Hi everyone,

I attended the first-ever "NYC wiki-conference" this weekend, which for me was just a matter of taking the subway. It was a Wikimania-lite event, with about 90 participants, and structured as an "unconference", with most of the schedule decided on each day. You can see the page for it here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/NYC/Wiki-Conference_2009

I presented twice: the first was as part of a panel called "Mapping in MediaWiki", which also featured "Aude" (real name Kate, I think), one of the people behind the SlippyMap extension (http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension:SlippyMap), a viewing and editing interface for OpenStreetMaps that's slated to get added to Wikipedia at some point; and Dan Thomas, who's involved in implementing both Semantic MediaWiki and web-mapping solutions for companies and government agencies. I talked about Semantic Google Maps, then demoed Jeroen's new Maps and Semantic Maps extensions, and mentioned some planned additions to the two extensions. I thought the panel turned out really well, with the technical, corporate and community aspects of mapping all covered. The panel was taped (as were all other presentations), and I'm hoping the video will be online soon.

I also gave a separate, half-hour talk about Semantic MediaWiki, where I went through all the basic features, and talked somewhat about the challenges in getting it on to Wikipedia (from my perspective, that is). Only about 10 people showed up, but they seemed to really grasp the implications of the technology, which was nice. That too was videotaped.

Other than that, the conference was a bit underwhelming...basically lots of Wikipedia geeks talking about neutrality and stuff (no offense to Wikipedia geeks on this list. :) ). That's a lot of what happens at Wikimania, too, though there's usually enough technical content to balance it out. In this case, the technical, MediaWiki-specific topics were basically confined to the two presentations I was a part of. There were some other highlights for me, though:

- Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, gave a keynote about various topics, including that Wikipedia now ranks as the fourth-most-popular website in the world (if you count Google and YouTube as one site); and how that's required a lot more care in handling things than there used to be. He also said he was excited to be able to see actual presentations, given that at Wikimania he's usually too busy with interviews; though he seemed to slip out about halfway through the first day, never to return; which I don't really blame him for.

- The second keynote, from a Wikipedia administrator named Ira Matetsky who's also a lawyer, was quite fascinating: he talked about problems Wikipedia has had with biographies of living people, and put in the context of the U.S. legal history of libel and the "right to privacy".

- My favorite talk might have been a somewhat surreal one involving two users who do a lot of editing on articles about U.S. roads and highways, sharing an unbelievable amount of information about roads, photos, article statuses and edit wars, for over an hour. It was certainly a nice change of pace from all the nebulous talk about community-building and the like, and a nice reminder of what Wikipedia, and other wikis, are really all about: large volumes of data.

-Yaron