Talk:Technology workshop 2014-15

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Venue[edit source]

Development House is the natural place to hold the event, but it might be worth considering whether we want to partner with someone in the area to make use of the our proximity to Silicon Roundabout. We could draw people from both communities if we can think of a suitable partner. But staying in Development House means we have access to printers, volunteer laptops, and the like in case they’re needed at the drop of a hat. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

I think it would be better to hold the event at the WMUK offices if possible, as that's then literally trying to bring people into Wikimedia, rather than having them talking about Wikimedia in a room that's advertising another organisation. Although the size of the rooms may now be an issue, as you mention below... Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:12, 28 April 2014 (BST)

Date[edit source]

Which side of Wikimania are we going to fall on? To avoid burnout after Wikimania – I’m thinking maybe treat a month either side of Wikimania as a no-go area. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

I'm thinking post-Wikimania might be best now. Perhaps that way we can advertise it a bit at Wikimania as a way to continue being involved in Wikimedia after the event. So a weekend in September might work well, depending on when the meeting rooms are available? Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:16, 28 April 2014 (BST)

Staffing[edit source]

As in who will be there to open up the office. Two people will be needed to open up the office, set up the rooms etc, and at least one will need to be on-hand all day to help with lunch, printing and whatever may crop up on the day. Let’s pick some likely dates and go from there, starting by seeing if the meeting rooms in Development House are free on the dates suggested. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Do we really need two staff for this? Unless they want to be there, of course. I could imagine we'd manage well with one staff member and volunteers. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:16, 28 April 2014 (BST)
Previous experience makes the answer a strong yes. For most of the day, one pair of hands would probably be enough, but at busy times such as letting people in and getting set up (or perhaps one needs to leave the building) it is important to have two people available with keys to the place. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 15:45, 12 May 2014 (BST)

Numbers[edit source]

If we book out the entire basement meeting rooms, we can accommodate about 35 people. That’s how many we had last weekend, and I think that’s the first time we tried something large down there since Ethical Property remodelled the basement. That number would include presenters, speakers, observers etc. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Ah. How does the basement look nowadays - are there photos available anywhere? If there aren't multiple meeting rooms available now, then what I was thinking of probably wouldn't work as well. Around 35 people sounds like a good number to me, though. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:18, 28 April 2014 (BST)

Duration[edit source]

Are we going to have enough content for two days? Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

I'd be a bit worried if we didn't, given the scope of the topic. I think it would be worthwhile to have people sleep on the ideas of the first day, and come back the next day with a rethought viewpoint. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:20, 28 April 2014 (BST)

[edit source]

It’s probably an open and shut case that we want it to be a free event if it’s going to be used for outreach, but a fee of say £5 would contribute towards catering and make it more likely that people who book will turn up. It would lessen the likelihood of people turning up on the day though. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

I'm not sure - I think either option would work well. My main worry with charging a fiver would be if that put people off attending; I don't know how likely that would be though. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:22, 28 April 2014 (BST)

Budget[edit source]

The main cost aside from staff time will probably be lunch, but if there’s anything else it would be handy to guesstimate how much it will come to. I’m not sure which budget it would come out of – development? outreach? – but we would need the budget holder to give their approval before any spends. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Also potentially accommodation. I'm not sure which budget it would come out of nowadays, sorry. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:26, 28 April 2014 (BST)

Travel expenses[edit source]

Should they be covered? Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

I'd say: where necessary, yes; where not, no. Hence why I phrased the note on the page as "if you need". Perhaps we should say that we can cover the travel costs of N people? Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:26, 28 April 2014 (BST)

Audience[edit source]

Or more precisely how are we going to make people turn up. What mailing lists, notice boards, and key contacts do we need to notify to generate interest. If we’re looking for people who might drop in without being booked, free pizza works pretty well. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 17:19, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

This is the key question. Hopefully the office has contacts that it can approach to get the word out here, and others on the tech committee likewise. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 21:28, 28 April 2014 (BST)
Coming back to this particular aspect some time on, is there anything we can learn from the hackathon aspect of Wikimania? I wasn't involved in the organisation of this particular stream, but maybe we could approach some of the UK based people and invite them to the workshop. Richard Nevell (WMUK) (talk) 13:09, 11 December 2014 (GMT)
Pizza isn't actually food, you know. Charles Matthews (talk) 13:53, 11 December 2014 (GMT)

Restarting discussion[edit source]

Would like to re-start discussion about the workshop (probably for early 2015 now), perhaps re-focusing it as a special-interest gathering as part of the series of volunteer strategy meetings. Some suggestions for revised agenda follow. Please add more!

