The Metaverse* vs The Public Service Internet, coming to Mozfest in March

Metaverse vs Public Service InternetOver the last few months theres been a ton of interest in the metaverse, we all know why. Its been annoying seeing people wooing over something which others have started building decades earlier.

Off the back of the hype for the corporate metaverse (I really want to separate the hard work others have done/doing from what the likes of Facebook/Meta are attempting to do – aka take it over for their own benefit). I started to explore the corporate metaverse in a blog and previous to that the parallels with digital and physical spaces.

Metaverse

This got me thinking about the values and ethics which make the public service internet so important and so different from the corporate metaverse. But rather than think it out myself alone, I wrote a proposal for Mozfest 2022 to explore this in a discussion with a number of people. Evaluating emerging technology to understand its benefits and its problem. To hopefully shape the technology for the benefit of the public and society, is the goal of the session.

I’m extremely proud to say it was accepted and in March this year, I will lead the session sketching out the stark differences.

I almost want to add Web3 to the line up, but I believe there will be plenty to cover just in the metaverse alone.

Want to be at the session? Grab a early bird ticket before they go! You can also volunteer to help make the whole festival amazing.

What is real?

On the run up to the release of the Matrix Resurrections. Epic games put out a Unreal 5 demo/prototype recreating part of the Matrix with aspects of Matrix 4. The matrix awakens, which you can play on Playstation 5 & Xbox series X/S.

Its impressive, perfectly timed and fitted perfectly with the questions raised with the Matrix. The textures are good but not perfect, but I am impressed with the luminosity which helps it sit within the environment. The biggest give away is the movements of people but things like objects are pretty close.

Its something Chris Sizemore talked about in his Manchester Futurist podcast. Hope to catch up soon to talk about this and much more.

By the way, I know a lot of people are not blown away by Matrix 4 but I have seen it 5 times now and still rate it 8/10. Just below the original but ahead of the 2 and 3.

Mozilla Festival’s call for proposals ends 5th November

Mozilla Festival - Dzifa Kusenuh - MF Studio Host

This weekend is usually Mozfest weekend when it was in London. It was always a special time full of wonder, joy and great people.

Its now moved to a March date since moving to Amsterdam. However its still well worth not only attending but also participating in.

Every year there is a call for proposals to join the many great sessions in some fantastic spaces at Mozfest 2022.

Submit A Session Idea for MozFest

MozFest is a unique hybrid: part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world.

There are 9 Spaces created by the Wranglers that address urgent issues such as: digital privacy; neurodiversity and wellbeing; intersectionality in tech; and climate and sustainability. MozFest is looking for collaborative, participatory and inclusive sessions, workshops, skillshares, immersive art projects, and more that interrogate these issues and drive forward the conversations around Trustworthy AI. 

Connect with Mozfest

Excited about leading a session? You can learn more here about the process here.

Google’s material you: be together not the same

Android: Be together not the same
I spent some time in the spa recently and listened to a conversation about Android vs iOS in the stream room. I didn’t partake but found it interesting to hear how people were describing both and their dis/advantages.

There was a point when one person mentioned the customization of Android vs iOS, something like “you only just widgets last year”

But there is something which I have been thinking about in that general space.

Most phones are super similar and the software is what makes it different, its why I stick to the Google phones. I’m not keen on the Samsung opinionated software choices, although I understand people do find much comfort in the per-installed software and decisions. I think of it like Debian vs Ubuntu (of sorts). When Ubuntu came with Unity, I always installed Gnome Shell. It was easy enough to do, but its very difficult to do on a phone (replace Samsung’s UI with plain Android).

But back to phones…

The customization is key… I was originally concerned when Google was following Apple’s approach a while ago but then they seemed to understand the power of Android being yours and leaned right into customization.

Having upgraded to Android 12 a couple of days ago, I really like the system. Material you is surprising and is just right even in dark mode.

I am using Yatse remote which changes the background of my phone depending on what I am watching.That change will persist till I watch something else. I thought it might cause a clash but it doesn’t and still manages to look good always. The colour palette works no matter what. What would Joney Ive and Steve Jobs make of this design approach? Can’t imagine they would be a fan. Its one of the rejections I had about objectified the film/documentary is the lack of customization.

