Editing Wikipedia 101 session from AdaCamp

After the Welcome and introduction and first session of AdaCamp in Portland I joined Netha Hussain and Rosie Stevenson to facilitate a session on editing Wikipedia. Everyon in the room introduced themselves and talked about their connection to open knowledge, information, and wikis. There were several people who had never edited Wikipedia.

We started by briefly describing what a wiki is. It is a collection of documents that are editable by multiple people; usually each page has a revision history and some transparency around who made specific edits. So, you can see who wrote which bits in a document with multiple authors. Often, a wiki page has words that are linked to other pages in the wiki. We accepted that we were mostly talking about Wikipedia here and acknowledged that “what wikis are” and their philosophy has a rich, interesting history.

Netha talked a bit about her work adding useful information from medical textbooks and journals which she started doing as a medical student.

Rosie jumped right in to an example of the kind of work she does; taking a biography of a notable woman who has a Wikipedia article in a language other than English, and creating an English language Wikipedia article about that woman. She had an example prepared. “I like that there’s a photo of her and she’s dead,” Rosie said enthusiastically. I chimed in with, “I *love* dead people!” We tried to explain why we love dead people. It is because editing the biographies of living persons is often a lot more contentious than writing about people who are not around to mind that you’re writing an encyclopedia article about them.

We paused to discuss what “notable” meant. There was not time to get into it, but Notability as defined by Wikipedia policies is an often contentious point, and often applied with gender and other biases. It is therefore important to try to establish the notablity of your subject, whether that’s a person or some other topic, by including good references that show they are important or significant.

Rosie’s example was Ángela Figuera Aymerich. She created an English language page for Figuera Aymerich. We all helped go over a brief tour of the page editing view. Rosie knows a little Spanish and uses Google Translate to read the source page. She made a very basic page with one sentence. We pointed out edit summary box where you can describe what you’ve just done.

Then we added a reference. Rosie did a search to find a book that talked about Figuera Aymerich and found one in Google Books. She used an online tool to format a nice looking Google Books citation for Wikipedia, then copied and pasted it into the edit page.

A new editor asked if it was ok or if it is considered rude to edit someone else’s sentences. Someone else explained it is not rude, but can take some tact. Often, men don’t pause to ask themselves that question, they just jump in and change things around. This is a good example of gender differences in the ways we begin engaging and the assumptions we make about interaction and collaboration.

This led us to do a quick tour of the article’s Talk page. Every article in Wikipedia has a “meta” page called hte Talk page, where people can discuss what might or should go into the article.

We then touched on adding images. Rosie advised always using images from Wikimedia Commons, because they will be licensed correctly for use in Wikipedia(s). If you have a properly licensed photo or image you want to use that isn’t there, you can go through the image upload wizard which will walk you through adding it to Wikimedia Commons. Then, use that version in your Wikipedia article. We did this all a bit too fast to follow.

There was some discussion of Categories, what they mean, how to search Wikipedia for articles similar to the one you are about to add, to see what categories it includes.

Categories that identify gender or other identity based information, such as “Women writers” or “Women writers from Bilbao” and so on, can be contentious topics. I talked a bit about how this is often exactly the sort of information I’m looking for that I consider valuable and important. But other editors or admins sometimes label this information as “sexist” or irrelevant, undoing important work.

Some of the new editors in the room wondered why anyone would be “a deletionist” so we discussed that a little bit.

It can be a good starting point to edit existing articles, either from a category like Articles needing cleanup or from some area of your own expertise, a book you’re reading, or something you’re learning about for which you have good sources that you can cite.

It was a good session! Several of us had lunch together and talked more about Rosie’s passion for translating articles from one language into another! She spoke very movingly about the politics of translation, especially as it is relevant to women’s history. If we don’t put this information online, it can more or less disappear from public awareness.

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WordPress plugin idea – blikify

So I was at Recent Changes Camp this weekend talking smack about blikis with some people. And I told anyone who would listen about the plugins for WordPress that help you integrate your blog with Mediawiki or other wikis.

