Hackathons/Handbook/Mentoring program/Wikimania 2017

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An overview of the mentoring program plan for Wikimania Hackathon 2017 in Montreal[edit]

We are attempting to match some people with projects and mentors in advance so we can have fewer newcomers at this matching session in order to give more personalized support. This is done by email. Newcomers email organizers and let them know what areas they are interested in, organizers respond and match them with a project or buddy.

There will be two morning Mentoring sessions in Montreal: [edit]

  • Wednesday’s session will take place after the opening and after the overview of Wikimedia technical areas.
    • During the 30 min overview of Wikimedia tech (which will be run by Srishti / Quim) where srishti will talk about featured projects in the overview session we will also have a 30 min intro-to-mentoring session (run by Aaron and Rachel) where we will intro the program and give mentors a chance to create signs for their skills and projects. 
    • Wednesdays matching session will not have an presentation but newcomers can walk around the room and check out posters. Technical Collaboration team members and other mentors will be there to help participants who are still lost.
    • There will be a template poster created so mentors have an idea of what to do. It will have a tagline and the mentors contact information. Photos will be taken of the posters and put on the wiki.
  • Thursday’s newcomer / project matching session will take place at 10am 
  • The help desk will be open all the time for newcomers to drop in and ask for help finding a project or someone to work with. 
  • There will be an organized mentors meeting in advance of the hackathon on Tuesday evening for any mentor who is in town and wants to participant. Mentors can meet each-other, work on their posters, and get to dinner together if they want.


The intention of both the Wednesday and Thursday morning sessions are to spend time with newcomers and people who don’t know what to work on. In the session we will match newcomers with mentors, suggest contacts who are not in the mentoring session, suggest featured projects, or help to come up with a hackathon plan for each participant. 

30 min mentor session in advance to intro program / create posters 

Newcomers will walk around review topics on their own before introductions from mentors. 

What they are working on or what they can help with. We will then ask newcomers to go to the mentor / presenter that they most identify with. TC members can help match people who still don’t know where to go.

Issues from Vienna solved for Montreal: 

  • The room was small, to crowded. This time it will be in a larger space.
  • Some mentors struggled how to put the exact information on their paper chart. This time we will have a template
  • Mentoring program was isolated from the rest of the event. This time is in one of the main hacking room (huge ballroom - mentoring corner, docs corner, etc.)
  • There were too many meetings for mentors without a clear purpose and with too much talking. We will have fewer meetings, keep them short and focused, and cut out any unnecessary talking.

If we have a small group of newcomers on Wednesday or Thursday we just spend time talking to them and making suggestions. Nothing formalized. 

DISCUSS Pros / Cons of each? Other ideas for matching??

  • What do we want to change from last time?
  • We can be flexible during the event and make changes to our plan as long as it’s not confusing for people. 
  • Wednesday and Thursday may have different strategies
  • We can try to match newcomers up with mentors before the hackathon (offer to do a buddy system for anyone who wants to opt in) This will help us engage people beforehand and will also leave us with less work at the hackathon.
  • How do we better support shy, non-talkative, introverted?
    • Posters can help, pre-matching can help. 
    • Pre-hackathon matching by email 
    • contact info on posters
    • technical mediums and give info withing requiring people to ask questions
    • business cards
    • IRC office hours #wmhack

What is a mentor?[edit]

We have defined mentors as different things at different events, so we are attempting to define all of the things that could be considered "mentoring" in Montreal.

  • Someone who looks for ways to help newcomers
  • Someone who makes an effort to introduce newcomers to people with similar interests
  • Someone who is willing to teach a newcomer about Wikimedia
  • Someone who is willing to include newcomers in their projects
  • Someone who thinks about the event in terms of how to make it better for newcomers and then helps to implement those changes. 
  • Someone who is willing to socially engage newcomers and introduce them around regardless of interest areas. 
  • Someone who is willing to run a training to teach a relevant skill to newcomers

Mentors do not need to commit to only working with newcomers.

Mentors can work on their own projects

Mentors can come and go from the help desk, helping as they choose

An overview of the mentoring program plan for the Wikimedia Hackathon 2017 in Vienna[edit]

In the past Wikimedia hackathon organizers have tried various approaches to mentoring and buddy systems but the Wikimedia Hackathon 2017 was the first time we intensively formalized the process. WMAT hired a contractor who spent a large amount of time developing and implementing the program.

A lot of effort was put into the program in advance by setting expectations for the mentors and newcomers as well as creating a specialized newcomers/mentors program.

Take aways Vienna from Feedback Survey regarding mentoring program:

Mentoring Program and Newcomers[edit]

What worked well with the mentoring program?

  • Dedicated / competent / friendly mentors who helped to form meaningful connections with newcomers
  • Mentors who could not help easily redirected newcomers to other mentors / mentors worked well together to get the newcomers the best match
  • Newcomers completed projects / work got done
  • Good mentor to newcomer ratio
  • Mentor expectations were clear

What should be improved about the mentoring program?

  • Fewer meetings and check-ins, time at the hackathon is valuable
  • More support for people arriving late (both mentors and newcomers). Somewhere for newcomers to go who are looking for a new project mid-event. Stress that newcomers can change projects / don't have to commit to one project for the entire event.
  • More support for introverts / people who are not outgoing.
  • Better ways to identify by mentors and newcomers
  • Get newcomers on IRC (this is how Wikimedia technical communities communicate) / don't use telegram to coordinate because it is proprietary (the clients including phone apps are open source, though not the server) and some people don't want to download things onto their phones (although there are web apps and a desktop app).
  • More / different advanced communications and expectations for mentors: Mentoring mailing list to get mentors familiar with each-other and each-others skill sets. Mentors should meet up the day in advance of the hackathon in person. Mentors should know more about the needs of the newcomers in advance of the hackathon.
  • Keeping mentors / newcomers in a room separated from others did not encourage mixing with other contributors, find ways to engage other event participants to help newcomers even if they are not committing to being a mentor
  • Don't spend so much time in the newcomers session having everyone talk to the group; writing what you are working on and then having 1:1 conversations is a better use of time
  • Re-do poster session each morning / make newcomer & mentoring work visible to the rest of the event