. job and got myself a job working full time on OpenStreetMap, so this evening I’m returning victorious!

I’m going to give a talk about OpenStreetMap. The talks are only 5 mins, so hopefully they’ll be a bunch of other talks. Often these are about behind-the-firewall or b2b collaboration style uses. Should be good.

Wiki Wednesdays – 1st October

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.

Dario Taraborelli

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 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.

Wiki Wednesdays – Back in 2008

Last week the London Wiki Wednesdays thing kicked off again, which I’m pleased about. I enjoyed this regular meet-up of wiki and web 2.0 enthusiasts. It was happening monthly for a while, but this is the first time we’ve managed to get together in 2008. Apparently David Terrar has been struggling to find people to host it, so if anyone knows anyone who has a big (~40 capacity) room with a projector, we’d love to use it (in exchange for appreciative blog links). Big thanks to David Terrar for managing to bring it together again, and special thanks this time since he paid for the food & drinks himself! I showed my appreciation by drinking all the booze and rambling to him on the tube on the way home! And thanks to Alek for hosting us again.

OmCollab logoAndreas Rindler’s OmCollab looked interesting. It’s a blending of MediaWiki with WordPress and bookmarking tools. Some nice customisations, obviously including skinning, but also dropping in various extensions for added toolbar buttons, category tag clouds, easy attachments etc.

Andy Roberts pointed out that wordpress is adding a ‘revisions’ feature, which is rather wiki-like. This kicked off a discussion about using wordpress as a wiki , whether it can be regarded as a wiki, and whether you want to use it that way. Without actually playing with it, it’s not clear whether it would support open editing, how it would relate with the “publish” button, or what would appear in RSS feeds. Personally I don’t expect wordpress to become a wiki. It is fundamentally a blogging tool, and this little revision feature does not represent a dramatic departure from that. But it is nod towards the wiki way of thinking, and this is exciting because wordpress is so extremely widespread, with a colossal installed-based. That’s a lot of users who may start to feel more comfortable when they see a history page in a wiki interface.

People pointed out that this wordpress-wiki wouldn’t support wiki style links, that is, links which are (perhaps) created via some [[square brackets]] or CamelCAse, to create a new page by the same title, or to point to a potential new page. In my opinion this a defining feature of the wiki concept. It is the linking approach which allows wikis to function as a gloriously simple but powerful knowledge management tool, and can also lead to a characteristic wiki sprawling mess in the absence of careful wiki-gardening. Conventional HTML linking features won’t cut it, in my opinion. On the face of it, the only thing which matters about a wiki, is that you can edit a page really easily. But for me the wiki linking aspect cannot be dismissed.

Green Hat buys Solstice

green hatsolstice software

Green Hat has bought Solstice Software, a U.S. based testing software company.

“Solstice has always been an innovative company, and this acquisition will not only extend Green Hat’s technology but also provide North American sales, development and product support, something our existing North American customers have requested. We are delighted to welcome the staff of Solstice to the Green Hat family,” said Peter Cole, Green Hat’s Founder.

While I’m out consulting on site, this isn’t effecting me much, but it sounds like there’s a lot of activity back in the office, working on integrating Solstice and Green Hat. Lots of work on integrating our software offerings too. But hey… it should be easy. Integration is what we do.   …well we’ll see.

Anyway expansion is always fun. We’ll probably bring that whole team onto the wiki (Green Hat’s internal knowledge-bank) so I wonder if we’ll see some good transatlantic wiki knowledge sharing in the coming months. We can’t easily meet face-to-face, and there’s only so much knowledge sharing that can be achieved over email/skype, so this kind of thing is where wikis can really excel. We already find it quite helpful on occasions for sharing/coordinating with our people in Belfast and Australia… and Ealing.  But I’m hoping that there will be a wiki enthusiast or two among the new joiners.

London’s most active wikipedia editors.

There are 341 wikipedia users who have added themselves to Category:Wikipedians in London. I wanted to know which of these people had been active recently. My guess was that a small minority of these people were actually still around in the wikipedia community.

I wrote a little bot in java which harvested the information. I needed the date of their most recent wiki edit. Ranking the users by this metric, it turns out I was wrong. About half of these people have edited this month (pretty recently), and the vast majority have made edits within the last year. I guess people who go to the trouble of adding a ‘Living in London’ userbox, tend to be quite dedicated, and likely to stick around in the community.

Active London Wikipedians           

My plan was to send direct messages to the active users, to make sure they know about the next London Wikipedia Meetup. My original idea was to whittle down the list, to eliminate what I thought would be the large majority of inactive users. But this hasn’t helped me whittle down the list at all! It’s a more helpful ranking than an alphabetical list though:

London wikipedians ranked by most recent edit

Fun to play with developing bots too.