How to fly the wiki way

My odyssey to Enterprise MediaWiki Conference (EMWCon) Spring 2018 in Houston, Texas.

Watching austronauts leaving the ISS to do a space walk is quite something. Knowing their work is backed up by clever people working behind the curtains with the help of a wiki, that’s even something more. I am very excited.

space & time travel report by Mag. Sabine Melnicki | WikiAhoi

In a nutshell: I share my personal experience at this year’s Enterprise MediaWiki conference in Houston, Texas. A lot of use cases and business solutions were presented, which I give an overview to. Some photos and a travel video, too. Oh, and lots of love for NASA.

Enterprise MediaWiki Spring 2018 (EMWCon) took place from 21–23 March 2018 in Houston, Texas. The EMWCon is a spin-off from the Semantic MediaWiki Conference (SMWCon) in fall in Europe. It follows a slightly more general approach and addresses consultants, administrators and developers around the world working with (Semantic) MediaWiki in the enterprise context.

I had great luck and supporters and was granted a travel grant by the Wikimedia Foundation for this event. I traveled to Houston to talk about Semantic MediaWiki, work on documentation and training and meet colleagues and friends.

I can’t emphasize it enough: A big hubbly thank you to all organizers and participants of the conference. You made it such a rich and inspiring experience.

What so special about working with a wiki in the enterprise context?

My travel mirrors in part the travel through a wiki project: The preparation, the launch, the long way, the descent, the time you run out of fuel. Here’s the story, not-always-ideal but often oh-so-real.

Prepare for the unexpected.

Even for a hardcore procrastinator and deadline wrangler like me, it’s getting a little dense: With lots of work on my hump, I only have a few days left before my departure. It seems I am running out of time.

Then, we switch topics and I opt for a switch in focus in my beginner’s tutorial. With hardly any real beginners among participants at the conference, I hope to serve general interests a bit better this way.

That’s what’s happening sometimes in companies: There is a gap to fill, there is a CMS to replace. Most of the time, the introduction of new software is well-planned, but sometimes it needs to go quickly. There is a project started out of need – and then suddenly the basic requirements change. This calls for software structure that is flexible enough to survive these changes.

Encapsulate daily life.

Sometimes all planning ahead does not have any positive effect on blood pressure. Some unforeseen inquiry here, some calls there and then – time arrives. And there you find yourself in the situation of most workers nowadays: Time is short and valuable, when you are busy.

This calls for software that eases the burden of manual administration and can easily be adapted to individual needs: Automated reports on company and user basis while maintaining a strong standardised structure.

Raise uncomfortable questions.

What’s the time in space? Who spilt the coffee? What strategies did you use to motivate your users to use the wiki? At the conference, discussions were at the center.

To get the right answer, it’s better not to raise a question, but to write the wrong answer. –Ward Cunningham

Ward Cunningham stated, to get the right answer it’s better not to raise a question, but to write the wrong answer. We like to discuss sensitive topics and tricky challenges, find interesting new solutions to similar problems, merge convergent ideas into best practices and support each other by giving us time for deep understanding. This is what I sensed in the depth of this EMWCon, a gathering of co-founders and core developers, business people and interested newbies.

Travel in time and space to explore.

I get up very early, board the plane to Houston on time and find myself in a different world within a couple of hours. Among fellas from USA, Europe and in between (the ocean ;), we start discussing.

On March 14 Stephen Hawkings died at the age of 76. Hawking was one of our most visionary scientists of our time, of all times. He tried to understand the universe in its entirety.

Breaking down Hawkings‘ quest to our wikis, we shall always see the wiki in its context. It’s used by humans – complex, intelligent and unpredictable creatures. It shall always serve a higher purpose than just collecting knowledge for the sake of collecting. It’s embedded in the round blue globe of the company world with department contintents and knowledge oceans. Let’s lift our heads and explore the enterprise world holistically from outer space. As Anna Lee Fisher put it: „You cannot see any borders from space.“ 

What topics were discussed at the conference?

Topics discussed during the conference ranged from use cases of Semantic MediaWiki in government, at NASA, NATO, ESA and companies worldwide as well as technical questions around securing the wiki, organizing one’s development processes to an outlook on MediaWiki’s glorious future.

