Friday, August 11, 2006

Reflections on Wikimania

Wikimania was, among other things, a remarkable gathering of bright, like-minded people, people who believe in knowledge and its free availability. Those who gravitate towards spending their free time compiling and grooming information on all subjects tend naturally to be kind, intelligent folks with firm (if often unconventional) beliefs. Many are quiet, bookish types.

I have no doubt after attending the conference that the attendees, both in person and at home, left with a fresh sense of purpose. It is quite likely that ideas changed hands (and changed minds) last weekend that will come to steer the wikis and perhaps even change the world in the coming years. Wikipedia is already making waves, and anybody who does not understand how or believe that it can work has not looked closely enough, yet. (To be sure, we have much work yet to do, throughout Wikidom.)

In the midst of talks about making information accessible to all and making it more accurate, and finding new opportunities for this technology, something more fundamental happened. It happened so simply, so naturally, that even the minds gathered there may not have taken note: minds gathered there!

Five hundred or so bright, like-minded people met each other. They bickered, perhaps, about the details of how this mess should work (yes, we're all still figuring things out as we go) or about who should be in charge (we're all leaders, just for taking up the keyboard and conquering the blank page). But they met. They made contacts and forged friendships that will reverberate for years to come. Multiple parts of the same world-changing idea may have coalesced in this weekend.

Or, perhaps a few quiet world-watchers simply have some new friends. I certainly put faces with several of the names I have worked with online over the past year and more. I looked friends in the eye, shook their hands, and hugged them for the first time. I built new levels of trust and respect with them. We became real to each other.

One friendship, in particular, launched on this trip. Before I stepped off the plane Wednesday night and met him face-to-face, I had never even seen a photo, but we had exchanged abundant text and occasional voice chats, and we had already begun to know each others' minds.

I had no idea how strong this relationship would grow in the few days that followed.

We talked for hours, many of which should rightfully have been spent sleeping, instead. We explored a huge range of subjects. We're both dabblers, generalists, or at least serial specialists, and between us, we've done, read, and considered a lot.

What distinguishes this friendship from others I have tried (it's very new and hard to characterize at this stage) is that we seem somehow, just naturally, not just to give one another the space to speak truly, freely, but to generate spontaneously more space for exploration than we realized there could be. Volleying ideas between us, they resonate, grow, transform, and the exhiliration feeds the cycle. Out come notions we didn't know we had. Perhaps, in fact, we didn't have them, individually.

I hope that with this foundation, this extraordinary start, we can nurture this friendship at a distance. It is unlike anything I have experienced before, and I think it could lead to something great.


Post a Comment

<< Home