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Hackathons/Proposing a hackathon

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You can propose to host

  • the yearly large Wikimedia Hackathon (ca. 200 participants)
  • a smaller hackathon

This article focusses on proposing to host the large Wikimedia Hackathon, with information on the side for smaller hackathons. If you are interested in funding and support for a smaller scale hackathon (10-40 people) that is also a possibility starting in July 2015. You maybe be able to get financial support from the Wikimedia Foundation Rapid Grants program and the Wikimedia Foundation Events Team will also be available to help review or answer questions if you would like any help.

If you have private questions or concerns regarding hosting a hackathon, please email Rachel from the Wikimedia Foundation Events Team: rfarrand@wikimedia.org

Note: This article does not tell you how to propose a Wikimania Hackathon. Why? The Wikimania Hackathon at the pre-conference days of the Wikimania is hosted by the organizers of the Wikimania, and therefore it is part of the whole Wikimania proposal. To prepare a bid (= proposal) for the Wikimania, see: meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimania_Handbook#Bidding. (To find out how the two Hackathons are different, see Explain the differences between the Wikimedia Hackathon and the Wikimania Hackathon)

Make sure you are ready


Check all the points in the "Before you start planning" article.

Create a Phabricator Task and associate it with the Engineering-Community project:


If you want to organize a Wikimedia hackathon, please share your intentions as soon as possible no need to wait for an official call. Until otherwise announced WMF plans to support at least one large Wikimedia Hackathon every year.

Organizing team:

  • Who is who, identifying a coordinator and roles?
  • Examples of Roles for big hackathon (some of these rolls can be held by the same person, but usually a team of at least three local people and two WMF is ideal):
    • Project lead from hosting chapter/organization
    • Project lead from WMF
    • Logistics (venue/accommodation)
    • Finances
    • Scholarships (Co-owned by WMF and local group)
    • Registration management
    • Visa support
    • Travel support
    • Communications
    • Outreach/fundraising/engage local communities
  • What is your past experience organizing events?

Number of participants expected

  • Does your venue have a limit? Do you have a target?
  • Generally 150-300 attendees for large hackathons, any number is OK for smaller hackathons.
    • Wikimania Hackathons are usually larger than Wikimedia Hackathons.
    • Smaller and more focused hackathons can often be more productive while larger hackathons may need to focus on newcomer on-boarding.
    • The Wikimedia Hackathons are stable around 200 participants

Possible venue(s)


Make sure that the venue checks all the points:

  • Fast and reliable wifi (this is very important! Don't just take the venue's word for it. Get details!)
  • A room large enough to hold all attendees for intro/wrap up. This space should have a stage, a professional projection system, microphones
  • A large working space for hacking with more seats than participates (this can double as the introduction room or can be another large room, lounge area of a hostel, etc)
  • Multiple break out rooms of various for sessions, talks and focused hacking.
  • A quite area where participants can go to get away from the noise
  • Open 24 hours a day during the hackathon
  • Lodging/ accommodation for participants onsite or very close by
  • Close to an international airport with an easy transfer options at all hours

Proposed dates

  • The yearly Wikimedia hackathon is three days long: Friday through Sunday or Saturday through Monday.
  • The yearly Wikimedia hackathon is generally held in the spring (March, April or May). If you are considering a date in May, make sure that it is not too close to that year's Wikimania which also has a hackathon with many of the same participants.
  • Smaller hackathons can be longer, shorter, midweek or over the weekend or at a different time of year.
  • If you are running a Wikimedia Hackathon please do not finalize your dates until checking them with WMF, the dates have to align with other movement wide events and work for the WMF travel department.

Things to plan for and keep in mind:


Travel, accommodation, catering

  • The local organizing / hosting team will need to support visa requests by providing a letter of invitation and sometimes proof of accommodation and/or booked flight ticket to people who need to apply for visas. People applying for visas should have all needed documentation at least two months before the event.
  • The hosting team will need to develop a system for booking flights and/or providing reimbursements to people who have received scholarships.
  • Consider transportation between the venue, accommodation, local attractions and any social events.
    • Whenever possible public transportation cards should be provided to people by email before they arrive in the city.
    • Long commutes or needing to move locations often can be disruptive to the event.
  • Catering should have variety for people from different cultures, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options.
  • snacks should be available at all times to allow 24/7 / late night hacking
  • Accommodation should have options for single rooms, shared rooms (2 beds, 4 beds), couples rooms and ideally family rooms.
  • Participants who are paying for their own accommodation must have a way to pay the local chapter or hotel directly.

