Chennai Unofficial Wikimedia Hackathon Report

Here is the detailed report on the wikimedia hackathon I attended recently.

From: Yuvi Panda <yuvipanda @>

Date: Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 1:47 PM
Subject: [Wikimediaindia-l] Chennai Unofficial Wikimedia Hackathon Report
To: “Discussion list on Indian language projects of Wikimedia.” <>

The Chennai Unofficial Wikimedia Hackathon Report

Apologies for the delayed email. Work ate me.

TL;DR: 13 completed hacks, including 2 core mediawiki patches, 3
tawiki userscript updates and 2 new deployed tools. It was super
awesome and super productive!

The ‘Unofficial’ Chennai Wikimedia Hackathon

happened on Saturday, March 17 2012 at the Thoughtworks office in
Chennai. It was a one day, 8 hour event focusing on getting people
together to hack on stuff related to all Wikimedia projects – not just
Mediawiki patches.

The event started with us sailing past security reasonably easily, and
getting setup with internet without a glitch. People trickled in and
soon enough we had 21 people in there. Since this was a pure
hackathon, there were no explicit tutorials or presentations. As
people came in, we asked them what technologies/fields they are
familiar with, and picked out an idea for them to work on from the
Ideas List (
This took care of the biggest problem with hackathons with new people
– half the day spent on figuring out what to work on, and when found,
it is completely outside the domain of expertise of the people hacking
on the idea. Talking together with them fast to pick an idea within 5
minutes that they can complete in the day fixed this problem and made
sure people can concentrate on coding for the rest of the day.

People started hacking, and just before lunch we made people come up
and tell us what they were working on. We then broke for lunch and
usual socialization happened over McDonalds burgers and Saravana
Bhavan dosas. Hacking started soon after, and people were
concentrating on getting their hacks done before the demo time. And we
did have quite a few demos!


Here’s a short description of each of the demos, written purely in the
order in which they were presented:

1. Wikiquotes via SMS
By: @MadhuVishy and @YesKarthik

What it does:
Send a person name to a particular number, and you’ll keep getting
back quotes from that person. Works in similar semi-automated fashion
as the DYKBot. Built on AppEngine + Python.

Deployed live! Send SMS ‘@wikiquote Gandhi’ to 9243342000 to test it
out! Has limited data right now, however.

2. API to Rotate Images (Mediawiki Core Patch)
By: Vivek

What it does:
Adds an API method that can arbitrarily rotate images. Think of this
as first step towards being able to rotate any image in commons with a
single button instantly, without having to wait for a bot. Patch was
attached to

It was reviewed on that day itself (Thanks Reedy!). Vivek is now
figuring out how to modify his patch so that it would be accepted into
Mediawiki core. Vivek is also applying to work with Mediawiki for
GSoC, so we will hopefully get a long term contributor ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Find list of unique Tamil words in tawiki
By: Shrinivasan T

What it does:
It took the entire tamil wikipedia dump and extracted all unique words
out of it. About 1.3 million unique tamil words were extracted. Has
multiple applications, including a tamil spell checker.

Code and the dataset live on github:

4. Program to help record pronunciations for words in tawikt

What it does:
Simple python program that gives you a word, asks you to pronounce it
and then uploads it to commons for being used in Wiktionary. Makes the
process much more streamlined and faster.

Code available at:
Preliminary testing with his friends shows that easy to record 500
words in half an hour. Is currently blocked on figuring out a way to
properly upload to commons

5. Translation of Gadgets/UserScripts to tawiki
By: SuryaPrakash [[:ta:เฎชเฎฏเฎฉเฎฐเฏ:Surya_Prakash.S.A.]]

What he did:
Surya spent the day translating two gadgets into Tamil, so they can be
used on tawiki. First is the ‘Prove It’ Reference addition tool
( The second
one was the ‘Speed Reader’ extension that formats content into
multiple columns for faster scanning
( Last I
checked, these are available for anyone with only tamil knowledge to
use, so yay!

(He also tried to localize Twinkle for Tamil, couldn’t because of
issues with the laptop he was using.

6. Structured database search over Wikipedia
By: Ashwanth

What it does:
Built a tool that combined DBPedia and Wikipedia to allow you to
search in a semantic way. We almost descended into madness with people
searching for movies with Kamal and movies with Rajni (both provided
accurate results, btw). Amazing search tool that made it super easy to
query information in a natural way.

The code is available at Definitely
would be awesome to see this deployed somewhere, so would be great if
the community could come up with specific ideas on how to make this a
specific cool tool.

7. Photo upload to commons by Email
By: Ganesh

What it does:
Started with building a tool that will let you email a particular
address with pictures + metadata in the body of the page, and it will
be uploaded to commons. This was for the benefit of people with older
outdated phones *cough*Logic*cough* who would like to use their
phone’s camera to contribute to commons, but can not due to technical

He wasn’t able to get that to work during the hackathon – too many
technical issues cropped up. However, he’s *very* definitely
interested in   setting it up, and has made progress towards it. I
hope someone from the community (perhaps people doing WLM?) should be
able to get in touch with him to see if this tool could be developed
further with a specific goal in mind.

