Journal/1 Prairial CCXV from Evan Prodromou

I just got back from taking Zach Copley to the airport, and for the first time in a few days I'm sitting in front of my desktop computer again, trying to get back on track. I think it's probably a good idea to get my notes about RoCoCoCamp down on electronic paper while the experience is still fresh in my mind. (I wrote about the first day in Journal/29 Floréal CCXV).

Saturday morning I got up considerably later than I had the day before, and I took my time getting to SAT. Which was OK, since things went much smoother in the morning. The only really annoying thing about Saturday was that I had to wash about 50 cups by hand -- we'd run out of clean cups, and I couldn't figure out how to run the dishwasher. It didn't take long, but it meant that I had my head down in the sink as people came in and didn't get to spend as much time talking to them.

I was glad to hear that people had a good time going to L'Utopik on Friday night. Apparently a few people who'd flown in late on Friday got a chance to meet up with the experienced crew at L'Utopik, so they were well-prepped for Saturday.

Probably the biggest buzz of the pre-sessions was SJ Klein's pair of functional OLPC laptops. They were cute and fun -- I got a few minutes to play with them, and I enjoyed the interface tremendously -- although it took me a few tries to open it. People were fiddling with them throughout the day -- including Amita June, who came late in the afternoon -- and Tristan Péloquin even blogged about them.

My first session was about wiki and other technologies, which I titled Wiki And.... (I borrowed the name from Last Exit to Brooklyn, in which it seems no-one eats anything but "coffee and".) My main point was that a) wiki people tend to overuse wiki where other software tools may be more appropriate and b) we need to be careful with impedance mismatches when using wiki with technologies with other cultures behind them. Wikis and blogs mismatch; wikis and forums mismatch. You need to work out ways to make them work culturally.

As a proof-of-concept that there are ridiculous applications for wiki, I created in about 3 minutes before the session the wikiclock. It's a computer clock that runs on wiki technology: the time is kept up-to-date by human beings editing the page, rather than with software. I was so pleased with myself that I twittered about it, and from there it's taken on a life of its own.

The clock is implemented on the amazing minimalist system pageoftext.com. I heard about p.o.t. from Liz Henry's April report from Palo Alto Wiki Wednesday, and I think it's totally great. It's a cross between a pastebin and a wiki -- like an open-edited ImageShack for text. Brilliant.

The second session I did was a hyper-focused one on a particular Semantic Web problem. Both Wikitravel and Open Guides have tons of information on "places" in various cities. (That is, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, hotels, museums, parks, etc.). It would be good to export our data on these places to each other, so we could possibly keep them in sync. For example, if a restaurant changes its hours , that info could be updated on The Open Guide to London and automatically synched to the Wikitravel page on London.

So we went over some ways to do this kind of interchange; we'd brainstormed before about it on the Open Guides' RDF Workshop, but it was good to sit down with Earle Martin and do some face-to-face hacking on the idea. We don't yet have a vocabulary for it, but we'll get something going on the new wikirdf.org site (which also emerged from this session).

I had a great lunch with a lot of people from RoCoCo on the terrace at the Bar St. Sulpice, about 8 blocks away on rue St. Denis. The sun was out, it was cool, and we had a very nice time. It was especially nice to see Marcus Bornfreund and Tina Pipers of Creative Commons Canada, who'd come to talk about the PDwiki, a project to collaboratively document Canadian works in the public domain (see Canadian Public Domain Registry Announced). We talked quite a bit about the social challenges of getting a community excited about such a dry subject, but I think we got some good ideas about it.

In the afternoon I led a session on MediaWiki. We were lucky enough to have Tim Starling sit in, and he told everyone about the new developments going on with MW. He's refactoring some very deep parts of the storage and rendering sections of the code, which will result in considerably better reliability, performance, and flexibility. I think it sounds great.

I had to work the registration desk for the last session of the day, which was pretty great because I ended up baby-sitting Anoushka Jaroski-Biava for most of the time. But I missed Robin Millette's cool talk about BuzzyBee, which looks to be really fun to play with.

We rounded out the evening with music, pizza, and beer at the SAT. tobias.dj played some great dance music, and we had some wiki-collaborative VJ-ing using the SAT's fancy screen systems. All the kids were there -- Mark and Allegra's daughter Noéma as well as Amita June. Fun.

Sunday morning I didn't have to start coffee until 9AM -- luxury! We had a great Open Space Technology convergence -- a way to turn the discussions of the previous few days into action items for going forward. I did a convergence session on the future of RecentChangesCamp. We had most of the interested parties available (except for the RCC Portland organizers, who had to fly out early that morning). We made some decisions about future RCCs, and we made some plans for next year's RCC -- in the Bay Area (California).

Last night we brought back the Keiki gang to our house, since it was great to have them all in Montreal for the event. We did a big brainstorming session on next steps to launching the project, and we also did some graphic design review of potential logos. We have some great designs coming; I'm really happy we got Sarven Capadisli and Bridget to work on the site.

I had to crash out at 10:30PM -- Amita and I fell asleep together -- but others were up late talking and thinking. I don't know how they did it -- I was all talked out by the end of RoCoCo.

All in all I had a fantastic time -- the event far surpassed my expectations. It was hard -- too hard. I bit off far more than I could chew. But I think we did a good job of establishing Montreal as a technology city -- Wiki City Canada -- in the international mind, and I think we also brought together some really interesting people for some fruitful and productive work. You can see some of the projects that came directly out of RoCoCo on the FutureChanges page -- an ingenious name courtesy of Pm. And there are some indirect ones that we can expect soon.

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Cause and solution

So, Technorati has a good listing for rocococamp items, but I especially liked Steve Faguy's post: Wiki: The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.

Steve was an extremely game participant in the event, which I think was pretty incredible. He wrote a good overview of wikis in the Montreal Gazette this year.

A funny thing happened on Friday evening during the daily wrap-up known as "Evening News". We had Open Space's minimalist instructions posted on the walls of the SAT, so people would see and remember them. Steve pointed out that the first of Open Space's "four principles" is grammatically incorrect: Whoever comes is the right people. He said, "In the spirit of wiki, I'm going to correct it right now!" And to applause, he got up with a marker and changed the "is" to "are".

This stimulated an interesting discussion. One person noted that the "is" is there because possibly only one person could show up for a session, and that's OK. Finally, Brandon CS Sanders stood up and said, "I like 'is' because when we come together like this, we form a cohesive group, however temporary -- 'a people'. So I'm going to change it back." And he did -- to lots of applause, again.

Steve came up to me at the end of the night, laughing. "I got reverted! I should have started an edit war!" It was a hoot; he's got a good sense of humour.

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comments

Thanks for the great event Mr. Bad, it was fantastic djing for everyone but also seeing a bit of the energy in the WIKI world. I hope to be able to make more things of such ilk in the future, and bringing leftfield art into the picture. One of the posters on the wall gave instructions how to approach designers, as it was evident that artists are needed in the design of WIKIs. But much more than that; artists can give ideas for very creative uses of WIKIs (for example I've been invited to partake in a blog-art net-art show in Europe; not sure if I will do anything, but there ya' go; one could for example create a WIKI-blog like this one and that could function as a creative space as a conceptual-practice art piece putting WIKI into the functioning of the net-art world...). yrs, tobias