My Wikimania 2014 talks

Primarily what I did during Wikimania was chew on pens.

Discussing Fluid Lobbying at Wikimania 2014, by Sebastiaan ter Burg, under CC BY 2.0

However, I also gave some talks.

The first one was on Creative Commons 4.0, with Kat Walsh. While targeted at Wikimedians, this may be of interest to others who want to learn about CC 4.0 as well.

Second one was on Open Source Hygiene, with Stephen LaPorte. This one is again Wikimedia-specific (and I’m afraid less useful without the speaker notes) but may be of interest to open source developers more generally.

The final one was on sharing; video is below (and I’ll share the slides once I figure out how best to embed the notes, which are pretty key to understanding the slides):

Wikimania 2014 Notes – very miscellaneous

A collection of semi-random notes from Wikimania London, published very late:

Gruppenfoto Wikimania 2014 London, by Ralf Roletschek, under CC BY-SA 3.0 Austria

The conference generally

  • Tone: Overall tone of the conference was very positive. It is possibly just small sample size—any one person can only talk to a small number of the few thousand at the conference—but seemed more upbeat/positive than last year.
  • Tone, 2: The one recurring negative theme was concern about community tone, from many angles, including Jimmy. I’m very curious to see how that plays out. I agree, of course, and will do my part, both at WMF and when I’m editing. But that sort of social/cultural change is very hard.
  • Speaker diversity: Heard a few complaints about gender balance and other diversity issues in the speaker lineup, and saw a lot of the same (wonderful!) faces as last year. I’m wondering if there are procedural changes (like maybe blind submissions, or other things from this list) might bring some new blood and improve diversity.
  • “Outsiders”: The conference seemed to have better representation than last year from “outside” our core community. In particular, it was great for me to see huge swathes of the open content/open access movements represented, as well as other free software projects like Mozilla. We should be a movement that works well with others, and Wikimania can/should be a key part of that, so this was a big plus for me.
  • Types of talks: It would be interesting to see what the balance was of talks (and submissions) between “us learning about the world” (e.g., me talking about CC), “us learning about ourselves” (e.g., the self-research tracks), and “the world learning about us” (e.g., aimed at outsiders). Not sure there is any particular balance we should have between the three of them, but it might be revealing to see what the current balance is.
  • Less speaking, more conversing: Next year I will probably propose mostly (only?) panels and workshops, and I wonder if I can convince others to do the same. I can do a talk+slides and stream it at any time; what I can only do in person is have deeper, higher-bandwidth conversations.
  • Physical space and production values: The hackathon space was amazingly fun for me, though I got the sense not everyone agreed. The production values (and the rest of the space) for the conference were very good. I’m torn on whether or not the high production values are a plus for us, honestly. They raise the bar for participation (bad); make the whole event feel somewhat… un-community-ish(?); but they also make us much more accessible to people who aren’t yet ready for the full-on, super-intense Wikimedian Experience.

The conference for projects I work on

  • LCA: Legal/Community Affairs was pretty awesome on many fronts—our talks, our work behind the scenes, our dealing with both the expected and unexpected, etc. Deeply proud to be part of this dedicated, creative team. Also very appreciative for everyone who thanked us—it means a lot when we hear from people we’ve helped.
  • Maps: Great seeing so much interest in Open Street Map. Had a really enjoyable time at their 10th birthday meetup; was too bad I had to leave early. Now have a better understanding of some of the technical issues after a chat with Kolossos and Katie. Also had just plain fun geeking out about “hard choices” like map boundaries—I find how communities make decisions about problems like that fascinating.
  • Software licensing: My licensing talk with Stephen went well, but probably should have been structured as part of the hackathon rather than for more general audiences. Ultimately this will only work out if engineering (WMF and volunteer) is on board, and will work best if engineering leads. (The question asked by Mako afterwards has already led to patches, which is cool.)
  • Creative Commons: My CC talk with Kat went well, and got some good questions. Ultimately the rubber will meet the road when the translations are out and we start the discussion with the full community. Also great meeting User:Multichill; looking forward to working on license templates with him and May from design.
  • Metadata: The multimedia metadata+licensing work is going to be really challenging, but very interesting and ultimately very empowering for everyone who wants to work with the material on commons. Look forward to working with a large/growing number of people on this project.
  • Advocacy: Advocacy panel was challenging, in a good way. A variety of good, useful suggestions; but more than anything else, I took away that we should probably talk about how we talk when subjects are hard, and consensus may be difficult to reach. Examples would include when there is a short timeline for a letter, or when topics are deeply controversial for good, honest reasons.

