Publicspaces conference #1 towards a common internet – March 11-12th

How can we achieve public spaces on the internet?

On March 12, 2021, PublicSpaces, Pakhuis de Zwijger and Waag are organizing a conference to save the internet.

This event will happen mainly in a virtual form of course, however there might be something in person in Amsterdam’s Pakhuis de Zwijger. The conference will make up part of the Mozilla Festival 2021, also in Amsterdam and mainly virtual currently.

Of course I will be organising, joining the conference and the pre-conference on the evening of the 11th March (more details will come soon)

Conference 2021

The internet is broken, but we can fix it and replace broken parts. In this conference we will look for ways how we can make the internet a healthy public space again. With a day program for professionals from the public sector looking for a way out of big tech, and for developers of alternative systems for a safe, open and fair internet. We conclude the day with a talk show for everyone about the dangers of the current model, but also the concrete possibilities for a future internet without surveillance capitalism, and with healthy alternatives that we can use immediately.

Together we answer the impossible question: how do we create a public space on the internet?

Mark it down in your calendars… and expect more details soon.

Lagom: just about enough… internet

Just enough internet…

I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks recently and my latest one being the inner level. While I heard the mention of the Swedish word Lagom.

The direct translation of the word lagom is actually moderate but it also roughly its used to say, just enough/right. A reminded of the great Rachel Coldicutt’s (OBE!) keynote speech during Mozhouse last year.

Still a real shame we never wrote up that event…

Join the Mozilla Festival’s neurodiversity space in 2021

Calling all

Artists, Illustrators, Film makers, Musicians, Technologies, Writers, Educators and Community organisers using a neurodiversity lens in your works.

Last year the Neurodiversity space was brand new and it was a fantastic space full of good sessions.

The deadline is Monday 23rd November and Mozfest as mentioned previously, this year will be a hybrid conference but mainly online.

Get your sessions in now.

The virtual public space is like the park?

Trees in Whitworth Park in Moss Side, Manchester, UK

Eli Pariser posted a fascinating piece in Wired magazine just recently.

“We need public spaces, built in the spirit of Walt Whitman, that allow us to gather, communicate, and share in something bigger than ourselves.

As we head into the most consequential, contentious election in our history, it’s time to fix some of the structural problems that led us to this moment. Let’s face it: Our digital public sphere has been failing for some time. Technologies designed to connect us have instead inflamed our arguments and torn our social fabric.

Eli goes on to talk about public spaces using the analogy of public parks rather than private gardens. This is something which many has talked about and we had planned to build at Mozilla Festival the year we built the connected library.

Now, accelerated by the pandemic, we spend much of our time living and conversing with others in a different location: digital space. But social media and messaging platforms weren’t designed to serve as public spaces. They were designed to monetize attention.

Much of our communal life now unfolds in digital spaces that feel public but are not. When technologists refer to platforms like Facebook and Twitter as “walled gardens”—environments where the corporate owner has total control—they’re literally referring to those same private pleasure gardens that Whitman was reacting to. And while Facebook and Twitter may be open to all, as in those gardens, their owners determine the rules.

I like the points made why venture backed platforms (private gardens) are awful public spaces. In short I see it like this…

On Growth. I was listening to Team Human with Marina Gorbis & Douglas Rushkoff with a strong statement of scale is the enemy of humanity. On friction parks are messy because they are used by different people in different ways Private/walled gardens are predestine, they have house rules. These rules are set by the owner. Public parks are owned by the public and there is a democratic way to set the ground rules.

I found the post is clever to call out public institutes like libraries, schools, etc. My only issue is this is all very american, which has its own unique cultural differences.

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Ironically the physical public spaces talked about in the article are under massive threat. For example I live in central Manchester and I’m lucky to have a good size community garden but there is also two large spaces within 2 mins walk from me. Ok the central retail park isn’t really a park but currently being used a covid19 testing space and the other one is the New Islington green which is currently under treat to be built on.

If we haven’t learned anything about the natural/physical environment, I wonder what hope we may have for the digital world? Oh and I found the Guardian opinion piece quite good too.

