Newcomer support at hackathons

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People hacking together at the Wikimedia Hackathon 2017.
Hackathon mentoring events
wmhack 2017 · wmhack 2018

Being a newcomer is hard -- especially at technical events. What's gerrit? Is everyone working in PHP on MediaWiki or are there some Python/Java/etc. projects too? Is there a place for designers/analysts/researchers/technical writers at hackathons? How do Cloud VPS and Toolforge work and who can help me get set up with an account? What are people working on that's interesting to me?

Newcomers
Hackathon participants who want help finding projects and contributing successfully at hackathons.
Newcomer supporters
AKA "mentors". These experienced Wikimedian devote their time at hackathons towards helping newcomers contribute successfully. These hackathon participants form the core of newcomer support.
Organizers
These participants support the supporters by making sure there is a schedule and infrastructure at hackathons in order to facilitate newcomers and their supporters to find each other and work together effectively.

Why?[edit]

While hacking, the newcomers can get to know the Wikimedia movement and see what impact they can have. We would like to create an event which will offer newcomers the opportunity to engage closely with Wikimedia projects.

How?[edit]

There are many ways to support newcomers. For example, a supporter could identify a specific newcomer friendly project and advertise it at the event. Another supporter could simply advertise their various expertise in order to find newcomers who already have a project in mind. Other supporters could monitor the room and look for newcomers who look like they might need help finding a project or working successfully and offering their help. There are also various types of pre-scheduled sessions that we've employed historically to help newcomers and supporters find each other.

Types of support[edit]

As a mentor, you are the heart of the initiative for newcomers in the movement. This section briefly describes the types of support activities that are common at hackathons. See also the /Mentor guide for more details on being a good newcomer supporter.

Exclusive mentorship[edit]

You will create projects that are newbie-friendly and you will work on them together with the newcomers for the whole weekend. You will not get as much done as you would on your own, but you will contribute an incredible amount of value to the community by sharing your knowledge and helping the movement grow.

Being open to newcomers[edit]

You will be an available point of contact who is knowledgable about a specific subject that mentors and newcomers can approach when they need help throughout the hackathon. You do not need to commit to mentoring for the entire event and you can work on your own projects.

Pre-organized activites[edit]

By designing newcomer friendly activities, newcomer supporters make a space where newcomers are explicitly welcome and supported.

Hacking groups[edit]

Pre-assigned hacking groups for newcomers will be kept small, with only four to six participants per project. It will be a unique chance for newcomers to get to know some of the coolest projects and coders out there and become part of the Wikimedia community!

Before the hackathon, mentors will design newcomer friendly projects, broken into small and large, easy to accomplish tasks. Mentors, like all other participants, can contribute their ideas for sessions, skill share and projects in advance on Phabricator. Additionally, mentors present their projects in newcomer-friendly language on wiki and during introductory sessions.

Workshops[edit]

Editing is discussed at a workshop in Vienna

Workshops will happen in breakout rooms around the hackathon event. In these workshops, specific technologies, processes, and/or design strategies will be introduced, discussed and experimented with.

Install parties[edit]

These events usually happen at a specific table within the hackathon space at a pre-scheduled time. Participants are guided through the process of installing and configuring something complicated like MediaWiki-Vagrant.

Documentation sprints[edit]

Like install parties, these are also usually organized around a specific table within the hackathon space at a pre-scheduled time. Participants in the documentation sprint will all contribute documentation in some common space. Newcomers are encouraged to attend because the documentation is designed to support them and so they form the role of expert reviewer of which documentation works and which documentation is missing.

Organization work[edit]

General infrastructure will be put in place by organizers to support mentors and newcomers at hackathons.

Pre-hackathon organization[edit]

Before the hackathon, organizers will keep mentors up to date on the mentoring program it develops

Matching newcomers with newcomer supporters[edit]

  • At the opening ceremony, the mentoring program and the mentoring team (as a group, not personally) will be introduced and greeted
  • While newcomers get introductory information during the first morning of the hackathon, mentors and event organizers can meet, talk about the program in person, and get ready to welcome the newcomers to projects.
  • Mentors and newcomers will meet in person and get to know each other, and both mentors as well as newcomers can decide with whom, and on which project they want to work together for the weekend.