Is there a common events management software in Wikimedia world?

Hi:

For some time to know I’ve been part of the organization teams of opensource meetings/conferences/congresses for different communities. As many of you know there is an important event task related with the registration management, CFP, etc. So I have been interested in which opensource tools could better fit.

To me were really good news to know about Indico, created and maintained by the CERN: I think it’s the most big, solid and versatile opensource application out there. Coincidentally several open development communities have realized the need and reevaluating their alternatives and seems Indico it’s gaining interest. I find fascinating if many communities would choose the same tool, sharing experience and enhancements!

So I’ve thought it would be a good idea to help promoting Indico between several communities with similar requirements. As an step we have set up a testing instance available for any open community wanting to evaluate in deep how Indico works. The details how to access are explained in my blog.

The goal of this post is to launch an open question to the Wikimedia world if it needs a tool like this and if so, to give it a try while this (temporal) server is up. Check the Indico features (or at least my my brief summary) to know more about it.

To be honest I’m basically new in the Wikimedia community because my participation has been more or less testimonial in eswiki, commons and wikidata, so I’m not really familiarized with the inners, practices and how some activities, in this case events, are done. So please be indulgent with me.

Finally, I’ll attend to the Linux App Summit in Barcelona next week and we’ll be talking about Indico there. If someone it’s near and want to talk about this just give us a shout :slight_smile:

Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated in any way with CERN or Indico :-)

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Hello Olea!

Thank you for your post. This is actually super interesting and I think there are a number of trials that have been used in Wikimedia. I remember working with Pentabarf, a long long time ago, maybe in 2008? Two or three years back we worked with easychair.org. I am not the best placed to think about this but maybe Liam Wyatt @Wittylama who was the program chair this year at Wikimania might have more insight into what has been tried or debated. I am thinking @Sj1 or @Fuzheado might have insights too? Pinging them here so they can participate. Of course our events team (Rachel, Isabel, Joel) @rfarrand-WMF @icueva-WMF @jletang-WMF might have ideas too!

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Hi @Delphine_WMF

I think Easychair is a great product but closed source.

When I checked Pentabarf I felt it was abandoned. Its descendent FRAB is being used at FOSDEM and Akademy, among others. I can’t remember now the details but when I checked it in 2017 I finally chosed OSEM, but after the experience it didn’t make me very happy neither.

Now Indico seemed to me the most robust and active. I know certain well known OSS conference plans to use it in 2020 but I can’t tell details yet.

But let’s see what people says!

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Hi @Olea,
Thank you so much for starting this discussion. :) I am the Senior Program Manager on the events team here at the Wikimedia Foundation. We have been thinking a lot in the past years around registration management and still have no great solution.
We have used eventbrite, google forms, privately hosted internally developed platforms, and more. Everything has major drawbacks… either it is not open source or it is very hard to use and impossible to work with the data generated without brining it back into google spreadsheets.

Will your talk at the Linux summit be recored? If yes, I will certainly watch it.
I played around a little bit in the Indico sandbox and didn’t see any immediate red flags.

A few questions:
How did you hear about Indico?
Have you actually used it yourself for an event / meeting? What was your experience?
What are the main challenges / cons / known issues with Indico? Every option would have some so it would be helpful to understand up front.

Again, thank you so much for starting this discussion. It is very welcome and timely and we are able to be flexible in this area and always looking for better solutions. :)

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Hi @rfarrand-WMF

yeah, almost everyone I’m asking is exactly in the same situation. It’s a great coincidence :-m

I really didn’t proposed a talk since I considered the LAS event more focused on desktop Linux applications, but I’m taking opportunity to meet in person with people involved in conferences I previously know (GUADEC from GNOME, Akademy for KDE, LAS itself, maybe others) and discuss about the tool informally, so we’ll do at the unconference sessions.

Probably you’ll find a lot more useful the Indico official meeting in March, btw.

