At Wikisym

WikiSym is an interesting conference. It's not very big, but it has certainly great spirit! I was totally wasted after yesterday from all the energy and enthusiasm (and the fact that I did company email until two in the morning). It's got a lot of big ~WikiNames from the industry, but I am rather surprised to see how few of the commercial wiki companies are bothering with these conferences - SocialText probably being the only one with any representation. Where's Atlassian? Where are the German companies who're integrating Wikis in their software (I know you're out there)? There are no people from Microsoft, IBM, Sun or other big companies that are using Wikis in their everyday life.

Are wikis that uninteresting to the people who use and develop them?

Blogger conferences are ripe with people who are trying to figure out ways to make money out of them or how to better apply them in their own work. Maybe that is the reason why blogs are far more popular out there (55 million public blogs vs 3000 public Wikis are the numbers I've heard) - they attract far more the kind of self-obsessed, greedy entrepreneurs that make the world go around. Blogs feed on the only two infinite natural resources: greed and ego - wikis don't score high on either chart.

There is a lot of talk about usability issues on wikis here. However, even that discussion is largely technical - whether WYSIWYG is better than WikiMarkup, do we need the WikiMarkup at all, etc. Unfortunately, I see no designers, UI experts, graphic artists, or anyone with an inkling of an experience in the field of user experience here - only a bunch of geeks discussing what they believe that the average user wants. This usually leads to great technical innovation, but it won't really work. Fortunately, there are a bunch of teachers here, who're keeping the discussion from going too technical. That's exactly what the "wiki community" needs, in my opinion: more regular people who're applying wikis to their everyday life and problems, and can feed that information back to the wiki developers. Wikis are a geek tool, primarily, yes, but so were the blogs originally. Maybe it's time to step out of the bounds?


Personally, I was pleasantly surprised at how much user-centeredness and innovation was present within this core wiki community. Maybe my bar of expectation was quite a bit lower than yours.

--Kevin Makice, 27-Aug-2006

Well, the problem is that most wiki developers are not UI professionals, and while talking about user-centeredness is great, I'd love to see more involvement from real experts.

--JanneJalkanen, 27-Aug-2006

I liked it that Silvan (Reinhold) told people about the German Wikipedia "grandmother test" - we certainly had people talking about who the wikis were for. I think it was great there was a strong educational presence, and while these folks aren't UI experts they definitely think about learning and teaching methodologies a lot. I'd agree with you that focus was more on technical issues than social aspects, but I think this will shift as wikis mature over time; the technical issues will gradually be resolved and the social implications will take up more space (possibly?).

--MarkGaved, 28-Aug-2006

I certainly hope so!

What worries me is that wikis are an older technology than blogs, yet we're gaining the user understanding much slower. Part of it is that our focus is not that completely user-oriented, but part of it is that we don't have enough people who're just adept at that kind of stuff...

--JanneJalkanen, 29-Aug-2006

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"Main_blogentry_220806_1" last changed on 22-Aug-2006 12:15:03 EEST by JanneJalkanen.
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