The first thing that struck me when I arrived at Wikimania was how diverse the group was. Far more international than even blogger events these days. As a result, you have to admire the volunteers grappling with multiple languages and cultures. But then again, they do this all the time, just not in person. There is a ripe sense of empowerment like many blogger conferences, but a different set of issues and constructs for sharing and producing.
The first session I attended was on Wikipedia as a Learning Community (link to paper), by Cormac Lawler. He put forth an argument that we are all experts, but we are learning the practice of Wikipedia by doing it -- creating a network of experts of the future. Shared learning and shared expertise. People who are self-directed and motivated, open to debate but all framed through neutral discourse.
He provided a number of examples that highlight community management issues: ex-wikipedian complaints, conflict, issues of governance, written and unwritten social contracts. One slide quoted Chris Allen:
Wiki Editing Dichotomy -- One interesting possible barrier of entry to active participation in a wiki is what I call the "wiki editing dichotomy". You have to be proud enough to believe what you are contributing is generally worthwhile to others (or at least worth your effort), but you also have to be humble enough to understand that others can improve it. I don't know of many other collaborative media that requires both pride and humility.
He believes that as long as we are self-critical and share our experiences -- Wikipedia can be a learning organization. Suggests creating Lessons learnt pages (on Meta) as one possible step. One person suggests creating a balance between strife and joy. One person says the mark between the learner and the teacher is blurred with the Internet, unlike Gutenberg style one-way communication. One person points out that you can bend a wiki to reflect a hierarchy with rules and permissions so it doesn't function as an open system. Someone points out how tools can change culture, such as in Japan how kids point with their thumbs (trained from SMSing). But in the the middle of the conversation, Cormac made a significant point on the need to shift from rules to discourse. He points out that "a large part of leadership in Wikipedia is knowing where information is," and stresses the need to document community processes.