Wikimania 2011

Wikimania 2011I have been running a MediaWiki based wiki for a couple of years now. When I started The Pet Wiki, I knew that I wanted it to be based on software that was dynamic, robust and being constantly improved. Since it’s the same code that runs Wikipedia, I was sure that I could count on all those things and more.

Wikimania, the Wikipedia conference that people fly from all over the world to attend, was in my backyard this year. At only an hour and a half drive away, how could I not attend? I’m so glad that I did. Being there gave me a glimpse of what makes Wikipedia and the whole wiki movement so great.

The thing that stands out in my mind the most is the passion that people have for making the world a better place. The altruism expressed by the need to create a place to share knowledge throughout the globe is truly amazing. Whether it’s the techies that make sure to keep the servers running and adding new features, to the people in charge of community development, everyone there was unified to one purpose. It was really a beautiful thing to see.

I use Wikipedia. How can you not? It’s such a rich source of information about practically everything. That, plus the robustness of the site makes it practically a one stop shop for all your information needs. The academic community that used to shun the use of Wikipedia has now begun to embrace it. Not only has it become an acceptable reference source in their eyes, some professors have their students write articles as part of assignments. How cool it that?

Not only are the Wikians (the affectionate name that the community calls its members) concerned about spreading knowledge in the languages that they speak, they are trying to build new communities all over the world. Two of the next big things that were spoken about at the conference were mobile and developing Wikipedia versions in southern countries. Many southern countries lack a body of knowledge like Wikipedia. In places where the infrastructure allows, Wikians are trying to develop communities to create great bodies of work.

Mobile is more than about riding the latest trend for Wikians. Mobile is important for them because the only internet access that some people in certain countries have is on their mobile devices. Since it’s the only way for people in these countries to get information, the Wikians want to make sure that these people will be able to access Wikipedia.

As I look at what can be done, and as I look at my own wiki, I know that I can take heart that possibilities are great. With my own, smaller community, I’ve been able to create something great. It wonderful watching it grow and mature. We still have a ways to go, and, like Wikipedia itself, it’s not the type of thing that ever gets finished. It just keeps getting better, day by day.

Being at Wikimania was extremely inspiring. I was able to absorb all the positive energy around me. Although next year it won’t be in my backyard, I still hope to go. It is definitely worth the trip.