I found this video which sums up what I’m thinking. I look forward to seeing Material you on my new Pixel 6 soon.

 

A Rallying Cry for a Free Digital Future

I watched a part of the ThisIsUnfinished conference (partly because I assumed the timezone were New York time and made the manual change to my calendar and I attended another conference in person on the Friday)

Anyway all the talks are online (Vimeo) to watch now. I did a little sum up for work but found the conference fascinating, especially when Baratunde Thurston filling in for time asked a member of the audience what they felt so far.

You couldn’t hear the reply but it was longer than expecting. Baratunde summed it up, saying the member of audience had found the contrasts of the talks interesting. I would agree, because in some talks you had people talking about web3 (internet 3 really) in the scope of DLTs (blockchain tech) and on the other hand you had talks like Eli Parser’s section of talks about what we can learn for the future.

I’m still going through the ones I missed but this insight is summed up in A Rallying Cry for a Free Digital Future.

This is great quote from Anil Dash

Take a look at the phone in your pocket. Take a look at the tabs in your browser. Ask yourself. How many of those apps were made by people who you know, of know who they are there from your community. Maybe they’re local homegrown organic, just like the food that you eat, you know, where it’s tourist and do they share your values and care about the things you care about? And if you don’t feel good about what you’re putting in your eyes, when you put it in your mouth and make some changes. We do have a lot of power to make that thing a lot better.

This leads nicely into the potential of web3 beyond the short sighted put  everything on the blockchain stuff.

Remember those books?

Design is about removing friction?
I was reminded of a number of design books I read when in College and University. They were held up as the way to do good design. Its something I did explore at UCD gathering last year.

Remember…

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Hooked by Nir Eyal

Made to stick by Chip Heath, Dan Heath (although this isn’t what I remember it to be)

Even reading the titles now makes it very clear how much things have changed.

In one picture: The internet now and into the future

Breath in and out the internet

I have to give credit to Bill Thompson for his thoughts around the public service internet. In one of our conversations Bill suggested a need for a picture to sum up the internet now and where we are going.

It feels like two pictures, but images can be powerful and stoke up vivid responses in the mind. Its a challenge I have been thinking about quite a bit and put it on the Publicspaces international matrix chat (#PublicSpacesInt:matrix.org).

Challenge for you all… If there was one picture which would sum up the state of the internet now, what would it be? Also what picture would sum up the internet if things go the way you would like what would it be?

Theres been a few entries but my favorite so far has been Erik who posted the one above.

This image would probably sum up my ideal internet as a magical portal to empower yourself with all the knowledge, and a connection to all the people in the world.

Others saw this as a way of breathing new life into the internet. While I started thinking about modifying the picture into something with multiple people breathing life into the internet (closer to this in nature). I like this image but don’t like the fact shes looking at her phone, likewise this image is striking but hands behind her back feels less participatory that where I think we are going. This is better but needs multiple people working together.

Like my colleagues in BBC R&D looking to change the way AI and Machine learning are displayed in the general media. I think I might take it upon myself to craft something using inkscape/glimpse and lots of creative commons media. Just something which speaks closer to what I think I’m going for when I talk about public service internet.

Love to know what others come up with?

Moving from Goodreads to Bookwyrm

BookWyrm

I have expressed my annoyance of Goodreads along with so many others. When I read this piece about Bookwyrm, I pretty much moved instantly.

Good to see Data-portability working as it should. About 2mins to export my reading lists and books out of Goodreads and then about 3mins to pick an instance of Bookwyrm and setup an account, then about 5mins to import the books and lists.

Great stuff!

This is no longer, just some dating yarns

Myself working in a coffee shop
Working away in Ezra & Gil coffee shop

You might be wondering whats happened to the book I’ve been writing: The fictional dating book. You might remember in my new years resolution I had planned to get it done by next year. Of course this is an aim rather than a absolute deadline.

