Wiki Wednesday of May 6, 2009

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The Wiki Wednesday of May 6, 2009 was far more organized than the casual nature of previous Portland Wiki Wednesdays. As usual, the event took place at the AboutUs offices on the first Wednesday of the month, but it featured both a presentation and a panel discussion. Prior Portland Wiki Wednesdays were basically social events where casual chatting, networking, and other tomfoolery took place. About 20-30 people showed up, which was also more than usual.


Steven Walling (Twitter) began his presentation on Wikipedia for Journalists and Bloggers at roughly 6pm. Steven explained the nature of Wikipedia and its basic structure, as well as its strengths and weaknesses. A common theme was how journalists should and should not use Wikipedia: use as a resource, do not use as a source. Or, in other terms, use as a starting point for research, but not an ending point.

Keeping in mind the unevenness of quality in Wikipedia, Steven also outlined some useful clues one can look for to make a vague assessment of the trustworthiness of any given article.

The presentation only lasted for about 15 minutes, but served as a great primer on how journalists (and the general public) should use Wikipedia. Several people complimented Steven on the presentation.

Panel discussion

Shortly afterward, a panel discussion began featuring Wikipedia administrators Steven Walling and Pete Forsyth (Twitter) and journalists Abraham Hyatt and Dan Cook.

The panelists discussed the points raised by Steven's presentation, and continued on to have a casual dialogue about Wikipedia and wikis in general with the audience.

At one point, Pete directly asked the audience what they thought about requiring people to register an account before editing Wikipedia. Although the question was not actually answered by a show of hands as Pete intended, interestingly enough the reaction was nearly the same as when the question is asked in Wikipedia: a semi-chaotic debate full of strong opinions and crucial questions. As is usually the case in Wikipedia, the community favored active discussion over formal voting.

In the panel, Steven also offered the well-received idea of using Talk pages as a resource for journalists interested in finding out where controversy exists about a topic.

Several of the audience and panel gave anecdotes about their personal experiences using Wikipedia, how it's used by younger generations, and how it's used by the media. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and there was much rejoicing.


As is common to these Wiki Wednesdays, the event ended by all participants milling around, chatting, eating snacks, and, one by one, leaving. The final three remaining survivors, Steven Walling, Pete Forsyth, and Kotra DeNies, keeled over at around 8pm.


  • Abraham is putting together a conference to discuss technology and the future of journalism in August.
  • Pete will be on OPB's Think Out Loud tomorrow (Friday May 8) from 9-10 AM, discussing Wikipedia and the Oregon community of editors.