Wikimedia Hackathon 2015/Lessons Learned


This page is a combination of feedback from a survey sent to participants and ideas from the organizers.

This page will focus heavily on improvements for next time and things that went poorly. However remember that 97.5% of the people that responded to the feedback survey stated that their overall experience with the hackathon was either "Positive" or "Very Positive."

Suggested changes for the next Wikimedia Hackathon

(Main suggestions for next time, more coming soon)

  • We will continue to use the buddy system during hackathons, they will be optional not mandatory. We will add buddy system participation questions to registration.
  • There will be an opt-in during registration for name, interests and contact information to be put on a wiki so participants can talk in advance of hackathon and self organize.
  • The opening session of the hackathon will have time for project pitches and allow people to find others working on the same thing
  • We will do our best to have better wifi at the next hackathon
  • We will have better food options for vegetarians at the next hackathon

The best!:

  • Meeting new people, spending time working with people they know, and discussing new ideas
  • The location, the city, the venue/venue atmosphere, the outdoor area
  • Social events (especially the retro-gaming)

The worst!:

  • Wifi quality
  • Vegetarian food options
  • Presentations in French without translation

Background on Feedback Survey[edit]

  • rfarrand & acella created the feedback survey using google forms (we will move to qualtrics for future events)
  • The Feedback Survey was sent out to participants on June 4th, 2015
  • The Feedback Survey closed on August 12th, 2015
  • The survey received 81/200 responses (40.5% response rate)

Considerations for Next Year[edit]

This section is based on the fill-in-the-blank/comment sections of the feedback form. Some of these comments will be contradictory. We are mostly trying to include common themes and issues that were felt by groups of people. This section is a bit more subjective than the #Data section below and suggestions may be paraphrased and combined with each other.

(improvements to this section coming soon)

Information from Newcomers, how could we have supported them better?[edit]

  • More sessions with information on how to actually get started instead of just an overview of what is possible would be appreciated
  • Intro sessions for each of the main areas of work would have been appreciated, or some easy way for a newcomer to understand all of their options.
  • Request for documentation about what to expect if attending a hackathon for the first time. (This has already been mostly completed since the hackathon here)
  • The buddy system was helpful, WMF staff could have been more productive in reaching out to new volunteers instead of the reverse
  • People were available and receptive to helping newcomers, but sometimes it was hard to figure out who to ask for help

Feedback on Sessions, Tracks, Schedule[edit]


  • More focus needed, too much logistic info
  • Use this time to introduce projects, pitch ideas and help people find inspiration. Projects can “call for voluneers”
  • English only in mandatory sessions, the majority of the audience only spoke english. The long french speeches with no context were unsettling.  The translations were not helpful.  

Demoable Project Showcase/Closing[edit]

  • Messy, should have set clearer expectations for presenters
  • Please enforce time limit
  • The demo session was too long, make it shorter or separate by subject area.
  • Cool to see what others are working on
  • Liked the focus on demoable projects
  • Do this in the main room so that people can keep working during if they want and if it takes a long time people wont mind.
  • If it is going to be difficult to connect laptops to the projector, people should be encouraged to pre-record their demo and play it during the closing or there should be a rule of publicly hosted demos only. Don’t make exceptions.

Q&A with Lila[edit]

  • Would have been better to have her around the hackathon interacting with people more informally instead of doing the Q&A
  • Instead, Lila participate in the actual hack sessions/discussions to get a better understanding of what we developers are doing
  • Q&A’s with Lila are not good for hackathon, better for Wikimania
  • Too many questions from WMF staff, not enough from volunteers. If WMF are asking that many questions than they should be given other opportunities to ask things.

Buddy System[edit]

Common themes:[edit]

  • Last minute “haphazard” pairing does not work, it should be done in advance or more mindfully. Don’t call people onto stange and awkwardly make poor pairings.
  • Buddy system is great, nice to work with new people, helpful  
  • Make it optional, felt forced, specifically WMF staff did not like to be forced into it
  • Unclear Expectations, define goals more clearly.