This is whats happened so far…

  • I wrote a bunch of interesting dates down (only the ones which were memorable because something note worth happened, this is no judgement – but we all got dates when you can’t believe that happened)
  • Hannah approached me after a presentation about the future of dating. Hannah took my very rough drafts, rewrote them and turned them into actual stories (I can’t tell you how much hard work Hannah put into this)
  • We went back and forth for a while but got to a place where it was making a really good read. Totally blew me away when I read (listened to) the whole thing in one single night.
  • We looked for someone with fresh eyes to read the book and make comments and edits. Valeska agreed and has done a great job.
  • I am currently going through Valeska’s comments and suggestions (there is a lot of them). Shes also echoed Hannah’s thoughts for more clear structure too.
  • I have also looked around for an illustrator for the chapters and sections. I may have found someone really good for this.
The current book overview
The current book overview, running from front to back cover

So that’s where we are now. 8 core sections with 2-4 stories and a introduction and conclusion for each. 34000+ words and 94 pages (if they are standard A4 and JB6 format?). Originally I was planning to self-publish through Amazon, its something I have done previously with a ebook for thinking digital as a test. but multiple people have convinced me I should share a few chapters or a section with a book publishers. Who knows what might happen? Speaking to a few printer friends and there were good offers to print off a small run of about 25 full bounded books. So who knows at the very least I will have a book and ebook.

The biggest question is what is the book, whats the elevator pitch for the book? This is a very good question and one both Hannah and Valeska have asked me over and over again.

I have described it as a modern take on Adrian Moles diary but its certainly evolved a lot and includes so much more about myself within the book. Even which category would you find the book, is a tricky question. Its mainly fiction (informed by experience), part non-fiction, slightly political and touch of self-help.

Personally I am excited but also a little concerned. Its one thing to write a blog about these things but for it be published is something else. Of course its the work of fiction, which I don’t personally read that much (last fiction book I read was a Cory Doctorow book), making things even stranger.

I’ll also be retiring datingyarns.com for now, which had a couple of my own stories on there. I won’t take them down because the ones in the book are a million times better and who knows I may use the site to promote the book in the near future. Although the book is no longer just dating yarns…

Meet the author event: Ethics in Tech with Mozilla

Meet the authors of the ethical dilemma cafe

I’m very happy to be asked by Mozilla to be a featured author for an upcoming “Meet The Author” MozFest session on ethics in tech in a post-pandemic world.

Airing your dirty data at Mozfest
Airing your dirty data at Mozfest (2014)

Myself and Jasmine will have a open Q&A LIVE on Wednesday June 23 from 11am ET/4pm BST/5pm CEST, as we discuss the MozFest Ethical dilemma cafe (2014) and post-pandemic ethics in tech.

The cafe listening to your chatter
The cafe listening to your chatter in exchange for free goods

Its going to be an engaging conversation and your input will make the conversation that much more interesting.

You can sign up and join us here.

New Thinking for the New Generation

Edward Bono's New thinking book

There is a book I have from a long time ago, New Thinking for the New Millennium by by Edward de Bono.

I never fully read it but I liked the name and liked the concept, plus I did read a couple of his other books in the past. Recently I have been thinking about the critical narratives in this space right now.

Theres a bunch of podcasts and projects related to the books too, for example Yancey Strickler’s ideaspace, which funny enough had Kate Raworth and Mariana Mazzucato as guests. The new thinking isn’t quite right because this all goes beyond thinking and more into doing. Kate and the doughnut economics in Amsterdam. Doughnut economics is also mentioned as a big driver for the post growth entrepreneurship. Listening to Mariana and Yancey’s books, I can’t help but point at the BBC R&D Human Values work.

I’m sure there are many more but these seem to be the ones many people have read at least 2 or more. It was something I noticed while watching the chatter and the sessions during the publicspaces conference and some key sessions at the Mozilla festival.

Want to re-watch a session from the publicspaces conference, or the whole conference? They are all uploaded here: https://vimeo.com/publicspaces. If you got a Mozfest 2021 pass? You can still catch all those sessions you missed for a few more weeks.

Its the Mozilla Festival, but not as we knew it…

At the start of March, the Mozilla Festival 2021 started for 2 weeks of Mozfest joy. Unlike previous years this was the year it went completely virtual. There was a lot of concerns how it would work in a virtual space? But we didn’t need to worry, it kinda worked.

I got a early bird ticket so the schedule was opened up to people like me. It was extensive and downloaded all the calendar events for sessions I was interested in. Unfortunately I missed the book a seat part and when I went back weeks later most of it was booked up (my own fault).