Mozfest’s call for participation 2021

Mozilla festival

Its been one heck of the year and to be frank 2021 is going to be pandemic driven too. While we all try and find our way in the new normal. Its worth looking at things which have delighted us all.

One of those for me is the Mozilla Festival which usually falls on October half-term. It would have been this week starting with Mozhouse and ending on Mozfest on the weekend, if it was still in London and there wasn’t a world wide pandemic of course.

With all that happening and not going to massively change come early next year. Mozfest will be mainly a virtual festival over 2 weeks in March. Being a community festival its time for the call for proposals.

Anyone can submit a session – you don’t need any particular expertise, just a great project or idea and the desire to collaborate and learn from festival participants. Since it’s online this year, we’re especially eager to see session proposals from those that haven’t been able to attend in year’s past due to travel restrictions.

If you or someone you know is interested in leading a session at MozFest this year, you can submit your session ideahere! The deadline is November 23.

So what you waiting for? Get in there…

Mozfest 2019

Lets make the Mozilla festival 2021, the most diverse, inclusive and incredible festival of the internet ever!

 

Mozilla Festival is moving to Amsterdam

 

Last Mozfest in London

The word is out… MozfeLast is officially moving to Amsterdam.

The decision to move locations after 9 years in London wasn’t taken lightly. London opened its arms to us in 2011, and we loved its multicultural diversity and entrepreneurial spirit. But it was expensive, and harder to get visas for our guests each year.

During many conversations with the community in Amsterdam, we were consistently impressed with the alignment in values between Amsterdam and Mozilla, as well as the enthusiasm they brought to the proposal process. Amsterdam has publicly-stated principles around protecting data transparency, privacy, and internet access for citizens. And, it is home to a robust and eclectic community of creative thinkers. Our common goals for progressive, radical change in areas of AI, digital rights and literacy, with community inclusion at the fore, will make us great partners in executing a festival that will be a convening force for supporting a more open and healthy internet for all.

Lets say I had a sneaky thought this might be the case when it was first announced that Mozilla was moving the festival.

The bigger surprise is the date change….

Moving to Amsterdam is not our only news. We have also decided to wait until March of 2021 to host our next MozFest. The extra time allows us to critically assess our design to ensure that what we build is robust and accessible and it allows us to embed ourselves in Amsterdam to get to know the local open advocates and activists.

March 2021, is likely a good idea with the Cornoavirus on the rampage right now to be fair.

Mozilla have a couple of Ask Me Anything sessions planned for Wednesday 18th in their Slack group.

  • Session 1: 9am-10am GMT/5-6am ET
  • Session 2: 5:30-6:30pm GMT/1:30-2:30pm ET

Mozfest10: A sad moment for the last Mozfest in the UK

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There was a point while DJing at the last Mozilla festival in the UK, when I looked up and it hit me.

There will be no more going to Ravensbourne. A place with a million stairs and incredible spaces. Its also my previous university so I always bump into someone I knew. On top of that its just down the road from the last place I lived in South East London, so its always interesting to take a bus east and see whats changed. That bloody big Tesco in Woolwich is awful, but I completely missed the IKEA!

Back to Mozfest however…

Its been 10 years and I have been to 8 of them. I missed the first one due to being elsewhere during the drumbeat festival. Then the second one due to being slightly busy with my brush with death. After that I went every single year getting more and more involved. I still remember when the whole festival was around Learning, Freedom and the Web, heck I still have the book on my shelf.

At some point during 2014, I became a spacewrangler for 4 years [2014][2015][2016][2017]. I have to say Jon Rogers had something to do with this for sure.

Its been quite a amazing time and people always ask me, why?

Classic moment in Mozfest history
Never again!

I can now point people at the Mozfest book which charts the history and some of the unique stories from the people who make up Mozfest.

Honestly its the people and community which make it all worth it. As Greshake-Tzovaras said

“Even when coming to MozFest for the first time it felt like coming back to family, in the best possible sense. People are so welcoming and friendly!”

