WikiProject remote event participation/Documentation/Wikidata Wochenende - June 2020

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Format of the event[edit]

Main format
The event was a mix between a workshop and a hackathon. It included introduction sessions to onboard people on Wikidata, some free time for people to work on their projects, and a showcase at the end of the weekend where people could present what they've been working on.
Duration
one weekend, from Friday at 18:00 to Sunday at 17:00
Main goals
Gather the German-speaking Wikidata community, onboard new people with Wikidata tools, and support people who want to work on Wikidata-related tools or content.
Group picture with 16 of the 30 participants
Main target audience
German-speaking Wikidata community, people who are already editing Wikidata or reusing the data for other projects, or would like to start.
Total number of participants
30 (not including the organizers)
Number of organizers
10 (2 main organizers and 8 moderation helpers)
Language(s) spoken during the event
Mostly German, a few discussions in English

Details[edit]

Tools used
We used a combination of text channels and video-conference channels. We worked with Venueless, hosting and providing text channels and embedding Big Blue Button instances, with the possibility to log in using a Wikimedia account via OAuth. On top of this, we also used a Telegram channel for social and discussions, Etherpad for note-taking and simultaneous collaborative work, and wiki pages for presentation of the event and documentation. The Telegram group was set up a few weeks before the event to allow people to join in advance and get excited.
Program
The program (de) was composed of various sessions, some of them run by the organizers (welcome session, Q&A, showcase), some of them provided by the participants (introduction to Wikidata, workshops and presentations). We tried to build a schedule that would leave enough space for people to take breaks, work on their projects, or connect with each other via the social channels.
Visual used on social networks to announce the remote event
Registration and access
A registration form was available (we used Google Forms because we didn't find a better tool and we didn't have time and resources to install an instance of an open source form tool). We collected emails from participants and we sent them the link to the remote event space: as it was our first experiment and we were worried about spam or unwanted content, we decided to not spread the link publicly on wiki. In total, 46 people registered, about 30 of them joined the event.
Encourage participation
During the welcome session, after presenting the basics of the event (tools, schedule, participation guidelines), we suggested participants to introduce themselves, mentioning the topics they were interested in, and projects they would like to work on during the weekend. This helped them finding people with same interests. People could also sign up to the public participants list and present their ideas of projects. During the event, we encouraged people to talk about what they were doing, to ask if they needed help, and to share their progresses with the other participants. We used the text channels, we organized a Q&A session, as well as a test round showcase.
Content and documentation
Depending on the wishes of the speakers, some sessions got recorded, some others not. We encouraged speakers to publish their slides on Commons, slides and videos are or will be published directly on the program page. Some collaborative notes have been taken on Etherpad. Descriptions of projects have been added to a dedicated page.
Speakers briefing
The introduction sessions have been prepared before the event, by reaching to community members and supporting them preparing their talk. For example, we had a technical test will all speakers, trying the video tool together, so they would feel prepared and confident. This was also very useful to notice and prevent technical issues.
Visual for the moderation channel
Moderation
We defined some participation guidelines (soft word for code of conduct), partially inspired by Mozilla's ones and adapted to our specific needs. Because the entire event was taking place on text and video channels, we planned a big amount of human resources for moderation. We defined several types of roles (Master of Ceremony, Facilitator, Tech Support, Wikidata Expert...), we built a shift schedule, and we onboarded 8 people to make sure that the channels would be watched and people would quickly get answers to their requests. We tried to assign these roles to people depending on their wishes and experience (for example, people who are comfortable speaking in front of an audience as MC). We had a text and a video channel for moderators so we could sync and make decisions together. During the event, we had to issue several warnings and ban one person from the event channels for non compliance to the guidelines.
Communication
Our goal was to reach the existing German-speaking Wikidata community, as well as people working on other Wikimedia projects like Commons, and people volunteering in similar fields, like open data, hackerspaces or civic tech. We communicated about the event on Wikidata, on social networks, on the communication channels of Open Knowledge Foundation.
Social events
Two informal social events took place during the weekend: a few rounds of Skribbl.io, an online game where people have to draw and guess words, and a piano concert by Lucas Werkmeister streamed on Twitch. On top of that, we tried to engage with participants on Telegram, asking them about what they had for lunch, sharing pictures of their environment, etc. which encountered a moderate success.
Evaluation
We run an anonymous participants survey asking feedback about the event, but also how people feel regarding the Wikidata community, and how they would like to get involved in the future.

Lessons learned[edit]

Success[edit]

Overall, the fact that me managed to adapt the event that was supposed to happen onsite into a remote event, and that 30 people joined us in the journey, is already a success per se.