This overview already looks like a lot, but the talks were even richer of information and inspiration.

EMWCon was online on Twitter under #EMWCon and the video playlist can be found on YouTube.

Sabine Melnicki (c) Greg Rundlett

Structuring knowledge according to „Every Page is Page One (EPPO)“

Sabine Melnicki from WikiAhoi introduced the EPPO concept by Mark Baker and talked about how it could improve writing and structuring content in wikis.

Presentation page | Presentation on Slideshare | Video (29 min)

Lex Sulzer in a rare moment of presenting without his pointer.

Implementing EPPO on SMW

Lex Sulzer from Dataspects demonstrated his work on developing a customer’s ontology in the wiki. His development includes a blueprint framework as a fully functioning startpoint for any ontology, released on Github as CoreOntology.

Presentation page | Video (2 h 7 min)

SimpleGov

Ad Strack van Schijndel from Wikibase in the Netherlands presented his slick and solid solution for SimpleGov based on Semantic MediaWiki, going even beyond common extensions and providing inventive methods like front-end editing.

If a platform is mature enough to host a worldwide encyclopedia, it is mature enough to host my project. –The customer.

Presentation page | Video (42 min)

Achieving a unified data model with Cargo and Page Forms

Yaron Koren from WikiWorks/Genesis is working on simplifying data structure maintenance for wiki administrators. Solutions like Page Schemas try to support administrators in keeping their ontologies up to date. Yaron presents an idea on basis of Cargo in combination with Semantic MediaWiki.

Presentation Page | Video (30 min)

Toward a MediaWiki Roadmap

Cindy Cicalese from the WMF has the difficult task of bringing forward an official roadmap for the future development of MediaWiki. Concerning scope and stakeholders there is really a lot to consider and work for. Still, if Cindy couldn’t get this going, it’s simply not meant to be.

Presentation page | Video (51 min)

State of the MediaWiki community

Chris Koerner from the WMF gives an insight into the coming-about and status quo of the MediaWiki community. Community initiatives like the MediaWiki Stakeholders‘ Group and the podcast Between the Brackets show that there is a lot happening in the recent years in the community.

Presentation Page | Etherpad for live collaborationVideo (33 min)

MediaWiki as a Service

Greg Rundlett from Qualitybox talks about the challenges for MediaWiki consultants. Greg’s Qualitybox relies on the MEZA installation system which is developed at NASA. Understanding customers‘ needs and wishes and keeping their backs free of technical upgrades is a big part of this.

MediaWiki is like a bag of raw flour. If you want to eat, you need to add milk and sugar and eggs to create that cookie. –Greg Rundlett

Presentation page | Video (24 min)

Enterprise Knowledge Management including SMW

Lex Sulzer from Dataspects presents in-depth his developments on integrating Elastic Search as an overall search solution. The web is starting from Google and the wiki will then also naturally start from the search bar.

Search is not everything – but without search, everything is nothing. –Lex Sulzer

Presentation PageVideo (31 min)

Enterprise Managed Knowledge Capture

Anthony Mallia from Edmond Scientific Company has a background in the Semantic Web and ontologies and talks about tools in enterprise engineering processes. Anthony sees MediaWiki’s future in data processing more than traditional knowledge transfer.

Presentation page | Video (24 min)

Replacing Extensions

Yaron Koren introduces possibilities for substituting extensions for better ones, including Approved Revs, DocBookExport, TinyMCE, and addresses the question when to develop one own extension instead of using an existing one.

Presentation PageVideo (36 min)

Securing MediaWiki installations

Brian Wolff from the WMF talks about the ins and outs of securing MediaWiki for the daily business, file system permissions and reading restrictions being among them.

Presentation page | Video (31 min)

User Pages: The key to Enterprise Wikis

Bryan Hilderbrand relies on Dunbar’s number 150, which defines the maximum of individuals one can hold relationships, in the sense of knowing each other and ones relations. This poses the ground for the need for good reputation among peers, which translates into Analytics, pimped user pages and expert profiles.