The conference for me

  • Lesson (1): Learned a lesson: never schedule a meeting for the day after Wikimania. Odds of being productive are basically zero, though we did get at least some things done.
  • Lesson (2): I badly overbooked myself; it hurt my ability to enjoy the conference and meet everyone I wanted to meet. Next year I’ll try to be more focused in my commitments so I can benefit more from spontaneity, and get to see some slightly less day-job-related (but enjoyable or inspirational) talks/presentations.
  • Research: Love that there is so much good/interesting research going on, and do deeply think that it is important to understand it so that I can apply it to my work. Did not get to see very much of it, though :/
  • Arguing with love: As tweeted about by Phoebe, one of the highlights was a vigorous discussion (violent agreement :) with Mako over dinner about the four freedoms and how they relate to just/empowering software more broadly. Also started a good, vigorous discussion with SJ about communication and product quality, but we sadly never got to finish that.
  • Recharging: Just like GUADEC in my previous life, I find these exhausting but also ultimately exhilarating and recharging. Can’t wait to get to Mexico City!

Misc.

  • London: I really enjoy London—the mix of history and modernity is amazing. Bonus: I think the beer scene has really improved since the last time I was there.
  • Movies: I hardly ever watch movies anymore, even though I love them. Knocked out 10 movies in the 22 hours in flight. On the way to London:
    • Grand Hotel Budapest (the same movie as every other one of his movies, which is enjoyable)
    • Jodorowsky’s Dune (awesome if you’re into scifi)
    • Anchorman (finally)
    • Stranger than Fiction (enjoyed it, but Adaptation was better)
    • Captain America, Winter Soldier (not bad?)
  • On the way back:
    • All About Eve (finally – completely compelling)
    • Appleseed:Alpha (weird; the awful dialogue and wooden “faces” of computer animated actors clashed particularly badly with the clasically great dialogue and acting of All About Eve)
    • Mary Poppins (having just seen London; may explain my love of magico-realism?)
    • The Philadelphia Story (great cast, didn’t engage me otherwise)
    • Her (very good)

Final(?) Wikimania 2013 idea and notes dump

Me at Victoria Peak, the day after Wikimania, with thanks to Coren.

More random, more-or-less stream-of-(un)consciousness notes on the last few days of Wikimania:

  • The cab driver who got me to the airport had (at least) five cellphones. Two were mounted on each side of the steering wheel, and then a fifth appeared from somewhere else half-way through our drive to the airport. Two were Android(-ish?) smartphones, the others older phones. I’m sure there is some perfectly good reason for this, but no idea what it could be.
  • I had been under the impression that the island was essentially entirely either built up or too vertical to build on, so I had wondered how they’d managed to squeeze an entire Disneyland in there. Now I know; it is really quite amazing how much green, open space there is.
  • I was glad to hear Sue say that she cried while watching the South African Wikipedia Zero video, because I did too. As did lots of others, apparently. Still such a long way to reach the 13 out of 14 people on Earth who don’t use us every month, and so many different challenges to surmount – first access, then language, then engagement… oof. But obviously a worth challenge.
  • The 7-11s and Starbucks everywhere in HK are a reminder that the lines between national cultures are blurring faster than they ever have. I still got chicken feet as an unrequested pre-dinner appetizer one night, and unidentifiable fungus of some sort another afternoon. And I did get to see the very interesting, traditional Man Mo temple. But the trend is in favor of homogenization. This is in some ways very sad, as distinctive cultures make the world a richer place, but it will also over the long run make it easier for various contributors to understand each other – the classic mixed bag.
  • At the same time, was reminded in a few ways that barriers to communication are often surprisingly high- for example, a Chinese Wikipedian asked me (quite earnestly) about whether people disagreed about edits on English Wikipedia, which suggested we’re not very good at communicating to new Wikipedians in other languages even the most basic facts. (Asking “do English Wikipedians argue” feels to me like asking “is the sky blue for English Wikipedians?” – almost inconceivable that we haven’t already communicated that.)
  • Chinese Wikipedians are also working on an “intro to Wikipedia editing” tutorial that looks pretty cool. Made me sort of wonder if translating the newly-released How WP Works wikibook (or perhaps a shortened version of same?) might be a good/useful project for young Wiki movements, or if it is better to learn the same lessons through trial and error?
  • The German chapter has three policy people; the Foundation has zero (though all WMF’s lawyers pitch in on policy issues from time to time). I had sort of known this before, but not really internalized it. Still thinking through what that implies. (I had many great conversations with a bunch of the German chapter, and look forward to working with many of them.)
  • Very curious about the economics of the Octopus card. My impression as an outsider is that, through the Octopus cards, Hong Kong has established a defacto digital standard currency without relying on the inefficient, uninnovative, tax-on-the-body-politic leeches known as Visa and Mastercard. But that sounds too good to be true; there must be a catch to it.
  • Several Germans raved about the efficiency, politeness, etc. of the Hong Kong medical system. I chalk this up as a point for the Matt Yglesias “how government services are delivered and executed matters a lot and the US government should pay a lot more attention to that” school of thought.
  • The London organizers are extremely Bold; I wish them great luck in their planning and endeavors. I don’t think it’ll hurt the core conference to try these new experiments, and the payoff if it works could be huge, but I can understand the trepidation on the part of many long-time Wikimaniacs.
  • Had the opportunity to talk to a great variety of people who are passionate about the project; most who were excited and optimistic, some really concerned for a variety of reasons. I hope, of course, with my lawyer hat on, that I was able to calm those fears; in the mean time, it was a good reminder of the depth of passion for the project. (This was one of the many ways where I felt right at home, coming from years of GUADECs- the passion is real and deep and unfakeable in both places.)
  • That said, my biggest personal goal for the conference was to meet a broad cross-section of the community, rather than just the usual suspects from chapters, the board, etc. I feel like I had mixed achievement in this respect- I did have some pretty good conversations with non-chapter, non- (especially with people I met in line for food!) but at the end it was hard to do quite as much of it as I would have liked, especially for non-hacker folks. (The hacking days before the conference made meeting hackers much easier for me than it was to meet non-hacker editors.)
  • This really drove home that in the future, when I go somewhere for a non-Wiki conference, I really need to drop the local village pump or other comms channel an email and see if there is a meetup, editathon, etc. that I can crash.
  • We are deeply adaptable creatures, of course; I was quite overwhelmed by Hong Kong on day one and reasonably comfortable running around it on the free half-day I had before I flew home, and wish I’d had more time tosee it.  Still, it seems to me a city that would be very difficult for me to live happily in without gigantic piles of money.
  • Surprising to me to realize (once it was pointed out by Mako) that many WP articles about a place don’t have a clear link to the equivalent WV page. That seems like low-hanging fruit; I found a couple Monday while seeing the town before my flight and will try to remember to fix them once I’m back on a real network connection.
  • Pretty happy with the two LCA team talks I was part of – we received a bunch of compliments on them, and many great questions from the audience. That said, I think we probably went too broad on the open licensing talk. It either needs to be narrower (only one license or class of licenses) or longer (time-wise) next year, if we make this subject an annual thing. But that is a quibble – overall, I’m pretty happy with the quality of my first impression.
  • I admit that I played buzzword bingo during the Board’s Q&A. I actually think it helped me pay attention to certain topics I might have zoned out a little bit on otherwise, which is good, but the fact that it seems to be played fairly widely may suggest something about the format. I’m not sure what I’d change, though – doing that sort of interaction really does seem like an important way to build trust in the board. (You can mark “social capital” off your Luis Blog Post Bingo card if you’ve read this far.)
  • The closing beach party was a lot of fun, but (with no slight intended to the HK organizers) the top for me will always be the various beach parties at GUADEC Vilanova. For those of you who weren’t there in Vilanova, imagine something like the WM party, but with the broadest beach I’ve ever seen in my whole life, the bar literally in the middle of the sand, and the bar open until 4am. Now that the bar has been raised, I look forward to London’s beach party! ;)
  • Real joy to meet Risker; reminder that these sorts of meetings really allow you to get context and build up a mental model of someone in a way that you just can’t do offline, which makes these soooo important.
  • Copyright reform was a constant and recurring theme of discussion. In six years, certain aspects of Mickey Mouse will start creeping into the public domain, and that means we’re going to have another copyright bill in that time period. I suspect that the as a movement have to be ready and prepared for that, shape and form To Be Determined.