What about a plugin that would just let you designate any page or post as world-editable?

Add Markdown and your WordPress blog could be easily wikified. I could use this for my nascent Hack Ability blog, and it would make me (and readers, and other editors) a lot happier than setting up and maintaining a whole parallel wiki structure to go with the blog.

On #wordpress I was just talking with _ck_ who wrote a Wiki Post plugin for bbPress.

_ck_ also pointed me to this cool and hilarious video of andiacts and Selena discussing when to use Drupal and when to use WordPress:


“It’s so cool! It’s like a new solar system!” That made me laugh so hard.

I have never written a WP Plugin but this seems possibly within the scope of my coding ability. So maybe this summer I’ll give it a shot.

But, if anyone out there wants to write it, go ahead, take the idea and run. Just hat tip me when you do. And, I would be motivated to help and contribute, because it would be handy as hell.

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Socialtext, and ongoing Wiki Wednesdays

I haven’t been posting here very often as my medical and disability issues got kind of intense. I went on short-term disability for a couple of months, and am going to stop working full time for a little while. While I’m leaving my job at Socialtext, I’m going to continue contracting for them on an occasional basis.

Working at Socialtext was an intense experience, less like drinking from the firehose and more like being blasted by a giant non stop river of information and communication. It was very interesting “ambient work.” I hung out with my co-workers on many wikis, on chat, irc, over email, and sometimes in person.

Tony Bowden, Casey West, and Dan Bricklin worked with me on an open source release of Socialcalc and on planning its possibilities, as well as working on open source licensing and legal issues. I was on call any time for Ingy döt Net to test his wiki hacks and help him debug, and Perl goddess Kirsten Jones was always around to help me with my questions. I got to hang out in Socialtext’s co-working space and have some great conversations with Adina Levin and Pete Kaminski, and especially appreciated Adina’s willingness to listen and to take time to act as a mentor. Chris Dent wrote so much great & thoughtful wiki theory and thoughts on software development; I just wish I had gotten to pair with him on a project, but maybe sometime in the future. It was great working with Jon Prettyman, Chris McMahon, Shawn Scantland, and Ken Pier on new releases, and any time I got to work with or hang out with Lyssa Kaehler, Zac Bir, Melissa Ness, or Brandon Noard it was a pleasure. Probably the nicest part of working at Socialtext, I mean besides the decadent hot tub parties, was getting to team up with Luke Closs, whose super clear explanations and agile coaching totally rocked my world. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about the engineering, support, and QA crew at Socialtext.

Then, I think of how Socialtext basically paid me to spend time helping with things like BarCampBlock and Wiki Wednesday. The Wiki Wednesdays were especially lovely. It was kind of funny, because all the literary readings I have run in the past turn out the same way; an eclectic crowd of people who don’t know each other and wouldn’t otherwise have met, kicking around ideas in a laid back atmosphere — rather than big events that are lecture-style. I also really like to find interesting people who are not the usual suspects; who are total rock stars but in a small niche that is not visible to people who are rock stars in other niches. Anyway, it was through Wiki Wednesday (and sometimes through random co-working arrangements) that I met fun and inspiring people like Eugene Eric Kim, Jack Herrick, Eszter Hargittai, Bryan Pendleton, Betsy Megas, and Philip Neustrom.

Wiki Wednesday is continuing, run once again by Socialtext’s social media visionary Ross Mayfield. I hope that a good crowd of people from different wiki communities, platforms, and companies will flock to the event. Other local wiki events coming up: the Freebase User Group run by Kirrily Robert at Metaweb, which just happened, but another one is coming up in April. And then, a fantastic-sounding wiki event I haven’t been to yet, Recent Changes Camp, which will happen May 9-11 in Palo Alto, and which I hope will be as good as the past ones in Portland and Montreal.