Other ideas and themes:[edit]

  • Would be nice if experienced participants would reach out more proactively
  • Share a room with your buddy (optional)
  • Pair people up with projects instead of people, that way you can meet multiple new people in a structured way
  • Create an easy and positive way to hand off buddies if the fit does not work out, also provide documentation on best practices for mentorship and what to do in situations where things are not going right.
  • Add buddy system to registration form, and publicize information to  help people pair themselves by publicly providing more information about intended work at hackathon
  • Buddies might distract mentors for getting their work done or collaborating with other people
  • Newbie focused social events so they can meet each other too
  • Birds of a Feather (BoF) board instead of buddy system



  • The internet connectivity and speed was terrible on the first day, it got better but was still not perfect by the end. We need better wifi, this is the most important thing to consider.
  • Don’t take the wifi down at 6pm on the last day. It should stay up all night and into the next morning.
  • It was OK that there was no wifi access in people’s rooms, it encouraged people to be social and collaborative.
  • Add more power strips, especially outside

Social Events:[edit]

  • The Retro-gaming was great, people liked it the most
  • BBQ was great (except for vegetarians), outside with good weather, good food, good wine,
  • It would have been nice to have at least one offsite/historical social event


  • Better food for vegetarians/kosher, have protein and warm food. After wifi this was the biggest complaint of the event.
  • Next time label all of the food so people know what they are eating, it also makes it easier for vegetarians
  • Dinner was never on time (1 hour late) and food was brought in stages which made people miss out on all the options
  • More snacks should be available
  • More soda should be available
  • The food was often the same, sometimes they re-served things for dinner that they had already served at lunch.
  • It would be nice to have food available for longer periods of time so people don't have to rush and wait in a long line or miss out
  • Food was good, coffee availability was good


  • Some people liked that the venue was far away from downtown. It forced people to stick together and stay around the same location which lead to more interaction. Liked that the venue was in nature and not in a busy place.
  • Other people wished the venue had been closer to the city, it hard to get downtown.


  • The transportation strikes made transportation more difficult for everyone
  • Getting from the airport to the venue was difficult and took too long, it was also too expensive (up to 100 EUR)
  • Location should be close to lots of public transportation options
  • Don’t use Uber again as an official transportation option, not everybody has it, not everybody wants to use it and not everybody can use it.


  • There was only one key per room, but people had to share rooms
  • Towels should be cleaned every day

Name tags:[edit]

  • Name tags should have had bigger writing
  • Name tags should have been double sided. Not having this was very upsetting to people.

Hackathon accomplishments[edit]

People's opinions of their own biggest accomplishments during the hackathon:[edit]

