JUL
4
2019

Plasma + Usability & Productivity Sprint in Valencia, Spain

The KDE Plasma and Usability teams recently converged on the beautiful Spanish city of Valencia for a combined development sprint. The teams admired Valencia's medieval architecture and stayed up until midnight eating sumptuous Mediterranean food. But of course, the real purpose was work!

We camped out in the offices of the Slimbook company, which were generously made available for the sprint. The aim was not only to hack on Plasma and the Usability & Productivity initiative, but also to benefit from the cross-pollination opportunities provided by hosting both sprints at the same time and place.

The result was a huge amount of work done on Plasma, KWin, Dolphin, Spectacle, and many other bits of KDE software.

Present for the Plasma sprint were Kai Uwe Broulik, David Edmundson, Nicolas Fella, Eike Hein, Roman Gilg, Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Marco Martin, and Bhushan Shah. They had quite a busy agenda:

  • Plasma 5.16's new notification system received a great deal of polish
  • Fixed a ton of bugs in the Plasma Browser Integration
  • Rewrote the widget positioning code for the desktop, making it much more robust, future-proof, and usable on touch:



  • Started work on making the Task Manager understand window stacking order, which will allow it to implement new interaction modes for grouped windows (e.g. bring forward the last-used window when clicked)
  • Worked on architecture improvements for the Task Manager to unify its different presentation modes and improve code robustness
  • Worked on a variety of architecture improvements for KWin to make it more future-proof, which, among other things, will improve multi-screen handling
  • Improved the user interface for the System Tray's settings window
  • Added calculator and unit conversion functionality to Kickoff and Application Dashboard

Kickoff now integrates a calculator and a unit conversion utility.

In addition to making technical progress, the Plasma and Usability teams got together to discuss a number of long-standing Plasma issues, and figure out how to resolve them:

We wanted to make it easier to test a custom-compiled version of Plasma. To do so, we implemented changes that allow you to integrate your custom-compiled Plasma into SDDM by running a single command, after which you can log into it normally. For more information, see this article.

We thought it would be a good idea to make more it obvious and discoverable that Plasma is made up of widgets, and show how they are configured. To do this, we decided to create a new "global edit mode" that's triggerable from within System Settings, as this is where new users generally expect everything to be configured. In this global edit mode, all widgets become visibly configurable, editable, removable, etc. We also want to make it easy to change the wallpaper in this mode. With all that done, we'll be able to remove the Desktop Toolbox as it currently exists.

There was a need to unify the disparate scaling methods, so we decided to visually connect the scale factor chooser with the "Force Fonts DPI" setting, since the former actually affects the latter, but not the other way around. This should make it clear that the scaling slider is the primary way to scale the screen, and the "force fonts DPI" control is nothing more than a way to tweak things further.

We needed Plasma to respect the system-wide scale factor on X11, so we came up with a path forward and a plan for getting it done!

We planned out how to add power actions to the lock screen. We concluded that not only does this make sense, but it will be necessary for Plasma Mobile anyway. In a multi-user environment, the user will have to enter an admin password to shut down or restart the machine when other users are also logged in.


Even during down time, KDE carries on coding!

Over in the Usability & Productivity room we had Méven Car, Albert Astals Cid, Noah Davis, Filip Fila, Nate Graham, and David Redondo. The agenda was similarly jam-packed, and included the following:

  • We ported Spectacle to use KGlobalAccel and away from KHotKeys, made the quit-after-copy feature finally work, and added support for drawing annotations on newly-taken screenshots
  • We implemented user-configurable sort ordering for wallpaper slideshows
  • Dolphin received human-readable sort order text and an auto-play-on-hover feature for media files
  • We added inline name feedback when creating new files or folders
  • Users can optionally close windows in the Present Windows effect with a middle-click
  • Many user interface improvements have been made to the Purpose framework, which implements sharing support in many apps (Dolphin, Spectacle, Okular, Gwenview as of recently, and so on)
  • We started working on improving the default selection of pictures available for user account avatars
  • Initial work has been done on a new "Recently used" feature for Dolphin and the file dialogs that will pull its data from a single consistent location and actually notice everything

We also came to some significant conclusions related to higher-level goals. For example, we plan to pay for professional user research to generate new "personas" and target user groups that represent the people using our software. We will use these personas as the basis for professional usability testing for Plasma, Dolphin, Gwenview, Okular, and other components of a basic desktop.