Bottom line: I’m exhausted, and (as I hit my six-months-iversary) more glad than ever I took this plunge. :) See everyone in London!

Random notes on Wikimania, Day 2

I’m pretty sure this is a cold, not jet lag. Not sure which would be better/worse browse this site. More notes:

  • Continue to hear Wikidata licensing concerns; need to work on communicating about that.
  • Multimedia round-table is well-attended (to the point of people sitting on the floor), even as someone points out that the day when “multimedia” was an exciting word was a long time ago.
  • Fabrice is a real pro at running a session – well-prepared and a great, positive guide to a topic; seemingly also getting solid, constructive feedback. The resulting discussion was quite high-quality for this sort of session.
  • Relatedly, I did not attend the session on preparation/constructive critique for speakers, but (1) it’s a really good idea and (2) maybe something similar could be done for panels? And of course should happen online before we come to the venue :)
  • Great to meet Jon Davies of WMUK, Dimitar, Niko, and a bunch of other interesting folks.
  • It is minor, but someone at the multimedia roundtable suggested that there should be a WordPress plugin to allow easy insertion and use of Common content into WordPress. To which I say: amen! It’s weird how often open projects neglect to promote their platform by building plugins for popular open content platforms (like WordPress) . [Later: apparently there is such a thing, but not updated in two years – too bad.]
  • I won’t call attribution in commons a minefield, exactly, but it’s extremely complex; was reminded of that today in the discussion of a media viewer that could show a more “black box” popup around images when viewing them. I’m adding it to my long-term radar…
  • Editor motivation is implicit in a lot of discussions, but can be hard to focus on or explicitly surface (or maybe more correctly, easy to lose track of when you’re focused on other things). I don’t mean this as a criticism, just an observation – I find myself also making the same mistake in conversations.
  • The EU-based chapters have a very interesting set of challenges around changing Brussels. Was interesting to discuss, and will be interesting to see how it goes.
  • Spent some time reviewing the schedule for the next few days to figure out what I’ll attend; it is more overwhelming than I’d even really realized.
  • Party was fun and views were insane. This HK factoid was pointed out and is also insane.

Notes on day 1 of my first Wikimania

Temple Street Night Food Restaurant by Marim68821, under CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Collected bullet points from day 1 of my first Wikimania:

  • Hong Kong is intense. I am used to, and like, big cities, but HK feels like a scale different even from, say, Cairo, New York, Delhi, or Bangalore. Had great fun last night walking around with a few friends, ended up at Temple Spice Crab (which was amazing in a vast number of ways) and along the waterfront.
  • Doing surprisingly well with jet lag, so far. We will see. (Late update: crashed pretty hard last night.)
  • This is such deja vu from GUADEC, in terms of watching reunions, seeing organization (or occasional lack thereof ;) seeing people just joyful to be in each other’s presence and working on shared practices/goals. I look forward to seeing more of the differences as the conference progresses.
  • First difference may be that there are a lot of structural committee meetings; not just board, but also AffCom, WCA, etc. Different from more specifically developer-oriented conferences. (I am mostly going to focus on the hacker days myself, but will also crash parts of WCA and others.)
  • Khmer wikipedia is represented in the meeting I am in as I write this. Khmer is not a terribly small language (16M) but I am still heartened to see it here.
  • First mention of merchandising came more than an hour into the WCA meeting. Not drawing any conclusions, just really the first legal thing. (Later they came thick and fast- so many interesting questions; some I could answer, some I couldn’t.)
  • Met another engineer-turned-lawyer, who appears to have (wisely) kept his engineering career viable while doing law school. Slightly jealous ;)
  • Need more stickers! Got wikidata on my tablet, at least.
  • Lots of fun meeting new people.
  • The map embedded here is amazing, showing not just geodata but historical change over time. Shame we’re not yet technically ready to make them more wide-spread.