8. Lightweight offline Wiki reader
By: Feroze

What it does:
There is a project called qvido
( which was a
‘lightweight’ offline Wiki reader (compared to Kiwix, which is
heavier). It has been abandoned for a while, however. Feroze took the
time to revive the project, figure out how to build it (and wrote
build instructions!) and also fixed a bug so that it can be used to
demo showing offline Wiki navigation. He was able to demo it showing
the Odiya Wikipedia dump offline, with working link navigation.

There exists a git repo ( with the
code + the build instructions. I hope that people interested in
offline projects check this out and see if it can be made useful, and
take this forward.

9. Patches to AssessmentBar
By: gsathya

What it does:
AssessmentBar is a small widget/tool I’m building to make WP India
assessments easier (at the request of User:AshLin. Stay tuned for an
announcement in the next few days). Sathya spent time making the
backend for it more scalable, so the same server can support multiple
projects and concurrent users in a better way. Before that he was
contemplating setting up a hidden Tor node for Wikipedia (he’s a Tor
core contributor) and then playing with data visualizations with WP

There is a pull request (
that I need to merge ๐Ÿ™‚

10. Parsing Movie data into a database
By: Arunmozhi (Tecoholic) and Lavanya

What it does:
It scrapes the infoboxes of all movies from whatever category you give
it and stores this into a database. This is harder than it sounds
because parsing wikitext is similar to beating yourself up repeatedly
in the head with a large trout. They managed to figure out a nice way
to extract information from all Indian movie pages, and put it in a
database for programmatic easy access later.

I’ve asked them to put the code up publicly somewhere, and since I
believe Tecoholic is in this mailing list, he’ll reply with the link
๐Ÿ™‚ These kinds of data scraping can be used to build very nice tools
that show off how much information Wikipedia has, and perhaps also
help people contribute back by editing information for their favorite
movies. I hope the community comes up with a nice idea to utilize
this, and takes this project forward to its ultimate destiny: A super
sexy IMDB type site for Indian Movies with data sourced from Wikipedia
(I can dream :D)

11. Random Good WP India article tool
By: Shakti and Sharath

What it does:
It is a simple tool that shows you one B, A, GA or FA article every
time you go there. The idea is to provide a usable service for people
who want to accumulate lots of knowledge by randomly reading stuff,
but only want good stuff (so stubs, etc are filtered out (unlike
Special:Random)). I’ll also note that neither of them had worked with
any web service before the hackathon, nor with JSON, nor with the
mediawiki API, yet were able to build and deploy this tool within the
day. /me gives a virtual imaginary barnstar to either of them

It is currently deployed at Everytime you hit
that link, you’ll get an article about India that the community has
deemed ‘good’. The source code is available
( They are eager to
do more hacks such as these, and I’m hoping that the community will
find enough technical cool things for these enthusiastic volunteers to
work on

12. Fix bugs on tawiki ShortURL gadget
By: Bharath

What it does:
The short url service used in tawiki ( is shown in the wiki
via a gadget. It is not the most user friendly gadget – you need to
right click and select copy. Bharath looked for a solution by which
you could click it and it would copy to the clipboard, but did not
find any that would work without flash. Hence he abandoned that and
started figuring out easier ways of making that happen. He also fixed
several bugs in the implementation of the gadget, and I expect it to
get deployed soonish. Thanks to SrikanthLogic for helping him through
the process.

Code is available at
He’s still fixing things on the script. If the community needs people
to come fix up their user scripts/gadgets, Bharath would be a willing
(and awesome!) candidate!

13. Add ‘My Uploads’ to top bar along with My Contributions, etc
(Mediawiki Core Patch)
By: SrikanthLogic

What it does:
Not satisfied with being the organizer of the hackathon, Srikanth
wanted to flex his programming muscles and spent time fixing a bug in
core mediawiki (
He spent a while digging around the proper way to do this, and managed
to make a proper patch!

It has been committed in gerrit (currently unable to find a link).
Should be merged in soon. Yay!

Honorable Mentions
1. WikiPronouncer
By: Russel Nickson

What it was supposed to do:
Exactly like Shrini’s tool to record word pronunciations and upload to
commons, but written for Android so people could add prononciations on
the go.

Code is available at He
ran into technical issues with Android setup (it stops working
completely if you look at it the wrong way), and was unable to
complete this. I think this would still be a very useful tool, and
hope someone from the community steps up to work with Russel and get
this finished.

2. Wiktionary cross lingual statistics
By: PranavRC

What it was supposed to do:
It was a statistical tool that generated statistics about how many
words overlap between all indic languages in Wiktionary (as measured
by interwiki links).

