E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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APQC KM & Innovation 2007 – “Wikipedia and Wikia – Innovative Knowledge Communities” by Jimmy Wales

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You would remember how I have been creating a couple of weblog entries to comment further on the first keynote speaker session from the APQC KM & Innovation event hosted in Houston beginning of May. Well, today I am going to continue further with some further reviews from the different sessions I attended, but from here onwards, and since most of the presentation materials are / were not available, I will keep the weblog entries a lot shorter describing roughly what I liked and what I thought could improve from each of them. As time goes by, and as the presentation materials may become available, I shall be updating the posts to include the download URL, if applicable. So let’s get things going with the next one.

This particular keynote session was actually one of the main reasons why I wanted to attend the APQC KM & Innovation event. Nothing more, nothing less than watching live Jimmy Wales, talking away about both Wikipedia and Wikia. This was the first time that I ever got to attend live a session from someone who I highly consider influential in shaping up some of the different changes we are going through at the moment with the adoption of social computing in order to share knowledge and collaborate with other knowledge workers. So I had plenty of expectations about it all along and I must say that after watching Jimmy live all of that excitement and high expectations just died rather rapidly. What a missed opportunity! And it looks like I wasn’t the only one sensing that same disappointment.

Don’t take me wrong. The presentation itself was really good, very informative, straight to the point highlighting some of the major achievements from Wikipedia over the last few years. How it grew from nothing into becoming one of the most influential resources on the Web that people check several times a day, day in day out. Jimmy is a very engaging speaker and certainly someone that comes out to everyone with a powerful message on what is going around such emerging technologies as wikis, but by the end of the session I thought it was just such a great opportunity being missed just like that!

Here we have got Jimmy Wales talking to an audience who is already very very knowledgeable about Content, Information and Knowledge Management; who have been exposed to different various tools for a good number of years and who know most of the stuff of what Jimmy mentioned about Wikipedia and Wikia based on several other presentations they may have bumped into from other events. Yes, the slides are good for an educational perspective if you have never heard of Wikipedia, but who hasn’t?

This should have been the kind of keynote speaker session where Jimmy could have shown some real life experiences on what managing Wikipedia has been. The art of negotiating content through collaboration that will go into the site. The infrastructure and resources of volunteers in place, explain how the different ranks work and how they all operate. And, much importantly, share some of the stuff of what is going behind the scenes. How you can have several thousand editors editing content in Wikipedia coming from all sorts of different backgrounds, languages, cultures, customs, etc. etc. That is pure Information Management at its best and, much more importantly, the inherent aspects of managing people to do the right thing: having the right content made available to us all at the shortest time possible by the right people through a collaborative effort, i.e. how those connections get to flourish to then help boost the sharing of knowledge all over the place. Knowledge Management at its best, to say the least!

That is what I was expecting from Jimmy’s pitch that we never got to hear about. That would have gotten the audience much more engaged and asked multiple different questions about how wikis like Wikipedia and Wikia could be used as effective knowledge sharing and collaboration tools not just out there on the open Net, but also behind the firewall. I bet that, if he would have gone through that route in his presentation, he would have had a whole bunch more of questions and comments from people detailing their own experiences with Wikipedia, like Dave Snowden did. And also how Jimmy is moving along with Wikia, after whatever lessons learned from previous stories, we have all been exposed to already, he may have experienced and which we never heard anything from him on them, surprisingly, because I bet they would have been rather educational for us all.

Thus as you can see, I enjoyed the session from the perspective of being very informative and recommendable to everyone out there, if there is anyone still, who may not be familiar with wikis and with what Wikipedia has been able to achieve over time. However, I was also a bit disappointed that Jimmy lost a great opportunity to share with all of those KM advocates out there how wikis could shape up, for the better, the current workplace environment based on the experiences of what he has gone through already and help brake some of those barriers that people keep coming up with.

I hope that next time that I get to watch one of his speaker sessions it may be a bit more engaging than the one at the APQC KM & Innovation event, because somehow I felt afterwards exactly the same way as I felt before the session started. And that is not good. That, to me, is a major disappointment from what was supposed to be one of the main highlights of the event.

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