Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/WM-IL Winter Hackathon

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WM-IL Winter Hackathon


Wikimedia Israel Winter Hackathon TLV - 2013

Over sixty volunteer programmers gathered in “Campus Tel Aviv” space on December 26 for a day of learning of the software behind Wikipedia, fixing its bugs, and making nifty tools with it. This was the second such event organized by the Wikimedia Israel chapter, following the success of the first Israeli Hackathon last May. The event was Lead by Wikimedia Israel’s volunteers Oren Bochman and Amir Aharoni.

The people who came were programmers with experience in different software fields: performance tweakers, web server and frontend programmers, mobile developers, semantic web gurus, and others fields who wanted to learn something new.

One surprise was the range of ages - at one extreme were a very young group of young robotics hackers from the GreenBlitz group from Hakfar Hayarok youth village who came, all dressed in matching t-shirts. At the end of the day they demoed their work: a gadget that analyzes a photograph and shows the Wikipedia article about the place where it was taken.

Several other teams at hackathon showed similar projects, which used Wikipedia’s API for coordinates and maps: a Google maps layer that shows locations without a photo in Wikipedia, a gadget that shows Wikipedia articles in an area ranked by popularity, and others. This shows the maturity and ease of development using this API, and their potential.

Wikimedia Israel Winter Hackathon TLV - 2013

Several people worked on actual bugs in MediaWiki and its extensions. A group of people worked on “reviving” the ParserPhase2 extension, which hasn’t been maintained for a while, but is still useful to them, and may prove to be useful to other MediaWiki users.

Possibly the most impressive demo was done by a group of young IDF hackers, who wrote a Python script for creating a PowerPoint presentation directly from a Wikipedia article. In their words, much of their schoolwork consists of building presentations based on Wikipedia content anyway, and they are just making it easier. The auto-generated presentations were complete with slide titles about main topics and sub-topics, explanations of each topic and auto-inserted images. The only thing missing was a witty sub-title on the first page. Though possibly controversial, this is nevertheless a nice demonstration of these programmers’ skills, and food for thought for teachers on how they can make better use of Wikipedia for teaching.

We were also happy to present Wikimedia’s work to Eugene Kandel, Head of the National Economic Council and Yossi Matias, managing director of Google's R&D Israel, who visited the Hackathon and heared from WMIL’s volunteers and the participates about the work done during the day.

Following another successful developer event, Wikimedia Israel is now working on further outreach into the growing the local MediaWiki developers community. We are already planning the next year’s event, which will bring about more surprises and useful developments. Also under evaluation is a new program for the scheduling a regular developer meetups aimed at creating a second tier of developer groups focused on MediaWiki hacking in closely knit developer groups.