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Conference reports/FLOSS, South Africa 2005/Workshop 2

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Report from the FLOSS Conference in South Africa, September 2005, by Anthere.

In september 2005, I (user:Anthere) spent 5 days in Pretoria (South Africa) to participate to the second International FLOSS ("Free/Libre and Open Source Software" ) and Free Knowledge Workshop, hosted by the Meraka Institute. Angela and Erik participated to the first in last april, and a third workshop is planned end of november. I had been invited to give a presentation about the Wikimedia Foundation and mostly the future potential Wikiversity project.

An announcement for that meeting may be found here : http://www.tectonic.co.za/view.php?id=579 (tectonic is an interesting resource to explore). The byline for the conference was Knowledge for all, Education for all, with a sub-byline, which was Enabling communities to empower themselves with knowledge. The workshop was meant at the same time to help people from various initiatives to meet, share information and see if some synergies and collaborations could be developped. The outcome of the third meeting should be to work on a grant request to the World Bank. Most of the workshop focused on tertiary education, with a double focus on Africa (and a *triple* focus on South Africa).
Participants were possibly 30 or more, coming mostly from Africa (South Africa, Mozambique, Guana, Kenya, Senegal etc...) and some from Europe (Finland, Spain, France etc...). The main organisers of the project were Kim Tucker and Biffy van Rooyen.

Workshop report[edit]

The 3 days workshop was organised in two parts. During one day and a half, presentation of various projects and initiatives were done. The programme may be found here : http://www.free-knowledge-communities.org/events/

I, in particular, appreciated the following presentations

By Heather Ford from the South African Creative Commons. Heather also quite curiously told me that they were currently developing a south african encyclopedia, and made some quite odd comments such as the fact our logo and name (in particular Wikipedia) should not be trademarked and will be very soon considered common names to be used for the global good. As such, she mentionned they had started A wikipedia, ie, an encyclopedia for South Africa. Quite naturally, I ran on the net asap I could, and offer to you the following links I could find (they do not refer to A wikipedia :-))

Anyway. A second very interesting communication was offered by Pablo Machon (Spain), from libre.org (for spanish speaker : http://www.libre.org/)

Another presentation which interested me as well was from Eve, a south african publisher of research (so mostly working with university). She works on the following model for publication of any sort

  • a quick "print it yourself on your printer" version to be downloaded from the net
  • a "print on demand" system at low cost
  • a "high quality print" through registration (mostly for libraries I guess).

A couple of very interesting and clear presentations were offered on free university and free software in Africa (FOSSFA : http://www.fossfa.net/). I’ll try to get them available on meta for reference if I can, as I thought them of great interest. For the record, I think that Fred Kofi could be invited as a speaker to a future Wikimania or any conference dealing with a relevant issue.

I regretted the absence of the MIT OpenCourse speaker (we received some CD for overview).

One thing to note is that our future potential Wikiversity, depending on which direction it takes, could directly enter in « competition » with the UNESCO sponsored e-campus project (http://www.free-knowledge-communities.org/docs/), currently managed by Bob Day, in collaboration (or merging…) with the CSIR.
Wikiversity could be seen along two main biglines : it could be simply a repository of resources ; or it on top of a repository a place where courses could be held. Not very surprisingly (considering that most of them were either teachers or management of current universities, or involved in the e-campus project), most participants are very strongly supporters of the « repository » wikiversity (which could feed their own project), but quite unconvinced (if not totally opponents) of the idea of practicing online teaching.
I had the feeling many of those were also quite reluctant to the idea that everyone could ultimately teach others ; and even more reluctant to the idea someone else (in particular anyone…) could modify their courses.

Finally, we had a presentation by Clive Smith of HP i-community (I invite you to follow this link for example to know more on the topic : http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/gcreport/socialinvest/einclusion.html). Clive unfortunately had just the time to make his presentation and left ; however, we had the time to exchange a few comments, and this is clearly an initiative to explore and potentially a path for collaboration. I’ll follow on that with every one who feel like being involved.

Then during the second part of the workshop, participants divided themselves in three groups to discuss various issues. Though I have the outcome of these discussions on my USB key, I will only publish what is relevant to us after it has been consolidated by Kim (the organiser of the workshop), so probably in a couple of days.

We also hacked a bit the manifesto of the free knowledge communities (http://www.free-knowledge-communities.org/Manifesto/). Admittedly, I suggested more than one change... Some changes were made and others did not reach consensus for now. Quite understandebly, Wikipedia and its community is expected to join the "free knowledge community" network, so I tried to identify where the current manifesto could be problematic. I in particular supported that "the freedom to express and use this knowledge responsibly" might be something difficult for Wikipedians to agree on, as "responsability" is indeed a very fluttery word... and might recover different realities for each of us. About half of the group supported keeping "responsability" and the other one removing it.
The other embarassing point is the reference to a "sustainable" world, which is an idea many of us would possibly agree upon... but for which we would probably give many definitions/descriptions not giving it the same meaning.
I suppose we would all agree that we share the opinion that "knowledge should be equitable" or that "knowledge should be a human right rather than a commodity", but sustainability goes imho much farther, involving issues related to ethics, economics, environment etc...
In any cases, a new text was submitted, and Kim would like to propose this new text to our agreement or feedback. I'll post the new agreed text in the next few days and will be happy to get some feedback on it.

Final words[edit]

Aside from all this, I tried to take it easy and secured a bit of free time before and after the workshop to avoid running too much. I enjoyed very much seeing the historical city of Pretoria and learning a bit more about the country. In spring, the city is particularly beautiful with many flowers and trees. I met Alias one evening at the hotel I was staying in (it seems the Afrikaans community is plumetting, last april made it possible to gather 3-4 people) and we discussed various issues about the country…. and wikipedia of course.
During my time over there, I also discovered that Anthere was not a part of a flower as I thought it was... but also a real name (masculine gender)... there was some confusion, since I was sometimes thought of being two people at the same time... (Anthere and Florence), and registered at the hotel as a gentleman. Hard to believe now with my belly...

a few people in Amsterdam On my way back home, I landed for the full day in Amsterdam, where we had a small meetup (8 or 9 editors I think), enjoying a warm and sunny day, a drink and a lunch, as well as a very pleasant tour in the city (I did not know at all Amsterdam but for its airport…). There must be a couple of pictures around… I would love to put one of them I took on my cell phone at the end of the day, willdo as soon as I am able to retrieve it...
I came back quite tired, with swollen legs and feet. I went to my obgyn the next day and upon seeing my blood pressure, she offered me a severe look and concluded I was not allowed to move around anymore now :-)

Future workshop[edit]

A last workshop is planned end of november 2005. Attendance by the Foundation is planned, but the speaker is not yet confirmed (hint : it won't be me, even if regret it).


will put stuff here asap available/