Over the Easter holidays I had the privileged to travel to Jerusalem to take part in the annual Wikimedia Hackathon. It was a great event and one that I won’t forget. From the moment I arrived I was amazed at the atmosphere of an event driven by the ultimate goal of making knowledge open to everyone.
My main task during the event was adding important features along with bug fixes to the Kiwix Android App. Some features which I was able to implement include an all new table of contents allowing fast navigation to subsections of a page as well as important updates to make the app suitable for the latest version of android.
As well as getting to meet other mentors from Google Code-In, I worked alongside one of the Kiwix mentors further integrating myself into the project. During the event we also had the opportunity to meet two Israeli students who were eager to contribute both during the event and after we had all returned home.
On the final day of the event I had some time before my flight home and so went on a tour of ‘The Old City’ in Jerusalem. It was amazing to see the historical sites in comparison with the modern ‘New City’.
Overall I found the experience to be nothing like anything that I have done before. The feeling of unity at the event where developers from across the world were contributing was awe inspiring and it gave me a renewed sense of importance for the aims of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Over the past two months I have been participating in Google Code-in (GCI) and it has been an amazing experience. Faced with the daunting task selection screen for the first time I researched the organisations involved and chose to work with the Wikimedia Foundation as its tasks best matched my skill set and I am an avid reader of Wikipedia. My first week was an intense learning experience as I set-up Gerrit Code Review and submitted my first patches. I can’t thank my mentors (as well as helpful community members) enough for the support that they gave me both on IRC and via the GCI interface. I would have been helpless without them.
During the competition I had the opportunity to attempt a diverse variety of tasks. I was already familiar with PHP and Java, however I also got the chance to learn some new skills in C#, python and i18n. The latter I thought was a typo when I first saw it 2 months ago.
In the past most of my programming experience has been solo or in a small group where we would see each other daily. Working as part of a global community has opened my eyes to the importance of clear documentation and unified coding conventions. It has also allowed me to learn how bugs are reported, assigned, worked on, code reviewed and then a fix being released. During the course of the event I also had the opportunity to write a unit test. I found this particularly insightful as I had little idea what this entailed and after writing I then got to see the increased code coverage.
Looking into the future I have made connections with both mentors and fellow participants and look forward to making further contributions to the project. I hope to help one of my Kiwix mentors implement an in app ZIM library at the Wikimedia Hackathon 2016, however I also enjoyed my time working on MediaWiki extensions so I will continue working at Phabricator bug reports.
Overall I found the experience near perfect and hope that I can continue contributing, learning and maybe even become a mentor next year.