Its like an extended family and one of the best communities to be a part of. There are people I have met through Mozfest which have become incredible friends, collaborators and business partners. I have had critical time with people working at the very edge, people with great ideas/tech/plans. I have visited their homes, met their partners, spent endless nights plotting and shared the highs and lows. My contact book is not just full of contacts but full of people with authentic strong connections from around the world.

Mozfest 2015

Its all about the people and community of Mozilla!

Jons explaining why we need another 500 cardboard boxes?

Then in the words of Sarah, because one weekend isn’t enough…

There was Mozhouse and lets not forget Mozretreat (which I originally thought was Moztreat) which marks the officially first drum of the festival. I can’t tell you how much has come out of both of those too.

Where ever it goes next (my money is on Amsterdam), I will be making a very good case why I should be involved in some way or another. On to bigger and even better things…

To the future of internet health at Moz://a Festival

Mozfest10: 3D’s: Dating, Deception and Data-Portability (GDPR edition)

There are a number of blog posts I need to write about the last Mozilla Festival in the UK and I have already written about the dyslexic advantage previously. So its time for my workshop session the 3D’s Dating, Deception and Data-portability in the openness space. I added GDPR edition to the workshop, as I did submit it last year but did so before I actually got my GDPR data back from the dating sites. I assume the lack of clarity about having the data made it tricky for privacy & security to accept it last year?

I was looking forward to this one but on the week of Mozfest, my Dell XPS laptop woke me up in the middle of the night with a bright screen. I thought it was odd to have it on, as its usually a sleep. On closer inspection I found I couldn’t do much, so rebooted it. On the reboot I was able to login but not launch almost anything, so I rebooted again. To find I dumped into a GRUB recovery console. Its a long story what happened next but ultimately my plans to host the dating JSON files on my local machine with a nicer interface was never going to happen.

With all this in mind I changed the presentation (google slides are my friend) and scope of the workshop. Luckily I had redacted enough of the data in advance, and I kept a hold of my data instead of letting people rummage through like I had planned.

I focused the presentation into the 3 areas, dating, deception and data-portability. My slides are all online here.

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The people who came were quite vocal and engaged with everything. There were many questions about the dating and deception part, which made think I could have done a whole bit similar to my TEDx talk a few years ago. But I really wanted to get into the meat of the workshop, beyond requesting your data, actually getting it but now what?

This is exactly what I posed as a question to people.

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The replies were quite different from what I was thinking…

  • A group said if you could get a number of data dumps over time, you coul mine the data on your profile to look at positive & negative changes over a longer time scale. This would work great especially on the OKcupid questions, which you can change at anytime and I have.
  • Another group suggested something similar to Cambridge Analytica using OKcupid questions. I did suggest its highly likely they (Okcupid) are already doing this and its reflected in the people you are shown rather than your vote and news you see. I wasn’t making light of it, just sadly saying everything is there and yes it could be turned into a personality profile easily enough
  • There was a interesting thought to tally up messages and changes in profile data with historic weather, moon, quantified self data and other data. To see if there is a link. I think this one might include the person who asked why I redacted the star sign data?
  • The idea of creating a dating bot of yourself was quite shocking, but the thought was with enough of my chat transcripts you could easily train a bot to answer people in the future like I would. There was a discussion about ethics of doing so and what happens when a bot meets another bot pretending to be human
  • Finally group suggested visualisations to help make tangible choices and things I wrote. This was good in the face of what was missing and how to inform the dirty little tricks dating companies do for profit. Its always clear how powerful visualisation can be, you only have to look at my twitter gender data visualisation from openhumans.

Its clear the Plenty of Fish data was less interesting to people and it would be trivial to move from OKCupid to POF based on the dataset. Other way would require a lot user input.

Massive thanks to Fred Erse for keeping me on time and collecting the ideas together.

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So what happens next?

Jupyter notebook from openhumans demo

Well I’m keen to put either the actual data or the redacted data into openhumans and try the Jupyter notebook thing. Maybe I can achieve the final groups ideas with some fascinating visualisations.

