Wikimedia Hackathon 2017/Report


19 – 21 May 2017 | Vienna, Austria



Atrium, the central meeting area
Hacking in Room Heuriger
Hackathon Party

Exchange rate: 1 EUR = 1,09 USD

Revenues Item description Total EUR Total USD
Grants WMF Grant 46,836 50,000
Scholarships WMF scholarships 4,910 5,352
Other scholarships 6,550 7,140
Sponsoring Google 9,199 10,000
FH St. Pölten 1,000 1,090
FH Technikum Wien 500 545
Saas Web 500 545
Internet Service Provider Austria 400 436
Paulina 200 218
Hotel room payments WMF staff 19,800 21,582
Affiliate staff 2,830 3,085
Self-paying participants 5,040 5,494
Sponsor tickets Stakeholder track 225 245
Total revenues 97,990 106,809
In-kind donations 10,460 11,401
Expenditures Item description Total EUR Total USD
Accomodation & venue Rent May 19–21 40,000 43,600
Scholarships WMF scholarships 18,731 20,417
Other scholarships 13,917 15,170
Catering Meals, snack bar, drinks 29,003 31,613
Outreach coordinator Freelancer outreach and mentoring program 16,400 17,876
Infrastructure Additional Wifi 4,806 5,239
Additional power plug rental 332 362
Other material (post-it, tapes etc.) 459 500
Transport in Vienna 189 206
Promotion Design for conference logo, printing material 357 389
Design for conference icons 250 273
Hackathon booklet 171 186
Name tags 73 79
Name tag cases and Lanyards 354 386
Roll-ups 402 439
Banner 111 121
Stickers 282 308
Friendly Space and other posters 45 49
No-photo Lanyard 83 91
T-Shirts for mentors and staff 857 935
Social events Rent party venue 360 392
Party drinks 480 523
Party DJs 250 273
Party transport 18 20
Karaoke 219 239
Taste of Data 1,000 1,090
Give-aways Water bottles 822 896
Maria Theresia Coin (for mentors) 880 960
Welcome chocolate 517 563
Postcard 81 88
Other costs birthday cakes, toilettries etc. 203 221
Total expenses 99,046 107,960
Scholarship Details Item description Total EUR Total USD
WMF scholarships Accomodation during core time 4,910 5,352
Extra nights accomodation 1,784 1,945
Travel costs incl. cancellation insurances 11,252 12,265
Public transport 353 385
Health and liability insurances 221 241
Visa costs 210 229
Total 18,730 20,416
Other scholarships
Emerging communities scholarships 4,804 5,236
Wikimedia Deutschland scholarships 4,710 5,134
Wikimedia Nederland scholarships 1,739 1,896
Wikimédia France scholarships 1,484 1,618
Wikimedia CH scholarships 480 523
Wikimedia Armenia scholarship 329 559
Wikimedia Israel scholarship 210 229
Wikimédia Magyarország scholarship 160 174
Total 13,917 15,170


I also really, really, really enjoyed the welcoming atmosphere, the humour, the warm and fuzzy feeling that was everywhere.

—Hackathon participant via the feedback survey

  • The Vienna Hackathon was one of the biggest Hackathons in terms of the number of participants: We hosted 250 people over the course of three days
  • The 2017 Hackathon set new standards for inclusivity with the mentoring program and other big and small activities to make the event as diverse and welcoming as possible
  • 56 newcomers were coached by 30 mentors
  • 24% of the participants identified as female or non-binary
  • The event was one of the most productive hackathons ever with a showcase which comprised 46 projects
  • This year's Hackathon got very good feedback from newcomers and old hands alike
  • WMAT as the hosting organisation contributed to sustainable and good practices for this event series and the movement in general, by developing extensive documentation for Hackathons and re-usable templates and materials

Learning and Innovation[edit]

WMAT has been preparing this event for two years, attending two Wikimedia Hackathons (Lyon and Jerusalem) and several similar tech events from like-minded organisations and communities. This enabled us to create our own vision for the Mediawiki Hackathon and to make it an event that not only has the desired impact on our own local context but also improves the event format for future Hackathons in the wider Wikimedia movement. We can only encourage this process for other Wikimedia events, especially the ones which travel to different countries and communities from year to year. Instead of just copy and pasting things from the past it can be worthwhile to be bold again and question and re-think exisiting patterns and also look for inspiration outside the Wikimedia movement.