My calendar 8-14 march
My calendar during the first week of Mozfest

The Mozilla team worked very hard to keep the feel of Mozfest with a central place to start (the Plaza), the schedule with all the sessions, a number of social spaces (Mozilla slack and spacial chat), skill shares everyday and art/media tracks running throughout the whole 2 weeks. It was full on, just like Mozfest always has been. Its FOMA overload, but don’t worry there is a help desk – which seemed to be almost 24hours a day via slack.

I did go into a couple spacial chats and check out a skill share but most of my time was sat on zoom and many miro boards during sessions. To be honest I have a love hate relationship with miro but I finally got around to half liking it once I spent time with it for my own session. I did find miro bugging me to signup kind of annoying however.

My mozfest Adaptive podcasting miro board

One shame this year was the Mozhouse events seemed to be dropped from the schedule. This meant the publicspaces conference was missed from the schedule, although it was scheduled around Mozfest months ago. The festival has always been a big magnet for people and the 3rd party events which sit around the festival for example 2 years ago.

Because Mozfest was over 2 weeks, I paced myself and made the decision to carve out time for the festival. It was a good idea as my working hours were running to about 10hrs a day. Luckily most of the sessions had a hour break between them, allowing time to catch up with emails, slack and other work stuff.

Sessions

Sessions ran from a early 7am – a late 11pm GMT, hopefully catching a lot of countries around the world. I imagine over that 14hours, only New Zealand might have been tricky to attend sessions?

I ran a workshop/session during the 2nd week, which was interesting as chrome took down most of my display in a GPU bug I reckon. There was also the neurodiversity art work but I didn’t get enough entries to make something interesting unfortunately.

The advantages of neurodiversity

In total I went to 45 sessions. Here are some of the highlights in the sessions I went to.

Lasting thoughts

The 2 weeks of Mozfest was great. It was a shame some of the sessions which claimed to be full were not. I noticed this changed a little bit later but I missed the social aspect, which slack and spacial chat just doesn’t cover. I quite liked the vibe of BarCampManchester 10 which could be done if narrowed down by the spaces. I noticed Creative AI had aspects of this but its something which could apply more widely if next year is the same?

There is a question which came in 2017 when Mozilla picked Slack over Matrix & Mattermost (which they were using internally). The questions comes up again, about using Zoom, Miro, Slack, etc. Like the publicspaces conference, balancing the practicalities with the  values is hard work. But maybe next year if its virtual/hybrid, Mozilla could really lead the charge here.

When I first knew it was going to be 2 weeks (well really 12 days), I gulped but it worked out well. I never felt rushed and having most of the sessions recorded is super handy, as I’m finding now watching the ones I missed (plus I found the youtube secret playlist which means I can easily watch them back on my chromecast). Not every session was recorded of course and its a little strange when the breakout sessions happen. Ideally the recording should have been paused but the whole festival is community focused and I’m happy its not clean cut because that would have gone against the ethos of the Mozilla Festival.

Talking about the community, it was great to see a minimal amount of sillyness/zoombombing. Also the welcoming of so many different people, cultures, languages, etc. This was also the year when neurodiversity really kicked into high gear!

Where does the festival go from now, is a big question…

I’d like to see a hybrid conference next year. I certainly want to see a combination of the reach of Mozfest 2021 with the social parts of the last 10 years. However, please Mozilla keep the pretext system as it worked so well and hopefully we can finally have a permanent record of all the sessions over the years (one of the things I quite liked about using Github)

Big thanks

Massive thanks to everyone who made the virtual festival so good (especially looking at you Sarah & Mark!). Those working behind the scenes making sure things run smoothly. To all those spacewranglers who likely didn’t know if it was going to be in person, hybrid or virtual. Of course all those people who ran the sessions.

Really making good on ethos of… Arrive with an idea, leave with a community!

Publicspaces: You are not alone, join us…

I have been asked by friends and family what I do and I reply with a number of research questions. One of them boils down to researching what is the public service internet? When you start to break this down, theres a number of aspects including the physical network, protocols, apis, etc. But theres also the network of collaborators.

