do_action Japan 2020 Virtual Charity Hackathon Recap

Last weekend, about 70 Japanese WordPress community members and 9 non-profit organizations came together and built websites for our first do_action event.

This was also the first-ever virtual charity hackathon in do_action’s 5-year history. In this recap, I want to share some tips and findings for future organizers (read this in Japanese | 日本語版はこちら).

Feedback from 3 Perspectives

The Organizing Team

While finding additional organizers was unexpectedly easy, reaching out to non-profits wasn’t. A week after we opened the call for non-profit organizations, we only had one submission. We quickly tried different approaches: posting more frequently to social networks, rewriting the message to make it clear that unincorporated organizations and projects could apply, and adding an “About Us” page to show who we are. Thanks to these improvements and outreach from interim NPO support organizations, we eventually received applications that exceeded the maximum quota.

The 15 organizing team members were all experienced WordCampWordCamp WordCamps are casual, locally-organized conferences covering everything related to WordPress. They're one of the places where the WordPress community comes together to teach one another what they’ve learned throughout the year and share the joy. Learn more. and MeetupMeetup All local/regional gatherings that are officially a part of the WordPress world but are not WordCamps are organized through https://www.meetup.com/. A meetup is typically a chance for local WordPress users to get together and share new ideas and seek help from one another. Searching for ‘WordPress’ on meetup.com will help you find options in your area. organizers. Even though this was our first time organizing do_action, the overall preparation went relatively smoothly.

On the other hand, there were some areas where we weren’t prepared enough due to a lack of knowledge in online event organization – such as opening and closing all-hands Zoom and facilitation on SlackSlack Slack is a Collaborative Group Chat Platform https://slack.com/. The WordPress community has its own Slack Channel at https://make.wordpress.org/chat/.. For the participants, the satisfaction level of the “real-time” experience greatly affects the overall impression of the event, so I hope we can improve this in the future.

Non-profit Organization Reps

According to the post-event survey, satisfaction level was particularly high from the non-profit representatives; many of them were pleased that the hackathon participants were able to complete a high-quality website with their skills. We received comments such as “My first hackathon was a learning experience. I was thrilled with the high level of skill and focus” and “We were able to work on the project online without any major issues, and I enjoyed the process a lot.”

Hackathon Participants

The majority of the hackathon participants said that site production and communication were generally smooth, and they learned something new by being immersed in a situation different from their usual workflow. However, more than a few also said it was difficult to fully understand the nonprofit organization’s needs and put that into a website under time constraints. We received comments such as, “It was very busy at the end due to a large amount of tasks and loose schedule management,” “It required hard work but it was meaningful,” and “I came in with no past experience, but it was a very valuable experience to see a real-life website production process.”

@mekemoke ran our social media and @tomominn took care of visual design.

Virtual Event Organization Tools

We made use of the following free tools and sites for the event management. Given a short prep period (about a month and a half), we wanted to keep our tools as simple as possible. Eventually, we ended up gradually adding some more necessary tools such as Google Apps. I hope this list will help you choose the setup to run a “minimum-plus-alpha” event.

  • doaction.org website (call for nonprofits & hackathon participants)
  • Slack (overall event prep, communication on the event days)
  • Zoom (event organizer & inter-team meetings, opening/closing remarks)
  • Gmail (inquiries & sponsor communication)
  • Google Forms (call for organizers & sponsors, post-event survey)
  • Google Sheets (task & data management)
  • Google Docs & HackMD (collaborative editing of documents)
  • Google Slides (opening/closing remarks presentation)
  • Figma (design)
  • Twitter, Facebook Page, YouTube (marketing)

We also experienced Slack going down for a short period on the day before the event and Zoom going down during the after party. We tried to go around this by creating Facebook Messenger groups for the operations team & project managers and using Google Meet and SpatialChat for the get-together. We definitely realized the importance of having fallback tools for communication!

Additional Documentation & Web Pages

We added several pages of our own to the doaction.org website.

Since this is the first time, some of the organizers created demo sites to set expectations.

@mimitips and @ippei-sumida worked hard on the guideline for building a maintainable website and it turned out really great. We plan to keep updating it on GitHub.

Team format illustration by @mimitips

Sponsorship

We also needed to prepare additional information and rules for sponsorship. We were seeking only tools and services to help with the production rather than financial support, and we requested that the sponsored products will provide continuous support to the newly built websites.

As a result, we received several generous offers: free hosting plans from two companies for the life of the website and three premium themes for 10+ years of free upgrades. Many teams did take up the offers. We’ve never made such a request for WordCamp/Meetup sponsorship, and the concept was not fully conveyed to some of the sponsors who were interested. With limited time for adjustment, we decided not to accept the offer with a shorter expiration period. If we were to recruit tool sponsors again in the future, we’d like to make sure our expectations are clearer to avoid any misunderstandings.

The sponsor representatives also joined the Slack team. They were very helpful with their support, answering questions about the product, and fixing bugs immediately. Thank you!

Nonprofit Websites Created

These are the websites teams created for nonprofits (ones still migrating are marked with *).

Final Words

It was our first time to organize an event at this scale with members from all over Japan. I saw many occasions where new ideas were realized very quickly by organizers’ proactive actions. We embraced the spirit of “do action” 😉This was also happening while the participants were working on the websites.

Most importantly, do_action made us realize that it’s still possible to accelerate and encourage interpersonal connections without face-to-face interaction. I hope everyone who participated will have renewed confidence that we can always make a difference by working together, no matter what the situation is.

Thanks do_action Japan 2020 organizing team! @nukaga @gouten5010 @st810amaze @mekemoke @tomominn @shoheitanaka @ippei-sumida @ffukuda @yori3 @rocketmartue @masanaoishii @tsuyoring @mimitips @rtakao

Last but not least, I’d like to thank @hlashbrooke for creating the framework for do_action event 5 years ago and mentoring our event in Japan!