What is the Public service internet?


Its been thrown around a lot and if you search for the term public service internet you will click on something from Adrian Hon or Dan Hon. You will see stuff from others like chromatrope and even my own posts in searches. Or good searches will reveal related terms like Digital public space from newspapers like the Guardian and of course straight from Tony Ageh.

But not much from the BBC, so its quite exciting to finally see something more official.

BBC R&D researching the public service internet and looking for partners who share similar values.

Apply for a workshop/space with us at Mozfest 2014


There are a number of connected things in my head right now, maybe I should learn how to do hyper-connected mind-maps to make more sense of these different ideas.

Mozilla has gone through a lot over the years, specially in the last few months with Brendan Eich. However its trying to make a mead for its self by sticking true to its core values, this they call the Mozilla Manifesto.

The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. We have worked together since 1998 to ensure that the Internet is developed in a way that benefits everyone. We are best known for creating the Mozilla Firefox web browser.

The Mozilla project uses a community-based approach to create world-class open source software and to develop new types of collaborative activities. We create communities of people involved in making the Internet experience better for all of us.

As a result of these efforts, we have distilled a set of principles that we believe are critical for the Internet to continue to benefit the public good as well as commercial aspects of life. We set out these principles below.

The goals for the Manifesto are to:

  1. articulate a vision for the Internet that Mozilla participants want the Mozilla Foundation to pursue;

  2. speak to people whether or not they have a technical background;

  3. make Mozilla contributors proud of what we’re doing and motivate us to continue; and

  4. provide a framework for other people to advance this vision of the Internet.

Well meaning stuff and the principles go even further, but its worth noting a few things I have observed recently which I feel the Mozilla Manifesto could be a good place to start from.

Dan Hon in his talk at TedXLiverpool talked about Epiphany in technology. There was a phrase I heard him talk about which was Humans as a service. This isn’t a new concept but its getting talked about in few places right now.

Airbnb are modern versions of housing clouds delivering housing as a service, and similarly, Zipcar and Uber are car clouds, offering consumers transportation as a service. Anything can be clouded, if we put our minds to it.

Yes even humans can be a service. You only have to look at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and to a lesser extend Taskrabbit (both which are not available in the UK or Europe because of EU labor laws, something worth remembering). Ultimately this is all leading to dehumanising
experiences which leaves us humans in the cold and the algorithms in control. As Dan said, the systems and algorithms are so complex we dare not question, we just go with it.

Now lets dig into to Mozilla’s manifesto principles…

The Internet must enrich the lives of individual human beings.

Individuals must have the ability to shape the Internet and their own experiences on the Internet.

Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability and trust

Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

Where does Humans as a Service fit into these principles? No where I would argue.

Another lens…

The ethics of personal data is something I wrote about on the BBC R&D blog a  while back. Most of these principles tie into ethical problems with the silicon valley style of running a business. Another thing I highlighted in my online dating talk from Primeconf and Adrian Hon touched upon in his talk from TedXLiverpool.

The notion of continues growth, growing fast and money as the ultimate metric is very much Silicon Valley bubble dreams which frankly I would rather not be a part of. I would suggest its slightly anti-human in nature?

Ok ok... so I’ve said all this but what can you do about it?

This is a call to arms, myself, Jon Rogers, Jasmine Cox and others are spacewranglers for the Mozilla Fest this year. Under the banner, Open Web with Things

Here’s some of themes I’m thinking (not necessarily the group).

Its not simply Internet of Things, but rather a web with things included. Those things can be digital, analogue and even humans. I’m thinking

  • Looking at the moral and ethical aspects raised by things
  • Considering the human aspect in (the Internet of) things
  • Morals and ethical aspects raised by things
  • Personal data ethics
  • Ethics in Internet of Things
  • Human friendly wearable policies
  • Storytelling with things in the time of moores law (grabbed that from Dan Hon)

Sound exciting? Sound like something you should be involved in?

Yes it does and if you got an idea for a session or workshop which fits our general trajectory? You should tell us about it here. The best ones we will pick and they will take place in our space along with other related workshops.

If you don’t know anything about Mozilla Festival you can find my thoughts here and learn much more here. Or feel free to get in touch with me… You got till August 22nd. So what you waiting for? Get thinking and writing.

Larkin about with Stranger on the 11th Floor

At the ARG start outside the nexus art cafe on Twitpic

I was invited by Tim Dobson via Facebook to a Manchester ARG (alernative reality game) called Stranger on the 11th Floor setup by a organisation called Larkin about. Never ever heard of them before but I was intrigued and thought i’d give it a shot.

Now I want to be sure people understand that all the comments I have, I did say to them on the day and I think they would admit most of the points I make are fair.

So we started off at the Nexus Art Cafe (somewhere I’ve never actually heard or been before) and we were explained the basic premise of the game, split into 4 different teams, given a map of the northern quarter and some numbers of people in-case things go wrong. Then we were given a clue and location to start. Ours was a phone box in Stevenson Square.

My team pretty much pelted out of the Nexus Cafe and zoomed to the phone box. Later catching up with them, just in time to see one of the girls on the phone. She was given the clue and quickly told a few people around her and before you know it they were treking down the road towards Piccadilly. That was pretty much the last time I saw the team. What a joke…!

I refer to slide 26 and 27 of Dan Hon’s Everything we know transmedia wrong for the rest of the critique.

No more… Waiting, Solving stupid puzzles, Not telling me what to do, Lazy calls to action, Treasure hunts, Jumping through fucking hoops. Bad storytelling is just bad storytelling.

Stranger on the 11th floor turned into a massive treasure hunt with lazy call to actions, annoying hoops to jump through and frankly bad story telling. Once again no offensive to the Larkin’ about crew. They did everything correct and pulling off a open source ARG in the middle of Manchester on a busy Saturday night must have been one heck of a job.

So its time to put up or shutup… I’m thinking about adapting the ARG we tried to run in Edinburgh "We Dream the City" to a ARG in Manchester. This will be one heck of a challenge and will take a long while to get going but in the meantime, I think larkin about is a great place to run the next Manchester werewolf chapter, so keep your eyes peeled for that…