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Wikimania 2006 Day Two (late – sorry!)

Sorry I didn’t get anything posted last night. I went to my hotel room and crashed. I didn’t even go to the party at the MIT Museum. Partly because I wanted to make sure I didn’t oversleep again (my panel was this morning, and my body is still on west coast time), and partly because I was just tired. So, here is a recap of Day Two of Wikimania 2006.

The day started off with a session by Yochai Benkler, author of the book “The Wealth of Networks” (he put the book up in a wiki – that link will take you there). On Friday, Larry Lessig referenced this book as one of the most important of our time (which immediately put it on my reading list). Unfortunately, I only caught the last half of the session, but it was still very interested. Apparently, Yochai made a comment about Jason Calacanis’ model of paying people for bookmarks, and Jason, being in the audience, stood up later and asked him how he felt about “free” software companies that get paid (like the Mozilla foundation, etc.), where a small number of contributors actually get paid, but the rest continue to do it for free. The moderator cut off the discussion, seemingly because of a dislike of Jason, but they continued their discussion afterwards. I happened to be sitting nearby, and shot some photos, and a short video with audio that unfortunately is pretty much useless.

The next session was from Rishab Ghosh on the history of collaborative ownership. He drew some similarities and important differences about what it means to own and give away a physical object versus “knowledge” and ideas. For example, if I have some fish, and you have some potatoes, we can exchange those, giving up one for the other. Or we can pool them together, and make soup, which we can then split between us. But with knowledge sharing, like Wikipedia, we can each contribute what we have, and then we each get a full copy of the result. That’s a fundamental difference, and resonates with something Lessig said that has stuck with me profoundly. He said that we each have a “proprietary instinct“, when we create something, that makes us want to control it, and possess it. We have to consciously master that instinct, and withdraw it, in order to share openly. And like Rishab said, we all benefit much more than in direct proportion to what we contribute, so this willingness to be open and share freely is important to us as a society. The most memorble quote from Rishab, to me, was something along the lines of “I can’t give you information without also enabling you to give it to someone else.” In other words, there is no such thing as natural DRM. Think about it…

The plenary session on Saturday was Brewster Kahle, from the Internet Archive on the topic of “Universal Access to All Knowledge” and the rise of the “Technical Non-Profit Organization”. This was another very impressive and powerful session, on the scale of the one the previous day from Lawrence Lessig. For those that aren’t familiar with Brewster Kahle and archive.org, their goal is to archive the entire contents of the internet, books, audio, video, TV, software, etc. You may have used or heard of the “Wayback Machine“. He talked about what it would take to archive everything. Text? Well, the Library of Congress has about 26 million books. Figuring 1 megabyte per book, it would take about 26 terabytes of storage to house all known books. Brewster can put that online for about $60,000. Very doable. Music? Video? Similarly reachable, all things considered. Brewster said to start with a big goal, so you’re always moving towards something, and you can look at yourself as making progress. He talked about what has happened as we’ve come to think of knowledge as property, or “real estate”, and the negative impacts from that. Right now, it costs us to give knowledge away (we have to pay for web hosting, etc., and heaven forbid we get Slashdotted!), and it costs us to retain information (old emails, document “destruction” policies, etc.) in both time and money. Brewster wants to break down those barriers, and make it free and easy for people to give knowledge away, and to preserve and keep information.

I spent the afternoon in hot, hot room #100 in Pound Hall (apparently the air conditioning in the building went out yesterday afternoon). Alex Schenck, uber-wikpedian did a session on “why wikipedia is so attractive“. Srinivas Gunta did a session on trust and the RfA (Request for Adminship). Christoph Sauer did a session questioning (in a good way) the need for WYSIWYG editing on wikis. And Chris Luer did a session on disambiguation. It was a hot afternoon, and to be honest, I was having a hard time paying attention, so you’ll probably get better summaries of those sessions on the linked proceedings pages.
There are lots of other bloggers here at Wikimania, and I’m finding great coverage of the conference in the blogosphere, almost in real time. Dave Winer, Doc Searls, Rex Hammock, David Weinberger, Betsy Devine and others are all blogging away. It’s also been great to hang out with these other bloggers, and meet some of them for the first time face to face. Even if Dave Winer didn’t remember who I was. 😉
Another great thing about this conference has been the coverage of the sessions on the Wikimania 2006 wiki itself. Text notes/transcripts of the sessions are available almost as soon as the session is over. And you should definitely check out the Archives page, where audio and/or video recordings of many of the sessions (including Lawrence Lessig and Brewster Kahle – don’t miss these!) are already available, and more are coming all the time as they’re produced and posted. Audio of the panel I was one this morning should be available soon, and I’ll link to it when it is ready.

I’ve also uploaded the latest batch of photos I’ve taken, which you can of course see in my Wikimania 2006 photo set on Flickr (and if you have Wikimania photos, you can share them with the Wikimania 2006 group on Flickr).

Expect a few more updates as I wrap up today (I’m really looking forward to David Weinberger’s session on “What’s Happening to Knowledge?” this afternoon), and as I go to Intel Hudson tomorrow to talk to some folks there about wikis. It’s a wiki weekend, for sure! :-)

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