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Hacktastic Wiki Wednesdays coming up

I’ve been organizing Wiki Wednesdays for 7 months now! It’s really fun.

We’re meeting in Palo Alto this month, in fact, tomorrow night, and as we have several Socialtext developers here from out of town, they’ll be our featured speakers. The always entertaining Ingy döt Net will be talking about his new love of Javascript and his “Stax” hacks for Socialtext. Melissa Ness, our product manager, designer, and cat herder, will be speaking about wiki UI design. Fantastic Perl and wiki fiends Casey West and Kevin Jones will also speak up about their work and wiki projects in development.

Meanwhile, the pre-party continues to happen at my house tonight with dinner and drinks and hot tubbing. Ingy and our other co-worker Lyssa had to lift me in and out of the hot tub last night and then they hung out in bed with me while I blogged and they hacked. We egged Ingy and fed him whiskey on as he started putting all his Javascript hacks into their own Socialtext workspace on our server, and then transcluding them across different wikis. Um! Does that count as work time?

So you see that this month’s Wiki Wednesday will be especially awesome. We have that team synergy thing going.

Or did I scare you?

Do show up, tomorrow night, at Socialtext’s co-working office in Palo Alto, 695 High Street, 6:30pm. If you want to give a lightning talk or demo, let me know.

In other wiki event news:

Wikipedia meetup for November
There will be a Wikimedia meetup in San Francisco, Saturday, Nov. 10. I hear there will be Special Out of Town Guests. Details are still evolving here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/San_Francisco_4

December Wiki Wednesday
Next month, December 5th, our Wiki Wednesday speakers will be Philip Neustrom and Arlen Abraham, WikiSpot and DavisWiki developers.

RCC 2008
Recent Changes Camp 2008 organizing has not kicked off yet, but I believe it will be in San Francisco or in the Bay Area, March 2008.

Wikimedia moving to SF
I am super happy that Wikimedia Foundation is moving to San Francisco. That will really boost our already fantastic wiki community here in the Bay Area.

***

And a final thought about events and gender.

In conversation with Sarah Dopp about BlogWorldExpo, I thought over my own track record as an organizer. Out of 11 speakers for Wiki Wednesday, I would like to point out that the gender ratio is nearly even, at 7 men and 5 women. It’s not like that took special effort, honestly.

I also consider that I have done a decent job of being even-handed and community-minded, promoting Wiki Ohana across many different wiki companies and communities, inviting speakers and participants from Blue Oxen, WikiHow, Twiki, PBwiki, Confluence, Wiktionary, WikiSpot, and Wikipedia, as well as researchers and academics from Stanford, Northwestern, and Xerox PARC. In fact, this is the first month I have had speakers or even demos from Socialtext. I have to say, I’m happy to work for a company that sponsors me to do this as part of my job, without requiring me to do any sort of special marketing or promotion.

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Wiki Wednesday tonight, KQED’s Quest science education wiki/mashup

I’m hosting Wiki Wednesday tonight in San Francisco at Citizen Space, at 6:30pm. Please come tonight! You can sign up on upcoming, or on the wiki page itself. My friend Craig Rosa will be speaking along with two colleagues from KQED’s Quest science education program, Lauren Sommer and AJ Alfieri-Crispin. The TV show, radio program, and web pages are all tied together; you can go on one of their explorations in the San Francisco Bay Area, and use GPS and Flickr to contribute to the site. I’m very curious to hear how wikis have made their job easier!

There will be pizza and beer, and probably a lively discussion after the talk. Our events are often pretty small, around 10-20 people. This one might be bigger.

This will be the 6th Wiki Wednesday I’ve run, and I’m really having fun with it! Thanks very much to Betsy Megas, Eugene Eric Kim, Brian Pendleton, Eszter Hargittai, Yoz Grahame, and Rashmi Sinha for coming to give such excellent talks and leading our discussions so far this year.

