Hackathons/Wikimania 2014 Lessons Learned

Logistical improvements/lessons from Wikimania 2014:

Things that worked well and we should keep doing edit

1.1. Enough break out rooms for our talks and tracks.  

1.2. Continue to have a hacking space available throughout the main wikimania days. A lot of work gets done during that time and it is great for ad-hoc meetings throughout the event and proves to be a “safe space” for developers to meet and socialize. This year the conservatory, garden room and garden terrace were available throughout the event.

1.3. 20 - 30 small two sided whiteboards that can be used to indicate what small groups are working on. This worked out very well this year.

1.4. AC power sockets everywhere.

1.5. Working wifi! We had a few outages this year, but mostly the wifi was great.

Things we can improve or do better edit

2.1. Very important: at all times coffee, soda, water and simple/basic snacks need to be available during tech events.  If people have to leave the event/venue to get these things it really disrupts the work that is done. At this year’s hackathon we did not have water available for the majority of the first day and did not have soda/snacks. This improved on the second day of the hackathon, however soda and snacks were not available the entire time.

2.2. Please provide bottled water instead of water in glasses. Spilling water on laptops is a big problem waiting to happen and not having containers that can close freaks many developers out.

2.3. When people register for Wikimania, it needs to be really clearwho is registering specifically for the hackathon and who is registering for other events which take place on same days as the hackathon. This year we had no idea how many people were going to be attending our event until the event started which caused issues for us.

2.4. In the registration form it would be really helpful to know how many people are attending a MediaWiki hackathon for the first time. This information would have been really helpful for us to know if we should be focusing on newbie tracks or advanced tracks.

2.5. It would be helpful if registration included a short bit of information about what the (a) hackathon actually is. It is important for people to know when they are deciding to register that hackathons are meant to be tech focused events and are specifically for people with development backgrounds and not a social event or an event to learn how to become a developer.

2.6. Please limit the number of registration spaces for the hackathon to the number of people who can actually fit in the space provided to the hackathon. Specifically, the room where we host the opening ceremony needs to have enough space to fit everyone who is registered.  This year our opening ceremony was a pretty much a failure because we had a space that was much much too small for the number of people who were registered trying to attend the event.  This concern was brought up many times pre-wikimania but hackathon registration was never closed.

2.7. We need break out room assignments well in advance of the hackathon, and ideally they will be set in stone ahead of the event. We publish and print our schedule ahead of time. We have our attendees begin editing the schedule with their own talks/sessions in our break out spaces immediately after our opening ceremony.  

2.8. This year there was a lot of perceived struggle and competition between internal WMF meetings and the hackathon for break out room space. Please prioritize the importance of the hackathon when making space decisions. The amount of space we ended up with worked out well this year, which was great. However we were not sure that this would be the case until the last moment.

2.9. We need a dedicated member of the local ground team to be the “hackathon representative” this person must not have any other role or be involved with planning or assisting with other parts of the main wikimania event. Hopefully they will have a technical/IT background.

2.10. We need hackathon specific social events. In the past we have had social events specific to the hackathons during the pre-conference. This is quite important as it allows developers to get to know each other and is important for the newer folks to socialize with the regulars. We had nothing like that this year.

Ideas for changes to way the hackathon is structured edit

3.1. It would be nice to hold a hackathon showcase during the first day of wikimania where we can showcase the most awesome/relevant stuff that was accomplished.

3.2. We should integrate the wikimania technical tracks and the hackathon more closely with one another.