Well, I’m a bit obsessed with this applications since I’ve been in conference organization teams since 1999, and have been core part of 6 significant ones since 2016 plus experience in dozens minor local meetings. So from time to time I give a look to the state of the art and when possible I’ve been trying alternatives looking for a best fitted. As you have been doing too.

Not yet. The last conference we made has been LibreOffice Conference 2019 and when we started I wasn’t aware about it.

As you know the best way to know is practicing with a whole event and it hasn’t been my case yet. That’s the reason we set up a temporary testing server (and still it’s not the same, I know). Anyhow I was checking the running app, some of the sources and features and based in past experiences I wrote down my conclusions in my blog. Getting into details I have some ideas for interesting new features but we didn’t found anything important to say. Maybe we can discuss about:

  • the really worst thing is some advanced administration features are managed via CLI through ssh, but as far I see these are tasks very restricted to site administrators so it’s not a real operative problem;
  • if you need a digital payment bridge other than Paypal, though I guess a good Python programmer could add new a platform with a reasonable effort;
  • if using your own SSO system is imperative you should first check how well it will work with Flask Multipass, but at the worst case this should be fixable in a reasonable time;
  • if you are gonna do videoconf virtual-meetings probably you wont use the proprietary vidyo service, but probably you are most interested right now in physical ones.

Other than these I can’t say anything bad. As my colleague Franc told me the installation is easy and the project have active support forum so I would feel very confident giving it a try.

As said, we’ll invite you to play (and try to break) our testing server. If you really want feedback for a real event maybe we can reach someone from the Open Source CubeSat Workshop 2019.

Really glad to hear it :-)

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Wikimedia is a movement that organizes multiple events which can be considered spikes of ongoing community discussions and collaboration. In this context, we need to evaluate the pros and cons of using a specialized (but also isolated) events management tool or using the movement tools we already use during the rest of the year. Not an easy choice!

For instance, we are studying the possibility of using our upcoming #crm to handle event registration, scholarships and direct communications between event organizers and participants. For this, we would use CiviCRM’s module for events and other specialized tools available for this platform (e.g. multiple payment systems). While this platform would be useful for event organizers, the data could be useful for other purposes too e.g. when participants at one event request a scholarship for another event, or a grant…

When it comes to collaboration during the event, imagine the possibility of using dedicated channels within Space, with the possibilities to connect these discussions with others before and after the event, with people attending and also whoever else is interested.

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100% agree. This is another reason to join an active development community for adding required features (probably as optional plugins) like those you mention.

And having a main event tool, which is adjustable for self-managed groups and subgroups, doesn’t forbid another tools for very specific use cases.

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Thank you very much @Delphine_WMF for tagging me in this thread - I would not have seen it otherwise. I am very pleased someone with experience with indico is here.

@Olea, have been the program chair for the last two Wikimania conferences. As mentioned above, we used “EasyChair” in 2018 - this was a decision taken before I was involved in the project. It was widely criticised for various reasons - and I can describe these at length if you wish - but suffice to say that as much as the participants might have disliked it from a ‘submitter’ perspective, I hated it even more from an ‘organiser’ perspective.

When asked to take the program chair role again for 2019 I refused to work with EasyChair again, and strongly encouraged that we invest in actual conference management software.

Indico itself was selected as a potential software replacement based on the criteria we identified [which I can share if you’re interested]. However, since it requires installing and hosting yourself, review and technical investment was needed from WMF. The discussion for that was hosted on Phabricator on these tickets, with a volunteer-led technical assessment: T210951, T210952 and T212573.
[During that conversation FRAB also came-up as an option].

However, due to a variety of practical reasons - that is, we got busy and this conversation didn’t have anyone to push it forward - it never went further at that point.

NOW however, might be a good time to restart it!

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Yes, please!

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@Olea , This was based on brainstorming last year:

It is less ‘thoroughly thought through’ than I remember it, unfortunately. But if the WMF events team (ping @icueva-WMF) wishes to revisit the software question then the people involved e.g. @PhoebeAyers would certainly be willing to help expand it .