Additionally, we discussed how we can add release notes data to our apps' AppStream data, so that it shows up in software center apps like Discover. The big blocker was getting the required translations added to the tarball. We've started a dialogue with AppStream maintainer Matthias Klumpp regarding a new feature to pull translations from a remote location, which would support our workflow. The conversation is proceeding nicely so far.

Finally, VDG member Noah Davis dug deep into Breeze to work on visual consistency improvements related to selection highlights. Given his growing familiarity with the code, he's well on his way to becoming the next Breeze maintainer!

All in all, it was a very productive week. KDE Plasma and apps are in a great place right now, and the team's effort to further improve things will reach you in upcoming versions, so stay tuned!

JUN
6
2019

Akademy 2019 registration now open

Akademy is free to attend, however you need to register to reserve your space.

Once you have registered, take a look at our guide on how to travel to Milan and check out the accommodation we have arranged and recommend for attendees. We also have a guide on how to get from different locations within Milan to Akademy. This guide also includes information on how to move around the city in general -- useful for sightseeing!

IMPORTANT: All attendees are expected to read and required to follow Akademy's Code of Conduct.

Badges

Show your friends you are attending Akademy 2019 by displaying a badge on your blog, your website or social media account:



About Akademy


Akademy 2018, Vienna

For most of the year, KDE - one of the largest free and open software communities in the world - works online by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

APR
24
2019

Announcing Akademy 2019 in Milan, Italy (September 7th - 13th)

Photo by Romain Pontida, distributed under CC By SA license. Original at https://www.flickr.com/photos/romainpontida/39707850020/

Akademy 2019 will be held at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy, from Saturday the 7th to Friday the 13th of September.

The conference is expected to draw hundreds of attendees from the global KDE community to discuss and plan the future of the community and its technology. Many participants from the broad Free and Open Source software community, local organizations and software companies will also attend.

KDE e.V. is organizing Akademy 2019 with unixMiB — the Linux User Group of the University of Milano-Bicocca. unixMiB aims to spread Open Source philosophy among students.

Akademy 2019 Program

Akademy 2019 will start with 2 days of talks on Saturday and Sunday (7th and 8th of September), followed by 5 days of workshops, Birds of a Feather (BoF), training and coding sessions.

Call for Papers

The goal of the conference section of Akademy is to learn and teach new skills, and share our passion around what we're doing together at KDE.

For the sharing of ideas, experiences and state of things, we will have short Fast Track sessions in a single-track section of Akademy. Teaching and sharing technical details is done through longer sessions in the multi-track section of Akademy.

If you have an idea or a story that you would like to present, please tell us about it. If you know of someone else who should present, please encourage them to get in touch. For more details, see the proposal guidelines and the Call for Papers.

The submission deadline is 31st May, 23:59:59 CEST.

About Milan

With a population of over 1.5 million inhabitants, Milan has a rich history that stretches back to 600 BC. The city boasts interesting museums, fascinating archaeological sites and breathtaking architecture and monuments. It is also renowned for its excellent food and wine.

Milan is considered a global city, with strengths in the field of the arts, commerce, design, education, entertainment, fashion, finance, healthcare, media, services, research, and tourism. It is the third-largest economy among European cities after Paris and London, but the fastest in growth among the three. It is also the wealthiest among European non-capital cities.

Apart from being recognized as the world's fashion and design capital, Milan has a strong IT-based sector and is home to powerhouses such as Disney and SUSE. The adjacent towns are home to IBM Italia, Samsung and the CILEA supercomputing center, one of the most advanced HPC centers in Europe.

