Wikimedia Technical Conference/2018/FAQ

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How is this conference different?[edit]

This year's TechConf is different than Developer Summits in the past. It is squarely focused on a single topic - the Platform Evolution Program - and the conference itself is meant to be a venue for structured discussions that will aid in developing the long term planning for this program.

What is Platform Evolution and why is it important?[edit]

Our platform is used to fulfill our mission of enabling the dissemination of knowledge throughout the world. Not only the Wikimedia projects, but also a multitude of 3rd party projects depend on MediaWiki. But our technology platform has grown into a large and complex system over the past 15 years, with increasing maintenance costs and difficulties in building new features.

Many people both within and outside of the Wikimedia Foundation have tried to address these issues, but at the same time have been burdened with simply maintaining the technology and have had little time to make the changes needed to improve the system for all and better enable us to accomplish our mission.

To change this, the Wikimedia Foundation has developed and funded the Platform Evolution Program to provide space to have these discussions, make plans and actually build and implement solutions.

This program starts in July and for much of the first year will be focused on discussing and planning these changes.

A key part of this is the Technical Conference as it provides a venue to bring representatives from the many stakeholder groups into the same place.

What will the specific topics be?[edit]

See the Wikimedia Technical Conference/2018/Schedule.

Why nominations?[edit]

A large variety of people in different roles depend on our software - and not just engineers, but designers, content creators, moderators, product managers, data scientists, etc… the list goes on. In order to make decisions and fully address the issues and aspirations we have of our platform, we need a good cross section of people in the room. We need people who can create and architect solutions, as well as those who actually make decisions on funding for our projects.

However, we have only six people on the conference program committee, and while we know some people we should invite, we don’t know them all. This is why we are asking you all to make nominations for those who you feel will be able to contribute to this discussion from different perspectives.

How do I know who to nominate?[edit]

Good question! While we have given some general ideas above about who we would like to attend, it is helpful to provide some more concrete details… we are looking for diversity along many different dimensions to ensure we get the widest and best feedback and discussion.

These lists are not exhaustive. While we are doing our best to provide good examples… the entire point of using a nomination system is acknowledging that we have blind spots and don’t know everyone we should invite. Just because you don’t see an organization, skill, or role that you feel is important, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t nominate them. It just means that we need you to tell us why they are important.

Diverse organizations and groups:

  • WMF, WMDE, MediaWiki Stakeholders Group, TechCom, Wikia, Other Chapter organizations, Code Stewards, volunteer contributors, other 3rd party users, etc…

Diverse experience and skills:

  • MediaWiki, extension, Wikibase/Wikidata, JavaScript, apps, services (SOA), operations, releasing/building, CI/testing, performance, machine learning, API design, UX/UI design, internationalization, product/program managers, engineering managers, researchers

Diverse users:

  • Main page/featured article/portal maintainers, bot authors, moderators

How did you make selections?[edit]

  • An open form was provided for individuals to nominate others (or themselves) by selecting which one(s) of the qualities (backgrounds, experience, and skills) we are looking for that they would be able to provide valuable input on (through surfacing problems, designing solutions, evaluating solutions, and approving budgets for implementing solutions).
  • The Program Committee did strive to invite people who bring new perspectives where possible.
  • The Program Committee did make selections based on the nominations with input from relevant stakeholders (e.g. community members or Wikimedia staff).
  • The list of nominations will be kept private to the Program Committee. We wanted people to nominate whoever they feel (including themselves) is best fit for the work but we also want to respect the privacy of those who are nominated (including those who are not selected or those who decline attendance for personal reasons).
  • This year’s event has a limited scope as well as a limited number of attendees. Those who are not selected are encouraged to apply next year and know that not attending this year will not have a negative impact on their future chances.
  • NOTE: Please do nominate everyone who you believe should be in attendance, even if you think the Program Committee will unilaterally invite them (e.g. budget owners). It is OK to for the Program Committee to receive multiple and redundant nominations.