Meanwhile, I’m gearing up for a trip to Beijing, and for the She’s Geeky unconference on Oct. 22-23 in Mountain View at the Computer History Museum. I’ll blog more about both those things later this week!

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Wiki Wednesday’s talk on Wiktionary and multilingual collaboration

crossposted from my blog at http://socialtext.com

September’s Bay Area Wiki Wednesday featured Betsy Megas, a mechanical engineer and Wiktionary administrator, known in the wikiverse as Dvortygirl. She’s a Wiki Wednesday regular and spoke at Wikimania 2006. In her talk, she gave us a ton of information on the history of Wiktionary, a tour of its interesting features, and thoughts on possible future directions for this worldwide, massively multilingual collaboration.

Betsy started by explaining the difference between Wikipedia and Wiktionary. Wikipedia’s goal is to capture all the knowledge in the world. Except for dictionary definitions! Wiktionary’s modest goal is to include all words in all languages. While an encyclopedia article is about a subject, a dictionary definition is about a word.

But what is a dictionary? Betsy went to a library to browse dictionary collections. Some dictionaries focus on types of words: cliches, law, saints, nonsexist language. Others center around types of content: rhymes, usage, etymology, visual information. Others are dictionaries of translation. Wiktionary, because it’s not paper, is searchable, unlimited by size; it can evolve; and it has strong ties to people who edit it, and to communities of its editors.

Wiktionary content includes audio pronunciations, definitions, etymologies, metadata such as a word’s frequency in English according to all the text on Project Gutenberg; pictures (such as this great photo illustrating the concept of “train wreck“); and videos attached to a word, for example, videos of how to express a word in American Sign Language. It also includes translations.

We went off on a few speculations to future directions for Wiktionary, Wikipedia, and perhaps the entire web. What if links knew why they were linked? For example, why is “Lima” linked to “Peru”? Betsy thinks that we are missing out on a lot of metadata that could be quite useful. And for Wiktionary specifically, what if we had categories that were structured around the functionality of a word, for example, its part of speech?

Betsy then went on to sketch out basic entry layout – which is different in different languages, but which for English is referred to as WT:ELE. She explains the problem of Wiktionary as “We have structured data, and no structure”. This is a problem and a feature of many wikis!

Wiktionary has many tools to help with the tension between structure and structurelessness. It heavily relies on entry templates, which fill a regular wikitext entry box with something like this:


==English==

===Noun===
{{en-noun}}

# {{substub}}

===References===
*Add verifiable references here to show where you found the word in use.

Other useful tools depend mostly on automated detection of problems, relying on human beings to do the cleanup by hand. For example, Connel MacKenzie wrote a bot to list potentially messed-up second level article headers, but a person checks each link by hand to do the gardening.

Structurelessness or being structure-light can be a problem for sensible reuse of Wiktionary content. Other dictionary projects such as Onelook and Ninjawords have used content from Wiktionary, but ran into difficulties with their imports. Is Wiktionary content reusable? Yes, but barely.

Somewhere in the mix, we also discussed WT:CFI (Criteria for Inclusion) and WT:RFV (Requests for Verification).

But then, the truly fascinating stuff about translation and multilingual collaboration. Words, or definitions, exist in many places. For example, we might have an English word defined in the English Wiktionary and the Spanish Wiccionario, and then a Spanish equivalent of that word also defined in both places. So, a single word (or definition, or lexeme) can potentially exist in a matrix of all the 2000+ languages which currently have Wiktionaries (or the 6000-7000+ known living languages) squared.

For a taste of how the Wiktionary community has dealt with that level of complexity, take a look at the English entry for the word “board“. About halfway down the page, there’s a section titled “Translations”, with javascript show/hide toggles off to the right hand side of the page. There are many meanings for the English word, including “piece of wood” and “committee”. If I show the translations for board meaning a piece of wood, many other languages are listed, with the word in that language as a link. The Dutch word for “piece of wood” is listed as “plank”, and if I click that word I get to the English Wiktionary’s entry for plank (which, so far, does not list itself as Dutch, but as English and Swedish.) I also noted that the noun form and the verb form of “board” have different sections to show the translations.

