User:CKoerner (WMF)/Notes from the 2018 EMWCon

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This March the En|terprise MediaWiki Conference concluded it's third successful event. Nearly 40 MediaWiki users from various groups and organizations including GE, NATO, RAF, NASA, and more came together for 3 days of sharing knowledge. EMWCon is a relatively new event in the wiki community and is the closest thing our movement has to a dedicated conference about the use of the MediaWiki software.

Overview of event[edit]

The event was three days of presentations and workshops. We were hosted out of the Houston Technology Center in downtown Houston, Texas. The volunteer-organized event was professional with a nice space for everyone and good food. The organizers received a grant to both live-stream and record all the sessions. The service used, Next Day Video, tries to operate with as much open-source tools as possible, making for a well-aligned service. The videos are on Commons, Archive.org, and YouTube. A hearty thanks to Carl Karsten for traveling out to Houston and putting on such a professional presence at the event.

On the first day I helped to organize and host introductions, where we asked every one to share their name, where they were from (or who they represented) and what they hoped to get out of the event. To keep things like and fun, we asked everyone to answer the question, "If MediaWiki had a mascot, what would it be?" by drawing their interpretation. If my memory is correct, octopuses won with 3 separate drawings. I also presented on the current state of the MediaWiki community. I shared my interpretation of our progress, challenges, and opportunities. On the last day I helped to moderate a Q&A panel of MediaWiki users to share their best practices and experiences with arguing for, setting up, and growing the use (and philosophy) of a wiki inside their groups.

I also helped with timekeeping, general kibitzing, and offering help to the event organizers where I could. Along with all the great community attendees and presentations I was joined by my co-workers Cindy Cicalese, Brian Wolff, Victoria Coleman, Gergő Tisza, and David Strine. Cindy, Brian, and Victoria all presented great sessions as well. Cindy presented “Toward a MediaWiki Roadmap” and was a panelist on a “MediaWiki Best Practices” panel. Brian presented “Securing MediaWIki Installations”. Victoria presented “WMF Strategy Process”.

Session notes[edit]

I took sparse notes on some of the sessions. Here are my thoughts.

Structuring knowledge according to "Every Page is Page One (EPPO)" - Sabine Melnicki and Lex Sulzer[edit]

Sabine and Lex shared the concept that "every page is page one" from the book Every Page is Page One by Mark Baker. The idea is that your content should be designed for to be explicit (not tacit), in transferable formats, and comprehensible. The assumption of the EPPO theory is that people are not going to start on the same page, so best to make your content digestible from wherever folks enter.

In the context of Wikimedia projects and discoverability - in-article links are great and work well. However meta context is disjoined and often hard to discover. How do you discover Project: pages, the meta pages, off-wiki tools? The current answer seems to be by stumbling into them via other people mentioning them, scrounging, and search not suited for discovering meta content.

As someone who works in an org and movement that is historically more bottom-up I enjoyed this quote that was shared. "A bottom-up organization appears messier than top-down because it more accurately reflects the messiness of the real world".

Sabine, one of the presenters, is a consultant that helps orgs with digital strategies including MediaWiki has a mention of the MediaWiki Stakeholders' group on their site. I thought that was a nice gesture and a positive sign for community health.

Implementing EPPO on SMW - Lex Sulzer and Sabine Melnicki[edit]

Lex uses big words. "Ontology", "domain", "reification", :p In all seriousness this session built upon the previous with actual implementation strategies using Semantic MediaWiki. Lex covered the concept of "Objects" within a wiki page (and across). I wonder how does that concept relate to things like the multi-content revisions? In the future do pages have sub-objects? In a way, they already do. "What links here", "Page information", "Templates used". Is the difference more technical than semantic?

SimpleGov - Ad Strack van Schijndel[edit]

Ad share this great project his company is working on called SimpleGov. It's a portal for citizens to get more involved. Watch the video to see how beautiful and versatile MediaWiki can be. Of interesting note, the projects uses its own data storage. It's not using Semantic MediaWiki, Cargo, or Wikibase.