The different ‘system areas’ (column A) represent the different parts of the Wikimania conference management that currently happen - and often happen using different pieces of software. It is not mandatory that any new software be the all-singing-all-dancing solution. But one the things I particularly liked about Indico was its ability to:

  • integrate many of these software ‘system areas’ into one package
  • open source, maintained (not abandoned software) and locally hostable (thus, our own privacy policy)
  • connection to oAuth (meaning we can use existing logins/passwords
  • And that it can be used for many different events - large and small - over the years.

This latter is important to me because it wouldn’t be ‘the wikimania software’ but could actually be infrastructure for our movement’s many different events.

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As @qgil-WMF said CiviCRM has some rudimentary event management capabilities like mass mailing and subscription tracking. Some people use it because it’s pretty good at contact management and donation tracking, and then it’s convenient to use for other things since it’s already there; we did that for Wikimedia Hungary at some point.
If you are only looking for an event manager and nothing else, I imagine there are better choices. (Granted we used it almost ten years ago, so maybe it got more powerful since.)

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This discussion would benefit from a list of requirements. What do event organizers need? Clarifying this would help us discuss solutions better.

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This has been kind of a hot topic lately due to meetup.com being owned by WeWork and charging extra fees (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21257661) on top of their somewhat high ~$15/month organizer fee.

https://gettogether.community/ (https://github.com/GetTogetherComm/GetTogether/) seems like kinda promising; it’s just a simple meetup.com clone and foss communities seem a bit overrepresented (https://gettogether.community/teams/all/). The Noisebridge hackerspace here in SF recently migrated to it https://discuss.noisebridge.info/t/gettogether-community-noisebridge-added-to-this-open-source-meetup-alternative/502

As far as Indico, I have two concerns: (1) I don’t really want to run my own instance and (2) messing around in the sandbox, the design doesn’t impress me https://sandbox.getindico.io/category/1/

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I know about this. Personally I never liked the Meetup approach (in some way it has been appropriating communities and didn’t so much difference than Facebook groups/events. But I know it had had an important user base.

Maybe Indico could be used as a Meetup alternative but I understand it’s not it’s main goal. OTOH maybe similar features could be added in the future.

I fully understand you. That’s why I like the idea of having just one instance suitable for hosting all the (big|small) events. In this case it would be the Wikimedia infrastructure.

Agree too. Graphic design seems to not have been a primary goal for a tool developed for researching communities. The good part is Indico development is active so I guess it’s reasonable to think the devels would accept interface enhancements patches.

Also: if you want to keep trying indico you can use our testing temporal server at https://indico.olea.org/. DM me to grant you (or whoever wanting to try) management rights.

Maybe this list helps:

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Please, please, implement this here! :stuck_out_tongue:
I believe it may be extremely useful for the communities. I’m pretty sure it would be for ours.

Is there a way to see the list of requirements without having to register to a third party website?

We are going to build a proof of concept consisting of a CiviCRM instance handling registration, scholarships and communication with participants for Wikimania 2020. We need to produce this proof of concept sooner rather than later to give the event organizers time to implement a plan B if needed.

If we get a platform that is good for Wikimania, it will be technically good for other Wikimedia events. Meanwhile, we plan to work with the Legal team to iron out the non-trivial legal and privacy implication of using this platform for Wikimania, for other events directly co-organized by the Foundation, and for Wikimedia events where the Foundation is not directly involved (each of these categories may have different legal/privacy implications).

We will share details as we go. Next, I plan to share the requirements to be fulfilled by this proof of concept. Knowing about specific needs from our communities like @Tgr or @Darwin have suggested, is useful to inform this work.

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i wonder if it was not better to test it first with a much smaller event, than going straight for Wikimania, which is arguably the most complex Wikimedia event we have?

In the case of Indico I can bet it’s ideal for the bigger events. My advice is really go ahead with this. And seems @Wittylama agrees.

Sure: you just need to follow the provided links :+1: