Wikimedia Techstorm 2019 was a 3 day event in which we focused on technical tools that make it easier to contribute to Wikimedia projects. The event was the third of its kind, hosted by Wikimedia Netherlands in Amsterdam. We were about 70 participants – the event was open to anyone, but primarily targeted women and non-binary people. The group was otherwise quite a diverse group – some of us had contributed to Wikimedia projects for many years, some came because they would like to get started. At all levels we had something to share, and we could all learn from each other. Agewise we ranged from 20ish to 80ish, from a mixture of different countries.
The conference started with a cultural event, in which we visited the famous Dutch Rijksmuseum. Here we got to meet each other, while being introduced to the rich Dutch painting traditions at the same time. This was followed by a dinner during which we could meet more participants – getting to know each other, as well as getting a chance to discuss our various Wikimedia projects and interests.
The official program started the next day. It was organised as a series of workshops divided into two main tracks – one focusing on Wikidata, one on Wikimedia Commons. In advance, we had indicated which track we would like to follow – Yupik had chosen the Wikidata track and Mewasul the Wikimedia Commons track. The different workshops focused on different tools, which either introduced new interfaces and features or made existing workflows much more efficient.
We also had an open space in which we could simply work together. If you had a project in which more people could help, you could make a small poster about it, put it up on a wall and then other people could read what it was all about and indicate their interest. With many people with different expertise in the same room, it was also particularly easy to get help if you had any questions about anything. We had mentors with explicit expertise – they all wrote down what other people could ask them about.Mewasul found the workshop about Pattypan – a way to mass upload images with metadata to Wikimedia Commons particularly useful, and in the open space she got help to set up a significantly better workflow for working on categories on Wikipedia. In addition, she helped Yupik merge data from various Excel sheets in various languages into a single spreadsheet. This information will be used later on to autogenerate descriptions in Northern Saami, and eventually Inari and Skolt Saami, in Wikidata.
Most of the Wikidata workshops built on other workshops at the event, which makes it more difficult for Yupik to say which workshops she found the most useful. For example, at the mapmaking workshop, she learned that the lack of information in her maps was due to the lack of suitable information in Wikidata instead of malformed SparQL queries. This led to a joint project scraping the public library website in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area to improve the amount and quality of information we have for these libraries in Wikidata.
Overall, the event provided a great atmosphere for learning about technical tools and to get to know people with similar interests. We all came home with some new knowledge – and with an extended network of like-minded contacts. It would be wonderful to be able to attend next year again or even export the concept to the Nordic Countries!
Mewasul and Yupik participated at WikiTechstom 2019 with generous funding granted by NUUG Foundation.