Best of WikiMania 2011

I was thrilled that WikiMania made it to Haifa. It was a great conference. Here was the best of the best:Best of WikiMania

Best Lines

  • Jimmy Wales:
    • We need to recapture the spirit of innovation (in software) and not have a massive debate for each change. (hat tip: @Wittylama)
    • Wikipedia cares about quality. Many articles the average person is no longer qualified to edit. This isn’t a bad thing. (hat tip: @HstryQT)
    • Game Mechanics is what you add when you don’t have a product people want to use. If you want a game, play Farmville
  • Steven Walling: Snuggle, Don’t Huggle (Huggle is one of several bots that sends messages to contributors informing them of the errors of their ways. Users are more likely to stay when greeted by humans, not rebuked by bots)
  • Sue Gardner (quoting a French journalist): Insulting Wikipedia is so 2007
  • Dr. Yochai Benkler:
    • ProSocial doesn’t always mean nice. Can be against another group. Need to channel to positive avenues. Like soccer.
    • Wikipedia is not a puzzle. It is who we are. The puzzle is how we believed the non-prosocial view of humanity for so long.
    • Are we really altruistic if we get a kick from helping others. Who cares?
    • Framing matters. They ran 2 Prisoner’s Dilemma games. One got 70% open & sustained cooperation, the other only 30%. The only difference? They called one game “The Community Game” and the other “The Wall Street Game.”
  • Dr. Sagy Refaeli: I thank the Internet association for handing out notebooks. Interesting for Internet association to hand out dead wood.
  • Brion Vibber: What is the parser? The parser is the very scary part of the code (hat tip: @grammarware)
  • Brandon Harris:
    • There is a style guide. Anyone can edit it. Then I’ll revert it. (hat tip: @RenaR)
    • We added the Article Feedback to give users a lower bar to start contributing to Wikipedia. We found that once you start contributing to Wikipedia, you can’t stop. Like a big bag of Pringles. Maybe if we can just get you to click a star you’ll then edit. (Howie Fung then added: The Edit button is too high a bar for first contribution)
    •  Identity + Conversation = Community (hat tip: @grammarware)
  • Lennart Guldbrandsson:
    • In our survey asking people why they created an account the best reason given was “Dunno. I was bored.” [Many of the answers show that people created accounts not because they wanted to edit; they joined because they wanted to be a part of Wikipedia]
    • Some Wikipedians really hated some of the changes I wanted to make. Luckily I was on a fellowship. If I were just an Admin, I’d have been banned.
  • Lori Phillips:
    • We ask museums “You have a volunteer program, but do you have an e-volunteer program.” When they say no we say “Actually, you do. You’re just not affiliated with it yet.” Then they ask to learn more about us.
    • We put QR codes to our articles near the items. We’ve seen this work. The dads do it a lot.
  • Dr. Joseph Reagle: [After quoting a critic who years ago compared Wikipedia to a public toilet.] I have the History and Discussion tabs so I know who pissed in Wikipedia. I don’t know who pissed in Britannica.
  • Liam Wyatt: (hat tip: Lori Phillips)
    • If we can’t get on the World Heritage list because we’re not a country, but because we’re the WORLD, then that’s their problem.
    • It’s not about getting on the list. It starts a conversation about what cultural heritage means in the digital age.
    • This is actually a little bit about hacking UNESCO. We’re not going to change our policies, and if your rules say we need to be fixed, then we don’t want to be on your list. If they said we can’t be on the list because we’re digital, that would spark an interesting conversation.

Best Tweets

Satire & Irony

  • @theiapsswalker: Someone started snoring loudly during presentation about copyright
  • @grammarware: If intellectual property is immaterial, why is it called ‘property’?
  • @israelconnect: Sue Gardner just asked everyone to find someone they don’t know & speak 2 them. It was too successful.
  • @emijrp: For the sake of gender equality, we want to raise the share of female vandalism to 45% by 2020. (hat tip: @darkonek0)
  • @andrewlih: Overheard – I like five year plans, but Stalin pretty much poisoned the well.
  • @wittylama: Presenting @ #Wikimania on the venue’s laptop, @kaldari says “it’s not working… Does anyone here know how to use Windows?” Silence
  • @HistoryQT: @Wittylama It’s my first Jimmy talk experience, and I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. (I could also just whisper this to you. Oh well.) [But then we couldn’t capture it for posterity …]