Ariel, another Wikipedia and Wiktionary editor and admin, showed us a bit of the guts of the translation template. The page looks like this:


[[{{{2}}}#|{{{2}}}]]

But the code behind it, which you can see if you click to edit the page, looks like this, all on one line (I have added artificial line breaks to protect the width of your browser window)}:


[[{{{2}}}#{{{{#if:{{{xs|}}}|t2|t-sect}}|{{{1|}}}|{{{xs|}}}}}|{{
#if:{{{sc|}}}|{{{{{sc}}}|{{{alt|{{{2}}}}}}}}|{{{alt|{{{2}}}}}}}}]]
 {{#ifeq:{{{1|}}}|{{#language:{{#switch:{{{1|}}}|
nan=zh-min-nan|yue=zh-yue|cmn=zh|{{{1|}}}}}}}||
[[:{{#switch:{{{1}}}|nan=zh-min-nan|yue=zh-yue|
cmn=zh|{{{1}}}}}:{{{2}}}|({{{1}}})]]
}}{{#if:{{{tr|}}}|&
nbsp;({{{tr}}})}}{{#switch:{{{3|}}}|f|m|mf|n|c|nm= {{{{{3}}}}}|
}}{{#switch:{{{4|}}}|s|p= {{{{{4}}}}}|}}

Fortunately, this template has a lovely Talk page which explains everything.

We all sat around marvelling at the extent of language, and the ambition of the multilingual Wiktionary projects. The scope of OmegaWiki was impressive. As Betsy and Ariel demonstrated its editing interface for structured multilingual data, I got a bit scared, though! Maybe a good future step for OmegaWiki contributions could be to build a friendlier editing UI on top of what sounds like a very nice and solid database structure.

We also took a brief tour of Wordreference.com and its forums, which Wordreference editors go through to update the content of its translation dictionaries.

I’m a literary translator, and publish mostly my English translations of Spanish poetry; so I’m a dictionary geek. In order to translate one poem, I might end up in the underbelly of Stanford library, poring over regional dictionaries from 1930s Argentina, as well as browsing online for clues to past and current usage of just a few words in that poem. Wiktionary is a translator’s dream — or will be, over time and as more people contribute. I noted as I surfed during Betsy’s talk that the Spanish Wiktionary has a core of only 15 or so die-hard contributors. So, with only a little bit of sustained effort, one person could make a substantial difference in a particular language.

The guy who is scanning the OED and who works for the Internet Archive talked about that as an interesting scanning problem. We told him that Kragen has also worked on a similar project. The IA guy, whose name I didn’t catch, described his goals of comparing his OCR version to the not-copy-protected first CD version of the second edition.

At some point, someone brought up ideas about structuring and web forms. I have forgotten the exact question, but Betsy’s answer was hilariously understated: “I think that the structure of languages is substantially more complex.”

Chris Dent brought up some interesting ideas as we closed out the evening. What is a wiki? When we talk about Wikipedia or Wiktionary or most other wiki software implementations, really we’re just talking about “the web”. And what he thinks wiki originally meant and still means is a particular kind of tight close collaboration. As I understand it, he was saying that possibly we overstate wiki-ness as “editability” when really the whole web is “editable”. I thought about this some more. We say we are “editing a page” but really we are creating a copy of the old one, swapping it to the same url, and making our changes. The old page still exists. So for the general web, we can’t click on a page to “edit” it, but we can make our own page and reference back to the “old” page, which is essentially the same thing as what most wiki software does; but at a different pace and with different tools and ease of entry/editing. So his point is that wiki-ness is about evolving collaborative narratives. I’m not really sure where to go with that idea, but it was cool to think about and I was inspired by the idea that the entire web, really, has a big button on it that says “Edit This Page”.

