Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wikibooks Presentation

My first presentation about Wikibooks is today at 12:30 EST. I'm putting the finishing touches on my slides now, and hopefully things will look alright by then. Here's a little background:

I was invited to give a presentation at the WritersUA conference in Portland OR about Wikibooks, and the challenges of collaborative volunteer authorship. That conference is in two weeks, and I'm presenting there on Tuesday the 18th around 2:45 PST. When I mentioned the presentation to some of my professors, they suggested that I also give the presentation here at school, and they said that for two reasons: (1) Practice for the "real thing" in Portland, and (2) discuss an interesting topic which the students and faculty here are probably not too familiar with. Plus, it's another opportunity for me to shamelessly evangelize, so I jumped on the opportunity.

So I created a very nice slide show with at monobook themed skin. I covered the history of Wikipedia, Wikimedia, and Wikibooks. I introduced people to MediaWiki and Wikitext. I discussed some of the most common criticisms, and tried to lay them to rest. Finally, I discussed Wikibooks a little bit, what we do, what we are all about, and how to volunteer. I emailed a copy of my slides to the conference organizer.

He hated them.

I was under the impression, mistaken as it now turns out to have been, that the audience in Portland were new to wikis, and that they needed to be introduced to them for the first time. As it turns out, the audience are an extremely savvy group of technical writers who are intimately familiar with wikis. I had to revamp my whole presentation, and I had to do it very quickly. So I tossed out all the stuff labeled "introduction", "Wikitext and MediaWiki", condensed my entire history section down to a single page, deleted most of the slides in the second half, and started over. I focused more on the technical aspects of our project: How we keep the peace, how we organize materials, how we structure books, how we organize and motivate our volunteers. I discussed books in great detail including strategies that work and those that do not, how we decide when to delete a book, and a bunch of other topics. I discussed a roadmap for goals that we as a project would like to acheive in the future. I went from giving a fun high-level overview to a deep discussion about the nitty-gritty of our project. I think it's going to be a big success.

However, after redoing my presentation for Portland, I had a different problem. I needed to make some changes to my presentation here at school since the audience here are not all familiar with wikis, and are not savvy technical writers. I made a few changes to focus more on the educational aspects (which is what teachers and students want to hear), and less on the technical and logistical aspects. So now, I'm giving two presentations with little overlap, and can't use the one to practice for the other.

I'm planning to upload my slides for both presentations, including my slide templates (since they are monobook-ish and could easily be used or adapted for other similar presentations). I don't know where I am going to upload them exactly, but I'll find a place. I'm also going to try to videotape both presentations, and load them someplace appropriate. Johnny suggested YouTube, and that might be a cool learning exerience since I've never used YouTube before.

It's always a good day when I get to dress up and talk to people about a subject I love so much. If I can recruit just one new member, or if I can inspire just one small class project, this whole experience will have been so remarkably worthwhile.


  1. You'll be in Portland later this month? Feel free to contact me, & we can see about getting together -- if you don't mind my month-old daughter along.


  2. Hey Geoff, we may take you up on that offer. I'll be in town 16th-19th, and I'm down at the "Hilton Portland" in the city.

  3. If you don't mind using them, you can use Google Presentations (part of Google Docs) to upload and share slides either with a group or with the public at large:

    They support most Microsoft and OpenOffice document formats.

  4. ?! Upload them to Commons!!

    They will be invaluable if anyone else wants to mention Wikibooks in a talk.

    It's a shame you're not planning to attend Wikimania, I would love to see a Wikibooks presentation there. Do you know any Wikibookians who are intending to attend? Perhaps you could help them prepare something.

  5. Please put your presentations at meta:Presentations/en.

    Your video files will probably be too big for Commons; instead you should put them on the free culture project the Internet Archive- and tag them with "Wikimedia". I've started a discussion with the Internet Archive people, and soon we'll have an official subcollection there in the Computers & Technology videos collection.

  6. Done. The presentation is at Meta, the video has been uploaded to Thanks for the suggestion Pharos.