About the University of Milano-Bicocca

Akademy will be held in the halls of the University of Milano-Bicocca. Milano-Bicocca is a public university that provides undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate education in a wide range of disciplinary fields including Economics, Informatics, Statistics, Law, Education, Sociology, Medicine and Surgery, Maths, Natural Sciences, Physics and Astrophysics, Chemistry, Computer Sciences, Biotechnology, and Psychology.

The university is located to the north and east of the center of Milan and can easily be reached by bus and metro/underground.

About Akademy


Akademy 2018, Vienna

For most of the year, KDE - one of the largest free and open software communities in the world - works online by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

OCT
30
2018

Nextcloud Founder Frank Karlitschek awarded 20,000 euros -- Donates prize to promote inclusiveness


Frank Karlitschek, founder of Nextcloud and recipient of this year's Reinhard von Koenig award.

Frank Karlitschek, the founder of Nextcloud, has won the Reinhard von Koenig award and will be donating the winnings, amounting to € 20,000, to start a fund called "Nextcloud Include".

The fund, set up in collaboration with KDE e.V., wants to encourage diversity in open source. It aims to help underrepresented groups participate in the global Nextcloud community and foster an inclusive and diverse space where the community can continue to collaborate and develop world-class software. Mentoring, travel support, and internships are provided as part of the program. The program is ran in collaboration with the KDE community under the umbrella of the KDE e.V.

Margit Stumpp, Member of the German Parliament (Bundestag) said:

Equal opportunities and diversity are very important issues for the future, especially in technical professions. I am pleased that Nextcloud Include is a new important initiative that is focusing on these issues".

Frank is of course very happy with the prize:

I'm extremely honored to be awarded this prize as a recognition of the incredible impact privacy issues have on our society and the importance of Nextcloud in providing a solution. By donating the prize money to a diversity goal, I hope it will help catalyze another transformation that society needs".

Lydia Pintscher, president of KDE e.V.'s Board was equally thrilled:

We'd like to congratulate Frank on winning this prize and his decision to put the money to a great cause in open source. For us, collaborating with Nextcloud in this way is a bit of a homecoming as it is one of the most successful projects to emerge from our community over the past decade".

It is worth remembering that Nextcloud started life as a KDE project.

Nextcloud, Frank and KDE would like to invite community members who want to get involved in Nextcloud but face significant social hurdles to get in touch with our Include team. You can find more information on Nextcloud Include page.

The Reinhard von Koenig award promotes excellence in progress and technology. Previous winners include notable staff members from Daimler AG and Atlatec GmbH for work on self-driving cars.

SEP
7
2018

Akademy 2018 videos are now online

If you missed any of the talks, or couldn't make it to Vienna to attend this year's Akademy, now you can watch the recordings from the comfort of your home. You can find and download the videos from our repository, or browse and share them from the YouTube playlist we have set up especially for all Akademy 2018 videos.

We recommend starting with this year's keynotes, so make sure to watch Dan Bielefeld talk about how the Transitional Justice Working Group locates and uncovers sites for crimes against humanity committed by the Kim regime in North Korea:

Also, don't miss what Claudia Garad has to say about onboarding new contributors into an open community:

If you prefer a more KDE-specific topic, watch Nate Graham lay out a seven-point plan that will help KDE take over the world:

About Akademy

For most of the year, KDE -- one of the largest free and open software communities in the world-- works on-line by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities.

AUG
14
2018

Akademy 2018 Tuesday BoF Wrapup

Tuesday continued the Akademy BoFs, group sessions and hacking. There is a wrapup session at the end of the day so that what happened in the different rooms can be shared with everyone including those not present.

Watch Tuesday's wrapup session in the video below

AUG
14
2018

Akademy 2018 Monday BoF Wrapup

Monday was the first day of Akademy BoFs, group sessions and hacking. There is a wrapup session at the end of the day so that what happened in the different rooms can be shared with everyone including those not present.

