Berlin Hackathon 2012/Retrospective

A retrospective on Berlin Hackathon 2012, based on survey results (below) and the thoughts of Sumana, Rachel, Nicole, Lydia, and Daniel.

The organizers' postmortem edit

Meeting goals edit

Overall, this event met its goals. We'd aimed to:

bring 100-150 people together, with lots of people who have not attended such events before. User scripts, gadgets, API use, Toolserver, Wikimedia Labs, mobile, structured data, templates -- if you are into any of these things, we want you to come!

We had 104 participants from about 30 countries, and more than ten of the participants had never been to a WMF hackathon before.


  • More outreach to variety of people - aim for 120-130 participants (judging that ~100 came last year): It turns out that more like 85-90 people came in 2011, so the 104 people who came in 2012 were a substantial increase. Sumana did outreach to gadgets, templates, bots, and tools developers by posting to mailing lists, individuals' talk pages, the BAG group's page, and so on, a wider variety of outreach than had been done before. This paid off.
  • Get Lua training for anyone who wants it: 37 people attended Lua tutorials, and recorded and documented the tutorial for future learners.
  • Inform people about ResourceLoader 2 & new Gadgets support, train JS authors: 24 people attended Gadgets tutorials, and we recorded and documented the tutorial for future learners.
  • Get Labs or Toolserver accounts for anyone who wants them: We encouraged EVERYONE to get Labs/Gerrit accounts prior to or at the event, and this is a big reason why 108 developers in May and 45 developers in June got those accounts. 2 participants got Toolserver accounts during the event; more people wanted them, and we did not have enough Toolserver admins available to process those account requests.
  • Get at least 5 gadgets/tools/templates/bots developers/authors to get into larger Wikimedia community, stay in it 3 months after event: Sumana has not crunched the numbers as much on this, but upon looking at the list of volunteers and comparing it to her own knowledge of who's doing what, she believes we met this goal. However we could do better; the number is probably around 5 and a good goal for next year would be to double this.
  • Facilitate chapter tech community: WMDE's Wikidata developers got to collaborate with many WMF and volunteer developers, and French and South American developers who came were interested in getting their chapters and other local Wikimedia communities to host local hackathons in the future.
  • Keep last year's quality of experience while upping attendance: We did increase attendance, and the average survey score for the hackathon overall was 4.55 out of 5 (between "Good" and "Very Good").
  • Better social events that help build relationships, facilitate mingling.: The previous year's social events were one dinner and one night of lounging at C-Base. This year we hosted a barbequeue & beer night, offered multiple city walks, and ran a minigolf night. People liked them.

Survey results edit

The report of the survey results (now in a PDF on does exclude the freeform response to "Do you have any praise, complaints, or other thoughts you'd like to share with the organizers?" because there's a little bit of personal data in there that Sumana wasn't comfortable releasing publicly.

Graphical report of the survey results (click to browse full PDF)

Out of 54 respondents (about half the attendees):

  • The Lua tutorial was most attended (37 respondents) and the MySQL optimization one least (7 respondents)
  • Nearly all respondents who attended tutorials responded "Yes" or "Somewhat" to "Were you satisfied with the tutorial(s) you attended?"
  • 71% said they got "enough guidance, mentorship, and collaboration" (24% "somewhat" and 5% "no")
  • about a third would have "preferred a more organized, structured approach to forming project teams or learning" but 69% would not
  • 94% said the schedule was "basically ok" (6% said it "needs improvement")

Survey respondents repeatedly mentioned a few concerns:

  • acoustics in the venue: "The cubicle rooms were a good idea though too noisy since they were in the same room as the main room. The tutorials in the main room prevented hacking / informal discussions since we basically had to stop talking to avoid disturbing over peoples."
  • badge design: "My suggestions are:
    • Print both sides of the name tags and add a loose / removable ticket for public transports inside where's also the program
    • Add the username, too: Real Name [[Username]] (brackets in a different color, e.g. lightgray)
    • There were also a few darkgray Wikipedia lanyards that have thin tapes cutting you in the neck. I have an old white lanyard with a thicker tape that doesn't hurt after a while."
  • lack of prior information about the free transit passes:
    "communication WRT transportation was poor: I ended up buying a 7-day ticket upon arrival because no one told we would be getting one (and I know of a few other people who did the same). Also, there was no guidance on how to get from airports to hostel and hostel to venue - not hard to find out, but 100 people each doing it separately -> huge waste of time."
    "The Hackathon was excellent. It would have been helpful though if we had had our transit passes on Friday morning for the sightseeing tour, instead of not getting them until Friday evening. The website for last year's Berlin Hackathon seems to have had more information about things, for example mw:Berlin Hackathon 2011/Getting there had the suggestion of OsmAnd and other helpful links."
  • wifi issues
  • lines of sight within the main hall of the venue (blocked by pillars)
  • catered food was mostly Italian and could have used more variety, especially for vegetarians

But most comments were complimentary. A few examples:

  • "It was really well organised! I can't think of anything to complain about."
  • "No complaints at all, the event was very useful and motivating, and the organization was marvellous."
  • "One of the best events I ever attended. The Hostel and transportation were also superb. It's rare to have almost everything be in order and somehow this team seems to have managed. If anything did go wrong I didn't noticed. Thanks Sumana, Rachel and everyone else who was perhaps less visible to me, but probably equally important."
  • "Best berlin hackathon ever! Thanks. Makes fun to meet same people each year (so it's now more relaxing). But it's also cool to meet new people."
  • "...But overall the event was awesome, definitely the best Berlin hackathon so far!"

Logistics edit

We did great planning beforehand, including phone meetings every other week and shared documents for planning schedule, tracking TODOs, figuring out attendance and subsidies, and so on. Eventbrite registration worked okay.

Things went well at the event. The venue worked out well. Acoustics was not that great but the size was great, with little breakout areas. We got praise from attendees on organization, food, the structure and schedule of the event, and so on (see the survey results below).

We got almost all the videos from the event (the videographer lost one). Overall that's a success.

WMF and WMDE worked very well together and that was a pleasure!

Improve next time edit

  • Follow best practices in badge design. Ask people about what names they want on their badges, have hashtags/key words on the badges, names on both sides, etc., etc. There exist best practices and we should follow them.
    • Also, restrict "staff" badges to the venue staff to avoid confusion.
  • Transportation info & ticket -- tell people about it further ahead of time.
  • Topic flags for tables? (but stuff keeps shifting, so maybe not)
  • Schedule: one light-weight Wikipage Etherpad with up-to-date schedule projected on a wall!
  • Playtest the tutorials more
  • Give people a few suggestions on local nightlife so they can organize their own social activities.

Others' thoughts edit