Organizing an OpenRefine BarCamp

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!


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.


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)
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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.


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.

Just a note that FOSDEM 2024 will be 3-4 February. Last year, the call for dev rooms was issued at the end of September, so it will likely come up soon.

I wanted to give you a bit more information about @Ainali suggestion. The Devroom is a great option because FOSDEM takes care of all the conference logistics, like planning the event, handling registrations, and setting up video equipment, while OpenRefine brings the content for the day.

Here is the description from FOSDEM24 - Devroom submission

Developer rooms are assigned to self-organising groups to work together on open source and free software projects, to discuss topics relevant to a broader subset of the community, etc. Most content should take the form of presentations. Proposals involving collaboration across project or domain boundaries are strongly encouraged. Devroom manager should schedule between 7 and 8.5 hours of content.

see also read the FOSDEM 2024 - Devroom Managers Manual for more details.

The deadline for applying is October 18th.

Would that be something the community is interested in?

(Note that this is the deadline for the event held in February 2023, not the upcoming one in 2024.)

I really like FOSDEM and I have been attending it regularly for a while now (and I plan to attend the 2024 edition too), but I am not sure it is the best context for an OpenRefine meeting.

First, it's an event that is quite developer-centric so it would likely only appeal to a small proportion of the project team.

Concerning the format, the devrooms are places where to make presentations: it's not a place where we can run something very collaborative. At best you could have a panel discussion on some topic, but something like a presentation round (where all attendees introduce themselves quickly), a collaborative brainstorming session or an interactive tutorial would be out of question there, I think.

Running a stand at FOSDEM would already be more fitting because it would let people chat more freely around the stand. But it's hard to stay focused in those environments because all of the other stands are competing for the attendee's attention and people are running to presentations all the time.

My primary interest in organizing a gathering is to bring the project team in one place for in-person talks and collaboration. In that context, I am not interested in advertising the tool to potential new users (this is something that is very important, but is already done in a training workshops organized in various contexts).

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I just want to echo what Antonin says above.

The BarCamp to me should be a place for existing contributors to collaborate closely, experiment, and iron out ideas and directions.

@antonin_d, thank you for summarizing the discussion at the Advisory call last Wednesday (I will share the minutes next week). I also support the format you propose.

I'd like to get this moving and would be keen to act as a local organizer of such a meeting.

I recently attended a bar camp in Berlin, at Wikimedia Deutschland's office. That felt like a very fitting venue, with one quite big room where all attendees can be gathered (I think 50 people easily fit - we would likely be a lot less people), and also with smaller rooms to break out into different sessions. There was also staff around to help out with live streaming. Remote participation was made possible by setting up a video link in most of the rooms.

Ahead of time, participants were able to submit session proposals and vote for the ones they wanted to attend, using the Camper tool.

I would be keen to take a lot of inspiration from this event.

What do people think of this plan?

  • Venue: WMDE offices or another venue in Berlin
  • Time: a few consecutive days, some time in 2024
  • Aiming for about 20-25 on-site participants
  • Remote participation possible
  • Registration required for on-site participants
  • People can apply to get travel expenses covered when registering

The next steps I would take about this would be:

  • ask WMDE if they'd be open to having us and on what terms
  • send around a poll for availability, to find a time where a lot of project members could attend
  • send around a poll for availability, to find a time where a lot of project members could attend

Perhaps the poll could include people's preferred geography to get a sense of where most people would like to meet.


I would definitely be open for other venues, Tom. I imagine it would be easier for you to attend if it were happening in North America.

I don't think I can personally volunteer to organize this event anywhere though: in my experience, it's very helpful to have some good knowledge of the area to sort out logistics, support attendees with their choice of accommodation, and so on.

Would you be interested in organizing something like this in your area, @tfmorris? I do believe it would also make sense, with @Martin and @Antoine2711 being based in the same region for instance.