Watch Monday's wrapup session in the video below

AUG
13
2018

Akademy 2018 Day 2


Claudia Garad, Executive Director of Wikimedia Austria, reflects on the challenges of inclusivity.

Day 2 of Akademy started with a wonderfully insightful keynote by Claudia Garad, the Executive Director of Wikimedia Austria. She focused her talk on some of the challenges that organizations like hers face when trying to bring about more inclusivity and diversity within their communities.

She emphasized the importance of making underrepresented communities feel more welcome and heard within the organization, then went on to speak about how she perceived KDE as being quite ahead of Wikimedia in some aspects, especially when it came to reaching these goals.

One of the things she thought brought a positive vibe to the KDE community was that "KDE embraces cuteness", she said while displaying a slide with the "pile of Konquis" picture. On a more serious note, she said that through events such as Akademy, sprints and events around the world, you can bring together people from immensely diverse backgrounds and have them work towards building a stronger community.

Afternoon Talks

Speakers covered a wide variety of topics in the afternoon. Alan Pope from Canonical, for example, told us about Snapcraft, a web-based tool that makes it incredibly simple to build a Linux package out of code just pushed onto git. Meanwhile, Oliver Smith, the project lead of postmarketOS, spoke about the experimental phone OS based on Alpine Linux and plans for integration with Plasma Mobile.


Volker Krause showing off Plasma Mobile running on Yocto on a Raspberry Pi-powered device.

Meanwhile, David Edmundson was not only predicting where KDE's Plasma desktop would be going next, but also numbering the potential pitfalls it would have to avoid on its way getting there. One of the things in store for Plasma users is full browser integration.

Kai Uwe Broulik explained what is working (quite a lot), and how you will be able to control every aspect of your web browser with Plasma's integrated tools. Already working are controls for playback of videos and music on many popular sites using desktop widgets, including the likes of KDE Connect.

Talking of playing music, Camilo Higuita told us about the progress of VVAVE, a next generation audio player that is fully convergent (it integrates both with your Plasma desktop and on your mobile phone), and is but one part of Camilo's idea for an open audio streaming service.

Andreas Cord - Landwehr gave a talk on Yocto and how to use it to build images and SDKs and to create KDE-powered devices with Yocto. In a a similar vein, Volker Krause showed of a Raspberry Pi-based device running Plasma Mobile also on Yocto. The excitement of the KDE developers when it comes to running KDE software on mobile devices is electric and the audience was buzzing during these talks.

The day ended with Sponsor Talks by The Qt Company, BlueSystems, Canonical, openSUSE, CodeThink, and Mycroft.

Akademy Awards


From left to right, Valorie Zimmerman, David Edmundson, and Aditya Mehra with their own awards and those that couldn't attend.

Finally, there were the Akademy Awards ceremony. The Akademy Awards are a way of honoring members that have done outstanding work for the benefit of the whole community.

The Application Akademy award went to Aditya Mehra for their work on the Mycroft integration providing KDE with a free speech assistant which is free as in freedom .

The Non-Application Akademy Award went to Valorie Zimmerman for for their work driving KDE's mentoring programs and the Community Working Group, and being one of KDE's good souls

There were three Jury awards this year they went to Sebastian Kügler for for their many years of relentless hacking and more (Plasma, KDE Marketing, years in the KDE e.V. Board), David Edmundson for their work on Telepathy, porting applications to Frameworks 5, Plasma, KWin, KWayland, and being the crazy guy around and to Mario Fux for supporting KDE over many years through organizing the Randa meetings.

The Akademy Team were thanked with the Organizational Award to Stefan Derkits and the whole team responsible for putting together Akademy 2018.

Congratulations to the winners and thank you for being so awesome!

AUG
12
2018

Akademy 2018 Day 1


Lydia Pintscher, President of KDE e.V. opens this year's Akademy. Photo by Paul Brown, distributed under the CC0 license.