  • To what extent could we achieve greater charitable impact by focusing on project-based IT work, with specific projects being volunteer-led?
  • How can we help volunteers with promising but not fully-formed ideas build them into fully-supportable projects?
  • What resources must we ensure we have available to each supported project? (eg lead volunteer(s)/project management, working volunteers, skills matrix, project fundraising capabilities, WMUK direct funding (for what?), defined staff backup for things volunteers will not do, metrics-measurement capabilities etc
  • What mechanisms should we set up to decide which potential IT projects should be supported? (Will have to balance potential charitable impact and alignment against our strategic goals and KPIs against resources available and resource costs to the charity)
  • What controls and reporting requirements should we have in place to ensure that supported projects are performing as expected?
  • How can we ensure that control/reporting requirements are proportionate so that we don't require too much bureaucracy for small projects?
  • How do we best encourage boldness and ambition in ideas?
  • What role could or should the tech committee have? Should it be restructured/have a different remit/be replaced with something else? How do we clarify lines of reporting and responsibility?
  • How do we handle volunteers who want support but who do not want to engage with regular committee work?
  • Given our limited resources, which specific IT projects can we commit to supporting now (not just morally, but actually)?

--MichaelMaggs (talk) 12:55, 10 December 2014 (GMT)

I'm mostly interested in G4, i.e. the strategic goal "encourage and support technological innovation". This is clearly at the mission statement level, but I think it needs to be borne in mind in a day-to-day fashion. The funding environment being somewhat discouraging right now, I'd like to hear about what can actually be done.

I'm going to amplify remarks I made on the Tech list. This may look rather extensive as ground to cover, but the first order of business surely is to decide whether a whole weekend is needed. Without that nothing can be booked. I don't think it's a given. I don't believe scheduling extensive presentations on existing projects should be the starting point, either.

My theory is that a focus on "WMUK's future technical capacity" is something a bit different from what I'm driving at. It would seem to exclude work hosted on Wikimedia Labs, for example; or projects that could arise from Wikidata. Documenting some tech strategy principles would be very good. My take, dating back from the initial proposal of this workshop, is that things have got off on the wrong foot for WMUK and strategy on technology. In several ways the page as first set up seemed to me to fail the test of doing something about all that.

Michael's bullet above is:

  • How do we best encourage boldness and ambition in ideas?

And it's a good point. But leaves out the "support" factor, which in the current funding climate would really be the main issue. There are other things to chew over, too. The idea of supporting tools maintenance is a good one, but is more about sustaining innovation in tools than "ambition" in itself, of course. And there is another point, which is that support of CiviCRM is already a large chunk of the developer effort (for reasons I completely understand).

There is likely to be an ongoing tension between programmatic activity and new projects designed to achieve certain goals, principally by software development.

When I say tech strategy principles should be documented, I'm not implying this is at all easy. They should cover things like volunteer engagement and planning (and the need to ensure those two things don't cut across each other). The chapter has to be involved in "outreach" and "Open Educational Resources" but needs to be much more specific before one can usefully discuss technology's role in communications, training and the posting of educational content. WMUK is in the business of running a website, doing mail merges and fundraising; as well as supporting editathons and GLAM work. Looking at those five things, you'd ask "and how does technology support editathons?", which is one of those good questions. My point is that it can't be approached just from first principles.

What happens at the office level also needs some kind of operational mission statement, I feel. Technical work cannot just be wished into place. Committee work is important, but implementation has to depend on good teamwork.

In greater detail, about a one- or two-day event, I would like to see:

  1. Concision by speakers, proper moderation, and a timetable that concentrates on discussion.
  2. Less emphasis on review of existing projects, and more effort to get control of overall planning.
  3. Use of brainstorming restricted to the technically accurate version of a few minutes at a flipchart.
  4. Technical interludes as needed.
  5. Serious paper exercises.
  6. And no assumption about going to the pub; I award 0/10 to that for diversity awareness.

Charles Matthews (talk) 11:16, 11 December 2014 (GMT)