What we learned from others[edit]

Our venue

Amsterdam / Zurich / Lyon Hackathons

One of the big learnings of previous hackathons was that hacking and sleeping at the same venue together with a constant supply of food and drinks 24/7 is the best way to cater for the needs of our tech community and provide the basic conditions for a productive event. Hence, we put a lot of thought into choosing the right venue and decided to make the not unrisky financial decision to rent out the complete venue exclusively for the weekend. It required us to make the Hackathon bigger (in terms of participants) - one of the biggest so far in fact - in order to scale the investment and making it worthwhile.

Jerusalem Hackathon

Two new ideas that started in Israel were incorporated and refined in our concept for the Hackathon:
  • Pre-Hackathons: There was one held in Palestine just before the main event in Jersualem in 2016. While this event was a reaction to the challenge of closed borders and limited geographical mobility, we decided we want to use the same idea but to celebrate the freedom of mobility and absence of borders in Europe, by cooperating with our partners in the CEE region to host local Pre-Hackathons there and invite the organizers and some of their newcomers to the main event in Vienna. Thanks to the great spirit of collaboration the CEE community, there were Pre-Hackathons in Greece, Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. This helped to spread the impact an event like the Hackathon can have beyond the borders of the hosting country. A summary of what we learned from the Pre-Hackathons across the region can be found in our joint session at the 2017 CEE meeting.
  • Hackathon preparation meetings: Related to the idea of Pre-Hackathons was the a local pre-event in order to help newcomers to get started with Mediawiki and get the best possible preparation for participating in the main event. Wikimedia Israel invited all registered newcomers shortly before the main event for an install party of Mediawiki and a general introduction to the Wikiverse. We build on this idea by hosting two pre-events (one for female/non-binary only (see below) and one for all genders), but organized them 6 weeks prior the main event and opened them for all interested participants (not only registered Hackathon attendees) as we thought some newcomers might need to get a taste of the Wikiverse before they want to commit a whole weekend to an event.
Mentoring area: everyone = welcome!

Jugend hackt / Ladies that FOSS / Rails Girls

We learned about the concept of mentoring programs by attending the Youth Hackathon "Jugend Hackt" in Linz in 2016. We were impressed by the results this event has in teaching young people to code, enabling them to generate first results and success stories in the course of a weekend and creating a sense of belonging in such a short time among a group of strangers. By adapting these pedagogical concepts for our vision of a Hackathon, we realized similar things have been tried before in even more like-minded communities and expanded our benchmarking to these ressources by talking to organizers from Rails Girls and Ladies that FOSS, whch was co-hosted by WMDE. Many of their ressources (e.g. handbooks, training material for mentors etc.) and learning went into the creation of our mentoring program and can be found in the documentation we created together with our outreach freelancer around Hackathons. We presented a summary of what we learned from others in our 2017 Wikimania session "Hackathon goes Hogwarts".

New things we tried[edit]

Absolutely amazing experience. The mentoring project with dedicated mentors and projects for newbies was excellent, I hope it is kept for next hackathons.

—Hackathon participant via the feedback survey

Outreach and Mentoring Coordinator

As growing the international and national tech community was one of the main goals of the Hackathon, we reflected this emphasis by establishing the role of a Outreach and Mentoring Coordinator. The goal was to find new contributors (from like-minded communities etc) in Austria and coordinate with similar efforts by the WMF on an international level. In addition, it was the first time a mentoring program was applied to a Wikimedia tech event, we needed to adapt the concept, onboard potential mentors and coordinate mentors and newbies. As we did not have the capacity for this in our team, we hired a contractor to specifically work on these topics, as diversity and inclusion take time and resources, especially if we want to reach new audiences and promote equity in our movement. In the long run, if the mentoring program will continue we believe that a lot these tasks can be done by a group of experienced mentors but until then we recommend to allocate sufficient resources as part of the event team. The success of Vienna Hackathon shows that this is time and money well invested.
Stakeholder track

Stakeholder track

A group that has not systematically been catered for by Wikimedia Hackathons are the external stakeholders who work with MediaWiki and Semantic MediaWiki outside of Wikimedia projects, often in a professional capacity. This target group not only contributes to the code but are also potential supporters and sponsors of Wikimedia tech events. Hence we decided to collaborate with the MediaWiki Stakeholders' Group and set up a track during the Hackathon that specifically adresses the interests of these contributors. The track was on the first day of the Hackathon, to cater for business attendees who can't participate on weekends and could be attended independently from the Hackathon. We also asked to buisness participants to support the event with a voluntary contribution towards our expenses. Many of them did, so that the additional participants did not strain the budget of the main event.

