The most important issue at Wikimania might not be around quality of documents, identity of editors, or even people getting paid for work they once did for free.
Nope. The most important issue–the issue that could have the biggest impact on the Wikipedia over the coming years–is if the Wikipedia should have a WYSIWYG editors or if it should continue to be done with Wiki markup language.
For background, WYSIWYG, pronounced “whiz-see,” stands for “What You See Is What You Get,” and it referrers to how you edit text. A WYSI is an editing tool like Microsoft WORD where if you make something BOLD it looks bold while you’re editing it. Wikipedia uses wiki markup language, which means if you want to make the text do something you put tags around it. You can see examples here.
Using wikimarkup makes the Wikipedia uneditable for at least 80% of the online users in the world who are not technical, or who do not want to take the time to learn how to “code.”
Using a WYSI would make editing the wiki like using Microsoft Word, which would make editing online easy for 100% of online users (I mean, who hasn’t used WORD?!).
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, wants to make the Wikipedia have a WSYI because he is into letting anyone edit any pages at any time.
However, at least half the technologist and administrators working for Wikipedia do not want a WYSI on Wikipedia because it would open the flood gates to tons of edits. Compounding the increase in edits is that these changes will need to be monitored and corrected. Most folks think they will need extra editing because WYSI let people go crazy with features, and because the non-technical people who will be editing the Wikipedia for the first time are considered “newbies” (new people) who will not do a good job by default.
In other words, the old guard doesn’t want to let in what they consider the riff-raff, and the way they’ve kept them out to date is by not having a WYSI.
You can read about the debate here and here.
There is a proposal to do a “semi-WYSI” that is what will probably come to Wikipedia. A “semi-WYSI” would have only a handful of features and it would translate the edited text into Wiki markup (as opposed to HTML) for users.
I’m not sure who does this WYSI for WIKIs, but I see it is linked to from a bunch of places: http://www.wikiwyg.net/
One great site I’ve learned about while here at Wikimania is MeatballWiki, which is about growing and managing community on wikis.
… talk is still in progress… I’ll try and update again.