Wikimedia Hackathon Vienna — 2017

Dinu Kumarasiri


Wikimedia Hackathon is the major community developer event hosted by Wikimedia Foundation. It brings together the Wikimedia developers from all around the world to one place where they can network with each other and hack into Wikimedia technical infrastructure. It also brings new developers in and introduce them to the Wikimedia community.

This year “Wikimedia Hackathon” was held in Vienna, Austria and hosted by Wikimedia Austria. Due to my previous contributions to Wikimedia Foundation, I got the chance to attend the hackathon as a scholar with Wikimedia Austria funding me for my travel and accommodation.

To read more about the official details on Wikimedia Hackathon, visit the following link.


My hackathon experience didn’t started in Vienna. It actually started a week ago in Prague, with Wikimedia Prague Pre-Hackathon where we got together and hacked into Wikimedia Commons Android App.

Want to know more about what happened in Prague pre-hackathon, read my previous blog post on it.

Here is a nice video made by John from Wikimedia UK, about the Prague pre-hackathon.

Hackathon info, venue and travel

Wikimedia Hackathon 2017, officially started on Friday 19th May, 2017. You can find the full program here.

The venue which the hackathon was held is JUFA Wien City. The accommodation for the attendees was also provided in the same hotel.

This year there was a new dedicated mentoring program for the new comers, so that they can get guidance on contributing to the Wikimedia projects by seasoned contributors. More on that later.

My Hackathon Experience

I arrived at the hotel around 1.30 pm on Thursday, checked in and registered. The hackathon registration desk was also along side the checkin counter so that attendees can easily register once they checked in. The next item on my agenda was the city tour to the historic centre of Vienna. Although I have visited most of the sights the day before, it was a great experience to know the history behind them. Wikimedia Austria had organized few of these guided tours so that the people from other countries can get a good idea on the history and culture of Vienna. We were able to cover everything from the Musium Quartier to Naschmarkt. We also visisted the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, which rejected Hitler as an art student.

I met my fellow hackathon buddies from Wikimedia Prague Pre-hackathon at dinner and we kept discussing our plans after dinner at lobby where we met few other hackathon participants and moved into various discussions including Wikimedia projects, Phabricator, Vienna, Barcelona, etc. These lobby discussions of little groups almost became a habit for all the nights we spent at JUFA. I was able to meet several people from various Wikimedia and related projects with different backgrounds. The love for open source was almost the only thing we had in common. These discussions were the most interesting part for me at the hackathon.


The hackathon officially started at 10 a.m. with an opening ceremony where Wikimedia Austria team briefed about the hackathon and mentoring program and welcomed all participants. There was an open mic at the end so that people can go up and talk about what are the projects they hope to work in, so that anyone interested can join them.

The video from the open mic can be found here.

Follow the below link to visit the Phabricator task about the opening which contains a detailed summary.

Mentoring Program

After the opening, there was an introduction to the mentoring program. More details and images from the session can be found from the below links.

Mentor mentee follow up meetings were held every morning to ensure everything is on track and solve the problems mentees and mentors were having about the program.

The session about the mentoring program started with an ice breaker activity. Then mentors got the chance to talk on what they are working on, so that the mentees can select the area and mentor which they want to work with.

Other Sessions

There were several sessions throughout the hackathon days so that participants can select what they wanted to attend. The next session I attended was “Overview of Wikimedia Tech” by Shrishti Sethi. You can find the presentation below.

The session gave a basic understanding of how Wikimedia technological stack is built an had a brief introduction on each item. This was a great session for Wikimedia newbies to get a good understanding about the technical infrastructure of Wikimedia foundation.

Immediately after that there was a skill share session on “Setting up Mediawiki Development Environment”. This was something I wanted to do from 2014, when I first started to contribute to other Wikimedia projects. This was in my bucket list since then, but never got prioritised. Finally, at the end of the session I was able to finish the setting up process. Now I have an up and running Mediawiki local deployment.

Another one of the most interesting sessions that I attended was the session about “Ladies That FOSS”. It is an initiative by Wikimedia Germany where they hold monthly meetups for women to contribute to open source. In this session we talked about how these sessions are held, how to attract more female developers to open source, how to organize similar meet ups and what more we can do to engage more females in tech.

Wikimedia Commons Android App Team

We continued working on improvements to the Wikimedia Commons Android App through out the hackathon. One of the major tasks we had in our checklist was to redesign the UI to make it more user friendly. We started taking the first step by adding a navigation drawer instead of the action bar. During the hackathon we were able to get help from the UI designer of Wikipedia Android app about the possible improvements to our UI.

The next one was to fix the memory issue in image loading. We halfway solved this in pre-hackathon by adding the functionality of limiting the number of images which were shown at the home screen. Dmitry Brant from Wikipedia Mobile Android App team helped us with this and we were able to learn a lot from him about handling memory, memory leaks and fixing them. With his help we were able to integrate Leak Canary, a memory detection library to our app so that we can easily identify the memory leaks.

Showcase & Closing

At the end of the last day, there was a hackathon showcase at the end where everyone showcased what they were able to achieve at the hackathon.

Final Remarks

It has been a great experience for me to attend Wikimedia Hackathon. Thank you very much Wikimedia Austria Chapter for everything you did for make this hackathon experience awesome. Congratulations on a job well done. Special thanks goes to Annemarie Buchmann for planning the logistics of my travel and accommodation and going through the hassle of visa process with me.

Hope to see you all in Wikimedia Hackathon 2018, Barcelona!

Dinu Kumarasiri

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The views expressed by my answers are my own and do not represent my employer’s opinion.

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