As is often the case, we had low attendance, but a great speaker and unusually good group discussion. I’m happy with only 10 people being there, if they’re the right people. And yet I feel that many people are missing out on this great event. Betsy’s going to give me her slides and an audio recording for this month, but next month I will try to get a videocamera and record the entire event. If any actual videobloggers would like to come and do the recording, I’d love it.

Also, tune in next week, or September 16, for the San Francisco Wikipedia/Mediawiki meetup!

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Come to Wiki Wednesday

Well, I’m crossing over my day job into my personal blog here, but what the heck. I love my day job (and wikis) enough for it to merge that way! I’m turning into kind of a wiki fanatic, so much that a couple of months ago I realized I had the same sense of fannish belonging at our wiki meetup that I do at poetry readings, blogging meetups, and science fiction cons: the sense that I’m finally around other people who share some basic philosophy of reality that might not be quite mainstream. For poetry, it’s, well, being poety. For blogging, it’s that I don’t feel like anything is real until I’ve written it up and posted it to the Internet and had 6 people link to it. For sf cons, it’s that my brain has been steeped in the structures of alien societies since I was 5 years old, so much that I’m a Martian. In the case of wikis, that means that I want to collaborate on everything, and I want to be able to take everything back and travel backwards in time, and while I browse the non-wiki-ish Muggle web or even read a book, I get frustrated that I can’t double click on the page to edit the page.

This month I look forward to bringing up my pet peeves about wikis. Talk about wiki interoperability. I flip back and forth between wikis all the time, from Socialtext to Mediawiki to PBwiki to Kwiki, and can never remember which markup is which. In one, I have to use double square brackets, in another, single square brackets, to make a link. Not to mention the problems with quotes, pipes, header markup, and everything else. Why can’t they all just get along?

So here’s my wiki wednesday invite:

June 6th will be Wiki Wednesday, with events in London, San Francisco, Montreal, and Vancouver. There’s also a wiki meetup in Sydney, Australia, June 12th.

Anyone is welcome to give a quick presentation, demo, or talk on using wiki and social media technology. We have an interesting mix of developers, wiki entrepeneurs, wiki editors and administrators, bloggers, and consultants. I wrote up the last London and Palo Alto meetings, so you can get an idea of what happens at the event.

In San Francisco, we’ll be meeting at Citizen Space at 6pm. Eugene Eric Kim is giving a talk on wiki interoperability and wiki ohana. He’ll describe real-world end-user pain, concrete opportunities (especially ways Wiki developers can help the entire space by improving their own tools), and a practical strategy (WikiOhana) for achieving interoperability. This could lead into a great discussion! I’m hoping we’ll hear as well about events at Recent Changes Camp Montreal (RoCoCo), which Eugene wrote up with some excitement in his blog, eek speaks. Check out his writeups of the recent Identity conference, too, he has some fantastic ideas. And just a heads up, in July, Eszter Hargittai will be our featured speaker for the SF Bay Area.

In London, Wiki Wednesday has become a large and vibrant get together. David Terrar has created a Ning page as well as a signup page on the wiki. The meeting will be at 18:15 at the Conchango offices.

In Vancouver, the event so far has a high amount of wiki software developers. Check the Wiki Wednesday page for details.

In Montreal, there will be a focus on continuing the discussions at Recent Changes Camp, but also there will be time for wiki project explanations and demos.

Please sign up if you’d like to come! You can sign in on the wiki page at:
http://socialtext.net/wikiwed

Or on the upcoming.org invite:
http://upcoming.yahoo.com/event/200305/

Also, if you are interested in presenting at a future Wiki Wednesday, or would like to organize one in your city, please let me know.

Thanks a million to Wiki Wednesday organizers David Terrar, Luke Closs, and James Matheson, as well as to Tara Hunt and Chris Messina from Citizen Agency.

