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WikiConference USA

This past weekend was the inaugural WikiConference USA, a New York area conference focused on all things wiki. I presented a summary of our work with PS 9 at a session on Saturday morning and was privileged to share a track with Gabriel Thullen, a Swiss computer and media teacher who helps students contribute to Wikipedia as early as 7th grade. It was wonderful to see others who are working directly in schools and, as always, I was very pleased to talk with language teachers from as far away as San Francisco and Canada.

Every time I meet with people from the Wikipedia community I am struck by how strongly our goals for spreading knowledge and our values of openness, participation, and empowerment align. It is a welcome change of pace from stories about how technology is being used to surveil whole societies and how the tools of education are being used to build profiles of children. Now that we have reached the one year anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations I think we can all use a reminder that we can have a voice in how the technologies in our lives develop and whether they are used to support our values or undermine them. For myself, interacting with the other participants at WikiConference was that reminder.

Taking OSCon by Wiki

OSCon was a wonderful experience, and not just because the weather back home was 30-50 degrees warmer. During the three days that Jim, our volunteer Jamela, and I ran the Wikiotics booth, we were almost constantly busy talking to interested people and showing off the site on our lovely borrowed monitor. (Thanks for the loan Kenny!) It was a great turnout, especially since our fledgling resources kept us from offering the kinds of swag, food, and other tempting prizes that always move so many feet during conferences.

Two moments in particular jump out at me from the conference. The first happened on Thursday when Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the first wiki and the man who coined the term, stopped by our booth to find out about the project. Finding out that he likes what we’re doing and now has us on his mental list of wikis felt like winning a nerd merit badge. I actually yelled “Lexical validation!” after he walked away, which might qualify for some sort of nerd award all by itself.

The second moment actually happened regularly throughout the conference as people walked past our booth. It was the moment as they walked past, read our sign, and you could all but see the curiosity grow until it forced them to swing around and walk back to the booth to find out more. That felt amazing every time.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead if we’re going to keep that kind of interest building. Thankfully the rest of the summer pilot promises new lessons, new lesson types, a new interface, and a new method for creating and saving lessons. Those should all start turning up one by one over the rest of the summer weeks.

Before I head back to that I want to extend a warm welcome to all the new friends and potential collaborators we talked to last week. Also, a great thank you to O’Rielly for the non-profit booth, to Jamela for helping out, and again to Kenny for the monitor loan that let us demo the site to so many people.

Crossposted with the Wikiotics Project blog.

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