[FM Discuss] back from wikimania
adam at flossmanuals.net
Tue Aug 7 23:14:29 PDT 2007
I just got back yessterday from Wikimania. The jet lag is still
lingering, but a few gins on the plane helped me with adjusting to the
timezones so I'm in not too bad shape.
The event was pretty amazing. I will write up a really detailed report
of it and post it here and on the FM news blog. I think also all talks
are going to be put online in audio and video although I am not sure
So, for a quick report - the event was very focused on all things
wikimedia (the umbrella foundation for wikipedia and its associated
projects - wikimedia commons, wikiversity, wikibooks etc -
http://www.wikimedia.org/) and mediawiki (the mediawiki tool that the
fouundation uses for all its projects - http://www.mediawiki.org/).
The first day had some excellent speakers
(http://wikimania2007.wikimedia.org/wiki/Schedule). Every presentation
was very informative and some very inspiring moments. Lawrence Liangs
presentation about the 'authority of knowledge' was a highlight for me
on the first day. He spoke about how wikipedia could learn from the
demise of manuscipt culture at the birth of the print age. As I
understand it at the start of the print age, printed books were
considered as the most recent release of a body of work, and updating
these works and feeding into the content cycle of a book was common. As
an example Liang used Chaucers Canterbury Tales. The works were updated
by many people and were living breathing entities, however when he died
the works became his canon and were considered in some way 'frozen' by
the academics. Any edit of the text after his death was seen as
producing a defective edition. So the 'authoritative' point (the
canonisation of Chaucer by Academics) killed off the participatory
culture surrounding his texts. Liang was pointing this issue at
Wikipedia and the debate surrounding how Wikipedia might be striving to
attain an analogous 'authoritative' position. His point, I think, is
that the pursuit of wikipedia towards being an 'authoritative knowledge
object' is less interesting (and potentially troublesome as it may deter
contributions) than the methodology for creating knowledge that
wikipedia has established.
Also on the first day was Masayuki Hatta, another excellent talk. It was
small but on the button. Masayuki is a debian hacker from Japan, and he
was talking about the troubled Free Documentation License (FDL) that the
wikimedia foundation uses for its projects. He argues that the license
is inappropriate (many people at the event agree with this position) and
suggested that there is a big problem with changing the license because
under the FDL the person that created the document holds the copyright
and only they can relicense the content. We went through this process
too with fm a few months ago and thankfully everyone agreed to change to
the GPL. Evan Prodromou (http://wikitravel.org) suggested it might not
be necesary to get everyones permission as there has been several large
open source projects that have changed licenses without getting
permission from all contributers - an interesting point, but I think
that if Wikipedia did this it would be followed by a great deal of
controversy as consultation and 'doing things the right way' (not just
the expedient way) seems me to be regarded very highly in wikimedia
projects. So Masayuki, being a hacker, suggested a hack to get out of
the license. He suggested that the Wikimedia Foundation send an envoy to
the Free Software Foundation to speak to the redraft of the FDL
currently underway. Masayuki had been involved in a similar process for
the GPLv3 and said he was surprised that the FSF actually listened and
made some notable changes as a result. So, Mayasukis hack included
lobbying the FSF to make the FDL compatible with other licenses (such as
some Creative Commons licenses) - this would allow for license
interoperability between the FDL and other licenses but also it would
allow for content currently covered by the FDL to be distributed under
the compatible license. This in effect opens a backdoor for the
Wikimedia foundation to slip out of and ditch the FDL in favour of
something more interesting.
I found this a pretty interesting strategy and Mayasuki and I will start
a mailing list to kick start this process.
There were many other really great panels and presentations. Magnatune
(http://magnatune.com/) presented their interesting sales strategy for
CC licensed material. Essentially you can download the music for free of
buy it for a price you are happy with. This was interesting and I will
think of this further while I write the financial sustainability plan
for fm this month.
Dominic Chen presented the c-shirt project which allows you to remix a
t-shirt design from cc licensed material and they print out a t-shirt
for you. I made a pretty clumsy t-shirt from a road sign that said 'gpl'
and the wikipedia definition of floss. It was admittedly a pretty geeky
design, but I really appreciated the c-shirts attempts to make this
whole world of open licenses live beyond the screen.
I met some very cool people at the event and I found the 'wikimedians'
very supportive of non-wikimedia/non-mediawiki projects. The feedback
for what we are doing was immensely positive. I had taken a roll-up
banner to present fm with (will put some photos up), and printed some
'free manuals for free software' t-shirts, had postcards, businesscards,
stickers, and buttons, and copies of the printed Audacity Manual...plus
I did 4 presentations of fm - 2 'poster sessions', 1 lightning talk, and
The feedback on the design was huge. The buttons were so popular they
ran out in the first day. The stickers got stuck to everything from
laptops to the t-shirts of volunteers. I had a few people come up and
say the logo was 'hot'...hehe!...so, I think we can pat Lotte on the
back (I'll do it in about 30 mins when she wakes up ;).
I had many people wanting the Audacity book, I didnt have many so I was
a bit hesitant to hand them out as it was good to have them to show
people what kind of work we are doing. I gave 3 away and will send
another 4 to people that are interested.
There was interest about the remixing function from quite a few people.
Christoph Sauer from WikiCreole (http://www.wikicreole.org/) took a very
close look at it and was very interested in how we did it and which
libraries we used etc. Also, Kim Tucker from the Meraka Institute in
South Africa was very interested in the HTML export functionality and
said he will be in touch to explore how we might work together.
2 discussions have begun to translate FM - into Hindi and Chinese.
Frankisy has emailed me a few times and he is forming a crew and a plan
to begin the Chinese translations.
A few people asked me about which manuals were available and I was happy
to talk to a few people specifically about the blender manual and the
forthcoming puredata manual. There is also interest in a fast forward of
a Gimp manual (which I am working on today) and Inkscape manual, to
perhaps assist people who want to contribute content to wikimedia
commons. There are alot of other discussions to follow up such as the
possibility of hosting a mediawiki user manual on fm, fms involvement in
the one laptop per child documentation writing, a jumpstart in the
mplayer manual (which needs a lot more content in my mind) and many
So, it was excellent for fm to be there and I can't really overstate how
proud I was to be presenting us there. Being at Wikimania not only
opened my eyes to a lot of what is going on in the wiki world, but it
opened others eyes to the great job we are doing, and it reinforced my
belief that we are on the right track and doing a great job.
So congratulations to everyone :)))
We also have some new members to this list who I met at the
I will write up a full report. I have some jet lag to get through and a
huge to-do. Tomorrow I also go to Croatia for a week. I will use it as
an opportunity to write up the report and also to focus on the financial
sustainability plan for fm.
So busy busy...
free manuals for free software
mobile : + 31 6 154 22770 (Netherlands mobile)
email : adam at flossmanuals.net
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