I leave you with this photo by George Kelly, because it made me laugh really hard:

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Vancouver hackathon tomorrow

I’ve been having a blast with my co-workers from Socialtext in Vancouver for our hackathon week. I’ve worked, had fun, and gone to a zillion meetings, wheeled around a bit of downtown Vancouver. Last night was the Vancouver.pm Perlmongers meeting, which I’ll blog elsewhere.

On Friday – tomorrow – we’re having a community hackathon at the Bryght offices in downtown Vancouver. 1pm to 1am. Sign up, and come by if you like!

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Wiscon panels coming up, and some commentary on a game

Here’s my panels for Wiscon! I can’t wait!

Last year’s flirting panel was a blast and at this year’s followup I’m hoping to make a cool handout. Debbie says if I email her the stuff she’ll make the handout, because I have too much to do! One good technique “touch/don’t touch” is actually playing out mini scenarios and then switching roles, so that you get to do the no-saying and the no-recieving and get practice doing that gracefully on both sides. (Something I learned in anti-date-rape workshops in the 80s.) Another super great idea I learned from Ian K. Hagemann – to always thank a person who lets you know a boundary, because they are honoring you by communicating it instead of letting you continue to cross it in ignorance.

I don’t have any specific and book-focused panels this year – no time to prepare properly for that – But I can’t wait for the Karen Axness Memorial Panel where we all list great little-known books by women sf writers and there are always fabulous handouts that expand my reading list. I’m also excited to go to the cultural appropriation panels.

Speaking of cultural appropriation! I can bring a copy of this: Bone White, Blood Red: a roleplaying game of the Pueblo Revolt. It is written in the voice of “Spider Grandmother” and “Worn Pot” who teach Bear, Coyote, Wren, and Badger how to play the game. My immediate reaction is basically, “huh” and a stance of automatic suspicion against what I think of as Cherokee hair tampon syndrome.

The game would be rough for me and I would rather just have character sheets with the beads and string as a metaphor or an optional visual aid, as I could never remember all the details of which bead meant what without written notes. But I would certainly give the game a try and the difficulty of remembering stuff would be part of the point. (Would that difficulty be fun, though?) As the fictional in character bits in roleplaying game books go, this one is not bad at all.

So is it cultural appropriation? Well, yeah. Does that make it awful? It’s not a yes/no on/off answer. It means that it is open to some criticism and commentary, which game authors as well as book authors should listen to with an open mind and some humility, as the Spirit of the Century rpg authors recently did.

In other interesting gaming news, you can download and playtest Steal Away Jordan. The players all play slaves in the U.S.

Your name
Your name is not your own. If you were born into slavery, your parents may not have had much say in the choosing. The name your master calls you may not be the name your relations use in private. If you run away, you will change your name. Therefore, the GM chooses your name, but you may pick a nickname.

That’s pretty interesting! You can read a report and discussion thread of a playtest game on The Forge.

Anyway here’s my Wiscon panels!

===============

Feminist SF Wiki Workshop
in Caucus Room (Time to be determined)

Come learn about the Feminstsf wiki, learn what wikis are and how to edit them, contribute your ideas, creativity, and feminist vision to the wiki.
Equipment: projector that can plug into a laptop, and a screen
Length: 70 minutes
Laura M. Quilter, Liz Henry

Please Touch/Don’t Touch (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m.
One of the many qualities which sets WisCon apart from most other SF conventions is the perception that, for one weekend a year, the Concourse is a safe and inclusive space for SF fans of all genders, orientations, identities, races, and religions. Many people have commented that this extra level of comfort seems to create a very “touchy-feely” environment, with a lot more casual physical contact between old friends and new acquaintance, and a very different, (more open?) environment for flirting and hook-ups. But not everyone is quite so comfortable with such a relaxed atmosphere… Where do you draw the lines between casual and significant, affection and flirting, too much and not enough? How do the conditions change from situation to situation? And how do you tell someone to “back off”… or deal gracefully when someone else lets you know that you’ve crossed a line?
Karen Swanberg, M: Debbie Notkin, Mary Kay Kare, Liz Henry, Jed E. Hartman