At the Wikimedia Foundation (for, um, three months now)

Since it was founded 12 years ago this week, Wikipedia has become an indispensable part of the world’s information infrastructure. It’s a kind of public utility: You turn on the faucet and water comes out; you do an Internet search and Wikipedia answers your question. People don’t think much about who creates it, but you should. We do it for you, with love.

Wikimedia Foundation Executive Director Sue Gardner, from http://blog.wikimedia.org/2013/01/14/wikipedia-the-peoples-encyclopedia/

As Sue says, the people who create Wikipedia are terrific. I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve just wrapped up my first three months as their lawyer – as Deputy General Counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation. Consider this the personal announcement I should have made three months ago :)

Wikimania 2012 Group Photograph, by Helpameout, under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Greenberg Traurig was terrific for me: Heather has a wealth of knowledge and experience about how to do deals (both open source and otherwise), and through her, I did a lot of interesting work for interesting clients. Giving up that diversity and experience was the hardest part of leaving private practice.

Based on the evidence of the first three months, though, I made a great choice – I’ve replaced diversity of clients with a vast diversity of work; replaced one experienced, thoughtful boss with one of equal skill but different background (so I’m learning new things); and replaced the resources (and distance) of a vast firm with a small but tight and energized team. All of these have been wins. And of course working on behalf of this movement is a great privilege, and (so far) a pleasure. (With no offense to GT, pleasure is rarely part of the package at a large firm.)

The new scope of the work is perhaps the biggest change. Where I previously focused primarily on technology licensing, I’m now an “internet lawyer” in the broadest sense of the word: I, my (great) team, and our various strong outside counsel work on topics from employment contracts, to privacy policies, to headline-grabbing speech issues, to patent/trademark/copyright questions – it is all over the place. This is both challenging, and great fun – I couldn’t ask for a better place to be at this point in my life. (And of course, being always on the side of the community is great too – though I did more of that at Greenberg than many people would assume.)

I don’t expect that this move will have a negative impact on my other work in the broader open source community. If anything, not focusing on licensing all day at work has given me more energy to work on OSI-related things when I get home, and I have more flexibility to travel and speak with and for various communities too. (I’m having great fun being on the mailing lists of literally every known open source license revision community, for example. :)

If you’d like to join us (as we work to get the next 1/2 billion users a month), there are a lot of opportunities open right  now, including one working for me on my team, and some doing interesting work at the overlap between community, tech, and product management. Come on over – you won’t regret it :)

Information diet weekend

As a slight sequel to my “feed reading is an open web problem” post, so far this weekend I have taken the following information diet steps:

RSS feeds: 610→339 (and counting).

Based on Google’s stats, I’d probably read about a million feed items in Reader. This is just too much. The complaints about attention span in this piece and in The Information Diet1 rang very true. Reader is a huge part of that problem for me. (Close friends will also note that I’ve been mostly off gchat and twitter during the work day since I started the new job, and that’s been great.) So I’ve spent time, and will spend more time soon, pruning this list.

National news feeds: lots→~0; weekly paper news magazines: 0→2; local news feeds: small #? large #?

My friend Ed put in my head a long time ago that national news is not very useful. It riles the passions, but otherwise isn’t helpful: you’re not making the world a better place as a result of knowing more, and you’re not making yourself happier either.2  So you’re better off reading much less national political news, and much less frequently: hence the two new on-paper subscriptions to weekly news magazines.