We want people to establish a reputation. If you’re really good, we want people to know you’re good. If you’re making contributions, we want that known. If you’re an idiot, we want that known too. —Intellipedia (source)

Presentation PageVideo (45 min)

EMW and The IoT (Security and System Modeling)

Richard Evans and Tony Mallia have teamed up during the conference and present their first idea how Semantic MediaWiki could get a big  by

Presentation page | Video (49 min)

MediaWiki: A Culture of Knowledge-Sharing

Mark A. Hershberger addresses the important question why Wikimedia shall care about all the 3rd party users of MediaWiki.

Presentation page | Video (20 min)

Enterprise MediaWiki tips and tricks

Ike Hecht from WikiWorks reaches into his bags of tricks of long years of extension development for MediaWiki and introduces some best practices mainly for developers.

Presentation page | Video (29 min)

Wiki Automation

Peter Woudsma from NATO shares his wiki automation tool for maintaining multiple similar wiki instances based on data models. This addresses the question around naming parts of ontologies: concepts, packages, projects topic, classes and similar.

Presentation page | Video (21 min)

NASA wikis: Increasing the Awesome

Daren Welsh from NASA shares the story of the EVA wiki since 2011. After a year of building show case examples to convince others, NASA was using the wiki for meeting minutes and group communication. Years later the wikis saw a constant growth and wikis were introduced in several other departments. Current challenges include the consolidation of those silo wikis into one central one as well as improving the wiki’s quality by distributing watching and reviews of pages.

Presentation page | SlidesVideo (53 min)

Delivering ICT capability through a wiki policy

Ben Fletcher from the Royal Air Force talks about the solution used by the UK Ministry of Defence for a policy of a defence manual for ICT. The wiki replaced outdated PDFs and redundant information in an existing CMS. Following this example, there is still room for improvement in the installation process and visualisation of data relationships.

Presentation page | Video (38 min)

Comprehensive Quality Management with Semantic MediaWiki

Michael Barylak from ESA gives an insight into quality management with Semantic MediaWiki according to ISO 9001:2015.

Presentation page | Video (29 min)

Delivering ICT capability through a wiki policy

Ben Fletcher from the Royal Air Force talks about the solution used by the UK Ministry of Defence for a policy of a defence manual for ICT. The wiki replaced outdated PDFs and redundant information in an existing CMS. Following this example, there is still room for improvement in the installation process and visualisation of data relationships.

Presentation page | Video (38 min)

WMF Strategy Process

Victoria Coleman from WMF talks about the strategy of the Foundation, addressing topics like demographics, the gender gap, diversity, mobile usage and community.

We will break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.

Presentation page | Video (56 min)

Delivering ICT capability through a wiki policy

Ben Fletcher from the Royal Air Force talks about the solution used by the UK Ministry of Defence for a policy of a defence manual for ICT. The wiki replaced outdated PDFs and redundant information in an existing CMS. Following this example, there is still room for improvement in the installation process and visualisation of data relationships.

Presentation page | Video (38 min)

Lightening talks

MediaWiki vs. Confluence

Greg Rundlett from Qualitybox confronts Confluence with Semantic MediaWiki. In a feature and value overview MediaWiki evolves as the strong winner.

Presentation page | Video (13 min)

MediaWiki vs. SharePoint

Tony Walla compares SharePoint workspaces with Semantic MediaWiki. Appreciating SharePoint’s good features, MediaWiki is shining in its granularity and flexibility.

Presentation page | Video (19 min)

Compliant to GDPR with datencockpit

Sabine Melnicki introduces datencockpit.at, a solution based on Semantic MediaWiki for the record of processing activities, demanded by the GDPR, a new European data safety regulation coming into effect in May 2018.

Presentation page | Video (10 min)

Learning from Airtable

Yaron Koren introduces the relatively new software Airtable, that is bringing spreadsheets to the next level.

Presentation PageVideo (3 min)

A panel discussion around MediaWiki best practices rounded up the third day of the conference.

Follow the odyssey

Step by step

Now lean back, pat yourself on the shoulder for everything you have already achieved.

Some steps count more than others.

Read on

Great writers write great write ups. Read on about the conference.

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