Blog/The Tel-Aviv-Cambridge Report

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Dror Kamir, embedded reporter

Andrew Lih - Wikimania 2006 - Hacking Day 2 at OLPC.jpg

While my first day at the Wikimania venue was dedicated to recovering from a serious jet-lag and unexpected hot weather (it is hotter and more humid here than in Tel Aviv!), the second day started much more energetically with an improtant mission - finding a Hebrew enabled computer in Harvard Law School. While people here speak Hebrew more than I expected, the computers here are linguistic puritants, and insist on communicating in the local language. Maybe I'll try to trick them a bit, and write Hebrew in a Latin transcription, but first some words in English, to the benefit of the non-Israeli Wikipedians who read this post.

Asians were the first to come to the Wikimania venue at the Harvard Law School, due to the long flight, and Israel, though playing soccer in Europe and sending entries to the Eurovision, is still geographically an Asian country. I was therefore the second to settle down in the Harvard Law School dorms, just next to a talented Wikipedian from Mumbai, India. Nonetheless, it wasn't too long before the dorms' corridors were crowded with people from Japan, the US, Europe and other places. Most of the participants so far are computer enthusiasts who came to discuss the inner structure of Wikimedia's projects during the "Hacking Days". For me it is somewhat like an anatomists' consultation, i.e. something to let the experts do while you are in a deep sleep. There is a saying that people who like sausages and respect the law should not watch either of them being made. Judging from my conversations with the participants, this saying does not apply to the Hacking Days, and yet I chose to spend the day walking along the Massachusets Avenue, and enjoying the parks along the way.

Cambridge is a beautiful city with calm people who drive carefully and begin their day with a decent cup of coffee and a quite reading of the New York Times or the Boston Globe. An unexpected setback was a heat wave that drove me indoors to find air-conditioned activities. Despite the common myth, being an Asian does not mean being immuned against the heat. These weather conditions are taken here with a stoic acceptance. No one stops his course of life crying "I can't take it anymore, turn off the sun", as you might hear occasionally in Tel Aviv.

The preparations to the big all-Wikipedian gathering are at full speed, with the organizers stop every now and then to catch a deep breath, but only when they think no one sees them. So far, the "back-stage" conversations with other participants and with the organizers were very interesting, with a lot of culture exchange. So far I have met participants who write in the English Wikipedia. They come from all over the world, which explains the extent of the English Wikipedia in comparison to other languages.

I am being urged to come to another tour of the city, so I am going to leave you here, but I'll be back soon enough to share some more impressions with you. Next time I'll even try to write something in Hebrew.