Besides allowing you to get off the computer(!), the time saved can also be used to focus on things that either make your life better (e.g., happier) or that give you actionable information to resolve problems. To tackle both of those needs, I’d like to curate a set of local news feeds. I’ll be blogging more about this later (including what I’m already reading), but suggestions are welcome. I suspect that will make me much happier (or at least less angry), and present opportunities to actually do things, in ways that the national news obviously never can.

Moved from reader→feedly.

The impending shutdown of Reader was obviously the catalyst for all this change; feedly seems not perfect but pretty solid. I continue to keep an eye on newsblur (still a variety of issues) and feedbin.me (no mature Android client yet), since feedly is still (1) closed source and (2) has no visible business model – leaving it susceptible to the same Reader shutdown problem.

“Two young children picket for the ILGWU carrying placards including ‘I Need a Healthy Diet!’ outside the Kolodney and Myers Employment Office” by the Kheel Center at Cornell University, used under CC-BY 2.0.

Steps still to come:

Separate the necessary from the entertaining

Joe pointed out to me that all news sources aren’t equal. There are feeds you must read in a timely manner (e.g., for me right now, changes in work-critical Wikipedia talk pages), and feeds that can be sampled instead. The traditional solution to this is folders or categories within the same app. But we’re starting to see apps that are optimized for the not-mission-critical entertainment feed stream (Joe specifically recommended Currents). I’d like to play with those apps, and use one of them to further prune my “serious feeds” list.  Recommendations happily accepted.

Improve publication

I do want to participate, in some small way, in the news stream, by creating a stream of outbound articles and commentary on them. I never used Reader’s features for this, because of the walled garden aspect. Many of our tools now make it easy to share out to places like Twitter and Facebook, but that means I’m contributing to the problem for my friends, not helping solve it. I’d like my outbound info to be less McDonalds and more Chez Panisse :) The tools for that aren’t quite there, but this morning I stumbled across readlists, which looks like it is about 90% something I’ve been looking for forever. I’ll keep keeping an eye out, so again: good suggestions for outbound curation tools happily accepted.

What else?

I hate the weasely “ask your audience” blog post ending as much as anyone, but here, I have a genuine curiosity: what else are friends doing for their info diets? I want to eventually get towards the “digital sabbath” but I’m not there yet; other tips/suggestions?

  1. capsule book review: great diagnosis of the problem, pretty poor recommendations for solutions []
  2. It’s pretty much a myth that reading the news makes you a better voter: research shows even supposedly high-information voters have already decided well before they read any news, and if for some reason you’re genuinely undecided, you’re better off reading something like ballotpedia than a streaming bunch of horse-race coverage. []

A note on 2011

The best thing I did for myself in 2011 was to get back on a bicycle after not being on one for 15+ years, and after never actually being comfortable on one. I’m not going to be racing any time soon, but I now really look forward to a bike ride as part of the average weekend and even the average vacation.

Yesterday was a nice punctuation mark to that, featuring a long ride down to the ocean, a great view, and a very satisfying fish and chips.

I am definitely enjoying some time out of the office and looking forward to a great 2012- hope my friends are too. Now I just need to figure out what life improvement can trump “get back on a bike.” Suggestions welcome :)

San Francisco Recommended Reading

Update: I’ve moved the most up-to-date version of this to this page. Leaving the original explanation below!

When I moved into San Francisco, I asked some folks about books I should read to get a sense of the history of the city. Here’s a sampling of the books that I’ve read since then, gathered in one place for the next time someone asks me the question. I’m still open to more suggestions, and suggestions need not be about the city as a whole- for example, my favorite book about New York was in large part about traffic and my favorite book about Boston was about the river.

Actually publishing this post, moons after writing it, is mostly in honor of today’s spectacular weather and my first ever bike ride across the Golden Gate. (And yes, the photo is cliched and I don’t care ;)

Donated to the Ada Initiative

I’m excited to say that (with Krissa’s support and approval) I donated today to the Ada Initiative’s Seed 100 Campaign.

Free and open software and culture have been very good to me, and I’m glad that the Mary and Val (and hopefully soon a fleet of others) will be working to make it more accessible to women and girls. As big a force for change as this movement has been in the past two decades, things can only improve when we consciously work on being accessible to the 50% of the population that is currently all too often excluded.