Grants talk:PEG/Pradeep Mohandas and Pranav Curumsey - Wikimedia Chapter, India and Mumbai and Pune WikiCommunities /WikiConference India 2011/Report
Hi AroundTheGlobe and Prad2609 - firstly, congratulations (however repeatedly and belatedly) on a really excellent event. Personally speaking, I enjoyed myself a lot, learnt a lot, met some amazing people I hadn't encountered before, and came away really impressed at how you put it all together. You worked incredibly hard, and the results showed. I should add that spending most of the pre-conference night with you at the Azad Maidan Police Station was a particularly thrilling experience :) I know you've said that you're not necessarily reading/ responding to comments here; I will send you these lines on email as well; however - secondly - I want to make a small suggestion re: the comments on people and institutions you did not believe were necessarily helpful. I think you mainly name the India chapter and the India Programs staff. Simultaneously however, you are aware of (and name) several people with connections to both entities who helped, participated, spoke, etc. - and while this may have been in a more 'personal' capacity, it's clearly a capacity that is encouraged and supported by both institutions, so the lines are a bit blurry. I guess what I'm saying is this: for future events and reports, might it be good strategy to simply name the people and institutions who helped, and leave out those that didn't? (As opposed to explicitly calling them out except in the most extreme situations). Not thanking someone or something is as clear as criticising that person or institution, but more dignified. And allows for differences in perspective as to who did what, and how, and keeps the door open on resolving potential misunderstandings that may have occurred. Generally speaking, ramping up the politeness in disagreements keeps everyone welcome and on their toes, and that's kind of a nice atmosphere - if we can create it. But, hey, mainly: thanks and congrats. Warmly, aprabhala (talk) 21:51, 17 May 2012 (UTC)
- Thanks for your comments and kind words, Achal. Cheers, AroundTheGlobe (talk) 10:36, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
Dear AroundTheGlobe and Prad2609: This is a wonderful report and I must commend you both for putting such an exhaustive report together and also anchoring much of the WCI'11 efforts and making for such a wonderful event. Thanks, in no small part too, to all of those who did volunteer, and generously so, their time, expertise and money even. Much like aprabhala, I do wish that we'd kept this positive - because post event we are all really upbeat - and that this report, minus the comments that mention people specifically, would still have been very very useful for future events, maybe more useful than currently even. The event did put much strain on all of us as individuals, and the two of you specifically, and also on two brand new organisations in India. We all learned a lot and I think we'd have a lot more to learn from each other if we kept in polite. Then again, thank you for this and for everything else. Best, Gautam John (talk) 02:45, 18 May 2012 (UTC)
- Thanks for your comments and kind words, Gautam. Cheers, AroundTheGlobe (talk) 10:36, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
Thank you for writing up this report, which must have taken quite a lot of effort.
- We would like to advise future organisers not to hold a parallel hackathon but to hold it prior to or after the main event as it was a major strain during the actual event, given that some of our vital volunteers attended the hackathon.
In planning the hackathon that went along with WCI, I heard that the hackathon would attract more of a specialized audience than WCI would, and that we did not foresee an overlap problem with participants. But this report shows the mistake there -- even if there was no substantial overlap conflict with the main participant base of WCI, the overlap with the volunteer staff of WCI did cause strain, and I'm sorry for that.
Thank you for your advice. Sumana Harihareswara, Wikimedia Foundation Volunteer Development Coordinator 03:59, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
- Thank you for your comments Sumana and once again thanks to the Tech Team for coming down to Mumbai to organise this. We agreed to have a parallel hackathon under the same thought process, what is stated in the report is a post-event comment for the future. It is by no means the fault of the Tech Team or anyone else so an apology is uncalled for, I would say its part of the learning curve. Cheers, AroundTheGlobe (talk) 10:25, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
- It was informed well in advance(months before) that said volunteers would not be available during hackathon days. Lack of volunteers in general made replacement impossible and adding fuel to fire, one more key program team volunteer dropped out at the end citing personal reasons leaving the organizers in spot. Better cushion in terms of volunteer bench strength could have helped, but that's an issue with entire conference immaterial of a overlapping hackathon. Logicwiki (talk) 11:47, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
- Logic, thanks for your comment. Yes, we were informed about it but there should be an available alternative, which in this case there wasnt simply because as we explained in the report, enough Wikipedians just dint stand up. With the hackathon taking away volunteers, it became worse on day 2 and 3, so yes in principle I agree the bench strength of willing volunteers should be better for us to organise such events. Cheers, AroundTheGlobe (talk) 10:25, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
- User:Sumanah - I think that the activities and hackathons taking place this year might get the unique audience that you desired for the hackathon. If some of them are willing to volunteer for the hackathon that would be a great thing. We must definitely have a hackathon but see to it that it is not in parallel. This is not only in terms of the volunteer sharing but also to enable some cross-connections between the techie and non-techie crowds, which I think is needed. All in all, thank you for your support and help. Prad2609 (talk) 05:43, 27 May 2012 (UTC)
- Thanks for your responses, Prad2609, Logicwiki, and AroundTheGlobe. Of course, the Wikimedians (such as you) who live and work in India have superior knowledge to me regarding getting better bench strength (of willing volunteers who will help as event staff). I thank all of you for your support and help!
