Hackathons/2020 Decision Process

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This page is a work in progress --

Wikimedia Hackathon: History, Budget, Location Decision & Timeline

tl;dr: This page includes the history of the Wikimedia Hackathon, a description of the budget for the event, and outlines a timeline and the decision making process for the 2020 event. You should read this if you are considering submitting a bid to host the 2020 Wikimedia Hackathon.


The Wikimedia Hackathon was originally an annual European spring hackathon taking place in Germany. The idea originated with Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE) and was originally funded by WMDE and the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF).

After the 2012 Berlin Hackathon an informal decision was made via an in-person conversation between WMDE, the WMF hackathon team (Rachel F, Erik M, & Sumana H) , and volunteers from Wikimedia Netherlands (WMNL) to try to hold the event in Amsterdam in 2013. This plan was approved by the staff and board of WMNL.

After a successful hackathon in Amsterdam, WMF and Wikimedia Switzerland (WMCH) decided to work together to host the 2014 hackathon. Just before Wikimania in 2014 the Engineering Community Team (first renamed the Developer Relations and now called Technical Collaboration the team) emailed chapters to see who was interested in hosting the 2015 hackathon - and there was an in-person meeting at Wikimania to discuss this. When more than one chapter came forward it was decided at the in-person meeting by those present that Wikimedia France (WMFR) would be a good option. The meeting consisted of the WMF Engineering Community Team and some past hackathon organizers, and was open to any interested host-chapters.

Before the 2015 Wikimedia Hackathon in Lyon an email was sent out to chapters looking for a 2016 host. For the first time there was a more formalized bidding process with documentation created by the Engineering Community Team, which funded a large portion of the event and also funded all WMF engineering staff travel costs for the event. Multiple chapters submitted proposals and all past hackathon organizers present in Lyon were called together to decide between the proposals. The proposal with the most votes, Jerusalem/Wikimedia Israel (WMIL), became the 2016 Wikimedia Hackathon Host. For the 2017 Hackathon, a much more formalized process was created mostly because we received feedback that the decision process was unclear. The decision process for 2017 was documented in detail. Informally, the Wikimedia Foundation chatted with a few interested chapters, but Wikimedia Austria (WMAT) was the only group who ended up submitting a proposal. Vienna was announced as the 2017 location on 14 March, 2016.

The only group to submit a bid for 2018 was Amical Wikimedia and the 2018 location was chosen to be the Autonomous University of Barcelona just outside of the city of Barcelona. The only group to submit a bid in 2019 was Wikimedia Czech Republic (WMCZ) and the 2019 location was chosen to be the the Czech National Library of Technology in Prague, Czech Republic.

This process has been kept flexible by choice. However, after experimenting with forming a committee of past hackathon organizers in 2017-2019 we will no longer follow this process. This was also stated in the 2019 decision process overview. We are changing the process for the following reasons:

  • We have never actually needed the committee to vote on locations.
  • Many past hackathon organizers are no longer involved in the Wikimedia Movement and/or interested in joining the committee.
  • Most of the past hackathon organizers remaining are not technical or heavily involved in the Wikimedia technical community.
  • The past hackathon organizers list is inactive

After the 2020 selection process is complete, Technical Collaboration will review the process and determine if it was successful or if any changes are needed. Success is to be determined by the following criteria:

  1. We find a location for the Wikimedia Hackathon 2020.
  2. All bidding chapters and groups, even if they do not agree with the location decision, can see how the location decision was made.
  3. The WMF Events Team feels comfortable supporting the location decision.
  4. There is a good logistical framework in place to ensure that the Hackathon can run. Location and accommodation booked well in advance of the event. Registration and scholarships open.

The process for selecting a 2021 location (or other future hackathons) may be different than the 2020 process due to changes in budgets, success of previous events, changes in number of hackathons or target size of hackathons. We are very interested to discuss new WMF/Community collaborative process ideas for deciding future hackathon locations.

