Tallinn Calling: 3 Days Inside the Epicenter of Innovation at Wikimedia Hackathon 2024

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Imagine a room buzzing with ideas, keyboards clicking in unison, and a palpable energy that fuels creativity. This wasn’t your typical office scene; this was the heart of the Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 in Tallinn, Estonia, and I was lucky enough to be a part of it for a day.

For those unfamiliar, the Wikimedia Hackathon is an annual event that gathers tech wizards from around the globe to brainstorm and develop projects that improve various Wikimedia initiatives, including the one and only Wikipedia. This year, I arrived on the third and final day, eager to soak up the atmosphere and learn from the brilliant minds gathered there.

Hacking with a Purpose: Unveiling the Teams

Nivas, Krishna Chaitanya and Megan Neisler. Fourth member Marcel Ruiz was not present.

The venue itself was impressive. A spacious hall with a massive set of TVs displaying the Wikimedia Hackathon logo instantly set the stage for an epic event. A few hours before my help desk shift, I decided to explore and get a feel for the ongoing projects.

My first stop was Team “Commons Impact Metrics.” These data whizzes were on a mission to develop a data pipeline to collect and document user data. Their project’s goal? To empower users with success and scalability. They’d all encountered similar projects in their day jobs, so they hit the ground running. Their biggest hurdle? The sheer volume of data – so much that it even crashed a team member’s PC! But these tech gladiators persevered, adapting their approach and focusing on a specific data category. Their motivations were clear: a chance to work on challenging projects, meet new people and contribute to something meaningful. They discovered the Hackathon through the Wikimedia Foundations, and with some members boasting a whopping seven hackathons under their belt, their experience and enthusiasm were infectious.

Innovation on the Agenda: Unveiling MediaWiki’s Track Stars

Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 participants, CC0 1.0 authored by Asaidlo

Next up was Team “MediaWiki Track.” Here, I met Cole White and P. Miazga, two members tackling a project focused on transitioning metrics to a more modern technological landscape. Their mission? To modernize the observability stack, a critical element for monitoring system performance. While they’d tackled similar projects before, this was their first foray into the world of MediaWiki. The challenge? Taking the initiative to develop a solution for a long-standing issue – the very reason they joined the Hackathon. Their discovery of the event? Through MediaWiki itself, unsurprising considering most of the team worked for the Wikimedia Foundation. This team exemplified the collaborative spirit of the event, highlighting their desire to connect with more MediaWiki contributors. Just like Team “Commons Impact Metrics,” these developers were veterans of similar events, and their key takeaways were meeting new collaborators and gaining valuable new knowledge.

From the Outside Looking In: A Volunteer’s Perspective

Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 entrance

My quest for stories then led me to Olga Kortsagin, a volunteer who had dedicated her time to help desk duties throughout the event. This was her first foray into the world of Wikimedia, and her curiosity about Wikipedia’s inner workings piqued her interest in volunteering. Unlike the developers, Olga’s preparation involved minimal organization – a testament to the event’s seamless execution. Her takeaways? New knowledge and a newfound appreciation for the positive impact of the Wikimedia Hackathon. For anyone interested in similar experiences, Olga offered a glowing recommendation – volunteer and gain valuable knowledge and forge new connections within the Wikimedia community. Her overall experience echoed mine – positive, well-organized, and with a special shoutout to the Hilton chefs for her favourite shrimp salad!

The Takeaway: A Day Steeped in Inspiration

Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 participants, CC BY-SA 3.0 authored by Olea

My brief time at the Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 was an energizing whirlwind. Witnessing the passion, expertise, and collaborative spirit of the developers and volunteers was truly inspiring. Whether it was the developers tackling intricate challenges or Olga’s dedication to supporting the event, everyone played a crucial role. The event left me with a newfound appreciation for the tireless efforts that go into maintaining and improving the vast knowledge base of Wikipedia and its sister projects.

For those attending next year, here are some golden nuggets:

  • Be prepared to be challenged. The projects undertaken at the Hackathon are no walk in the park. But with the collaborative spirit and the support network, you’ll be well-equipped to overcome any hurdles.
  • Come with an open mind. You’ll be surrounded by brilliant minds from diverse backgrounds. Embrace the opportunity to learn from each other and be receptive to new ideas.
  • Network! This event is a goldmine for forging connections with fellow developers and volunteers who share your passion for knowledge and innovation.

The Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 was more than just a coding marathon; it was a testament to the power of collaboration. It was a melting pot of ideas, fueled by a shared purpose: to contribute to the betterment of a global knowledge base. If you’re a tech whiz with a passion for innovation and a desire to give back, the Wikimedia Hackathon is an event you won’t want to miss.

Beyond the Code: Unexpected Delights and Lasting Impressions

Wikimedia Hackathon 2024 group photo, CC-BY-SA-4.0 authored by Mike Peel

While the core of the Hackathon revolved around project development, there were also unexpected moments that added to the overall experience. One such moment was Olga’s enthusiastic endorsement of the Hilton chefs’ shrimp salad. It’s these little details that create a sense of community and camaraderie, reminding us that even amidst intense brainstorming sessions, there’s space for shared laughter and appreciation for creature comforts.

A Call to Action: Be Part of the Change

The Wikimedia Hackathon is a powerful example of what can be achieved when passionate individuals come together. It’s a celebration of open knowledge, collaboration, and innovation. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or simply someone with a desire to contribute, there’s a place for you at this remarkable event.

So, are you ready to be part of the change? Mark your calendars for the Wikimedia Hackathon 2025! Together, we can continue to build a world where knowledge is freely accessible to everyone.

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