Vesna Manojlovic

WFH Hackathons

Vesna Manojlovic
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This is one of the series of articles about virtual hackathons: if you are working from home and have some spare energy, please join the collective efforts to solve some important problems: your skills can help people and communities!

During the weekend 20-23 March 2020, I took part in multiple COVID-19 hackathons remotely, virtually, on-line since there are global "social distancing" measures and many people are in quarantine. In these difficult times, it was heart-warming to see how many people want to be together in solidarity and contribute to the common good, by collectively hacking on the solutions for our shared problems.

Web-chat from the Quantum Internet Hackathon & Illustration of the video-chats during COVID pandemic

There were hackathons on a variety of topics such as medical equipment, supporting local communities, 3D printing, medical data visualisations, B2B, apps. One was focused only on ventilators. The big ones had thousands of participants. The organising teams were tens of people strong! That’s quite a different scale of events from our own small events

The biggest challenge was keeping track of all the different communication platforms. While there is strength and beauty in a diversity of products, it's not an easy task to track all of my accounts, channels, drawing-boards, video-rooms, document-shares, project-management-solutions. For technical reasons, users on different platforms cannot talk to each other... or maybe they don't want to? ;-)

My dream would be to have all of these platforms use open standards, so that there is at least a possibility of interoperability and unification of accounts - so that, if users would want to talk to each other, they can find each other and exchange content.  

WFH as a Meta-solution for the Crisis  

I spent most of my time in #HackTheCrisisFinland (Full project description). There were over 1,500 people registered, submitting 200+ projects. The project that captured my attention was “Future Society Now”, focusing on maintaining a sustainable society after the crisis through remote working (WFH = Working From Home, which is a new TLA = Three Letter Acronym).

Stay Home, Save the Planet! Pandemic crisis as an opportunity to learn lessons to fight climate change. Working remotely and limiting commutes can become our new KEY efforts in limiting CO2 emissions. You stayed home to save lives, now stay home for the climate!

The COVID-19 epidemic has rapidly forced a massive amount of people to adapt to new ways of living their daily lives. Working remotely turned from an alternative way of working to a necessity literally overnight, and a massive amount of work-related travel was cancelled in an instant.

At the same time, the world is facing a climate crisis, but failing to respond to it with the same urgency. Many measures taken by societies all over the world to fight the pandemic are similar to the ones required to fight global warming and limit CO2 emissions. Future Society Now wants to use the crisis as an opportunity to transfer us to a new culture of working remotely and limiting commuting to fight global warming and limit CO2 emissions.

Our team will continue working on this together #goingforward! Join us on this chat channel.


Other Interesting Projects

Charts from the article The Hammer And The Dance


The Virtual RIPE NCC Hackathon

Of course, there is also the RIPE NCC virtual hackathon going on: Measuring the Internet Health - join us!  


Tips for Organising Virtual Hackathons 

As an experienced, professional hackathon organiser, it was very interesting for me to be "on the other side" as a participant. Admittedly, virtual hackathons are very different from the face-to-face ones. I have gained a lot of insight into the intricacies of this new challenge. Here are some tips:  

Contributing Patterns

  • People want to help: they are offering their energy, efforts, and expertise
  • Everyone has something to contribute: everyone is an expert in what they love to do
  • Organisers were doing a great job: they shared information, created structure and instructions, and gave support 

Regressive patterns

  • Most failures were because of "too complex technology"
  • A lot of “reinventing the wheel”
  • Insistence on “individual attribution” (everyone has a "new idea")
  • Very little cross-connection and cross-coordination between events
  • Personally, I disliked having to register (sometimes even multiple times for the same event)

Conclusions / lessons / notes-to-self

  • Give priority to structuring the ways in which people can help the most
    • Ask “What do you need the most?” and “What would you love to contribute?”
    • Make it clear where the requests and offers can be matched
    • Keep it simple!
  • The biggest gains would be made if there are better ways of coordinating the efforts
    • Think globally, act locally
    • Think long term, act now
  • "Done" is better than "perfect"
    • Publish, share, show, do - as soon as possible - don't wait! 
    • Perfection is the enemy of done
  • Collective Ownership <-> Individual Appreciation / Attribution / Acknowledgement



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About the author

Vesna Manojlovic is Community Builder at RIPE NCC. Vesna joined the RIPE NCC as a Trainer in 1999. In 2003, she took responsibility for developing and delivering advanced courses, such as RPSL, Routing Registry, DNSSEC and IPv6. In 2008, she lead efforts to establish IPv6 RIPEness as a measure of IPv6 deployment among LIRs. In 2011, she joined the Science Division as Manager of the Measurements Community Building team; in 2015 she moved to Communications Department as Senior Community Builder, with a focus on organising hackathons. Vesna gives presentations at many technical conferences and workshops, and enjoys visiting hackerspaces. Vesna received a Batchelor of Sciences Degree in Computer Science and Informatics from the School of Electrical Engineering, University of Belgrade. She has three children.

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