Considerations for 2020[edit]

  • We are open & encouraging to bids from anywhere in the world. Extra weight will be given to locations near a major airport hub in visa friendly countries that is a place that is likely to be safe for attendees, e.g. according to the GPI or similar measurements rankings.
  • Focus areas important to the hosting group should be defined in advance, however participants can work on whatever they like related to Wikimedia Tech / Development.
  • This hackathon will continue its efforts in newcomer onboarding and mentoring, while at the same time continuing to be a well-facilitated and organized meeting space for groups and the most active volunteers in the developer community to collaborate face to face, with appropriate representation of Foundation, affiliates, and volunteers, to discuss the future of Wikimedia technologies in depth.
  • The budget for 2020 is not yet finalized, but we are hoping to expand our scholarship program to include more participants from regions outside of the USA and Europe.
  • We are open to the idea of partnering with not only existing Wikimedia chapters and other organizations in the open source / free knowledge world. We are open to proposals with unique characteristics, such as partnerships (e.g. "Wikimedia Hackathon@NASA"), co-locating with relevant events, or mission-driven/focus-area-related decisions (e.g., Hackathon in Bangalore, with a tour of a mobile-phone manufacturing facility, if the focus area is readers and editors who use smartphones) as a few examples.

Wikimedia Hackathon Budget[edit]

Wikimedia Hackathons are funded by the WMF Events Team in partnership with the host chapter or organization that contributes money and staff resources from their own budget and from event specific fundraising. In addition to the event budget, the Events Team will have a scholarship budget for flying volunteer engineers to the event and providing them with lodging. WMF team managers fund WMF engineers to travel to the event on a case by case basis. It is not mandatory that all these budgets are spent on one hackathon. Multiple smaller hackathons are also an option, however unless there is a good reason it is likely that 2020’s budget will go towards one large event.

The event budget and scholarship budget will be agreed upon between the hosting organization and WMF in advance of a bid being accepted. The hosting organization will be responsible for setting a timeline with the WMF Events Team and WMF Finance team, signing a contract with WMF, and submitting invoices as the payments are needed.

Because of new Annual and Mid-term planning budgeting processes at the WMF, the total maximum possible budget for this event has not been finalized. Initial discussions with hosts will need to include room for flexibility in terms of size and funding for this event compared to previous years.

Process for Location Decision for Wikimedia Hackathon 2020[edit]

  • The WMF Events Team will put out a call asking for chapters or other affiliates and groups to indicate their interest in hosting the 2020 Wikimedia Hackathon.
  • There will be at least three weeks between the call for bids and committee’s final decision.
  • If there is a bid that is clearly strongest, that bid will be accepted.
  • If there is a clear tie between bids, the Events Team will discuss with interested groups and attempt to come up with a solution that works for everyone. Potentially we can approve the 2020 location and tentatively approve the 2021 location. There is also a possibility of splitting the event between two locations.
  • The Events Team will announce the host of the Wikimedia Hackathon 2020.

The Events Team team will confirm the final decisions after doing their due diligence, as they are ultimately responsible for the budget and the success of the event year to year. In the rare case that it is needed, Technical Collaboration will do their best to turn down bids as early in the process as possible while communicating their reasoning clearly.


Note: the 2020 process was delayed because of the new WMF annual and mid-term planing processes. We are on a much tighter timeline than usual, but will attempt to move back to a longer timeline and develop a new decision process for 2021 and into the future.

December, 2018: This wiki page is published with information about the process

Everything below is from last year's timeline and will be edited later to be accurate for 2020.

April 12, 2019: Call for hosts

~~ Decision Committee discusses & asks for more information if needed ~~

?, 2019: Deadline for submissions

?, 2019 (at the latest): Decision Committee decides on a location

?: Location for Wikimedia Hackathon 2020 is announced

If we are not able to stick to this timeline the Technical Collaboration team may step in and make a decision instead of delaying the process. This is to enable the hosting team to have enough time to contract venues and accommodation with enough lead time in advance of the event.

Information about this page[edit]

This was originally written by Rachel Farrand from the WMF Events Team. The intention was to clarify the process and inform chapters and groups who are interested in hosting how the decision will be made in advance of the call for hosts. The text (first up January 29, 2016 and edited for 2018's process in January 2017) was reviewed by the Technical Collaboration Team, a few volunteers from the WMF Community Engagement Department, and the Past Hackathon Organizers email list. Suggestions and changes from those people and groups were incorporated. We also integrated feedback on the 2016 decision process submitted by WMAT.

For more information on how to propose a hackathon, please check the Hackathons Handbook page, Hackathons/Proposing a hackathon.