Additional communication channels

In addition to established means of communication (mailing lists, IRC, Wikis) we decided to also use a chat app which especially for newcomers might be the most intuitive communication channel with the lowest barriers to particpate. We chose Telegram, as other Wikimedia events (e.g. Wikimedia Conference) had good experiences with it and it also has advantages in terms of privacy and data decentralisation compared to other similar apps such as What's App and Facebook chat and can be used from smart phones and laptops likewise. The result of this experiment was quite positive, it created a sense of community among participants even before the event started as people shared travel tipps and helped each other with practical issues (which in a positive side effect also unburdens the event organizers to a certain extent), blog posts and other interesting information were shared during the event, and even months after the event some participants send updates avbout their progress on the projects that they started during the Hackathon. It was also the most convenient means of communication for coordinating sub-groups of event stakeholders such as the mentors or the event organizers. However, we also noticed that especially long-standing community members really do not want to miss their established communication routines, so it should be clearly seen as a supplement and not a replacement for existing channels.
Plushie friendly

Plushie friendly event

Stuffed animals and mascots (some of them organized in the so-called Wikimedia Cuteness Association) became an integral part of our movement. Cuteness is the perfect ice-breaker between strangers and adds to an overall more fluffy and welcoming atmosphere at events. In addition there is scientific evidence that cuteness promotes productivity and positive social motivation. Hence, we proactively wanted to encourage cuteness at the Hackathon, inviting participants to bring their plush friends and making them feel welcome and appreciated by preparing special tiny name tags for them. We also had a cute welcoming committee at the registration desk, which became one of the most popular photo subjects of the event. The name tag idea already caught on and was successfully replicated at WikidataCon in Berlin.

Post-event engagement

In addition to the Pre-Hackathons we also wanted to create opportunities for post-event engagement. As Wikidata was the most accessible project for many newcomers we hosted a Wikidata workshop in Vienna in fall which was organized by hackathon participants and also send two of them to attend WikidataCon to Berlin. Further similar activities are planned for 2018.
Our water bottle

It does not always need to be a T-shirt

When planning our budget our main aim was to have enough resources for the mentoring program, enough food in good quality, and stable WiFi. Hence, give-aways such as T-shirts for all participants were not planned from the start but labeled as a "nice to have" in case there would be enough money left in the end of the day. We finally ended up to provide water bottles, as they were a lot cheaper, easier to handle (no different sizes etc), were the perfect match for an event hosted in Vienna (with excellent mountain spring water from the tap), and was the perfect give-away for a tech event where - compared to glasses and cups - closed bottles are less of a peril for laptops and phones.

Sustainable event materials and consistent corporate design

One of the advantages of attending several other Wikimedia Hackathons in preparation of our own event was to get a feeling of which resources could actually be re-used from year to year, so that not every team needs to buy them again only to be used for only one time before being disposed of. We started the process with Wikimedia Israel last year, by asking them to let us re-use their white boards for the tables. We extended this idea to other materials such as roll-ups and banners which we designed in a way that they are not branded specifically for the Vienna Hackathon and can be re-used by the organizers of the 2018 event and beyond. This was made possible by the fact that we worked together with the WMF communication team to create a corporate design for the Hackathon: Instead of having a new logo every year, we now have a consistent concept which matches the CI of the Wikimedia Foundation and the same logo every year, but can also be customized to the local context (with icons etc.) when necessary.

Main Take-Aways[edit]

Wikimedia Hackathon 2017 group photo

It is worth looking for inspiration outside of our movement

For some challenges such as how to make our events more inclusive and newcomer friendly there are some interesting and proven concepts to be found in like-minded communities - we just have to be bold enough to try something new instead of just copying what we used to do before.

Productivity vs. inclusiveness

It’s not a zero-sum game: With careful preparation and by managing expectations in advance we can create events that provide productive working conditions for our existing communities while at the same time caters for the needs of newcomers and suitable learning environments.

Teaching newcomers takes commitment, time, and resources

We also need to support and cherish mentors and their work if we want to become a truly inclusive movement.

More information and further reading[edit]