This post is the second part of our reflections on the organisation of an online hack for the Will’s World project. Following a first post on planning the event, we are now looking at the event promotion.
We used MediaWiki to setup the Will’s World Online hack wiki prior announcing the event. MediaWiki was chosen as a tool because it is easy to install, maintain and used and the team had prior experience with this technology. We felt that participants would also be familiar with the MediaWiki software through their use or contribution to Wikipedia.
The wiki was used as the main communication hub for the hack to promote the hack, facilitate the registration process, encourage participants to form teams, support communication before, during and after the hack, and disseminate the outcomes after the event.
It was particularly useful for providing prospective participants with all required information about the hack. It included links to:
The participant profile page was updated as the registrations were received with the details made available for publication by the registrants. It was very effective in sharing the number of registrations and information about registrants, highlighting the range of expertise and background, from developer to literature scholars, and geographic distribution of participants.
In order for the Will’s World Online Hack to have a strong and unified presence, we set up a range of communication channels with the Will’s World identity:
With all the communication channels in place and only two weeks to go until the start of the hack, we advertised the event in the same forums (blogs, websites, twitter, mailing lists and direct contacts) that had been used to disseminate the surveys and emailed those who had responded positively to the survey. This provided some continuity and feedback to an audience already alerted to the eventuality of the hack in earlier posts.
To emphasise our desire to make the event personal, friendly and interactive despite of its online nature, we produced a couple of short videos to promote the event and present the Shakespeare Registry. These videos also provided a record of key aspects of the event that can be viewed at any time for the convenience of participants and interested parties. The videos were made available on YouTube and advertised in a separate blog post a week later to keep up the interest in the hack and serve as a reminder while providing new information.
Reminder messages, mails, tweets and posts were sent a few days before the event, they detailed how to join the event including the required technical steps.
The promotion of the hackathon was effective not only in recruiting participants for the event but also in raising the profile of the Shakespeare Registry. Nora McGregor, digital curator at the British Library, contacted us to contribute additional data to the Registry. Within a few days, the British Library was able to provide us with formatted metadata on Shakespeare related titles from their digitised 19th century books ready for inclusion in the Registry and for use during the hack.
We were pleased to hear that the SPRUCE Project spotted our tweet about the online hack and were inspired the set up their own one day remote hackathon to make file format identification better (crucial for preservation). Their CURATEcamp 24h event took place in November 2012 and more information about what was achieved is available on the event wiki.
Organising the online hack was actually very enjoyable. The novelty aspect made it easy to engage with people and bring out enthusiastic responses. However, the short time frame made it quite challenging. We would advise a much longer lead time to make it easier to order customised goods and to promote the event. Dissemination activities also took more time and effort than anticipated due to the many (perhaps too many) social media channels to cover and follow up needed with the large number of enquiries we received.