WMHack18: Achievements & learnings from a first time participant

The 2018 Wikimedia Hackathon took place in the beautiful and sunny city of Barcelona from Friday 18th to Sunday 20th of May. This year the focus areas were: Technology related to content translator, Documentation, WikiCite, Design and Structured Data on Wikimedia Commons. More than 200 hundreds Developpers, designers, translators and many others wikimedians gather for 3 days to hack, colloborate, share knowledge and projects. And it was a really great pleasure to be part of it.

Group photo by User:Ckoerner


My journey with Wikimedia projects really started 5 years ago. I first started editing wikipédia as an unregistered user and finally created an account 2 years later. Since then, I got involved and active in many other wikimedia projects like mediawiki, commons, LinguaLibre. I think I will get involved in Wikidata as well :).

It was my first time attending such an international and technical wikimedia event and it was a really great pleasure to be there thanks to Toni Hermoso who invite me. Toni and I met first at the prehackathon in Montpellier in France dedicated to gadgets development on the FR Wiki.

Before the Hackathon

As a first time participant, I don’t really know how things will be going on there even if in the past I have attended many others hackathon outside Wikimedia. I read and read again the event program page and the hackathon projects list on Fabricator to ensure there are specific sessions for new comers. Then I make my own list of what session to attend and what project I can collaborate on in line my favorite programming languages: Python, JavaScript and PHP. Once I’m OK with my list, I set up my computer with the necessary environment for hacking. To get updated with the latest information about the event, I suscribe to the hackathon channel on IRC and to the Telegram group of participants.

I’m not participating to the hackathon to only contribute to others project, I also have one in my bag to have others contribute on with me.

The project I brought to the Hackathon

I’m from Bénin, a beautiful and peaceful west african country with many warm people. People from Bénin speak many language among them the most spoken is Fon. That is my mother tongue language. More than 4 millions people speak Fon in Bénin, Togo and in Nigeria but you know there is no wiki in that language. I then decided to fix this by creating a wikipedia in Fon and create the first community of Fon wikipedians. That is the main project I brought to the hackathon alongside with my bots and extensions development projects. I knew It will be the opportunity to meet people who really know how Wikimedia projects work on both front and back sides to have them collaborate on my project. And this really happens!

During the Hackathon

Day 1: the meeting that accelarate all

Friday is the first day, I started the day with a stroll session offered by the UAB environmental office. Fresh air and walking in the nature had been very useful to start such an event.

After the opening session and during the pre-lunch time, I met Amir. Amir is an Israeli working in Wikimedia Foundation Language Team. We introduce ourselves and I tell Amir about my project. I can see him starting seaching for more information about Fon language. On Wikipedia he found the article about Fon language and was able to read that more than 4 millions people speak Fon. He told me: you’re right. That is a Good fight and will support you on this. And then we start collaborating. It’s amazing to see how people are available to collaborate.

Amir and I hacking on the project — By David Parreño Mont

After the lunch we start hacking. First we create the project in Incubator with a main page and next step should be stating translating the interface / messages. But in Fon alphabet, there are some special letters: Ɖɖ Ɛɛ ɔƆ Ɔ́ɔ̀ óÓ ìÌ.

How can I type those special letters? We then need a keyboard and I will develop it.

Day 2 : Bots & keyboard development

After attending another newcomers session I developped some bots in Python to automate tasks on Wikipedia. And then after the lunch, I start building the Keyboard. I use the Wikimedia UniversalLanguageSelector library. Thanks to [[User:Santosh]] who really help on this. Once commit merged, Amir deployed it in Translatewiki and then I can start translating. I write a small first article about Bénin in Fon. No time to waist, tomorrow is the demo day, Amir contact [[User:Odder]] to collaborate on the project. Odder design the project logo. I was really impressed by the rapidity and the quality of the work. The same day I made an official request for the project on meta.

That day was really special and historic as we got interviewed by the Catalan TV and it was an opportunity to share the project with the world.

Day 3: Demo day

Today is the last day at the Hackathon. I made some recording in Fon on LinguaLibre. It was the occasion for [[User:0x010C]] to test the new voice decording application he developped. I have been counting in Fon and the files are automatically uploaded to wikimedia commons. Good Job.! With [[User:Framawiki]], I completed exploring Extension development on mediawiki. I was able to make some quick tests to see how things work. I will be proposing my first commit for merge in coming days.

Before the lunch I meet Amir again and together we work on the presentation. 2 minutes to present so I made some rehearsals before to be sure key messages will be presented within the 2 minutes.

Project demo — By @Sonkiki

I was delighted to see that people really appreciate the presentation and the project and that many offer their help and collaboration after the demo. I can’t wait to be present next year in Prague to present how far the project have been progressed so far.

After the Hackathon

First day after the hackathon I start communicating about the project to gather the first volunteer Fon wikipedians. I also continue translating the interface. Will let you know soon with how we have so far progressed!

Key learning

As a first time participant here are what I learn so far:

  • Get yourself prepared before the hackathon: Read the program and projects and make your own program
  • Attend the newcomers sessions
  • Get a mentor
  • Grab some tasks or projects to work on
  • Say Hello and ask
  • And finally Enjoy, Enjoy!