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SMWCon in DC, the writeup

We had SMWCon, the Semantic MediaWiki Conference, in Arlington, Virginia (right near Washington, D.C.) about two and a half weeks ago. I meant to blog about it right afterwards, but things kept interfering. Anyway, here’s my writeup.

We had over 30 attendees, from all over the United States in addition to Germany, the Netherlands, China and Japan. The plurality, though, and maybe even the majority, were from the area.

Some thoughts about the conference:

  • The biggest discovery, in my opinion, was the success of the tutorial day. Previously we’ve always had two-day conferences, but for this one we added a third day at the beginning, which was intended to be strictly for tutorials – letting people learn about the basics of MediaWiki, Semantic MediaWiki and its spinoff extensions. It was useful both in the context of the conference – so that people could attend having a good sense of what all the technology was about – and as simply a training session for the software. I led the first two of the four tutorial sessions. There were around 25 people attending – mostly people from the conference, although some attended only the tutorial day. Each attendee paid around $100 to attend (dinner included); which, as training sessions go, is very much on the cheap side. Still, the tutorial ended up basically paying for the rest of the conference, with a little bit of surplus at the end; which was a nice state of things.
  • The rest of the conference was great too. As usual, we had a mix of talks by developers, users/administrators who shared interesting things they were doing with Semantic MediaWiki, and some talks on more general, sort of cerebral topics (like my talk about the future of semantic wikis). We definitely had more than enough material to cover both days.
  • This was probably the most corporate and enterprise-y Semantic MediaWiki meeting yet. The conferences in the U.S. tend to be more corporate anyway than the ones in Europe, which tend to have a higher share of academics and “hackers”. But this one especially was pretty serious – lots of people representing various organizations, including, as you’d expect, many working either directly or indirectly for the U.S. government.
  • I got to meet a bunch of people that I had only talked to online, which is always neat – there were probably about 10 people there that I had only talked to via email, wiki talk page, etc.
  • We also had some celebrities – well, quasi-celebrities – in the group, including Sherrod DeGrippo, who famously (or infamously, depending on your opinion) shut down the wiki Encyclop√¶dia Dramatica last month and redirected it to an awesome new Semantic MediaWiki-based wiki, Oh Internet. (When I first met her, I told her it was great meeting an internet celebrity – she was nonplussed, and responded, “I’m more like – what do you call the kind of celebrity that most people hate?” “Celebrity,” I answered.) We also had two semantic-web pioneers: Mike Dean from Raytheon/BBN (who helped to arrange the conference) and Mark Greaves of Vulcan. There was also my friend Mike Cariaso, who gets a steady stream of press due to SNPedia, the site he co-founded, most recently a nice writeup in Reason magazine.

The slides from talks have mostly been uploaded, and are linked on the wiki page. The talks were also videotaped, but the videos haven’t been uploaded yet. It’s in progress, though – another SMW user has graciously volunteered to help with the process, so my guess is that within a few weeks the videos will start showing up on of your favorite video-sharing sites.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] The Spring 2011 SMWCon was held on April 28-30, 2011 at the Raytheon BBN Technologies office in Arlington, Virginia, in the Washington, DC area, and it was a great success. You can read more about it in Yarons writeup. [...]