Akademy 2018 got off to a wet start with rains accompanying all attendees pouring into Vienna for KDE's largest annual community conference. Although the Pre-Registration event was held on Day Zero (Friday the 10th) and it was a fun-filled affair, Akademy kicked off in earnest on Saturday, with talks, panels and demonstrations. Read on to find out about Day 1 of Akademy and all that transpired:

Keynote: Mapping Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea with FOSS

Dan Bielefeld, the Technical Director of the Transitional Justice Working Group, explained the work they do to map North Korean locations of mass burial and execution sites using mapping technologies. He also delivered insight into how North Korea and the Kim regime operates, and how his organization gleans information both from interviews with refugees and from studying satellite imagery.


Dan Bielefeld talks about how the Transitional Justice Working Group tries to shed light on North Korea's crimes against humanity. Photo by Paul Brown, distributed under the CC0 license.

Although the topic of the suffering of North Koreans is grim, there is a silver lining, says Dan: One day there will be a transition, there will come a day when the Kim regime will end and North Koreans will regain the freedom that they have been denied for over 70 years. The work of the Transitional Justice Working Group will also help with that. Finding out what happened to loved ones and bringing those responsible for the atrocities to justice will be a crucial part of helping the nation heal.

And it makes sense, says Dan, for the Transitional Justice Working Group to work with both Free Software and Free Software communities. The software offers the group a degree of security and control they cannot find in closed source applications; and Free Software communities uphold the same values Dan's group is fighting for, that is, the right to privacy and personal freedom.

Privacy Panel

Quite appropriately, after Dan's keynote, Adriaan de Groot ran a panel where members discussed the matter of privacy. Developing privacy-respecting software is one of KDE's main goals and the panelists explained how developing free and open Personal Digital Assistants like Mycroft was crucial to protecting users from snooping corporations.

Another thing we rarely think about but is a source of concern with regard to personal information is trip planners. In actual fact, the amount of sensitive information that we unwittingly share by letting opaque apps tell us when and where to catch our flight is staggering. Since the 2017 Randa sprint, there are KDE developers actively working on a truly open and private solution that will help solve this problem.

The other thing the panel discussed was the state of GnuPG in Kmail. GnuPG is the framework that allows users to encrypt and decrypt email messages that, otherwise, would be sent in clear text -- a big privacy concern. At this stage of play, GnuPG is tightly integrated into Kmail and, is not only convenient for end users, but has also proved to be immune to recent vulnerabilities that have affected other email clients.

Combined with the underlying policy of all KDE apps of never collecting data subvertly or otherwise, KDE is sticking strictly to its goal of preserving user privacy.

Streamlined onboarding goal

Neofytos Kolokotronis talked about the progress of another of KDE's main goals, namely the onboarding of new users. Neofytos explained to attendees the progress the working group had made so far and where they wanted to go to. He had some advice on how to help new users join KDE, such as having good and clear documentation, mentoring new contributors, and building connections outside your immediate niche.

More Highlights from Day 1

Wrishiraj Kaushik in his talk titled Winds of Change - FOSS in India spoke about the current scenario of FOSS in India and his experience leading SuperX and integrating KDE with it.

The Indian union government has a nation-wide recommendation in place for the use, promotion and development of Free and Open Source software. Despite this, FOSS adoption has remained low in the country. The decision taken by some state governments to not adopt these recommendations in conjunction with the aggressive marketing carried out by proprietary software vendors in India has seriously hindered the use of Free Software. SuperX, however, has managed to find a place within the government and a few Indian universities thanks to its user-centric approach. SuperX has deployed 30,000 KDE shipments -- one of the largest deployments in the world, and there are 20,000 more in the works.

This was followed by a panel discussion by Lydia, Valorie and Bhushan in which they told the community about our KDE student programs and how to contribute to their running and up-keep. It was a talk of high relevance, given our KDE Community goal to streamline the onboarding process for new contributors and the fact that a large part of our new contributor base comes through our organized mentoring programs, namely Google Summer of Code, Google Code-in and Season of KDE.

