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Preparing for Wikimania

It rained most of the day on Saturday and was cloudy until the evening on Sunday. A perfect weekend for reading and ironing and catching up at home. I also wrote an abstract for the reference publishing panel I’ll be on at the Wikipedia conference in Cambridge, MA, in two weeks. It’s called Wikimania, so I’m expecting something more like the Falcon Ridge folk festival (held near here this weekend) than an academic conference.

Phoebe Ayers, a librarian at UC Davis, is organizing the panel and our communication has been problematic (all my e-mails to her Davis account bounce and we can’t figure out why), but with the wiki system I was able to edit my own bio. I couldn’t figure out how to post the abstract, however; the page doesn’t seem to be secured, but there are some relationships established between pages that it would take some time to figure out. This is one of the problems with wikis: you really have to be something of a coder to use them. And that’s not just a generational thing. Plenty of young people do not do code at all.

Anyhow, you can see the panel plan here. I asked Phoebe if she could ask for audience questions in advance and that’s already started, on the discussion page. This is a terrific use for a wiki, very helpful to speakers, and a way we can get some exchange going before the conference starts.

Here’s my abstract (which may be changed, by me or, perhaps, by someone else!):

The How and Why of Reference Publishing–Karen Christensen
A well-known Internet sociologist e-mailed me recently to ask why there is a glut of print encyclopedias. He’d been asked to edit two new ones that very week. Yet when I explain what I do at dinner parties, people often say, “You mean people are still publishing encyclopedias?” In spite of the Web and Wikipedia, some parts of the reference business are thriving. I’ll try to explain why, and talk about what an encyclopedia publisher actually does and how I build relationships with experts in fields as diverse as world history, community, sustainability, and future studies. The creation of knowledge networks and tapping into international communities of experts is the key to building unique global resources, whether online or in print. I’ll air some dirty secrets about reference publishing (many encyclopedias are not written by experts at all, and a surprising number are not fact-checked), and we’ll discuss why and how Wikipedia is different from encyclopedias planned by a publisher and written by commissioned experts.

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