Deep Thoughts

  • @davidrichfield:  Best concept from Global South discussions at #wikimania – The sum of human knowledge greatly exceeds the sum of published knowledge.
  • @b1mbo: If your students send a copy-pasted text from an encyclopedia, maybe you asked wrong.
  • @thekulway: Every person has some kind of Conflict of Interest but that doesn’t mean you can’t edit Wikipedia. Disclose & be thoughtful
  • @grammarware: Not really a revelation, but testing by MediaWiki developers is done in an extremely ad hoc manner.
  • @chaoticfluffy: Wikimania realization of the day: what watering holes are to African wildlife, power strips are to geeks.
  • @bevellin: Stephen Colbert : “Wikialty : reality that exists if you make something up and enough people agree with you : it becomes reality”


  • @thekulway: I’m experiencing my first Shabbat in Israel so there was no toaster. I had to heat my bread in my armpit this morning [and then he followed that with …]
  • @thekulway: When we all become cyborgs what are Jewish folks gonna do when they have to recharge on the Shabbat? Wikipedia article anyone?

Slide Preparations

  • @effeietsanders: The slides for my talk are ready, I just need to fill them with text (hat tip: @grammarware)
  • @chaoticfluffy: Got nearly all of my #wikimania presentation written on the flight from Newark to London. do I amuse myself on the way to Tel Aviv?

Policy Issues

  • @harej: A Wikipedia article being cited in a court decision has been proposed for deletion.
  • @grammarware: Brandon Harris approves multiple identities, because in a working community identity is a role you play.
  • @fuzheado: You know the articles that suffer the worst Conflict Of Interest in Wikipedia? Articles about universities and colleges. They are always glowing
  • @grammarware: A great comment from the back: COI guidelines need complete overhaul. Sometimes “conflict” makes you more knowledgable.
  • @harej: Policy recommendation: let editors with COI editing in good faith disclose their conflict so we can help them.

[I’m somewhat obsessed with issues of identity & self-interest vs anonymity & selflessness: See Enlightened Self-Interest and the Social Web, On the Internet Everyone Knows You’re a Dog, and The Age of Anonymity has Ended]

Best Stats

  • Howie Fung:
    • Huge growth in Wikipedia active editors through 2007. Then slight decline. All languages show similar pattern.
    • New Wikipedians falling about 11% Year Over Year. And the ones that are joining are leaving at a much higher rate.
    • About 20% annual attrition of dedicated editors, so that’s not where we’re having a problem.
    • Wikipedia editors (who answered our survey) are:
      • 91% male (worse than we thought)
      • 28% married. 24% with children.
      • 52% working full or part time.
      • Not as young as we thought. Mean age 31. Median age 28.
      • 36% programmers.
    • Half of 2010 bytes were contributed from people who joined in 2009-2010.
  • Steven Walling:
    • By end of 2010, new Wikipedians (2009-2010 join date) contribute 50% of main Wikipedia edits (Hat tip: @fuzheado)
    • 30% of first edits of today’s dedicated editors were reverted
    • Each day on Wikipedia (all language versions combined) 500 million page views, 400,000 edits (hat tip: @r)
    • 21% of Wikipedia editors are doing edits anonymously (hat tip: @anoopan)
    • More great stats at

Note: Due to a bug in my note-taking, some of the attributions for stats may be incorrect. Sorry that this isn’t a wiki. Please correct me in the comments.

Best Audience Interaction

  • Sue Gardner: Mentions upcoming Visual Editor. Gets applause. “The louder you clap the harder Brion will code.” Gets very loud applause.
  • Sue (this time in the audience): How are Arabic & Hindi communities using #wikilove differently? Brandon: The cheeseburger icon isn’t used. We had the same thing with Hebrew. (Turns out they’re using a cookie for Hebrew). (hat tip: @HstryQT)

Best Irony

  • The time for “What place for companies on Wikipedia” was mostly used by other sessions, and was therefore presented briefly and at lightning speed. Maybe that answers the question. [Though quick, I thought the presentation was compelling, but that may be my bias that Wikimedia should be more open to partnerships with companies]

Best Prank

  • Speaker creates a Wikipedia page and uses it during his presentation. Suddenly the page is marked for deletion by a conference attendee. Reason: “Used in boring talk.” (hat tip: @mSefi)

What did I miss? Please nominate best-of’s by commenting below.

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