 

Mozfest10: The advantages of dyslexia?

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There are a number of blog posts I need to write about the last Mozilla Festival in the UK but I wanted to start with this one about my art piece in the all new neurodiversity space.

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I started a physical mindmap on Saturday morning in the neurosiversity space and hung up information from the dyslexic advantage book, something I have written a lot about. I then invited the public to read and write on postage tags what they thought the advantages of dyslexia look like. These were hung up for others to read and explore.

Mind strengths
The Dyslexic Advantages: MIND strengths

Here is the document I wrote if you want to read the MIND strengths in more detail.

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I left it over the weekend and let people just add more and more. I also had some great conversations with different people about the advantages. One lady didn’t know there were advantages and lived with dyslexia all her life. As a whole lots people were correctly diagnosed at University and College, which is the norm as the book says. I think I met about 4 people who were diagnosed in School.

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I have some great photos and when Mozfest finished I took them with me. Reading them in full it was quite amazing to read.

All the thoughts over the weekend

Here’s the almost complete list (I couldn’t read some of them and I removed the duplicates)…

  • Right maths, wrong numbers!
  • Creative
  • Sequencing
  • Non-reading information sensitivity
  • Interconnected thinking
  • Spatial thinking
  • Network of thoughts
  • Advantages?
  • Telling stories
  • Attention to details
  • Improvising & Creativity
  • Pattern recognition / Recognition pattern
  • Ability to tell stories
  • Link themes
  • Empathy to others
  • Empathy
  • Lateral thinking
  • Concept formation
  • Storytelling
  • Crasy?
  • Mapping strengths
  • Roles can lead to success
  • Future prediction
  • Understanding

Glad I did it and the conversations were amazing, shame I couldn’t be around in the ND space all weekend. Massive thanks to the Spacewranglers of neurodiversity for accepting my session and helping out.

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Mozilla festival’s 10th anniversary, get your ticket before they are gone!

Mozfest 2015

The word is out… its very likely the last Mozilla festival in London and the UK. Although sad to see, it will go on to be even bigger

After 10 incredible years, 9 of which were in London, MozFest is asking Where to next?

As a community, we have so much to celebrate for this 10th festival. As we reflect on all we have learnt and built together, we invite you to join us in imagining what the next 10 years of growth and experiences for the MozFest community could be — in a new location.

But wait!

Its not over yet! The next Mozilla Festival for 2019 is on for the week of Monday 20th October – Sunday 27th October. Yes a whole week of celebrations for the festival which set the conversation involving tech, policy, law, design and media. It was 2010 when Mozilla created the book Mozilla Learning, Freedom and the Web, which lead the way to the yearly Internet heath report.

For the week of the Mozilla Festival you are going to want to block out your schedule for some great events in the RSA London during the week (especially the Public spaces / private data event). By the end of the week you will be fired up for the start of the last Mozilla festival in London. Then get stuck in for 2 days of incredible sessions given by people from all over the world. The diversity of the talks will blow you away but all based around Mozilla’s internet health report. Quick plug for my two sessions you don’t want to miss… 3D’s – Dating, Deception and Dataportability (GDPR edition) and The Dyslexic advantage 

Of course there’s amazing parties every evening and I expect each one will be incredible being the 10th Mozfest and the last one in the UK. After the success of last years werewolf, I’ll be running another space for those who fancy a break free for the full moon. By Sunday who knows I might even get a chance to throw some tunes down on the pacemaker device?

Its a full on week but well worth it and you can like the organisers relaxed on Monday afternoon.

Global Village at Mozfest

Get your tickets now, and notice 10 pound discount if you attend one of the free Mozhouse events.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Aug 2019)

The Cleaners film

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed by looking at the state of democracy around the world and closer to home. To quote Buckminster Fuller “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

With a focus on new models in business, technology, society, policy, processes, etc. I present my public service internet newsletter.

You are seeing more people thinking more critically about the power of public services to transform society again.

