WikiSym 2010 summary

Finally, I had some time to write about the experiences in WikiSym and Wikimania 2010. Let’s start with the first one.

WikiSym 2010 has been special in many aspects. The Symposium and Program Committees were appointed between Dec. 2009 and Jan. 2010. Thus, we had only 6 months to rush into everything (CfP, venue location, logistics, proceedings, etc.). We decided that it was a good idea to search for synergies with another important conference celebrated every year: Wikimania 2010. Gdańsk was a very attractive city, and potential interactions between attendees to both events could be great. In the end, we packed a very interesting week, overlapping both events. However, the challenge was also to test if both communities would be able to find common points of interest. Besides this, WikiSym 2010 explicitly broadened the scope of the conference, to welcome  presentations on Open Collaboration in general, beyond the scope of wiki platforms. So, many things to discover!

WikiSym 2010
Looking back at WikiSym 2010, one week after the closing session, I’m really satisfied. I will try to summarize the most important pros and cons from my notes. First, the positive points:

  • Keynotes: Awesome! Really, believe me, they were great. Cliff Lampe’s opening keynote was both inspiring and timely. I want to remark both adjectives. The presentation style was really engaging for the audience (fresh comments, jokes). He really made my day, and I admit I had very high expectations about his performance, reading comments from past presentations (like CSCW 2010). At the same time the topic, the need to find solutions for social scientists and engineers to work together in interdisciplinary groups, is probably one of the top-priority issues in my research agenda. In turn, Andrew Lih’s presentation was also exceptional. Many people in the audience were not aware that Gdańsk article in the English Wikipedia triggered the creation of the 3-revert rule (3RR), one of its core editing guidelines today. After this, the audience was again engaged in a fascinating presentation about the process to create knowledge in virtual communication media, the role of content curators and predictions of new emerging applications for reference check and information validation.
  • Open Space: Perhaps all I need to say about the Open Space this year is that virtually all available slots were taken just 20 minutes after the start! I had never seen such an active response from the audience in previous years (we usually needed the whole first day to fill in all gaps). This was the real core of interaction between wikisymers and wikimaniacs, with many, many fruitful discussions. For instance, in the slot to debate about the features and requirements to be satisfied by “the next perfect wiki platform” we were able to write 5 pages (A2 size) full of great ideas. After all these slots, I gathered and endless list of hints and insights for future work. I really like the vibe of WikiSym’s Open Space.
  • Good mix of research topics: We had presentations covering virtually all interesting aspects of open collaboration platforms (though it is true that mainly focused on wikis): innovative tools, reports from practitioners, novel methodologies to analyze open collaborative platforms, enhanced interfaces for Human-Wiki Interaction… As you might expect, Wikipedia was again a hot research topic (presentations running  through the whole first day). I believe that we are still ahead of the curve as for presenting the cutting-edge advances in this area.

Now the downsides, though in fact they are more like a short list of things I think we can improve:

  • Industry participation: This is not an exclusive phenomenon happening at WikiSym. Take a look at this good article on the evolution of CSCW conference series, by J. Grudin, and you will see that getting the attention from industry is becoming more and more difficult. In my view, we could achieve more industry participation if we find a way to offer what they are looking for: business opportunities and potential clients. I think this remains as one of the major challenges in the WikiSym series, and one we are going to tackle for next year, definitely. Furthermore, I think a significant proportion of industry audience still does not realize about the potential applications of many tools presented in WikiSym, for sure one of the most pragmatical conferences in terms of applicability of tools and methods presented in research tracks.
  • Covering even more topics: So far, the steering committee of WikiSym has decided to maintain our original name. But we really want to stress our real focus, shifting from “just stuff about wikis” to “anything you do the wiki way“. That is, we also want to capture new rapidly evolving ways of communication and collaboration. What about presentations on Facebook? What about  Twitter and Increased coverage of blogs? Collaborative journalism? Publication of books and multimedia content under open licenses? Collaborative editing of multimedia creations? And what about community making, leading and management?
  • Merging different audiences: This year, WikiSym hosted a session leaded by socio-political scholars. We also had a workshop on open educational resources, and another  one about teaching with Wikipedia. Following Cliff Lampe’s keynote, I’d really like to see even more researchers, scholars and practitioners from social sciences and humanities to join WikiSym, as well as other conferences highlighting the organization and evolution of virtual communities.

We also had two Best Paper awards: the first one for an interesting paper by Annalisa Pelizza,  opening new venues for the analysis of open collaborative projects, and the second one for a short paper by Erika Poole, categorizing different types of wiki platforms found in the industry. Both represent the rich and healthy community developed around WikiSym over the past 6 years.

Now, it’s time for planning ahead. WikiSym 2011 must answer the challenge: to keep up with the superb work done so far and leverage the series to a new level, addressing the expectations and interests of a larger audience confronted to the ever-changing reality of open collaboration in the cyberspace. As the new Symposium Chair for WikiSym 2011, together with the invaluable support of our new Program Chair Andrea Forte, we will do our best to complete this mission.

Stay tunned! A new year of excitement is coming!