  • 30 participants for 46 registrations is a decent no-show rate for a remote event
  • the number of participants stayed constant over the weekend: we had 30 participants at the opening, 30 at the closing, and most of them stayed during the sessions in between
  • we found people to run the Wikidata & tools introductions, the speakers were prepared, confident and delivered great content
  • several people used the "spontaneous workshops" slots that we offered to present additional content or engage in discussions
  • 8 projects were presented during the showcase
  • despite the "at home" situation and lack of interaction and motivation from other participants, many participants got some work done or learned some new things during the event
  • participants and organizers managed to use the tools, created some new channels, overcame the various technical difficulties
  • the evenings entertainment (Skribbl, piano concert) worked well and helped people to relax and connect with each other

Challenges[edit]

Screenshot of the announcements channel on Venueless
Choose tools
We had a lot of requirements and needs for the main conference tool. Because we needed to make sure that the tools we used were GDPR-compliant, inclusive and open source, we had quite some issues finding the right set of tools suiting our needs (text channels and video channels, ideally in the same environment). Most of the existing solutions (Discord, Slack, Zoom, Google Meet) didn't fit this requirement. Remo, already tested during the remote Wikimedia hackathon, would have given a great hackathon-feeling to participants, but they are not GDPR-compliant yet. We also didn't have the time and resources to install and run our own public instance of a service like Mattermost or Matrix. WMDE's public instance of Jitsi was almost ready but not stable enough for a huge amount of participants. Therefore, we looked for German companies who could set up and host tools for us. That's how we found Venueless, who just started developing their virtual conference environment, including a custom text channels tool and open source video conferencing (BBB). They did some extra feature development for us, such as enabling OAuth, allowing participants to log in easily with their Wikimedia account. As the text channels part was very new, a lot of useful features were missing (sharing pictures, pinging users, notifications...) so using Telegram in parallel was very welcome.
Encourage group work
We wanted to encourage collaboration among people, working in groups on projects. Forming projects groups, a task that can already be tedious in an onsite event, was even more difficult remote. As organizers, we had trouble checking if everyone was feeling comfortable, found a project to work on, if some people were lost or bored, etc. We noticed that some participants managed to find other people to work with, but most participants worked on their own.
Replicate social interactions
The original event usually takes place in the nice hackerspace Verschwörhaus in Ulm, with about 50 participants who can easily interact with each other, get motivation from being all in the same place, and spend a lot of fun time together: breaks, meals, games, discussions, etc. Offering a similar experience for the participants sitting at home was obviously difficult. We tried several things to solve this problem: leaving space for informal discussions on the video channel, suggesting informal discussions in the Telegram channel, sharing pictures of our environment or meals, organizing games and music.
Inclusiveness vs atmosphere
In the spirit of most wiki-events, participants could freely register to the event and were not selected on their existing Wikidata skills, earlier experiences or any other criteria. While trying to be as open and inclusive as possible, we also had to face certain types of behaviour that had an impact on the general atmosphere of the event: shifting discussions to bring topics that were not connected to the event theme, non constructive questions or comments. We also noticed that a certain type of participants were taking a lot of space in the discussion channels of the event. We were wondering how to make more space for other people and provide an atmosphere that fosters participation of all attendees.

Possible improvements[edit]

For a next issue of this event, we could consider different things:

  • Make progress on encouraging collaboration, working in groups
  • Make progress on diversity and inclusiveness
  • Support even better the speakers in the choice of topics and structure of content
  • Use a tool that encourages even more collaboration
  • Provide more documentation and resources on tools that are frequently used
  • Improve suggestions of social events and interactions
  • Find a good replacement to Google Forms for registration

Recommendations[edit]

Here are a few things that we could suggest to our fellow remote events organizers:

  • A remote event is usually less expensive than an onsite event, because there are no venue, catering or travel costs, but a lot of human resources are necessary, especially for moderation
  • Thinking carefully about the structure and program: copying the structure of an onsite event to a remote event generally doesn't work
  • Giving enough time and breaks for people to relax away from computer, and to take care of the other aspects of their life
  • Having a code of conduct, preferably addressing specifically the situation of a remote event, is definitely necessary
  • Having a structured moderation plan and enough people to cover the event
  • Using accessible, easy to use, privacy-compliant and open source tools (and yes, finding the perfect tool combining all these criteria is difficult)
  • Respect privacy/anonymity of participants
  • Communicating openly about plans, problems, questions
  • Give access to a tool through OAuth is a nice thing to do to prevent technical and privacy problems (people didn't have to create an account or use an email address) and preventing spam
  • When speaking it a video conference or streaming, you will feel like your talking to yourself, people are not directly reacting to you and most of them stay silent. That's perfectly normal :)
  • Documenting your event so other organizers can benefit from it :)

Useful documents[edit]

Questions & discussions[edit]

If you want to talk to the the organizers, ask further questions, feel free to use the talk page.