Don’t forget if you find this useful, you will find “Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?” at the RSA London on 21st October  2019, right up your street.

Well-being the real metric which matters

Ian thinks: Sturgeon is part of a growing momentum, rethinking what’s important and coming to the conclusion; in the internet age our adoption of attention is very badly broken.
Found via Lianne

The Technology of Better Humans from the founder of the hashtag

Ian thinks: Chris Messina is always a good thinker and the idea of emotional technology by emotional intelligent entrepreneurs is very timely.

Facebook Libra deep dive with someone who knows what they are talking about

Ian thinks: After the dust has settled, a detailed look at Libra from the point of view of someone who understands Libra isn’t a cryptocurrency, no matter what others have said.

The founder of Scruff on breaking up with Google

Ian thinks: Eric gives a compelling rational why he stopped using Google ads; siding with his users against short term profit growth in favour of safety and the support of his users.

Black Hat & Defcon hacking conferences in 12-15 minutes

Ian thinks: Its fascinating to see the diversity of hacks and vulnerabilities in everything from security doors, printers, voting machines, cars and even canon DSLR cameras.

Why we need to think public transport even more in the age of driverless cars

Ian thinks: There is so much focus on individuals in driverless cars, however its public transport and last mile transport which can make the difference to peoples lives in our future cities.

You only need 1000 true fans?

Ian thinks: I have been revisiting alternative business models and was intrigued to re-read Kevin Kelly’s thoughts in the light of recent concerns over attention. Still holds weight I feel.

From Pixels to DNA, biotech needs a careful hand

Ian thinks: One place I certainly don’t want to see the “Move fast and break things” ideology is with genetic engineering.
Whole interview with Bryan Walsh

Have you ever thought about the people who moderation that other content?

Ian thinks: This slow moving documentary opens your eyes to the reality of content moderation and the absolutely awful side of the modern web we all use without too much thought.

The Mozilla Festival is finally moving out of London

Ian thinks: Mozfest moving out of London a few days before Brexit is ominous, however the strategy of moving location every few years is a good idea for all including Mozilla.
Learn more and get involved

Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

A open space for public service and internet health

Last year BBC R&D worked with Mozilla on a event during London Mozilla fest week titled A open space for public service and internet health. The event was great and lots of conversations got taken into Mozfest on the weekend.

This year we are back with another event with even more partners and more topics of interest. Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

On Monday October 21st 2019 between 9am-5pm, At the RSA, John Adam St, London

The internet has enormous potential to be a force for public good, with many initiatives working to create an open, inclusive and trustworthy network. PublicSpaces.net and BBC Research and Development have worked together to organise this one day conference at MozFest House during Mozilla Foundation’s week-long open internet festival. It will explore ways in which we could make a new internet that strengthens the public domain and deliver public value online, in line with PublicSpaces commitment to providing a digital social platform that serves the common interest and does not seek profit.

Our topics for the day include

  • Public-Controlled Data (presented by BBC R&D)
  • Equal Access for Everyone (tba)
  • Healthy Digital Public Sphere (presented by Mozilla)
  • Public Service Networking  (presented by PublicSpaces.net)

 

Book a ticket or register your interest, before they disappear…

#web30: The world wide web at 30 years old

We owe a lot to Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the 30th Anniversary of the web.

Tim Berners-Lee helped invent the world wide web 30 years ago. And he has consistently pointed out that the original dream that gave rise to it is under threat.

It is exactly 30 years since Sir Tim submitted a paper to his colleagues at CERN, suggesting a way of sharing data across networks, under the title “Information Management: A Proposal”. The humble title belies the importance of what was contained inside, which included a complete sketch for the networked information system that would on to become the internet we know today.

But its really important to think about the next 30 years.

Surveillance capitalism and governmental/state control are hot topics which very much threaten the fabric of the web. But so does our use of the web and the way we treat each other.

I had a really good 10min talk with Sir Tim Berners-Lee during the last Mozilla Festival, while talking about Solid, Databox and data trust. What got me as we talked, was ultimately we were talking about power and where it lies. Power in the hands of governments (Chinese model) , corporations (American model) or people? (could be the European model?)