Social Events

  • Social events are important! They give hackathon participants a chance to meet each other informally even if they are not hacking on the same project. They are fun, enable the forming or friendships and can keep people engaged in the events and movement.
  • Ideas for social events: Local site seeing, onsite events where people can mingle, talk to each other and have fun.
  • Past social events have included: Dance parties, boat tours, walking sight seeing tours, BBQs. Social events where you also get to see and learn something about the history of the city is generally appreciated. Often that will be the only opportunity for some of the event participants to do any sight seeing.
  • Highlighted creative example: The Zurich Hackathon in 2014 provided all participants with a pass for free public transportation around the city. One of the social events was a boat tour of the lake. Its cost was included in the pubic transportation ticket so there was no extra cost to the event. It was a creative and fun way to save money and see the surrounding area.
  • Second highlighted example: The Lyon Hackathon 2015 turned part of the venue into a video game party. There was everything from arcade games to very old game systems to the newest games. Event participants did not have to leave the venue but were able to take breaks, explore the different gaming options and have a great time until late in the evening.
  • Often providing food, drinks, music and a social space is enough for a fun evening event. Remember to always keep a relaxing and quite place for people who want to continue hacking.
  • Please consider the social event needs of participants who do not always want to be around noise and alcohol

Working with other groups

  • Ideally you will work closely with past hackathon organizers to learn from their mistakes and successes. You can see a list of past hosts here.
  • Many chapters often work together and pool money with each other and WMF for scholarships, even if you are not hosting please consider helping with the scholarship fund.
  • Think about local open source and tech communities and schools that you can engage and invite to the hackathon.
  • Remember that local business and organizations may agree to help the event by donating money or items (food, beer, a/v support, etc) because they support the mission or would like to be recognized as an event supporter.
  • Many local businesses may not be able to help you financially but can provide "in kind donations" like discounts on the venue, snacks, or other types of help


  • Make sure to have a safety plan for the event. What will you do in the case of a medical emergency? Fire? Etc?
  • Every participant should virtually agree to the Wikimedia Friendly Space Policy.
  • Consider the personal safety and comfort of all participants (e.g., welcoming environment/culture for LGBT community members)

Share your plan on phabricator.

Feel free to run your plan by rfarrand@wikimedia.org if you would like some feedback before you publicize your intentions.

Hackathon Support


There is plenty of support available once you have agreed to hold a hackathon. After you apply to host a hackathon, but before you are approved for funding you will be responsible for submitting a budget proposal which will be reviewed and approved or modified by the WMF Events Team. We can help with the proposal, and past budget proposals are public. You can find more information on the financial specifics by checking the location decision process for the year you are applying for.

Each hackathon and organizing team will be a bit different. The Events Program Manager from WMF and the organizing team generally meet every two weeks by hangout or Skype up until a month or two before the hackathon at which point it usually makes sense to meet for weekly meeting, or more as needed. Leading up to the event, the WMF events team and the hackathon organizers often email daily to coordinate, plan, and make sure everything is going to work out.

For big hackathons you will have onsite support from the WMF events team. For the yearly Wikimedia hackathon the WMF Events takes responsibility for organizing the majority of the tracks, technical content and daytime schedule. The local team generally take care of all of the logistics, fundraising, travel support for people with scholerships, visa support, venue contracts, meeting space, social events, food, etc. although is welcome to get involved with the program as well.

For smaller hackathons we can work out ahead of time what makes the most sense.

Real budgets


Real budgets from previous hackathons can be found here.

Previous Proposals


2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018

Selection process


The selection process is built to be flexible:

  1. Any candidate can share any proposal at any time.
  2. Proposals are discussed with the community in their phabricator pages, escalating to wikitech-l if needed.
  3. The discussion remains open at least during 30 days, giving time to critics and alternative candidates to respond.
  4. The WMF Developer Relations Team will facilitate the discussion and will announce new events officially.



Proposals will be scored against the criteria below. If there are multiple proposals or the only low scoring proposals, the WMF Developer Relations Team will discuss options with past Hackathon organizers and work to get new proposals or help strengthen existing ones.