One of the collaborators I work closely with is the mainly Dutch publicspaces collective. I’ll be honest they are a amazing group of people and recently worked directly with them on the publicspaces conference as mentioned previously.

I share the interview with GJ which was filmed just before the conference, as a nice summary of Publicspaces but you should read the manifesto.

The Publicspaces conference kicked off in fine style. Originally Thursday 11th March was the European conference with Friday 12th March being the Dutch one. However things changed, which worked well. Heck I even learned a tiny tiny amount of Dutch during the conference, while managing a panel and taking part on another one.

The conference was excellent and you can see all the videos for all the sessions by clicking the one which sounds interesting. Some of my favor sessions include the keynotes chaired by the incredible Marleen Stikker, building connections, failed encounters and meet in the middle.

One of the main outcomes of the conference was for it to be a start of journey, in the Mozilla/Mozfest words… Arrive with an idea and leave with a community.

I personally have reached out to a few of the speakers and people in the community since the conference including Melanie Rieback. The community came together and we are now hanging out on Matrix.org under #PublicSpacesInt.matrix.org. We also started putting together the map of the network, which is ongoing work. There is also a special meeting happening on the 9th of April following the panel around the need for a digital European publicspace.

Found any of this interesting? Join a growing worldwide community on matrix (not just the Netherlands or even Europe).

How have I never come across Melanie Rieback?

One of the many highlights from the excellent Publicspaces conference today was discovering Melanie Rieback.

Everything I thought about after seeing the first dotcom/bomb era and seeing many friends chasing the dream of Silicon Valley’s unicorn. I struggled to come up with an alternative to the completely unsustainable growth charts going up and to the right. A few times I would talk about something which sounded closer to social entrepreneurship and Bcorps, and won’t lie drove my decision to work for a public company.

Melanie alongside Ethan Zuckerman talked about what it means to be truly disruptive. As you can imagine, its not the startup unsustainable formulaic pipe dream which every startup team/creator is hard sold.

Seeing post growth entrepreneurship, there is a lot here and speaks volumes to the work BBC R&D around sustainability and human values. I found this post a good summary, especially starting with Doughnut economics which I recently read and recommend.

The problem with exponential growth

The economist Kate Raworth makes beautiful analogies with nature in her book Doughnut economics. She says for instance that any living organism – let’s say a tree or a dog or a child – grows very quickly, almost exponentially at the very beginning of its life. At a certain point in time that growth starts to flatten off. Then it stops growing and starts thriving. If that tree wants to keep growing even though it already has reached its maximum size, it drops seeds. Then these seeds can grow again until they reach their maximum size. And so on. If this is how nature does it, why should it be any different with our businesses?

Exponential growth curve

This exponential curve is ubiquitous. You will find it in every MBA programme, every start-up incubator, pop culture, etc. It is very hard to get away from this curve. It’s the Silicon Valley model of entrepreneurship. There are three parts to this model:

  1. Capital
  2. Scaling
  3. Exit

I’m coming around to the notion, scale is the enemy of humanity. and likely fits in the unknown unknowns?

Like Kate Raworth who calls herself the rouge economist, I can see why Melanie Rieback’s ideas for post growth entrepreneurship doesn’t go down well with startup incubators, investment angels and VCs.

Looking forward to making the rouge/alternatives the everyday!

 

The freedom and space to hear things

When King made history at UChicago | The University of Chicago

Amazing hearing the story of Martin Luther King’s speeches.

One speechmaker inspired millions with his words, the other utterly destroyed his own multi-million-dollar business with just a few phrases.

Civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr (played by Jeffrey Wright of WestworldThe Hunger Games, and the James Bond films) and jewelry store owner Gerald Ratner offer starkly contrasting stories on when you should stick to the script and when you should take a risk.

I was talking to a friend/colleague recently about presentation styles.

When I first started giving speeches and presentations I would create a script but I quickly dumped that idea as it just didn’t work for me. I also use to write notes but found myself reading the notes out rather than focusing on the audience. Finally I also use to do run-through’s with other people but found myself frustrated or even annoyed that in the run run-through’s that I said one thing but am saying something else while on stage.

I do subscribe to the jazz/improvisation approach with guard rails, which is the slides. Without them I tend to go off in many different directions. Although with some time constraints its all good.