Case Study: JavaPolis Conference

A Conversation with Stephan Janssen, Founder and active member
JavaPolis Conference and Community
Antwerp, Belgium

JavaPolis is an annual conference organized by the Belgium Java User Group (BeJUG). It takes place in a large cinema complex in Antwerp, Belgium during the second week of December. For five days, about 100 speakers talk about Java APIs, frameworks, products, etc. It’s also a great event to network and socialize with other Java developers. Last year the fifth edition of JavaPolis had about 2,800 people attending from 50 countries, and the conference is growing with 30-50% more attendees every year. JavaPolis is officially the second biggest Java conference in the world after JavaOne.

Why did you choose a wiki?

The Belgian Java User Group (BeJUG) has a large community and by using a wiki we can engage our members, partners and steering members with the content/feedback of our annual conference. Companies can update their own partner page, speakers can add or edit their bio or abstract and the program committee can add talks or update the schedule.

What type of wiki are you using?

We use a self-hosted Java wiki using a Resin webserver and MySQL database.

How are you using the wiki?

The wiki itself serves as the conference website, and contains the schedule of events, information on speakers, partners, and sponsors, and news.

Which wikipatterns are in use on your wiki?

  • Conferences – JavaPolis is a conference, so we use the wiki to publish our schedule, speakers and related info.
  • OverviewPages – Based on parent-child relationships an overview page is assembled where different talks can be viewed per event (University, Conference, BOF and Quickies). Also different related pages are labeled so we can create overview pages based on selected labels.
  • Community Write – The schedule of the different events can only be edited by the program committee group. This is based on the permission schema supported within the wiki.
  • Viral – Conference speakers can update their own talk and bio and attendees can vote or comment wiki pages, increasing the number of wiki users by the week (even after the conference).

What changes have you seen as a result of using a wiki?

During a JavaPolis partner-sponsors meeting, we announced that we were going to use a wiki for the website. A lot of the companies were very skeptical about it. “Can’t anyone just change it? Will that work?” they asked. I had to convince them that there is social control in a wiki because of all the people who use it and the many who receive notifications and so on.

Of course we can’t guarantee there won’t be a crazy guy who wants to do something aberrant, but with wikis you can always roll back to the previous version or the community can just remove it or adjust it, and I must say that works really well.

Since switching to the wiki, we’re seeing more collaboration from the Community in a form of voting, comments and content updates. Anyone who is registered can do whatever change they want to on the JavaPolis site. If someone makes an unwanted change, hundreds of other users are notified and can fix the problem. From a wiki perspective the social control actually results in ideal content control.