Selection Criteria:

  • Credible Plan: Is the plan thought out? Does it make sense? Are details defined?
  • Trusting organizers
    • transparent, responsive, flexible, engaged
    • backed by their community
    • work well with others (chapters, volunteers, WMF)
    • past history of running successful events
  • Team Lead identified
    • Is the leader of the team identified and experienced with previous events?
    • Has the leader of the team participated (by attending or running) in previous technical events?
  • Venue
    • Wifi bandwidth! This will make or break the event.
    • Technical infrastructure and support from the venue.
    • Has the venue been identified? Is it available?
    • Will the venue work for a typical hackathon?
    • Cost?
    • Is it big enough?
  • Location
    • Easy to get to: Hub city? good public transportation?
    • Is it safe and welcoming for people of all demographics and background?
    • Visas: Are they needed? Are they easy to get?
    • New location: If there are multiple proposals we would like to give opportunities to chapters / teams / locations / counties that have not hosted in the past.
    • Geographic distance from Wikimania: in order to be more globally inclusive it is ideal to hold the Wikimedia hackathon in a different general location than Wikimania which also has a hackathon.
  • Accommodation
    • Is it in the same venue or close walking distance?
    • Can everybody stay in the same place single rooms, shared rooms, couples rooms, family rooms, hostel rooms?
  • Finance 
    • Does the organizing team have the ability to make large and small payments to vendors, venues, etc.?
    • Can organizers pay travel costs in advance, and incur costs in advance to be reimbursed later?
    • Do organizers have a plan to do local fundraising separately from WMF funds? 
  • Cost to Participants
    • How expensive is it to get there form Berlin / San Francisco / Delhi?
    • How expensive is the accommodation?
    • Is it possible for foreign volunteers on scholarships to incur zero costs during their trip?
  • Promoting diversity
    • New locations
    • New organizers
    • Potential for new participants and different focuses
  • Welcoming risk
    • Alternation between safer and riskier bets. In support of our global movement, when it is reasonable, we will sometimes choose a smaller chapter to host or a location outside of Europe (which has been the standard location).

Hackathon location decision process for 2020


The 2020 process, and an explanation for changes can be found here: Hackathons/2020 Decision Process

The following representatives from WMF will be working closely with affiliates and user groups who express interest in organizing.

  • Rachel Farrand (Wikimedia Foundation Events Team, Events and Program Manager)
  • Srishti Sethi (Wikimedia Foundation Technical Advocacy Team, Developer Advocate)

Hackathon location decision process for 2019

  • The decision committee for the 2019 Wikimedia Hackathon location is:
  • Claudia Garád (Vienna Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Maarten Dammers (Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Laia Benito Pericas (Barcelona Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Sylvain Boissel (Lyon Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Alex Cella (Lyon Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Rachel Farrand (Wikimedia Foundation Developer Relations Team, Events and Program Manager)
  • Srishti Sethi (Wikimedia Foundation Developer Relations Team, Developer Advocate)

Except for Rachel and Srishti, everyone on the committee is acting in their volunteer capacity.

Information about the 2019 decision process can be found at Hackathons/2019 Decision Process

Hackathon location decision process for 2018


The decision committee for the 2018 Wikimedia Hackathon location is:

  • Omar David Sandoval Sida (Mexico City Wikimania Hackathon)
  • Siebrand Mazeland (Wikimania Mexico City Hackathon, Pune Wikimedia Hackathon, Bangalore Wikimedia Hackathon, Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Maarten Dammers (Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Finne Boonen (Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Alex Cella (Lyon Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Claudia Garad (Vienna Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Rachel Farrand (Wikimedia Foundation Developer Relations Team, Events and Program Manager)
  • Srishti Sethi (Wikimedia Foundation Developer Relations Team, Developer Advocate)

Except for Rachel and Srishti, everyone on the committee is acting in their volunteer capacity.

Information about the 2018 decision process can be found at Hackathons/2018 Decision Process.

Hackathon location decision process for 2017


The decision committee for the 2017 Wikimedia Hackathon location is:

  • Rachel Farrand (Wikimedia Foundation Developer Relations team, has been a main organizer for 12 Wikimedia Hackathons)
  • Quim Gil (Wikimedia Foundation Developer Relations team, has run or helped run 6 Wikimedia Hackathons)
  • Greg Varnum (Wikimania DC Hackathon and Wikimania Hong Kong Hackathon)
  • Maarten Dammers (Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Siebrand Mazeland (Wikimania Mexico City Hackathon, Pune Wikimedia Hackathon, Bangalore Wikimedia Hackathon, Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Alex Cella (Lyon Wikimedia Hackathon)
  • Denise Jansen (Amsterdam Wikimedia Hackathon)

Except for Rachel and Quim, everyone on the committee is acting in their volunteer capacity.

Information about the 2017 decision process can be found at Hackathons/2017 Decision Process.