Monthly Archives: April 2010

Creating Art the Wiki Way: submit your photos!

Coming up with good presents for keynote speakers is always a challenge for conference organizers. But last year, the WikiSym steering committee came up with the idea of commissioning an original artwork which would be inspired by the theme of collaboration. The result was this artistically rendered word cloud, which was printed on high quality canvas for keynote speakers and on free t-shirts for all conference attendees. This artistically rendered visualization captures the diverse nature of our community, by showing data from all papers and presentations ever made at WikiSym, using the colors and round shape of the conference logo.

word cloud

word cloud: click to see full-size

The piece is the result of a collaboration between Alain Désilets and Robert Biddle (of the steering committee), as well as Nazim Ahmed and Melissa Edwards of DNA11/Canvas Pop. DNA11 is a company that specializes in the creation of high end custom artwork , made with samples of their clients’ DNA, fingerprints or lips. Canvas Pop is a sister company which caters to a more mainstream market, and turns any digital photo into canvas art, regardless of size or resolution. After some very interesting interdisciplinary brainstorming, the concept of a word cloud was chosen. Alain and Robert gathered the raw data from the WikiSym publications archive, which the DNA11 folks rendered using their artistic flair, and then printed on canvas. The result turned out to be quite stunning, and much more visually appealing than an average laminated picture (note: canvas copies of the cloud can be purchased through Nazim Ahmed at:

Following this first experiment, the WikiSym committee decided to commission a unique collaborative art piece for each new edition of the conference. This year’s work will be a photomosaic of the conference logo, generated from a large pool of thumbnail pictures about WikiSym. You can participate in the creation of this work, by uploading relevant pictures to Flickr, and tagging them with keyword wikisym-photomosaic (please make sure to upload them under Creative Commons terms). They can be photos taken at the conference (ex: a photo of the Open Space circle), iconic photos from the cities where it was held (ex: the Porto waterfront), photos of things that make you think of WikiSym or wikis (ex: a beehive), or any photo that you feel is in some way related to WikiSym. Thank you for helping us make this a truly collaborative work of art. If you have any question or creative ideas about this endeavour, please don’t hesitate to contact Alain Désilets (

WikiSym 2010: Where great minds collide!

Now in its sixth year, WikiSym, the International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration, reliably draws together many of the diverse crowds that comprise the Wiki ecosystem. Its location alternates between North America and Europe; this year’s WikiSym is in the Polish city of Gdańsk, situated on the southern edge of the Baltic Sea.

WikiSym is the only international conference that focuses exclusively on wikis and open collaboration. WikiSym’s core audience has always been academics, but the Symposium’s reach extends to all groups using and interested in wikis, including consulting firms, corporate managers responsible for deployments, and not-for-profits. Presentations at WikiSym include research into community dynamics of wikis and online collaborative projects, demos  of wiki technologies, in-depth workshops, and discussions about the future of wikis. WikiSym is very inclusive and vendor-neutral, and has become an fertile venue for insight and opportunity:

  • Academics share their research and prototypes;
  • Different wiki platforms openly share customer issues, plans, techniques and technologies;
  • Plugin developers share with academics their experiences of taking an idea to market;
  • Practitioners explain real-life challenges of getting adoption in their organizations;
  • Consultants help managers responsible for deployments learn how to seed adoption and frame requests for assistance;
  • Students finishing up their PhDs learn from consultants how to provide consulting services;
  • Friendships, business relationships and alliances form across the ecosystem.

For me, the hallmarks of a good conference are the insights I take away, great networking contacts, and knowing relevant next steps on which I can take immediate action. In WikiSym’s Open Space sessions, participants are systematically encouraged to reflect on and distill their conference hallway conversations, this brings partial ideas to fruition.

The WikiSym community is a major draw in itself. We are a friendly, intelligent crowd who often only sees each other at the annual WikiSyms, even though some of us continuously collaborate online on specific projects. Many open-source projects use WikiSym as a natural venue to bring together their teams.

WikiSym is an ACM-sponsored conference and has frequently co-located with OOPSLA (the Object Oriented Computing Science Research conference). This year, however, we partner with Wikimania, the International Conference of the Wikimedia Foundation, which attracts Wikimedia and Wikipedia contributors and leaders from around the world. So, if you’ve ever thought about going to either conference, here’s your chance to go to both!

WikiSym runs July 7-9, and Wikimania is July 9-11th. Visit for more information.