‘Iranians welcome’ at wiki hackfest, says Israeli organizer
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'We would be happy if they, as well as hackers from Arab countries, would attend'

‘Iranians welcome’ at wiki hackfest, says Israeli organizer

2016 Wikimedia Hackathon set for Jerusalem next spring; chairperson working with Foreign Ministry on visas ‘for anyone who wants to come’

Participants at a recent Israeli Wikimedia hackathon (Daniel Bar-On/Wikinedia Israel)
Participants at a recent Israeli Wikimedia hackathon (Daniel Bar-On/Wikinedia Israel)

The wiki world will gather in Jerusalem next March to discuss better ways to get the free information offered by the Wikipedia family of sites to people around the world and improve the way data is delivered, displayed, and discussed.

And Iranians are cordially invited, said Itzik Edri, chairperson of Wikimedia Israel. “Wikimedia does not have an official organization in Iran, as it does in Israel, the US, and most European countries, but we know of individuals and groups in Iran who work with and maintain Wikipedia pages.

“We would be happy if they, as well as hackers from Arab countries, would attend.”

The Israel Wikimedia Foundation is the proud host of the upcoming Wikimedia Hackathon 2016, with hundreds of volunteer code writers, information managers, and tech lovers expected to converge on Jerusalem for a weekend of programming, hacking, and tinkering with the apps and websites that carry the wiki label.

‘We are working with the Foreign Ministry in order to arrange for visas for anyone who wants to come, even if they are from countries Israel has no relations with’

How would Iranian wiki hackers get to Israel? “We are working with the Foreign Ministry in order to arrange for visas for anyone who wants to come, even if they are from countries Israel has no relations with,” said Edri.

“We will, of course, keep the fact of their arrival quiet, in order not to create any international incidents.”

There are now over a dozen official Foundation projects online today – Wikipedia being the best known – all of them seeking to harness the world’s information in their specific areas. Wikipedia seeks to be the world’s encyclopedia, Wiktionary seeks to create a multilingual free content dictionary in every language, Wikibooks is gathering all the free e-books in the world into one site, and Wikivoyage aims to create the world’s largest free, complete and up-to-date worldwide travel guide, to name just a few.

Besides the visiting programmers and wiki officials – some 200 are expected – the hackathon will be open to locals as well. Programmers will use open source code to develop solutions for issues and bugs on the various Wikimedia sites, apps, and databases. At this year’s hackathon in Lyon, for example, projects included shrinking wiki pages as small as possible for smartphones that would still be legible; building new reading interfaces on top of the MediaWiki API; streamlining copyright permission associations for uploaded content; and others.

Jerusalem, which was up against several dozen other cities for the honor of hosting the event, was chosen based on its status as an up-and-coming world center of high-tech, said Michal Laster, CEO of Wikimedia Israel. “Jerusalem’s rise as a center of tech for all Israelis – including Arabs and ultra-Orthodox – is an example of the kind of image we want to project to the hundreds of foreign wiki activists who will be coming here.”

Commenting on the announcement, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat quoted “Ben Franklin, who once said that an investment in knowledge pays the greatest interest. This is exactly what we have been doing in Jerusalem in recent years – investing in academia, developing groups involved in high-tech, aiding young entrepreneurs, and bringing in groups of designers, programmers, and other professionals. Now we, Jerusalemites and all Israelis, can enjoy the fruits of our labors. I am proud that Jerusalem has been chosen to host the hackathon and I am sure that all those participating will see the city as a center of innovation, a unique city that defies stereotyping.”

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