Let’s You And Her Fight (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
This year there was a panel about how to flirt at Wiscon. Next year I’d like to see a panel on how to fight at Wiscon. It’s not bad to want to get along; but it is when that urge causes us not to speak our minds in public, and leaves us gr umbling in private. How do you speak up and explain that you think the respected panel member is talking out of her hat, while maintaining a friendly attitude towards someone who is, after all, a fellow feminist and fan? Ideally people will get a chance to practice. I would particularly like to draft Steven Schwartz for this panel.
Steven E. Schwartz, Liz Henry, Joan Haran, M: Alan Bostick, Lee Abuabara

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SXSWi panel on commercialization of wikis

Here’s some notes on Ev. Prodromou’s talk on commercialization of wikis. (Here’s his slides, which he just nicely emailed to me.)

Does commerce belong in wikis?
– the wikisphere needs a healthy ecology

Supporting a wiki project
– out of pocket
– donations, grants, govt.
– wiki farm. Wikia. Nurturing the wild wiki.

Four types of wiki businesses:

  • Service provider: Wikispace, wetpaint, pbwiki
  • Content hosting: wikiHow, Wikitravel, Wikia. Focus on particular topics. Managing the wiki itself and developing its culture and community.
  • Consulting: Socialtext, biggest company in this area. Taking the wiki method into the enterprise. Going into companies and showing them how to use wikis. Use wikis and wiki theory to help companies make the best wikis out there. Being professional wiki evangelists.
  • Content development: WikiBiz. Started on Wikipedia. Offered a service to write Wikipedia pages for companies, following Wikipedia policies and procedures.

    Prodromou is most interested in talking about the content hosting variety. Crowdsourcing. There’s suckers, yahoos, rubes, you get them to do your work for you, and then sell it back to them.

    Wikinomics. This is the kind of model that that’s trying to sell. Get a sucker to work on your site for free, hahaha.

    Prodromou says: “EFF THAT. I hate the term crowdsourcing. It’s one of the ugliest terms ever invented on the internet. People in wiki software are some of the most idealistic, altruistic people on the planet. We don’t want to exploit people.”

    Platform for knowledge. Knowledge havers and needers. You are in both categories. Crossing that line and providing a platform for knowledge havers and needers to communicate. Give them focus and direction. Be a steward of that knowledge and its flow. “You” as the wiki provider are not the focus. It’s noble, it’s decent, and there’s no exploitation involved.

    Rules for commercial wikis:
    – have a noble purpose
    – demonstrate value
    – be transparent
    – extract value where you provide value
    – set boundaries
    – be personally involved
    – run with the right crowd.

    I disagree with his chart about blogs, photos, wikis, and ego. (He measured blogs as contributing value mostly to the blogger’s ego!)

    A plug for Creative Commons. Let go. Go with the freest kinds of license. Citing the post-Katrina disaster relief sites with names and locations of people, as a noble purpose. (True, but more complicated than that, often.)

    Ways to add value: software development, systems admin for big wikis, community management, external promotion, carry the torch. Community management is becoming a profession.

    Transience of wiki communities. Typical user sticks around for a couple of months. But the community continuity has to be maintained.

    Being transparent is important. Any hint of bogusness, duplicity, tricking, exploiting, is awful. People go away because of that. You put up that wall, people are going to leave.

    Commercializing. Ads. Physical media that use the content, books. Any attempt to extract value out of hte user database itself is bad. They’re your community (not your spam target…)

    Set boundaries. The users can’t set your business decisions but they can set parameters and make decisions for their community. But the business also has to have boundaries to not set community policy or only set it so far.

    Personal involvement. Have a user page with a picture. Be present. Run with the right crowd, be part of open content, open source communty. People judge you based on who you hang out with. Find partners, find projects that you would like to work with.

    Conclusions:
    Commercial wikis are healthy additions to the net and to free/open content. The commercialization should be mindful and careful.

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