- The opportunity of secondary events and meetups is great, and scheduling is always tough. Given that some conference participants (and organizers!) are traveling to the event and must minimize the duration of their time away from their homes, I can see how parallel scheduling seems appealing. But the kinds of issues that WCI 2011 faced show that we need to be pretty cautious about parallel scheduling! And yes, it would be good to enable some cross-connections among the people with technical interests and the people who are more interested in outreach, content, and other Wikimedia foci. One beneficial effect of that would be to increase the number of people interested in helping to initiate and host technical events.
- I look forward to talking with organizers of future Indian Wikimedia events to help organize technical events. We'll always have constraints around people-power, time, money, and so on, but next time we'll know more.
- Sumana Harihareswara, Wikimedia Foundation Volunteer Development Coordinator 16:07, 28 May 2012 (UTC)
- Hi Sumanah, any plans for Bangalore,Kolata,Delhi Hackathons ? After the Berlin one --naveenpf (talk) 16:26, 28 May 2012 (UTC)
- Naveen, sorry for the delay in response. You know that some folks in the Indian Wikimedia community, especially YuviPanda and Srikanthlogic, have been organizing local hackathons and are continuing to do so; perhaps you mean, is the WMF planning on organizing any hackathons in Bangalore, Kolkata, or Delhi? Just want to make sure of the question. :-) And please feel free to bring it up on the Wikimedia India list so more people see it and the answer. Sumana Harihareswara, Wikimedia Foundation Volunteer Development Coordinator 09:02, 16 June 2012 (UTC)
Feedback from WMF
Dear Pranav and Pradeep: thank you for this report. It is obvious it took a lot of work to compose, and we appreciate the effort.
We do find it is missing some elements that we consider crucial in a grant report, and so would like you to take a few more moments to offer further details and thoughts, strictly in the interest of learning and improving in the future, about the following questions and requests for clarifications. I shall ask each in a separate subsection, to facilitate clear discussion about each point. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Purpose of the report
This report should evaluate the success of this project and should measure its execution against what was stated in the grant request. In this case, many details are included in this report that did not contribute to this purpose, and some other important information was missing.
Mainly, this report should include:
- A financial report that compares the actual and planned project budgets
- An evaluation of this project against the measures of success as stated in your grant proposal
- Results of the survey you mentioned in the grant proposal relating to how the particiapants benefited
- A detailed press report including links to coverage of the event, and also a link to other media related to the event in the report itself (including the videos to be uploaded)
- A concise list of lessons learned that would be helpful to those planning future events (the report has a high level of detail of background on this, but readers might find a shorter list or a summary more useful)
- A summary of the feedback you mentioned the event received on Meta (and elsewhere if applicable)
We still require the above items, to accept this report. I have put placeholders below for the organizers to fill out.
(Note that some of the detail that is irrelevant in a grant report would be relevant and welcome in a general narrative report to the community, which it seems may have been your intent in composing this. It is fine to leave all this detail in, at this point, as there is no separate report to the community.) Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
Placeholder: financial report
(Planned vs. actual expenditure, plus unbudgeted expenditures, in a summarized table.)
Placeholder: measures of success
(evaluation vs. measures of success from grant proposal. Also good place to mention other indicators of success you may have noticed that were not mentioned in the proposal.)
- There has been frenzied activity both online and offline in India post the conference. On English Wikipedia, Collaboration of the month has been revived and a new Good Article Collaboration of the month has been instituted with some success, a Tag and Assess 2012 drive has been undertaken and has almost completed assessment of a massive 78,000 odd article backlog from WP:India. The India Noticeboard is buzzing with activity, archives will show that it was relatively dead for the last couple of years. Though we have not researched the impact on indic Wikipedia's, we do know Marathi Wikipedia has seen a 300% increase in readership since WCI 2011. Offline, there have been several workshops/meetups/photowalks conducted across the country. We cannot say that all this is a direct impact of the conference, we can certainly say that post conference we have seen a spurt of activity in India, both online and offline.
- News reports available online:  (There was a lot more coverage offline, which are not included)
- This was not conducted due to shortage of manpower.
A few comments on lessons learned
Upon reading this report, I would like to highlight the following:
- One recurring challenge seemed to be communication issues among the various parties involved: the conference organizing team, the chapter, the foundation, the participants, vendors, and volunteers.