Some communities, like OpenStreetMap, first make a call for bids to host their annual conference ("State of the Map" in the case of OSM). Because we're at a much smaller scale I did not think about doing that, but we can also do something similar if people think it's worth it.

I'm willing to help organize events in Boston, either user focused or developer/contributor focused, and I know we have a number of users at the local universities like Harvard & MIT, as well as a local Wikimedia community, but I think the real value of a contributor focused event is in having all, or at least most, of the core team members participate. I know a number of projects piggyback off the Google Summer of Code Mentors' Summit, and I've done this with other projects, but that would require getting accepted to the program again. I'm not sure what other similar piggybacking opportunities are available.

Scrolling back through the previous messages, I agree with Sandra's earlier suggestion of a half or full day event piggybacking off an existing established event. Attempting to organize a multi-day standalone event from scratch as the very first attempt at something seems very ambitious. I'm not sure what options are available in the librarian, data journalism, data wrangling, etc spheres. It looks like the IFLA 2024 conference has been cancelled, but perhaps Code4Lib, NICAR/IRE/GIJC, some biodiversity conference, or ...?

Starting small would allow one to iteratively refine the scale, focus, timing, etc of the event over time.


Code4Lib is at Ann Arbor, Michigan from 13th-16th May next year. They are accepting workshop proposals until 30th November so if this seems like a possiblity now would be a good time to act!

(I've never made it to Code4Lib but its always been on my list of desirable conferences, so wouldn't mind an excuse to attend)

I definitely appreciate @tfmorris points about the advantages of piggy backing on another event although ultimately if we are just looking for a small-ish room I don't know if there is a lot to organise - so I think it could work either way if we are looking at a relatively small number of participants - perhaps the size of the event is something we need to establish to know what scale of undertaking this is?

How about giving people until the end of the year to come up with proposals? Each proposal could specify the venue details, date, event it is collocated to (if any), an estimate of the costs for the room hire if any, the name of the people acting as organizers of the event, remote attendance opportunities and maybe other relevant aspects I can't think of right now?

Then we can have some sort of poll to see who is up for what, and decide which event should take place. We don't have to stick to a single meeting by the way.

I'm not sure how much more effort people will invest than what they've already put forth. Here's my summary of the suggestions so far:

  • IFLA - 2023 is past, 2024 isn't happening
  • FOSDEM - Brussels Feb. 3&4 - applications are closed for devrooms & stands, but might still be a piggybacking opportunity if enough people are going. Mostly developer focussed
  • code4lib - 13-16 May, Ann Arbor - library tech/developer focused conference
  • Hannover/Barcelona/Boston - low key offers to help organize in contributors' home towns
  • dedicated, multi-day OpenRefine-specifc unconference - Wikidata offices in Berlin sometime in 2024

I think it's unlikely to find a piggybacking opportunity that will attract both users and developers (or probably even users from multiple fields), so that would likely mean multiple meetings to get coverage (and lose the unity of a single big meeting). On the flip side, the number of people who can take an entire week off to live and breathe OpenRefine is probably pretty small -- perhaps just the paid staff. If nothing else, the Wikidata venue might offer the possibility to build influence with the Wikidata team.

Whatever the venue, I think it makes sense to scale the organizational structure to the scope of the event. The unconference format is a great way to sort dozens of competing sessions by priority and get them allocated to the right size room, but I'm most familiar with it being used for things like GSoC Mentor Summit or Product Camp Boston where there are hundreds of attendees, dozens of sessions, and 4-5 simultaneous tracks. For 5-10 attendees, you probably just want everyone together in one room. The Gephi Retreat mentioned up thread was 6 developers in a single room (and no users). Up to a couple of dozen attendees, you're still probably only looking at two breakout sessions maximum. You could use opposite corners of a larger room for the breakouts and organize the schedule for the breakouts dynamically on the fly.

I may be wrong, but I don't think you're going to get significantly more information upon which to make a decision.