  • Unfortunately nothing very newsworthy, mainly lots of smaller things. Was happy to meet many new people and hear about their experience on translation issues.
  • fixed one of my oldest gadgets that is used more than 8'000 times on several wikis, including enwiki and dewiki
  • Running 2 MediaWiki-Vagrant install parties and helping an additional large number of people via irc and face to face troubleshooting.
  • Introducing many people.
  • Meeting with the other 3rd party users and getting some organisation around our efforts.
  • Accessibility settings gadget.
  • * Natural language parsing to generate SPARQL queries
  • Meeting people and discussing everyone's projects!
  • We deployed revscoring for frwiki in time to demo it at the showcase.
  • We put together an actionable plan to better represent the MediaWiki community and further a strong relationship with the WMF and related projects. We're going to present our findings at Wikimania.
  • Releasing next pywikibot version Creating a usable documentation system for pywikibot
  • Talks with various people and learnt things about MediaWiki internals
  • Having already working and production reports :)
  • Adding coordinates to ~2000 listed buildings on the Dutch Wikipedia
  • More than 10 Visual Editor bug reports filled.
  • Turning some co-workers into friends, probably.
  • Wikipedia web application (no phabricator task)
  • Presenting the final product at the demo.
  • meeting new people :)
  • MediaWiki 1.25 general release
  • Working mockups, as a complete newcomer to Java and Android, that was a big accomplishment.
  • The Wikipedia for Apple Watch app!
  • Mentoring my buddy (which is what most of my effort went into). In hindsight that was probably not an optimal use of time though.
  • Joining the web of trust
  • Disentangling a nasty part of code that needed to be fixed for a long time.
  • I'm not a frontend developer, so I was pretty proud of the extensiondistributor UI updates.
  • meeting researchers getting oversight about actual problems and projects
  • Minimum Viable Product for Newsletter extension agreed with GSoC mentor, student, and stakeholders present at the event.
  • I helped a newby get started w media wiki. Also connected him w Android folks for getting his Wikipedia app Android dev environment set up.
  • Finally having documentation online
  • I could finalize on how the Newsletter extension I am mentoring should take form. I could interact with various stake holders of the extension, got to know various test cases - and understood how misleading our initial idea on the same was. Apart from that - meeting other devs, exploring part of the Lyon city - and many more ;)
  • Simply getting a new app written in Swift that actually sort of worked!
  • write sql to fetch names in all available languages from OSM
  • MediaWiki Stakeholders now have an action plan and a lot of motivation. See results in Mexico

Projects that people saw that impressed them the most:[edit]

  • The services team stuff was really impressive!
  • 1.25 release :)
  • Wikidata: natural language to SPARQL translator
  • SPARQL queries for Wikidata
  • The mobile UI that used Elastic Search's "morelike" to enable rabbit hole digging.
  • The Mutt-style C CLI interface to Flow was awesome. And from a total group of newcomers too!
  • Revision scoring
  • Actually useful - Various things including minimal web interface for Wikipedia. Cool factor - C Flow UI
  • pywikibot - COI of course ;) Wikidata Mobile
  • Apple Watch
  • Video.js
  • Many many nice projects at the closing session. I probably liked the natural text to SPARQL, videojs and the Apple watch thing most
  • Wikisource export.
  • Webkipedia
  • Loved the hover-over revision history.
  • Graph extension
  • Implement gl-vector in-browser rendering
  • Apple watch!
  • Possibly that pywikibot converted to json i18n.
  • Apple Watch project Maps for Wikipedia
  • Forrestbot is very very helpful
  • The blame tooltip project The presentation by librarians without borders was very moving imo.
  • Ok, that Apple Watch thing was neat, but these three were the best.
  • Everything done by the French students.
  • the Graph extension and MW at NASA
  • There were too many to say.
  • Sorting out our train deployment workflow and having a rough consensus about what we want to achieve.
  • Wikipedia on a smart watch
  • Haiku generator
  • The userscript for revision "blame" functionality was probably the coolest thing I saw.
  • Of the projects that was showcased - I liked the Video JS player and the Mediawiki on Apple watch. Everything in looks equally great though!
  • The natural language SPARQL query system
  • * Wikidata SPARQL endpoint
  • sparql support in askplathypus
  • There were a lot of cool projects, I think the apps ones were all great, and Joaquin's mobile app is a really cool demonstration of where Wikipedia's web UI/UX could go.
  • (The coolest demo was by far the natural language based wikidata query interface, but I'll hold back judgement until I see that actually performing well in real-world usage :)
  • Created at hackathon: Created earlier: The extensions created/presented by the NASA guys, especially


(planning to reformat this section, but if you are reading it now the data is formatted as: Answer, # of people responding with that answer, % of responses that answer got out of everyone who answered that question)

Personal Summary[edit]

How would you describe your experience as a developer?[edit]

No experience 8 9.9%
Novice 1 1.2%
Beginner 7 8.6%
Intermediate 18 22.2%
Advanced 28 34.6%
Expert 19 23.5%

Including this event, how many hackathons have you attended?[edit]