Mirko Boehm presented a talk on the genesis of Quartermaster, a toolchain driven by Endocode and supported by Siemens and Google. Quartermaster implements industry best practises of license compliance management. It generates compliance reports by analysing data from the CI environment and building graphs for analysis, primarily performing a combination of build time analysis and static code analysis.


Lays Rodrigues showed off Atelier, the graphical interface for 3D printers. Photo by Paul Brown, distributed under the CC0 license.

Lays Rodrigues talked about Atelier, a cross-platform program designed to help you control your 3D printer. It supports most printers with open source firmware and Lays demoed the various features of Atelier during her talk, including video monitoring of the printer, 3D preview of the print design, temperature graphs and more.

Zoltan Padrah gave a talk on KTechLab and explained how he discovered it as a student of electronics engineering in 2008. KTechLab is a program that helps simulate electronic circuits and programs running on microcontrollers. It was migrated to the KDE infrastructure and joined KDE in 2017. The developers' upcoming plans are to release KTechLab for Qt4 and Qt5 and to port it to KDE Frameworks 5, as well as add new features like support to simulate automation systems for mechanics and have KiCad import/export.

Wrapping up

Day one was so full of content, it is hard to summarize everything that went on here. This has just been a summary of a few of the talks and demonstrations we enjoyed. There were many more talks on all topics, ranging from containerizing KDE's graphical apps, to an end users' perspective of using Kontact in a professional environment.

As we write this, already on day 2, it looks like today is shaping up to be equally exciting.

MAY
29
2018

Claudia Garad, Executive Director of Wikimedia Österreich: "We want to create a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers"


Claudia Garad, Executive Director of Wikimedia Österreich. Photo by Stepro.

Claudia Garad is the Executive Director of Wikimedia Österreich, Wikipedia's Austrian chapter. Claudia will deliver Akademy's second keynote on Sunday, 12th of August.

Claudia graciously met up with us (Ivana and Paul) to tell us all about her job, how the Wikipedia community works and the challenges it faces.

This is what she told us:

Paul: Welcome, Claudia, and thank you for joining us!

Claudia: Thanks for having me :-)

Ivana: Hello Claudia!

Paul: So you are the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation Austria, correct?

Claudia: Correct. Since 2012. It's actually called "Wikimedia Österreich". The Foundation is only the organization in San Francisco

Paul: Thanks for the clarification. Tell us... What led you to this job? Did you do something similar before?

Claudia: I used to work as Head of Marketing and Communication for a major applied science organization in Germany. We were pioneers in the field of online science communication in the German-speaking world. Beyond the focus on online communication, I think the common denominator of those two jobs is making knowledge accessible.

Paul: Of course. What does a typical day at Wikimedia look like for you? What do you do there?

Claudia: I'm not sure I have a typical day. We work closely with volunteers, so our working hours vary. We often work in the evenings or on weekends when our Wikimedians are available. I also not only work from our office, but frequently remote when I travel for work.

Paul: So do you oversee their work? Make sure the rules for editing articles are respected? Organize events? All of the above?

Claudia: Wikimedia staff does not intervene into the work on the Wikimedia projects. The community decides about the rules and how to enforce them; we do not have any direct influence there.

But the task that follows me everywhere and at any time is to secure funds for our organization, i.e. fundraising, grant-making and reporting. Apart from that, one of my main tasks is to build partnerships within the Wikimedia movement, but also beyond. With like-minded communities, cultural institutions, potential donators, and so on.

Ivana: I take it that you face the challenge of working with people from different time zones. Could you share some advice or tools that you use to overcome scheduling issues?

Claudia: I don't think we have super-innovative approaches in that regard. For us in Austria, it's mainly Europe and the US so far, and we found the time slots that work for most. I think the Wikimedia Foundation has probably more refined ideas, as they work with a more diverse group, but I wouldn't know the details.

Paul: Talking of diverse, I understand you also deal with diversity and inclusion issues. How do you promote these two things?