The code has been written (I’ve requested the author to put it up
publicly, will update list when it is). It, however, requires a lot of
time to be run. So validation by the community that such stats would
be useful would, IMO, definitely give Pranav the impetus to finish it
up and show us the pretty graphs ๐Ÿ™‚

So, in all, 13 demos were produced (+ 2 near misses). I think we can
call this one a success, no? ๐Ÿ™‚

Next Steps
Where do we go from here? Random thoughts:

1. Geek retention – this is reasonably easy. If we keep feeding
hackers interesting problems that affect a lot of people, they’ll keep
helping us out. Is it possible to have some sort of a ‘tools required’
or ‘hacks required’ or ‘gadgets required’ page/queue someplace where
we can always direct hackers looking for interesting problems to? IMO
Wikipedia is full of interesting technical problems, so this *should*
be feasible.

2. Follow ups – this time, I am able to do this personally (small
enough group). Clearly this will not scale. Do we have ideas/methods
for following up with these people so that they stay with us?
3. More of these? This was pretty much a ‘zero cost’ event – stickers
were the only ‘cost’. A lot of places around the country would love to
have their space used for a hackathon of sorts. Should we do more of
these kind of ‘Unofficial’ hackathons?

Thanks due (in random order)

1. Thoughtworks/BalajiDamodaran: He graciously hosted us at
Thoughtworks. The biggest challenge for any hackathon is to find a
nice place which understands what hackathons are, and provides what is
considered the lifeblood of a hackathon – working WiFi. Balaji
(@openbala) was incredibly awesome, and this entire thing would’ve not
been possible at all without him and ThoughtWorks.

2. Dorai Thodla: He helped popularize the hackathon among the Chennai
Geeks crowd, and acted as a sounding board at various important times.
He also connected us with @openbala and enabled us to get the venue.

3. Srikanth Lakshmanan: The hackathon was his idea, and he made sure
it was executed in a nice way. He was the official ‘organizer’, and
made sure that all logistics were taken care of. Once the event
started, he was very helpful in helping people technically and in
picking up ideas, while also hacking on his own patch. This event was,
in essence, organized and run by him. He took an overnight trip from
Hyderabad straight out of office just for this. Thanks for making this

4. Shrini (aka the relentless forwarder): This event wouldn’t have
been as much a success without him either. Evangelism across multiple
lists, adding a lot of ideas that could be done, helping the people
there out technically at all times and writing two really good hacks –
Thank you! I’m glad we get to keep you ๐Ÿ™‚

5. Subhashish Panighrahi: For sending us stickers ๐Ÿ˜€ (And who all is
involved in that logistical process too!)

Most of all, this event was a success because of the quality and
dedication of the people who turned up, giving up their Saturdays.
Hope everyone who turned up had a nice time ๐Ÿ™‚ I am personally in
touch with most of them, and I also have their email address, phone
number *and* permission to contact them again. If anyone here thinks
that they liked one of the hacks and want to take it further, please
contact me (User:Yuvipanda on or yuvipanda @
and I’ll get you people in touch. If there is a more accepted,
standard way of handling this type of private information, please let
me know as well!


Yuvi Panda T

One thought on “Chennai Unofficial Wikimedia Hackathon Report

  1. I went for Catamaran Ride last saturday, it was an amazing experience,
    What is Catamaran Ride?
    Remember Anjana song from the movie Yuva? Partha mudal naal from Vetayadu vilayadu? if yes you will know what this ride is. You will be taken to the sea, 2km from the shore in a Catamaran/Motor Boat with Life Jackets and you will be thrown into the sea(Optional, you can jump by yourself also) and then the sea is all yours. A life gaurd will accompany you and trust me, you cant get more than this, dont worry even if you want you cant sink, you cant swim either, all you can do is stay there in water and do all the stunts. A rope will be there for you to hold, so its all safe.
    Catamaran Ride in Chennai:
    In Chennai, Pleasant Trip offers this, only members. If want to go personal trip may charge around Rs.600 + taxes + Food Charge EXTRA

    Total PACKAGE Cost = 900 RS
    โ€ข Traditional Boat Ride
    โ€ข Floating

    Starts with Welcome drinks

    lunch deatils
    1) soup
    2) green salad
    3) chapathi (or) pulka (or) parota
    4) dhal fry (or) veg curry (or) allu gobi masala
    5) chicken biryani
    6) onoin ritha (or) brinjal thokku
    7) gobi manchurian (or) veg manchurian
    8) fish fry (or) crab fry (or) chilly chicken
    9) veg fried rice (or) veg pulao (or) jeera rice
    10) steam rice
    11) egg masala
    12) rasam
    13) curd rice
    14) poriyal
    15) gulab jamun
    16) ice cream
    Evening snacks
    tea & madubonda (or) onoin pakoda
    We offer you

    1) swimming pool
    2) indoor games
    3) outdoor games

    Time: 10.00 AM TO 06.00 PM
    Facilities: Bath/Change rooms and people are available to take care of your belongings
    Best Time: 4 to 5
    Available time: 9 to 5
    If You Want Food PLS Inform
    You need to call them one day in advance to book your slot.
    Name : SHEIK MP
    Or call : 9444260500
    1. Carry Camera/cell โ€“ you can give it to the life Gaurd, I missed this
    2. Even if you know swimming, forget it, you cant do anything there, just enjoy.:
    Dont miss it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s