SPIEGEL Surfs the Web Wikimania Sweeps Frankfurt

Wikimania, a four-day gathering of those behind the successful on-line encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has taken over Frankfurt. The main topic of the meeting: Where will Wiki go from here?

Wikifounder Jimmy Wales believes in the power of the Wiki.

Wikifounder Jimmy Wales believes in the power of the Wiki.

If you happen to be in Frankfurt am Main over the next few days, don't be shocked to see an unusual number of computer geeks among the city's staid banking-types. From Thursday to Sunday, the city is playing host to Wikimania!, the annual gathering of enthusiasts involved in all aspects of the Wiki project, an open-source online effort to provide free knowledge in a Web-surfable format. Started by Ward Cunningham and Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales in 2001, the concept behind Wiki (which means "quick" in Hawaiian) was to provide a fast, free and user-edited encyclopedia. In 2003, Wales founded the Wiki Foundation as an umbrella for all of Wiki's various other projects -- from the startlingly large Wikipedia, the effort has swollen to include a dictionary, Wiktionary, and an open-source news service called (surprise!) Wikinews.

It's telling that Wikimania is taking place in Germany. "Like the great artists Jerry Lewis and David Hasselhoff, I'm only appreciated overseas," wrote Wales recently on his blog. We'd agree with him, but we're getting kind of Wikitired.

Space Shuttle Discovery -- Up Close and Personal

All eyes were in space on Wednesday, as -- in a scene reminiscent of Apollo 13 -- astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery hastily worked to make emergency repairs on the damaged craft. Until Wednesday, astronauts had never ventured underneath an orbiting shuttle, nor attempted to repair the delicate thermal skin while in space. But the repairs are believed necessary to keep the craft from overheating during its planned descent to Earth on Monday. That is partly what happened to the doomed Challenger flight in 2003. To safeguard against such an accident, astronaut Steve Robinson spent hours working on the ship.

In another startling innovation, the whole process was -- and continues to be -- live-streamed and accessible via NASA TV. Some of the cameras are fixed, while others are mounted on Robinson's helmet and provide truly up-close views, along with a blow-by-blow audio account. The NASA site also provides amazing and fun photos of the day, which are also well worth a browse. Today's picture shows astronaut Soichi Noguchi waving from the Shuttle's payload bay with a glorious and unforgettable backdrop -- planet Earth.

Just Do the Bundesdance

Just ten days after it was launched, the Bundesdance is taking Germany by storm. Inboxes across the country have been filling up with links to this hilarious piece of political satire which lets you put dancing shoes on your favorite politicians (there are at least two versions). Nowadays politicians are keen to show their human side in an effort to win votes, but Bundesdance was surely not what they had in mind. Game maker Herburg Weiland's creation lets you watch Chancellor Gerhard Schröder get the groove on, whilst opposition leader Angel Merkel struts her funky stuff in the background. Conservative leader Edmund Stoiber gets similar treatment as he works his hips to a choice of musical tracks. The game even lets you choose the backing dancers. Should you wish, you can select Pope Benedict XVI to work his magic in the background; other variables include the mood and theme of the party. Want to throw a party at the unemployment office for those dastardly politicians who have failed to deliver jobs for the Germans? Well, go ahead! Its hopelessly addictive and irreverently amusing. And don't be put off by the German language. If you're unsure of the translation, just click around and watch those politicians feel the beat!


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