Claudia: Due to our "hands off" approach, we can only deal with diversity and inclusion issues indirectly: by raising awareness for the topic, encouraging mentorship, fostering solidarity networks among volunteers, and providing incentives and support for all of that. One example is the mentoring program we developed for the Wikimedia Hackathon last year. We wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere for newcomers that is reflected in the physical space, as well as in the social interactions.

Paul: Is there a lack of diversity within the Wikipedian community?

Claudia: It always depends on the definition of diversity, and it varies between our communities. Speaking for our Austrian communities: it is diverse in some regards, like age, and not very diverse in other, such as gender or ethnical background.

Paul: So do you know what percentage of women Wikipedians versus men there are, for example? The percentage for each ethnicity? Is this information you collect?

Claudia: There are roughly 10% female contributors in the German-language Wikipedia, and that reflects what I see during offline events. Non-binary is probably around 1-2%. But the numbers are not all 100% accurate, as many volunteers choose not to disclose their gender, and we respect their wish for anonymity. That is even more true for ethnicity - we do not ask for that anywhere. This is what you can get from the information people provide on their user pages. Apart from that, we do not collect any personal data.

But there are other ways to make the diversity gaps visible: by comparing the number of biographies about females to the number of articles about men. Wikidata makes that really easy nowadays. Or by looking at the language and perspectives that are represented in articles. It becomes obvious very quickly that we have a problem there, and that should be fixed if we strive to collect "the sum of all human knowledge" as our vision statement says.

Paul: How do you solve this problem? Getting back to the activity you mentioned before, for example - how do you make a hackathon more welcoming? What do you physically do?


Wikipedia Hackathons implement special activities and spaces to encourage diversity. Photo by Clemens, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Claudia: For the first time we had mentors at such an event. Their only job was to help newcomers and to pair them with other newcomers according to common interests. Usually the mentors had project ideas that were suitable for newbies to get started. The aim was that every newcomer could be part of a team that accomplished something during the weekend, and to be able to present a project at the showcase on the last day.

To make it as easy as possible to approach people, we also had a mentoring area where people could come at any time to ask questions or get help. Our Austrian community held pre-events, so people could get to know each other in smaller, more intimate surroundings before they were thrown into an international event with 250 strangers. Finally, we had an outreach coordinator who facilitated the mentor-to-mentor and mentor-to-mentees exchange before, during, and after the event.

Other ways to make event spaces inclusive are gender-neutral bathrooms, designated "quiet zones" where people can retreat to when they need a break from social interaction, stickers to customize your name badge with information about yourself that can also include how you want to be addressed in terms of gender, etc.

Many of these ideas were adapted from a youth hack event called "Jugend Hackt" that is a project of Open Knowledge in Germany and Austria.

Ivana: It sounds like you're really taking care of new contributors, which is awesome! It's something we're trying to be better at in our community, too. Could you tell us a bit about the onboarding process - what does it look like when someone new wants to join and start contributing? Are there any "best practices" or recommended ways to get started?

Claudia: We learned that the best way to onboard newcomers is regularity; it's hard to achieve much with a single event. So having mentors beyond the event helps, or having regular events or follow-up events, where people can come back to when they encounter barriers. It can be further assisted with social media - chat groups and the like. Places where people can find help and advice on short notice online.

Ivana: Have you had any students or new contributors join Wikimedia Österreich through mentorship projects like Outreachy, Google Summer of Code or similar? Do you organize similar programs on a local scale, i.e. in the German-speaking communities?

Claudia: We have had newcomers join via local mentoring programs, but not via the global programs you mentioned.

Ivana: Do you have something like a list of "junior jobs" or easy tasks that newcomers can immediately tackle? Or if you've tried a similar approach in the past, can you tell us how that worked?

Claudia: We tried the easy task list for the Wikimedia Hackathon last year. The list was linked from the event page so people could check it out beforehand. Apart from that, there were also other tasks to help around the event that were not related to coding: writing blog posts, making a podcast, taking pictures, helping the organizers on site...

Ivana: Getting back to the topic of helping newcomers, you mentioned potential barriers they can encounter. In your experience, what are the most common barriers, or obstacles that newcomers have reported? And how have you worked on resolving them?


