Grants:Project/Rapid/Offline open education conference/hackathon/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Rapid Grant approved in FY 2017-18 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.


Attendees at the 2017 Potsdam hackathon

Goals[edit]

Did you meet your goals? Are you happy with how the project went?

The conference & hackathon easily met our goals. It was truly exciting to meet the people participating in this event, and to see them interact. As I commented to one attendee: "Hearing these presentations helps to restore your faith in humanity." One attendee stated: "In all my years of attending education conferences, I've never been to one that achieved as much as this meeting."

We had the following goals:

  • Exchange knowledge and ideas in a "safe space"
Much was indeed shared and exchanged informally over the entire week. There were also 13 short talks (with Q&A) on the different projects, which helped us to educate one another on our different projects. Unexpectedly (for me), there were also several ad hoc meetings that were more formal in style, in order to negotiate or set up collaborations, and these appeared to achieve a lot. The location was comfortable and welcoming, and along with the coffee and food this helped to create a warm atmosphere of camaraderie.
  • Organize projects to serve educational and medical needs in under-resourced areas of the world
Several groups are now collaborating - a couple for the first time - to do this.
  • Write code so that non-technical people can assemble and distribute open resources easily to the entire world, especially those without internet. Examples of those attending include people distributing medical content, and resources for schools. Countries where we expect to see benefits in the short term include Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, South Africa.
Much code was written during the week
  • Increase skills for programmers working with open content
I don't have a clear way to assess this, but we had several young programmers present rubbing shoulders with experienced coders, and one intern in fact met his mentor for the first time in person at this event.
  • Showcase successes and benefits from using offline educational materials
There were 13 talks (mentioned above) given on offline materials, as well as a large number of personal interviews with participants. There is now this article on WikiFundi on opensource.com, and this blog post on Kiwix (by one attendee from Learning Equality).

Outcome[edit]

Please report on your original project targets.


Target outcome Achieved outcome Explanation
15-20 attendees 28 attendees Event proved more popular than we initially expected!
To allow more specific content packages to be created by non-technical people, and accessible through Kiwix (Too early to tell, though much progress was made, as documented here) This target shows the longer term goal of the conference
Both programmers and field workers to give short presentations about their projects (totally at least two hours), respond to Q&A, then to produce & upload videos to document/share these presentations. Over four hours of presentations are available under CC-BY-SA: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4. These will soon be reposted on Vimeo and Wikimedia Commons. We employed a professional video producer from the college to record livestream videos of at least 12 of the presentations
At least eight people from at least three different groups working "in the field" to attend and have at least six hours together sharing ideas and resources 28 people attended, representing at least 13 different organizations, including four groups working "in the field". The majority of those 28 were present and interacting for all four days. There were 2-3 more meetings round a boardroom table, which brought together some of these organizations in a more formal way. The attendees were very keen to share ideas, collaborate and negotiate.
To produce a report documenting the event, its successes and failures (based on above), and its impact on the community. This report, as well as the photographs and videos. Required for the rapid grant, but also useful for documentation.


Learning[edit]

Three people around a laptop

Projects do not always go according to plan. Sharing what you learned can help you and others plan similar projects in the future. Help the movement learn from your experience by answering the following questions:

  • What worked well?
  • The large number of very engaged attendees made the event very successful, and I believe many new friendships and collaborations began.
  • The large space in the 8th floor penthouse area (with balconies - see picture above) was very nice, helped by glorious sunny weather!
  • The campus location proved to be ideal for this sort of event; we had a large space at no cost (I teach at the college), and access to dorm rooms gave us very affordable accommodation nearby. No registration fee was necessary, so even those attending all week had food/accommodation/event for under $200.
  • The college town atmosphere - the campus is very close to the historic downtown and river - proved popular with attendees, many of whom walked all over town. We enjoyed a lovely meal together by the river.
  • The food and beverages (the main focus of the grant) were very well-received - scarcely a crumb was left on any day! The food allowed the event to maintain its momentum through the lunchtime period by keeping people together while we listened to each others' presentations.
  • We were apprehensive about the border crossing into the US - the main van from Wikimania had five different nationalities represented - but it turned out to be quite reasonable.
  • What did not work so well?
  • Potsdam is in quite a remote corner of upstate New York, so it has poor access by public transportation, and therefore vans and car sharing was essential. For those who didn't attend all four days (and even for a couple who did), it was difficult to return home. One ride to Montreal airport hit an unexpected three+ hour traffic jam, causing flight problems for two attendees.
  • The coordination of the event with the Wikimania organizers wasn't as effective as it should have been, largely because of fluid schedules and because we had a much larger attendance than originally expected. Fortunately we were able to amend our transport arrangements, so in the end there was no conflict.
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • If the event is held right before or after Wikimania, we should coordinate better with Wikimania organizers. Now that we (and they!) know that this event attracts enough people to have a significant impact, we need to make sure that the timing works well with Wikimania itself.
  • Ideally the event should be in a location that is near to Wikimania and which has excellent transportation, but it may prove difficult to achieve this at the low cost we had for this event.


Finances[edit]

Grant funds spent[edit]

Please describe how much grant money you spent for approved expenses, and tell us what you spent it on.

US$$1979.27

As in the application, this was spent on food and coffee/tea for attendees, in order to keep the group together throughout the day. This was achieved.

Remaining funds[edit]

Do you have any remaining grant funds?

No - in fact, we had to order a little extra coffee, so the final cost was just over $2000.


Anything else[edit]

Anything else you want to share about your project?

I believe that the event was very successful in meeting its goals, and for many attendees it was the first chance to meet in person others working on offline content. There was a good amount of energy, and we plan to make this a regular event - at least every two years, and possibly once a year - at a location that is yet to be determined (though several suggestions were made). In addition, a lot of the discussions and collaborations that began in Potsdam are continuing via wiki, email, Skype, etc., and I hope to see a lot of progress in the offline field in the next 1-2 years.

I’d also like to thank the Wikimedia Foundation again for their support of this event, which I believe will help us in moving forward the Foundation’s central vision as outlined at Wikimania in Montreal.