When did nominations start and when were invitations sent?[edit]

The nomination survey email was sent out on June 1st and closed on June 14, 2018.

The Program Committee reviewed nominations and sent out invitations during July.

When nominees received their invite, they were given a registration form that they needed to fill out as soon as possible. Members of the Program Committee followed up to help with travel and other logistic questions.

See the list of attendees whom have filled out the registration form (some still to be added).

Will there be video recording?[edit]

No, we will not be video recording at the Wikimedia Technical Conference.

There are multiple reasons for this:

  • Not many people benefit: We have done video recording at previous events and only a small number of people actually end up watching the recordings.
  • We are committed to documentation and note taking: everything will be reported out from this event in written form. Anyone not in attendance will have full access to our documentation and report-outs.
  • Video recording is expensive.
  • Video recording is technically complex, getting good video quality and picking up the audio of comments from every corner of a meeting room is difficult to do well.

What is the overall timeline?[edit]

We will add to the overall timeline as specific dates solidify below is are dates so far:

  • April 2, 2018 Announcement of WMTechConf
  • June 1, 2018 Call for Nominations
  • June 14, 2018 Nominations Close
  • June 28, 2018, invitations sent
  • July 6, 2018 Registration form sent
  • End of July, participant list finalized
  • October 3, 2018, program schedule posted
  • October 22-25, 2018 WMTechConf

Communication update: August 17, 2018 (for event attendees and WMF Staff)[edit]

The Wikimedia Technical Conference Program Committee (WMTCPC) has been making good progress over the last few months to establish broad themes and high level topics that we’d like to have discussions about during our upcoming time in Portland at the WMTechConf, October 22 - 25, 2018.

During this inaugural event, we’ll be focusing on the new cross-departmental program called Platform Evolution, which is being led by the Core Platform team in Technology with loads of assistance and input from the Product team in Audiences, WMDE, 3rd party users, and our community at large. We currently have all event attendees registered and travel / venue arrangements are nearly complete. We’re super excited about this diverse group; the list of relevant stakeholders, budget owners, and other interested parties attending this invitation-only event can be found on wiki.

Since the focus of this event is on the Platform Evolution program specifically, the Program Committee is taking a strong role in developing the sessions with feedback from attendees, WMF and WMDE staff, and the movement. We’ve also held multiple conversations with Product owners to ensure that we’re all focusing on the big picture, and we will continue to collaborate while developing the event’s agenda and structure.

As we continue to refine the broad themes and high level topics into individual sessions in the coming weeks, we will be enlisting the help of attendees (with lots of input from Tech and Product leaders) on how to craft those sessions — to ensure that actionable outcomes and quality discussions are achieved. Each session will have a variety of predefined questions to answer and we also plan on having end-of-day note polishing sessions to allow folks to catch up on all the things that were discussed during the day in notes (etherpad), in Phabricator tickets, and to assign action items or other tasks for stakeholders. The outcomes and action items identified at these sessions will play a huge role in how we plan out the next 3 to 5 years.

Once we get closer to the early part of September, we’ll be sending out more detailed information on the agenda and sessions to be held. Stay tuned and feel free to browse the FAQs!

Cheers from the WMTechConf Program Committee

October 4, 2018 Program Committee meeting update[edit]

  • The schedule is up, although not completely finalized. All sessions now have an associated Phabricator task. The Phabricator tasks will be updated with more details in the coming week.
  • The session leaders are almost all finalized (have been asked to lead sessions and have agreed) with a few exceptions, all session leaders will be added to the Phab tasks as they finalize.
  • Program Committee members will be working 1:1 with session leaders and sharing some structure ideas for each session.
  • Some sessions will also be assigned facilitators.
  • Everyone (attendees or not) are invited to comment on the Phab tasks with questions, comments, or things they would like the session leaders to keep in mind about each topic.
  • This is the phabricator workboard where you can find all of the sessions: https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/project/view/3322/