Claudia takes part in the "Internet Policies and Activism in Europe" panel at the Elevate Festival 2016.

Claudia: I think for most newcomers the hardest part is to see where they could help and how. So the task list and mentors can help with that. However, we also still have room for improvement: After the hackathon, many newcomers complained about how long it took to get a code review. Often keeping people engaged after an event is the hardest part. For newcomers and mentors alike.

In the end, it is a question of resources. If we want new people, and especially underrepresented people, we will have to invest resources into this endeavour. Half-assed approaches usually don't work in the long run, and I'm afraid that this is something we still have to internalize as a movement.

Paul: What about problems from the old-timers? Is there any resistance from the existing community towards the effort to promote more diversity?

Claudia: Of course there are parts of the community who are indifferent, and some who openly work against such topics. So the art is to find the people who support the idea and include them, to address justified concerns, and ignore, or if there is no other way, get rid of people that display toxic behavior.

Paul: What sort of problems do you see a lack of diversity causing?

Claudia: For Wikipedia it is clear: the sum of all knowledge can not be gathered and represented by a small homogeneous group. Furthermore, quality and objectivity of knowledge are also important values in our movement that can only be achieved by including diverse perspectives.

Paul: For somebody who wanted to join in the Wikipedia effort... What advice would you give them? What should they read? Where can they start?

Claudia: Most Wikipedias have extensive guides on how to get started. Too extensive sometimes :-). I would see whether there is a mentoring program on your Wiki project and sign up, or whether there are local Wiki meet-ups in your home town. In Vienna, for example, we have a Wikipedia clinic for newcomers every first Tuesday of the month.

Paul: A Wikipedia clinic! What do you do there?

Claudia: It's basically where you can come to discuss and find help for common problems. I think there are code clinics at some events too. It's a peer approach to exchange best practices around common issues or challenges.

Paul: Is there a trend? Like problems that new contributors come up with again and again? If so, what are they?

Claudia: I think the challenges for newcomers vary between the projects. In the German language Wikipedia, the biggest issues are certainly the complexity that results from an elaborate rule set to ensure quality of content; the fact that most topics of general knowledge are fairly well covered so you need to find your expert niche to contribute; and the often not very newcomer-friendly atmosphere and aggressive interactions.

Paul: I suppose people feel possessive about what they work on. Is there any sort of regulatory body that helps resolve disputes or reprimands antisocial behavior?

Claudia: There are community-elected arbitration committees to solve conflicts on projects. But in some cases, especially when there is also offline harassment involved, the Wikimedia Foundation has to take steps to ban those people from events, the projects, or both in order to protect others.

Paul: I guess it is normal that in such a big community you will have all sorts of people...

Moving on to happier topics. Apart from actually writing or expanding Wikipedia articles, what are other things contributors can do to help Wikipedia grow and thrive?

Claudia: Other ways to contribute to Wikipedia are to help build the software behind MediaWiki, or to take freely licensed pictures for Wikipedia & Co and upload them to Wikimedia Commons. There are also all the other sister projects such as Wikivoyage, Wiktionary, or Wikidata.

Paul: I guess donations also help, right? Where can we go and donate?

Claudia: Of course - to keep Wikipedia ad-free and independent, that is probably the easiest way to contribute. You can either donate to the Wikimedia Foundation, that distributes the money among the global communities or, if there is one, to your local Wikimedia organisation.

Paul: Claudia, thank you so much for your time.

Ivana: And we look forward to your keynote at Akademy!

Claudia: Thanks! Looking forward to meeting you in person!

Claudia will be delivering the keynote at Akademy 2018 on the 12th of August. Come to Akademy and find out live how you too can make your community more diverse and inclusive.

About Akademy

For most of the year, KDE -- one of the largest free and open software communities in the world-- works on-line by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities.

You can join us by registering for Akademy 2018. Registrations are now open.

For more information, please contact the Akademy Team.

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