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Summer memories to come

Spring is almost halfway over now, which of course means that it’s almost time… for the Google Summer of Code. For those who don’t know, it’s a program in which Google, out of the goodness of their hearts, sponsors hundreds of projects for various open-source software organizations, with high school and college students doing the actual work, each one paired with a mentor from that organization.

I had been excited about this year’s GSoC for a while. I mentored a project last year, with Jeroen De Dauw as the student, in which he created the extensions Maps and Semantic Maps. It turned out to be a bit of a “game-changer” for Semantic MediaWiki: it greatly improved the mapping capabilities of SMW, and mapping is probably the single most important visualization tool for wiki data. There’s also a rather good chance that at least the Maps extension will end up on Wikipedia itself within a year. Although I’m completely biased, I’d say it could end up being the single most successful Wikimedia GSoC project until now.

The list of accepted projects for the upcoming summer was announced today, and six projects were accepted this year for the Wikimedia Foundation. Of them, there are three that I’m particularly excited about. I’ll be mentoring another project, this one with Sanyam Goyal, from Mumbai, as a student; he’ll be improving the Javascript in SMW and some of the related extensions to use everybody’s new favorite Javascript library, jQuery. Jeroen is also doing another project, this one with Brion Vibber as the mentor. It’s a project that has a lot of people buzzing: setting up a framework so that extensions can be downloaded and installed via the web interface, in the same way that WordPress does it. Finally, there’s a project to add RDF-importing capability to SMW, which should be quite helpful, mentored by Denny Vrandecic and done by Samuel Lampa.

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Is this thing on?

Tap, tap. Hello, hello. Yes, we are still here. One of the unfortunate aspects to having a company blog (not that there are that many) is that, if you leave it untended for a while, people will begin to suspect that you’re no longer in business. Which is unfortunate, because it’s not at all the case with us: we have a set of MediaWiki-related projects we’re working on now, more coming up soon. And it’s doubly unfortunate, because there’s actually quite a lot to talk about, in the wiki, MediaWiki and software worlds. So, starting next week, we’ll be back to a more regular blogging schedule.

In the meantime, you can check out our Twitter feed, which is active.

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SMWCon coming to Cambridge, May 22-23

I’m helping to put together the upcoming SMWCon, or Semantic MediaWiki Conference, and we just announced the date and location: May 22-23, in around two months, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. I’m very excited about this one, because our last event, the SMW Camp in Karlsruhe, Germany, was a big success, with almost 50 attendees, and a lot of interesting discussions, some of which have already led to improvements in the software; this one should be equally productive, and it should be a good opportunity, especially for North-America-based SMW users, to meet each other and present what they’re doing.

It’s taking place at the CSAIL building at MIT, home of Project Simile, well-known to SMW users as the developers of Timeline and Exhibit, two applications used within the Semantic Result Formats extension.

If you’re interested in attending (it only costs $20! snacks included!), you can read more information and sign up on the Spring 2010 SMWCon page.

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Cool OpenEI video

OpenEI, or Open Energy Info, is a Semantic MediaWiki-based wiki created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, meant to hold information on renewable-energy initiatives and companies around the world. I helped them a little with putting it together last year, soon before WikiWorks was founded. By all measures, it looks like the site is going great for them.

They just very recently put up a video showing one of the OpenEI articles (”Vestas“), and how to edit it.

There are already a few videos on the web that show SMW in action, but this one might be my new favorite because it’s clear and to the point, and you can see some related extensions in action there: Semantic Forms, Semantic Maps, CategoryTree (within the form), and Widgets.

The narrator interestingly calls this wiki a “wikipedia”, which I guess in this context means “wiki encyclopedia” – more idiosyncratic than incorrect, I would say.

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Welcome to the WikiWorks blog

Hello, everyone; this is the first post of the blog for WikiWorks, the MediaWiki consulting company. We are a consulting company (possibly the first?) dedicated exclusively to implementing MediaWiki-based solutions for companies and organizations. I founded the company four months ago, in November 2009, and we currently number about six consultants, all with significant MediaWiki experience, in various parts of the world. Most of us work on this only part-time, but collectively we can handle everything from small, several-hour projects to long, involved ones.

Why MediaWiki? Besides powering Wikipedia, it also has become the world’s most popular wiki software, by just about any metric, over the last seven years. It’s powerful, robust and easily extendable, in ways well beyond what the original developers planned. Among those extensions is the Semantic MediaWiki family of extensions, which helps to turn a wiki into something much more than a wiki: a complete collaborative database. We believe Semantic MediaWiki is a revolutionary tool that nearly any organization can make use of. We think SMW also represents a case of the open-source solution being the most advanced one: there’s no tradeoff needed here between cost and feature-set.

Besides implementing sites and software, we’re also in the business of promoting MediaWiki and Semantic MediaWiki. None of us are affiliated with the Wikimedia Foundation, who are nominally in charge of MediaWiki (though I’ve done some work for them); although maybe that’s appropriate, since so far the Wikimedia Foundation has not done any MediaWiki evangelism themselves, preferring to focus on maintaining their websites, like Wikipedia. That’s a reasonable decision on their part (and it also underscores how impressive MediaWiki’s success has been), but it means that the need still exists for others to promote and provide support and structure for the usage of MediaWiki, and we hope that WikiWorks will be a part of that solution.

Over the next months and years we hope to use this blog to keep you updated on our projects, developments within MediaWiki, and our thoughts about the software; but we’d also like to hear your comments, since every part of creating good software involves feedback and community discussion. So, let’s get started.

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