Moz Workweek / Working Open Workshop 2016-02-04/06

Over the last few days, I had the opportunity to attend and help facilitate the Working Open Workshop (WOW) hosted at the Rainmaking Loft in Berlin, Germany. The goal of the workshop was to bring together researchers, scientists, and collaborators of MSL to meet in person and exchange skills on how to create more inclusive, open, and accessible projects and learning environments in our respective communities. The WOW participants were brought in from almost all the corners of the world, but with a particular aim to help build momentum for open working communities in Europe.

WOW was largely organized around creating some best practices to make research projects readable, accessible, and inclusive. WOW started off on Thursday evening with a series of exciting lightening talks.

We heard from researchers and scientists working across a range of disciplines, making projects on a variety of topics including:

  • network analyses aimed to help motivate researchers and funders to value collaborations in developing countries,
  • what we can do to help find the cure to diseases by volunteering for biomedical research studies
  • the vast amounts of data that can be collected, analyzed, and verified using Zooniverse,
  • and others that can be seen here!

After an evening of commiserating, we met Friday morning to kick off the WOW series of presentations and co-working sessions. We had Zannah lasso us in to first learn about writing READMEs and how to effectively communicate to prospective collaborators what makes our projects special, how to get started on contributing, and how to document the crucial descriptive bits of a project.

Following the README session, Abby helped us to structure how we can identify short/mid/long term goals of our projects. We learned the value of roadmapping and project scoping and how project roadmaps can help to not only structure the development of a project, but also the possible interactions that your project might attract.

Next, Aurelia showed us what it means to create contributor guidelines which ensure that people working on projects are not only treated with respect, but also how we as project leaders must play an active role in establishing and maintaing these respectful working environments.

After some time for the WOW participants to work on honing the skills learned from the day’s presentations by writing READMEs, contributor guidelines, and roadmaps, Zannah and I worked through an example of interactions that occur between project leaders and contributors. We demo’d a live github collaboration workflow in which we forked, branched, issued, merged, pull requested, and interactive with eachother on a project on github.

The day closed with a wondeful dinner at Vabrique with lots of great conversations unfolding over sweet potato gnnochi, saurkraut, etc. Thanks Moz!

Day 2

Saturday started off with Kaitlin schooling us on the importance and key pieces of a Code of Conduct - not only for projects but also for meetups/hackathons and any other event.

The code of conduct presentation was a perfect segue into Arliss and Madeline’s talk on how to organize a sprint/hackathon/meetup and the ingredients that might make for a successful event. It was great to hear from Madeline who organizes the University of Toronto’s Mozilla Study Group and how she has been able to attract and maintain attendance to the study group across disciplinary boundaries.

Before lunch, Zannah invited us to build out the personas and pathways of the users and contributors of our projects and meetup groups. By imagining the relevant and seemingly mundane details of our users and contributors, we were challenged to think more deeply about the needs, interests, and feelings of the audiences using or developing our projects.

After a tasty lunch of sandwiches, pasta, and assorted sweets, we closed the workshop with the development of a data reuse plan. To do this, we clustered together in groups of 4 or 5 and chose 1 project to answer a set of questions around a dataset being used in that project. By helping to develop the data reuse plan for one project, each group was able to experience all of the documentation necessary to make a dataset usable by others - there is a indeed a difference between discoverable and usable!


It was a jam-packed two days and an absolute pleasure to work together with the MSL team and the participants of the workshop; I can’t help but feel that the people present at the Rainmaking loft those 2 days are and will be the future face of open science. So killer. I learned a lot about the best practices for making science more open, one project at a time and undoubtedly will incorporate these exercises into my own projects.