Third Sydney wiki meetup

Yesterday was the ANZAC day public holiday in Australia, and it was cold and rainy. I went into the city in the late afternoon for the third Sydney wiki Meetup. People took some group photos on the Town Hall steps, and then Chris Watkins had booked a table at the Grace Hotel, so we went there. Some quick notes:

  • General aggregate info about attendees: They were from a range of occupations (e.g. Psychiatrists, students, IT, unemployed, etc). The vast majority of people were adults, but of a wide variety of ages. Almost everyone there used his or her real name, or some minor variation on it, as his or her Wikipedia username (which I thought was interesting). Everyone was interested in or working on completely different stuff (law articles, bots / tools, theological articles, etc). Politics was discussed a little later in the day, and of the people who volunteered a political preference, most seemed to be centre-left and/or pro-green. Around 25 people turned up, around 10 more than last time, and around 6 of the people attending were at the last meetup. Of the 25 attendees, around 10 turned up a few minutes late, so waiting for 10 minutes beyond the advertised time at the meeting place for people who are running late was a very good idea.
  • Jimbo was there, in town for a rather exhausting whirlwind speaker tour of Australia’s capital cities. Following him around was the camera guy making the “Truth in Numbers” wiki-documentary. I suggested to Jimbo he should blog more (response: “but I update my blog so rarely that when I do people read so much into it”; counter-response: “so just write some really banal stuff for a while, and they’ll learn not to read too much into it”), and also suggested that he might want to add his blog to Planet Wikimedia (as opposed to the current paradoxical situation, where the unofficial WikiBlogPlanet carries his blog, yet the official Wikimedia one does not). He was an extremely nice, friendly, easygoing guy. So of course, we pressured him into trying a Tim Tam Slam (a.k.a. a “Tim Tam Straw”) … this is the “before” picture, the “after” picture was suitably messy:

  • Heard from One Salient Oversight, who sometimes creates userboxes, that just 7 days after being created, this is one of his most popular userboxes:


  • A geography Uni student is writing a thesis researching the Wikipedia, including why people participate (i.e. more focused from the user’s perspective). Geography is generally about spaces, and the Wikipedia is now covered under geography using a very post-modern interpretation of “spaces”, since it is “an online space”. Sounds interesting, and hopefully she will share the results.
  • Someone referred to Tim Starling as “our Tim”, on account of his Australian background, and despite currently being in the UK (I think). Of course, I should point out that Mel Gibson was always generally referred to here as “our Mel”, on account of his half-Australian background, despite living in the US for 20 years, right up until his drunken anti-Semitic tirade … at which point, he overnight became “their Mel”. So Tim, consider yourself forewarned: You + alcohol + a public place + rambling racist tirade + leaked police report = “their Tim” :-)
  • Heard about, which is a wiki for environmental issues and sustainable development.
  • Someone attending had previously got into a dispute over an article with another user, who (using the whois records) crossed the line, and posted the first person’s real name, home address, email address, and home phone number to the Wikipedia as a form of vengeance. Don’t do that – it’s really not nice, and it required a dev to go and permanently erase that edit from the history.
  • Enoch Lau told me about a big diagram of the MediaWiki database tables, which was a funny coincidence, because I drew it. Also, he wanted some additions to the MediaWiki API, particularly for a bot for deleting images that were duplicated on both EN and Commons, and found the current API was missing some functionality he wanted. How could or should he add the functionality he wanted? Best advice I could give him was to start small, add something simple yet that was useful to him, and attach the diff to a bug in bugzilla. If he didn’t get any feedback within a week, then join #mediawiki on IRC, and ask for some feedback or comment there.
  • The Wikimedia foundation is up to (very approximately) 350 servers, with around 8 database servers, with around 20% spare load capacity even at maximum loads (of course, that’s not much slack if you’re growing rapidly). Apparently the foundation sometimes gets offers to host the whole cluster, but they have turned this down so far, so as to prevent being completely beholden unto any single organisation (an entirely sensible position in my view) – however, offers to host say 20% of the cluster are far more favourably received. Oh and there have sometimes been discussions with Google in the past about ways they can help us, but they’re a chaotic organisation, and the foundation is a chaotic organisation, and so thus far nothing much has come of it.
  • The second Sydney BarCamp is coming up sometime in June. Nobody there had been to the first one, but a number of people (including me) had heard of it and were curious about it, so there may some Wikipedian attendees at the second one.
  • If you have MediaWiki SVN access, and you go to some gathering of wiki people, you really want a good short non-technical user-visible answer to the question: “What have you been working on lately?” I didn’t have one (something vague about testing and documenting stuff wasn’t a very satisfying answer to people), – so instead you really want to be able to point to some new feature that ordinary users will have noticed, and say “I did that”.
  • A Sydney person who could have given a satisfying answer to the above question, Werdna (who brought you the “undo” link for reverting revisions), was not there. And now I see he had his user page deleted, and people are leaving goodbye messages on his talk page. Have I missed my window of opportunity of meet another MediaWiki dev who lives in the same city as me?
  • The Melbourne Wikipedians continue to be far more organised than the unruly Sydney mob. Having 25 Sydney people in a room though, does give the potential to playfully suggest some naughtiness with voting in a block… so the idea of listing Melbourne as an article for deletion (reason: “Not notable”), and all voting “delete” was joked about, and dismissed. Something for next April Fools’ Day perhaps?
  • People involved in the Wikipedia can sometimes have a very different perspective from people who aren’t. Case in point: The waiter serving our table saw the video camera, and there was a conversation with him that went something like this:
    • Waiter: (Pointing) “Is that guy someone famous?”
    • Wikipedian: “That’s Jimbo.”
    • Waiter: (give a blank look.)
    • Wikipedian: “Jimbo Wales”
    • Waiter: (still gives a blank look.)
    • Wikipedian: “Have you heard of the Wikipedia?”
    • Waiter: (gives an even blanker look.)
    • Wikipedian: “Okay, have you heard of the Internet?”
    • Waiter: (With a faint flicker of recognition) – “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that … Can’t say I have ever really used it though.”
  • Ta Bu Shi Da Yu (a.k.a. Chris) is still working on the various titles of the USA Patriot Act, on and off. Spoke well of David Gerard after meeting him at the last London Meetup. Next Sydney Meetup will probably be a laid-back BBQ thing at Chris’ house.