1 23 28.4%
2 14 17.3%
3 10 12.3%
4 9 11.1%
5 5 6.2%
6 or more 20 24.7%

Supporting Newbies[edit]

(Only people who were attending a Wikimedia Hackathon for the first time were directed to answer this question)

How useful did you find the sessions for newbies?[edit]

Not at all Useful 3 14.3%
Somewhat Useful 4 19%
Moderately Useful 4 19%
Mostly Useful 7 33.3%
Completely Useful 3 14.3%

How difficult was it to find people to work with?[edit]

Very Easy 6 26.1%
Somewhat Easy 5 21.7%
Neither Easy Nor Difficult 9 39.1%
Somewhat Difficult 2 8.7%
Very Difficult 1 4.3%

Conferences/Main Sessions[edit]

Opening Session [How useful were each of the following sessions? ][edit]

Not at all 8 11%
Somewhat 13 17.8%
Moderately 15 20.5%
Mostly 31 42.5%
Completely 6 8.2%

Lila's Q&A [How useful were each of the following sessions? ][edit]

Not at all 6 8.2%
Somewhat 15 20.5%
Moderately 26 35.6%
Mostly 23 31.5%
Completely 3 4.1%

Closing Ceremony [How useful were each of the following sessions? ][edit]

Not at all 0 0%
Somewhat 7 9.6%
Moderately 9 12.3%
Mostly 32 43.8%
Completely 25 34.2%


How satisfied were you with the selection of sessions offered?[edit]

Question Count 1 0
2 3
3 10
4 48
5 18
not satisfied: 1 0 0%
2 3 3.8%
3 10 12.7%
4 48 60.8%
very satisfied: 5 18 22.8%

Buddy System[edit]

Did you have a buddy at this hackathon?[edit]

Yes 65 81.3%
No 15 18.8%

To what extent did the buddy system add value to your hackathon experience?[edit]

Not at all: 1 9 11.8%
2 19 25%
3 17 22.4%
4 23 30.3%
Completely: 5 8 10.5%

Should we use the buddy system at the next hackathon?[edit]

Yes 47 58.8%
No 6 7.5%
Unsure 21 26.3%
No opinion 6 7.5%

Rate your Hackathon[edit]

How would you describe your overall experience at the Hackathon?[edit]

Very Negative 0 0%
Negative 0 0%
Neither Negative nor Positive 2 2.5%
Positive 33 40.7%
Very Positive 46 56.8%

Overall experience [Rate your hackathon][edit]

Very Poor 0 0%
Poor 0 0%
Fair 2 2.5%
Good 33 40.7%
Very Good 46 56.8%

Venue [Rate your hackathon][edit]

Very Poor 0 0%
Poor 0 0%
Fair 6 7.4%
Good 31 38.3%
Very Good 44 54.3%

Food [Rate your hackathon][edit]

Very Poor 4 4.9%
Poor 10 12.3%
Fair 19 23.5%
Good 28 34.6%
Very Good 20 24.7%

WiFi [Rate your hackathon][edit]

Very Poor 12 14.8%
Poor 24 29.6%
Fair 32 39.5%
Good 12 14.8%
Very Good 1 1.2%

Bar-b-que (BBQ) [Rate your hackathon][edit]

Very Poor 1 1.3%
Poor 6 7.8%
Fair 17 22.1%
Good 29 37.7%
Very Good 24 31.2%

Retro Gaming Party [Rate your hackathon][edit]

Very Poor 1 1.6%
Poor 0 0%
Fair 12 18.8%
Good 16 25%
Very Good 35 54.7%


What different tasks did you accomplish during your hackathon time?[edit]

Wrote code for a new tool or project 33 42.9%
Added features to an existing tool 38 49.4%
Fixed bugs 40 51.9%
Added citations 1 1.3%
Created templates 4 5.2%
Answered research questions 16 20.8%
Pulled research data 6 7.8%
Ran statistical analyses 11 14.3%
Other 26 33.8%

See also[edit]