- It seems like the conference organizers gained some valuable experience in the area of accounting (understanding how long it takes WMF to wire funds from the US to India due to non-negotiable state and bank delays, understanding some of the challenges with tracking expenses and general accounting).
- In fact, it seems like having a "Plan B" when something did not go as planned would be a good general lesson when planning events. I am not sure I understand how Hisham's approach to the situation with Jimmy's visa was "demoralizing"; it seems like a contingency plan might have been a wise step in that case.
- Its the thinking. The call was made at a time when things were red hot, when phones were being kept free for calls from Belgium (we burned telephone lines between India and Belgium like nobody's business on that particular day) and FAILURE WAS NOT AN OPTION, atleast for us. When someone is in such a frame of mind, to call and "there is a good chance of this not happening consider this as an alternative and these are the plus points of this alternative" or something to that effect is certainly demoralising. Its not a bad thing to have a Plan B but it is demoralising to say there is a good chance it may not happen when your not helping out but other persons are stretching themselves to the maximum to make sure it does happen. If the conversation would have been something to the effect of "look, I cant help with getting him here but I'm going to think up alternatives which we can discuss in a worst case scenario, but I'm pretty sure it wont come to that since you guys are trying your level best" that would have been acceptable and welcomed. AroundTheGlobe (talk) 10:16, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
- Another improtant lesson learned is the need for having community ownership. I think this is an overarching lesson learned. Until more community members do not come forward and volunteer before, during and after the Conference, it would be difficult enough to say that it would be easier not to do the Conference. I think it is important not only for the community to support your decision to hold a conference, it is perhaps equally or more important for many more members of the community to help make it a reality. This is, in my opinion, more important than any support from the Foundation or the Chapter. Prad2609 (talk) 05:57, 27 May 2012 (UTC)
Timing of your report
Finally, this report is publicly submitted (granted partial drafts were made available to WMF earlier) six months after the event. Memories are fading, people who might have had other insights may have lost the context, et cetera. What do you think could be done to shorten this interval in future events? Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
- Thanks for all your comments Asaf. You would appreciate that this is a two man job like much of the conference itself. There was also a question of censorship, something which we took time over to consider but decided against in the end, in the spirit of the movement. For the future, it may be better for more participants to take part in the organisation on an active level, which would mean that they are aware of what took place and can help with the reporting. In this case, its just the both of us that know most of what actually happened which took time as this wasn't the only thing we were doing. Cheers, AroundTheGlobe (talk) 10:30, 26 May 2012 (UTC)
- We went with a storytelling style (since I don't know what to technically call this writing style) of writing the Report, I guess some of the things took a little more time to agree to between us as co-authors. I and User:AroundTheGlobe both had objections at various junctions of this report. Reaching a consensus on them would take more time. Writing an objective report i.e. with points and conclusions may make the process faster but might miss many of the things included in this Report. We've also made the suggestion of having an accountant from the start of event itself. This would make preparation of accounts take a much lesser time than it did. Also, having a good filing system for the bills and vouchers generated, would help :). Prad2609 (talk) 05:50, 27 May 2012 (UTC)
A summarized list of recommendations for future event planners
I have attempted to distill some lessons and best practices from the narrative report, for the benefit of future planners of similar events. Everybody, do feel free to edit or extend it from your own reading of this report or experience of the event. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 20:29, 25 May 2012 (UTC)
The following may be (and have been, in our experience) issues with any event:
- Before planning an event, gather a large committed volunteer base to draw upon.
- Decreasing or low energy of the volunteer program committee
- A shortage of volunteers willing to do substantive work combined with a very critical audience is a challenge for morale.
- Internet at the conference venue will always be a challenge. No amount of preparation and verification would be excessive.
The following lessons seemed to be more specific to this event:
- Secure agreements regarding prices, payments, and payment methods in advance and take steps to ensure that payment methods are feasible within the timeframe promised.
- Devise a way to better communicate the provisions of scholarships to participants and ensure this can be communicated in relevant languages.
- Plan a larger scholarship team with clear criteria set in advance.
- Coordinate a large outreach effort prior to the event to raise awareness and attract more participants.
- Consensus working group may be more effective than the hierarchical organizing committee (though this can be a challenge when working under time constraints).
- Make sure that expectations regarding the event's mailing list are managed and clear.
- Weekly meetups during preparation months were effective.
- When planning parties and social events, it's a good idea to know your audience (and perhaps examine other successful events organized for Wikimedians when planning).
- Checking the quality of food in advance may prevent issues.
- Use caution when planning parallel events or allowing other organizations to plan them.
- Accommodation: Its ideal to have conference venue and attendee accommodation at same place (i.e if Venue is university, then university hostels are ideal option to stay; if hotel rooms are available as accommodation, then same hotel conference hall & vice-verse).It saves lot of transportation energy and for Accommodation Department, it becomes easy to monitor.