Hackathons/Handbook/Newcomers

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What do we mean by "Newcomers"?[edit]

When we talk about newcomers, we mean tech-savy individuals who already are or could be interested in open source software / MediaWiki development and are potential new Wikimedians.

A special focus lies on getting more female* participants. For more information please see also the chapter on diversity in this handbook.

Newcomers are a diverse group[edit]

Their coding skills may vary from “interested in” to “full-on app-dev”. Therefore, not one strategy works for all. Different types of newcomers could be

  • Junior developers interested in Wikimedia.
  • Not so junior developers interested in an international developer hackathon happening nearby.
  • Developer communities strong in technologies used in Wikimedia: PHP, JavaScript, Android, iOS... (phab:T76325)
  • Local or international contributors of upstream projects used in the Wikimedia stack. (phab:T76325)
  • Tech-curious contributors, not necessarily developers, but experts in some related area (web publishing, open data, geolocation, etc).
  • ... and many more!

See an example of a page created for newcomers from the Wikimania Hackathon 2017. This was linked from the top of the main event page "Is this your first hackathon? Read this!"

Why do we want them at our events?[edit]

Welcoming new people into the MediaWiki developer community is important for the movement to grow.

The WMF has a special focus on newcomers, and your local chapter most likely has an interest in expanding their tech-savy local community, too.

We want to support a diverse set of people and projects, we need new people with new interests and ideas at our events to help meet this goal

Recipe: How to welcome newcomers to your event[edit]

When looking for newcomers, turn to like-mindes communities: People from “two nodes down the network” (e.g. open street map, open data, net politics, linux devs, …) who know of Wikimedia, but have yet to participate in a Wikimedia hackathon.

1. Find out who could be interested[edit]

  • Set up a spreadsheet of network partners.
  • Describe the different communities: Who are they, what do they want? What do they need to feel welcome and want to take active part in a Wikimedia hackathon?
  • Distinguish between people who already have some coding skills and people who don’t, because they need different things.

2. Make diversity your goal[edit]

  • Since you want to find people from outside of our own Wikiverse-bubble, you need to make sure that you think outside of it: We don't want to to just make people adjust to our ways, but find new ways and approaches to engage new people. Accommodate for gender diversity and tend to the needs of female developers (language used, childcare options at event, etc.)
  • Be sure to read this chapter and follow the links for further reading: Diversity

3. Organize pre-hackathons and workshops[edit]

  • When you meet someone new, you probably don’t want to go on a weekend trip with them right away. You meet for coffee first and see what happens.
  • Apply this to your potential newcomers and do the equivalent of inviting them for coffee: Organize beginner's workshops for an afternoon, “MediaWiki 101” or “How to rock Wikidata as a newbie”. (example: MediaWiki workshops for beginners before the Wikimedia Hackathon 2017 in Vienna)
  • Let them meet the faces of the community and see whether the chemistry is right and they - and vice versa, the community - feels comfortable with each other.
  • Do everything you can to make the overall circumstances and framework conditions for these workshops and get-to-know-each-other events as socially inclusive as possible.

4. Make your event newcomer-friendly[edit]

  • Identify newcomers and beginners in the registration form and allow them to tell a bit about themselves
  • offer ways to participate: create newcomer friendly projects and sessions
  • Highlight newcomer contributions in projects developed at the hackathon (e.g. on Phabricator with the newcomer-tag and at the closing showcase)
  • Run the buddy system: attempted for every participant in Lyon and then on smaller scales (opt i n) for Mexico City and Montreal
  • Implement a more guided approach for welcoming newcomers: The Mentoring Program
  • Social motivation is a key factor: It more often than not is the make-or-break factor whether someone joins a new group. So much as sitting at the same breakfast table with nice developers at a Wikimania conference can change a person's mind to attend the hackathon. While it is important to focus on the content for newcomers (sessions and projects for beginners), the social atmosphere is arguably even more important.
  • Plan fun social events
  • Be sure to have the Friendly Space Policy in effect and highlight the Code of Conduct for Wikimedia technical space

5. Keep in touch with them[edit]

  • Ask them for feedback and take it seriously, use it to make your future events better
  • Plan a follow-up event a few weeks or months after the event
  • Think of ways to keep them involved and support their interests after the event
  • Suggest future Wikimedia or Open Source events for them to attend

Related chapters[edit]

Mentoring Program