Attending the Wikimedia Developer Summit
The Outreachy Internship program grants a $500 travel allowance to each intern to attend a relevant conference or workshop of their choice. I attended the Wikimedia Developer Summit this week in San Francisco, CA at the Golden Gate Club.
This is an annual gathering for technical contributors, third-party developers, users of MediaWiki and users of the Wikimedia APIs. The first two days of the summit consist of technical sessions, while the third day is a completely unscheduled day to “Get Stuff Done”. Basically, everyone gets together to hack on the ideas discussed the previous days to actually make them happen.
Unfortunately, due to a winter storm in New England and lots of flight delays, I missed the first day of the summit, which was a bummer. Thankfully, many of the sessions are recorded and posted online so I can still watch them.
During the summit, I attended the following sessions:
- Wikimedia Foundation Technology and Product Q&A
- What should an AI do for you? Building an AI Wishlist
- Algorithmic dangers and transparency — Best practices
- Scaling the Wikimedia database schema
- Actions to grow the diversity of our technical community
Most of the sessions were not directly related to my work, but it was interesting to learn about the various projects others are involved in.
In contrast to many other technical conferences, each session included lots of audience participation, and none involved just one person speaking to the room with a powerpoint deck. There were IRC chat rooms where anyone participating remotely could ask questions and chime into the discussion (while watching the livestream). Each session also had a dedicated notetaker who took detailed transcriptions of the discussion and anyone else participating in the session was encouraged to add their own notes.
One major takeaway from the summit was that the barrier to entry must be lowered for new contributors to ensure we are not demotivating potential community members. This includes things like better documentation, getting volunteer contributors involved in product roadmaps, and a more effective code review process.
My favorite part of the summit was meeting the incredibly friendly, smart, and welcoming group of people that make up the Wikimedia Movement in person. Working remotely has its perks, but it was really nice to finally chat face-to-face with people I’ve been working with over the past couple months. I also spent some time chatting with another Outreachy intern and some of the organizers of the summit about my internship experience so far.
Every evening, there were social dinners and events at the WMF headquarters for everyone to hang out. I really appreciated the push to create an open, and welcoming environment for everyone (friendly space policy, vegetarian food options, social events served non-alcoholic drink options, quiet room for anyone who needed a break from noise). Also, this awesome sign greets everyone walking into the WMF office:
I learned a lot about the future of the Foundation, technical projects outside of my internship scope, and met many of the people working on these projects. Although the summit is over now, I’ll be in San Francisco for another week and will work out of the WMF office for part of next week. On Tuesday, January 17th, I’m presenting about my journey transitioning careers to data analytics at a PyLadies meetup hosted by WMF!