Organizing an OpenRefine BarCamp in 2023

Hi all!

For a while, I have been toying with the idea of organizing an in-person event centered around OpenRefine. The goal would be gather a wide range of users, contributors and other interested people together for a few days, and get them to talk to each other about all things OpenRefine. A friend of mine suggested the “BarCamp” format, and I think it looks pretty fitting to what I have in mind, with room for spontaneity but also for more organized sessions.

Concerning the logistics, I would like this to be an in-person event, because I think the community can really benefit from face-to-face conversations and human connections. In my experience these events tend to bring really valuable cohesion to the community.
Since I live in Germany, I would likely want to organize that in Europe, but I would find it really great if we could find ways to make it work for folks on other continents too, either with a hybrid format which would be inclusive enough for folks participating online (which is not easy, but can be done to some extent), or with other regional events happening jointly (which I have no experience with). I would like to limit the number of long haul flights taken for such an event to limit its carbon and financial cost.

I would likely want to run a call for sessions, so that people could propose activities, but on my side I have been thinking about various formats already:

  • Gatherings around a specific area of the tool (say, clustering), where people could collaboratively design proposed improvements to the tool based on their own experience with it.
  • Talks demonstrating experiences and lessons learned with the tool on some data cleaning projects (say, a data journalist telling us about their investigation, the stakes around it - beyond the mere technical data cleaning involved)
  • Tutorial/demo to teach people how to make a change to OpenRefine, fixing a small bug or implementing a small new feature live
  • Presentations about alternative data cleaning tools that we should take inspiration from or work with

Also, we have funding that could be used for such an event and we could likely subsidize/refund travel costs for quite some people.

Would people enjoy participating to something like that? Would people even be motivated to be part of the organizing team?

Let me know what you think!

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IFLA’s yearly World Library and Information Congress will take place August 21-25 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I live there and have already been vaguely thinking in this direction.

I can’t promise I’ll be available to organize anything yet (still very uncertain about health and professional and personal engagements around that time). I’d be most motivated if we can combine it with another event, like a new Wikimedia+Libraries Convention similar to the one organized pre-IFLA conference in Dublin in 2022. All of these are very premature ideas; but there is indeed interest in doing a Wikimedia+Libraries pre-conference in Rotterdam in August 2023 and I can liaise with that (budding) initiative.

Several days sounds long to me, either as an autonomous event (OpenRefine is usually only one of the very many tools used by people in their work) or as attached to another event (and I think the latter makes most sense). One day or a half day would sound good to me though. Interested to hear what others think.

Re: agenda, I’d be mainly interested to review, update and prioritize OpenRefine’s longer-term (3-10 years ahead) roadmap with the group that shows up, and to collect more specific input and wishes on the items that are most highly prioritized.

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Thanks, obviously an event related to Wikimedia and libraries feels like a strong candidate for having an OpenRefine presence there.

But I think we are thinking about slightly different things. My hope is precisely to gather people for whom OpenRefine is not just a tool. :wink: Just like WikidataCon gathers people for whom Wikidata is more than a database - you get the idea.

Specifically, I am thinking about people who have some interest in OpenRefine as a project and community. I would not want to pin down criteria for people to be able to attend of course, but I am thinking of inviting people who have been running OpenRefine training sessions (even though they might not have chimed in much yet in OpenRefine’s own online spaces), contributors who have been involved in the project more than in passing (in any capacity) and people who have been involved in neighbouring projects (Wikimedia, reconciliation community group, related software projects…).

So it might just be not so many people, but if those people travel to the same place, I can imagine wanting to spend more than a single day with them. One inspiration I have is the Gephi retreats, which last about a week, and gathered 6-12 people or so. But of course it could also be worth having some days about specific topics so that people who want to only attend specific things can do so.

About running it next to another event, I am not really sure. It can be convenient for people who are already traveling there anyway, but there are also quite some downsides:

  • the bigger event can also give a twist to the OpenRefine event that makes it sound less suitable for some participants. For instance, if we organized something next to FOSDEM, it could signal that our event is primarily for developers and not so much for trainers. Similarly for IFLA: people who have no relationship to the library world could feel like this is not for them.
  • the bigger event can drain the energy and the focus of the group. Again with the example of FOSDEM: the two days of that conference can be really intense and I am not sure I would want to extend that - I already need some time to recover of FOSDEM on its own!
  • people might not be able to take time off / away from home for extended periods of time (similar as the reason above)

It’s been a long time since I went to an international event like this, and I would love to attend to one on OpenRefine. I co organized a Drupalcon in Barcelona back in 2007 and if you like the idea of coming here I might be willing to co organize an event for OpenRefine.

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Not sure I can commit to helping organise but I’m definitely interested

Indeed. Instead, I think that we for 2024 should apply for a devroom at FOSDEM. (I was pondering the idea for this year, but alas, I was too busy to make a submission.)
I think it might be good to have an event targeting developers, but agree that having a separate event that targets all parts of the core community would be great.

This sounds really great and if in Germany, I am sure we could host it at TIB / Open Science Lab in Hannover or in Berlin (at the Stabi - aka SBB - part of NFDI). But happy if another venue is chosen. I think at least a few people from Open Science Lab would like to participate, our director Lambert Heller has a lot of experience organizing Barcamps as well, so can get some tips from him.

I agree a separate event (unattached to anything else) that is at least 3 days long (similar to how we did Wikibase retreats in the past) would be best.