Outreach Events: My Triumphs, My Mistakes

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 28, 2012 from 3:45 – 4:30pm in B301


We all love sprinting with other experts, but how do you design an event effectively to reach out to and train newbies? It takes more work than you might think (publicity, prep, structure, and followup), but here's how.


When MediaWiki started hosting hackathons, they were always inreach – the existing community talking to itself. How could we expand our repertoire to outreach events, focusing on exciting and engaging new contributors?

Sumana heads this effort, and she failed before she succeeded. Here’s what she’s learned about planning, running, and following up on these events, in New Orleans, San Francisco, Mumbai, Pune, Brighton, and Berlin. She’ll cover:

  • Goal-setting
  • Do you need to limit yourself to your own city?
  • Choosing and building an onramp (what part of your codebase is most accessible to newbies?)
  • Tricking your community into writing tutorial documentation
  • Expert-to-newbie ratio
  • Publicity (how to get butts in the seats)
  • Who’s worth letting in, and how do you check?
  • Experts I stole ideas and structure from (hint: OpenHatch & Stumptown)
  • Structure vs. adhocracy
  • What you need to capture so you don’t fall down on the followup

She started thinking aloud about these issues in her post Everybody’s Doing It: Some Hackathon Tips, but she has made more mistakes and enjoyed more triumphs since then, and looks forward to sharing them.

Asheesh Laroia will discuss campus.openhatch.org and related OpenHatch efforts.

Speaking experience


I've presented at Foo Camp, "Open Source Bridge 2011":http://opensourcebridge.org/sessions/609, and "Open Source Bridge 2010":http://opensourcebridge.org/2010/wiki/The_Second_Step:_HOWTO_encourage_open_source_work_at_for-profits, "Wikimania":http://wikimania2011.wikimedia.org/wiki/Submissions/How_to_get_what_you_want_from_MediaWiki_developers, keynoted "PICC":http://www.picconf.org, led or organized several Wikimedia hackathons, taught several courses at UC Berkeley, and performed at Bay Area stand-up comedy venues, including "Google":http://vimeo.com/31400322.


I've presented at Open Source Bridge 2011, PyCon 2008-2012, and Debconf conferences. A representative talk video with a co-presenter is http://pyvideo.org/video/719/diversity-in-practice-how-the-boston-python-user ; without a co-presenter, a representative talk is http://pyvideo.org/video/415/pycon-2011--get-new-contributors--and-diversity-- .