Wikipedians from up and down the eastern coast of the United States met this weekend in Washington, DC for a Wikipedians of the East Coast field trip and gathering. A dozen Wikipedians from Georgia to Massachusetts met in the capital on May 7, went on photographic scavenger hunts for embassy buildings, museum exhibits, and animals; and were introduced to some of the city's nightlife around Dupont Circle Saturday evening. A few met again on Sunday to visit the city's famous zoo.
The group had asked for photograph requests before the gathering, and worked diligently to fulfill them. They produced a sizeable category of embassy photos, for instance. An evening discussion turned to setting up a US Chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation. In particular, the potential activities of such a chapter, and special difficulties involved in coordinating meetings with people from all parts of the US, were discussed. Phyzome took down the names of those present and set up an informal mailing list to continue the discussion.
The week of April 18 was a busy one for Wikipedia-related events. Wikipedia was invited to the annual MySQL Users Conference in mid-April, where it was honored on April 20 as one of three MySQL Applications of the Year. Both Jimmy Wales and long-time MediaWiki developer Jamesday were present to receive the award.
At the same time, Wikimedia Trustee Angela Beesley and Eloquence were in Pretoria, South Africa, attending the three-day "Free/Libre and Open Source Software" (FLOSS) and Free Knowledge Workshop. Angela later summarized the event on meta. Angela had been invited to speak about "Wikipedia – A Vision in the Making". Eloquence had a chance to give a wiki technology workshop.
On the third day of the event, Wednesday April 20, Angela and Eloquence took part in an extended discussion of e-Learning, which is a major focus in Africa. This discussion including potential plans for Wikiversity, relevant extensions to MediaWiki, ways to work with a Bridges to the Future project and the CSIR Open Source Centre, who hosted the conference. Other ideas that came up during the conference included an audio interface to Wikipedia via cell phones, and ways to produce static HTML dumps and update-feeds to assist the use of Wikipedia in local schools, something which is already happening regularly. There was particular interest in this last idea from Wikiwizzy and a representative from the Shuttleworth Foundation. Wikimedia was encouraged to send someone to the 8th World Conference on Computers in Education in Capetown in early July, but currently no one is planning to attend.
Wednesday evening saw the first African Wikipedian meetup, in Pretoria, with seven Wikipedians in attendance. Angela noted that it "lasted about 3 hours and was very enjoyable." People discussed ways to increase interest in the Afrikaans Wikipedia, machine translation into African languages, and more e-Learning ideas.
That Thursday, Wikipedians in Boston put on an audiovisual presentation of Recentchanges at the launch party of the Boston Cyberarts Festival. Sj set up a display table and an array of speakers at the event with the help of Wikinewsie Pingswept; they then broadcast a real-time map of Recentchanges to birdsong and other nature sounds, while displaying a colorful real-time RC feed on the display. This was done with the software package rcbirds, a creation of German Wikipedian Datura, which relies on the IRC version of Kate's RC-bot. Stephen Wolfram was in attendance, and noted that he was watching Wikipedia for ideas about how to improve projects like MathWorld and PhysicsWorld.
Harvard Law School's Berkman Center for Internet & Society recently made Wales their latest non-resident Fellow, one of a score of academics and luminaries across the country who are affiliated with the Center.
On April 25 and 26, Wales made his first visit to Boston as a Fellow, to meet his Berkman Center colleagues. He spoke in two law classes taught by professor Jonathan Zittrain, and described Wikipedia at a packed Berkman lunch presentation which went half an hour beyond the normal stopping-point.
At the end of his second day in Boston, Wales gave a presentation about Wikipedia and the Developing World to a mixed audience in Pound Hall on the Harvard Law School campus. It was as much a discussion and long Q & A session as a presentation; he spoke for only 20 minutes before asking for comments and fielding the first question. Various ideas about reaching out to the third world were put forward by the audience, and the presentation lasted for almost 90 minutes. The event was reported in real time on Wikinews. A dozen people got together afterwards for a drink before heading home.
The following day, Wales spoke at Collection at Haverford College, before travelling to Manhattan to speak about the Wikipedia user experience at the elegant GEL 2005 conference. In March, he had been interviewed on the Good Experience blog kept by GEL organizer Mark Hurst.