I think remembering their are humans, not eyeballs, not lefties/rightwingers, etc is so important. Lets celebrate the people of the web!

https://twitter.com/whynotadoc/status/1105400124447039489

Its all go at Mozilla Festival 2018

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mozfest/24140492258/

Usually I’m busy at this time getting things ready for Mozilla festival, but this year I stepped down as a spacewrangler. Its always good to have new people try their hand at it all. Of course I’m still involved in Mozfest, as I submitted a few sessions for the festival and a couple were accepted including why is there a need for a public service internet; which follows a private event during the Mozhouse week.

This year, ideas from Mozilla’s first full-length Internet Health Report — a deep look at how the Internet and human life intersect — are at the heart of the festival. At MozFest 2018, we’ll strategize our next moves in global campaigns for net neutrality, data privacy, and online freedom. We’ll advance thinking on topics like ethical AI and common-sense tech policy. We’ll collaborate on code, on art and practical ideas, creating seeds for the next great open-source products.

Tickets are live for the festival and the schedule went live today.

Re-decentralising the internet one step at a time

2 sides of the internet

You may have noticed a lot of blog posts about decentralising the internet? Last year I had the pleasure of spacewrangling the decentralised space at Mozfest, and I wrote down my reasons why I switched from the privacy and security space while in Tallinn. This year I won’t be spacewrangling (although I’m very happy to see Mark and Ross still involved in the wrangling)

Here’s the call for action.

Can the world be decentralised?

In this parallel dimension, people self-organise into open groups that create art, write code, and even build cities. Their technology runs on consensus and their society is fuelled by data. But data is not just a resource — it’s an extension of individual identity and collective culture. People give informed consent to data gathering and enjoy transparency of use.

Journey to a new world and bring back powerful, resilient technology; explore radical, paradigm-shifting ideas; and take part in cutting-edge discourse. Explore protocols like DAT, IPFS and ActivityPub, alongside ideas such as net neutrality and proof of stake. Experience decentralised platforms like Matrix and Mastodon, and support the equal commons of all.

Let’s discover this wonderland, together.

I do have things I want to submit and the deadline is August 1st. So you got some time to put something in, and it doesn’t need to be super detailed, just enough to explain the overall idea. Get in there and submit now!

Buckminster Fuller's quote
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete

My thoughts about important this really is goes super deep, as I’ve seen how the internet has been hijacked by a monolithic culture of private businesses with a winner takes all attitude.

Of course I’m not the only one thinking and talking about this. Many people and organisations are, including the W3C, Mozilla, Dot Everybody, BBC and Nesta to say a few.

I’ll be joining a critical panel about this exact thing at Futurefest this weekend. Tickets are still available and to be honest 2 years ago I was blown away by the festival topics and speakers.

The internet isn’t where we want it to be. With power increasingly centralised in the hands of very few players, citizens have little say in where we want the internet to go next. But challenging existing dynamics won’t be easy: we find ourselves caught in the crossfire between the dominant American models (driven by Big Tech) and the increasingly powerful Chinese model (where government reigns supreme). Is there scope to create a third, European model, where citizens and communities are in charge?

In this session, we discuss alternative trust models for the internet. This session is part of the European Commission’s Next Generation Internet initiative. We will hear from Manon den Dunnen, strategic specialist at the Dutch National Police, Ian Forrester, Chief Firestarter at BBC R&D and Marta Arniani, innovation strategist and founder of Futuribile / Curating Futures. Chairing will be Katja Bego, senior researcher at Nesta and coordinator of the Next Generation Internet Engineroom project.

Sounds like a very good panel right? I can’t see many punches being pulled either. Get your ticket now.

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Finally something else related which I saw recently is Baratunde Thurston‘s New tech manifesto.

This project is based on the Medium feature for its “Trust Issues” series launched in June 2018. That feature was written by Baratunde Thurston, focused on data, and titled:

A New Tech Manifesto: Six demands from a citizen to Big Tech