User Pages: The key to Enterprise Wikis - Bryan Hilderbrand[edit]

I like Bryan's discussion of how User pages can lead to "trust through reputation". It was interesting to hear - well be reminded of - the difference of this aspect of MediaWiki when used inside of a group where there is trusted providence in terms of identity and responsibility. Different to the open nature of the Wikimedia wikis.

Enterprise MediaWiki tips and tricks - Ike Hecht[edit]

I got to meet User:Tosfos! Ike is the lead project manger for WikiWorks and a MediaWiki extension developer. Not to spoil the surprise, but he's working on something interesting.

MediaWiki and the European GDPR (datencockpit.at) – Sabine Melnicki[edit]

Sabine shared her work developing a information repository regarding GDPR - built on MediaWiki.

NASA wikis: Increasing the Awesome - Daren Welsh[edit]

NASA presentations are not fair. They're just too good. One thing to note about this EMWCon. There were more NASA folks (8?) than Wikimedia folks. :) Daren shared an interesting tool called Gource, a software version control visualization tool.

Delivering ICT capability through a wiki policy - Ben Fletcher[edit]

Ben shared his work with the UK Ministry of Defence in developing a wiki from the ground up to serve a pretty serious need. It was pretty incredible to learn how Mediawiki helped to solve a problem other software couldn't.

Comprehensive Quality Management with Semantic MediaWiki - Michael Barylak[edit]

In many presentations I heard so much about process! It was apparent listening to people presenting, asking questions after the presentations, and discussions over meals that this is an important component to using any system to document information. One that MediaWiki can fulfill, but is not exactly framed as such in our documentation or presentation of the software.

WMF Strategy Process - Victoria Coleman[edit]

A couple of notes from Victoria's session that I jotted down. Victoria was asked about data, machine learning, and it's future. She responded with a solid reminder. "We propagate biases down stream. Our data is used by other orgs that train their machine models on us!" I didn't think about the content Wikimedia projects develop in this context, but it's not surprising. Victoria also mentioned that she thinks we've been good at annual planning, but not longer planning. That's something the foundation is trying to do better. Lastly I enjoyed hearing Victoria discuss developers as an audience and asking the question of how can we better serve them. That bodes well for the MediaWiki community's future.

Interesting discoveries[edit]

  • Airtable - a spreadsheet/database/project management software. Designed differently, but very similar to how I've seen some Semantic MediaWiki's used. A user-editable and related database on a webpage.
  • During the sessions I wondered about the proposed future of Web 3.0 and how everything was suppose to be semantic-iced. In a way we're near a point where maybe the web's semantic enough? Google and other sites can scrap and format stuff that's not structured - more stuff is being structured every day. This has enabled the 'intelligent' web - voice assistants, predictive tools (like gmail formatting flight information, calendar event creations, etc.). Maybe we never got to the ideal single structure, but we're closer than I think we realize or expected.
  • I was unaware of WikiFundi. Now I am not.
  • One of the side discussions that happened at the event was between NASA engineers (and moonlighting MediaWiki admins and developers) and WMF staff in how we could all work together to produce asynchronous capabilities in MediaWiki. The idea is that one could make updates to an off-line wiki, then when returning to the network, allow the edits to be merged into the canonical wiki. This feature has the potential to benefit astronauts aboard the international space station, along with any contributors in remote locations here on Earth.

What's next?[edit]

  • We're going to try and use the mediawiki-enterprise mailing list more frequently in communicating.
  • Monthly MediaWiki Stakeholders' meetings should be promoted better as a resource for like-minded MediaWiki users to come together
  • The Stakeholders' group is using Riot.im instead of something like Slack. Which is more transparent and open.
  • Ginger Hershberger and I are looking into the idea of crowdsourcing funding for developing capabilities for third-party MediaWiki needs
  • EMWCon 2019 in Switzerland?