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.
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).
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.
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 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 left project immerse to the very last day and was my last Mozfest event I did. Lance Weller blew my mind with things I have never seen Miro or Zoom do before. The future of immersive virtual theatre, I reckon so? I wish I could blog about it but I don’t want to spoil it. Lance also has a ongoing virtual show which I’m signed up to for April. It was fantastic end to 2 weeks of the Mozilla festival.
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)
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!
I have no idea why or what happen, but this is likely the 4 or 5th time my Ubuntu machine has become unstable while presenting live on zoom.
Tonight I gave a presentation for the Mozilla Festival about adaptive podcasting. I did some tests because I wanted to see if I could switch the audio from my headset mic to the Android phone running the app. Things were not working, so I decided to use the audio captures instead. Everything was fine, presentation in Google Chrome using google slides and Miro in Firefox for the workshop portion later. Zoom for video sharing.
Everything was smooth then I started Chrome in presentation mode but remember I need to turn on auto-generated subtitles. I switch to Zoom on my second screen try and turn it on but everything refreshes and freezes except my mouse cursor. The camera light is still on and sound is working (both mic and audio). I am forced to run the whole hour long workshop with no access to my slides, zoom or anything else. So I freestyle it.
I remembered a few times before something similar things happening while giving a presentation at Agile Manchester, UCD gathering, Immersive Arts Lab 8 and last week at the publicspaces conference. However the difference has been the laptop had paused for a short while (couple of minutes) before returning to normal state. This time I ended up rebooting the whole laptop.
Thinking about the circumstances of the other times, I suspected it might be Zoom but then its happened with Hopin too. It can’t be the laptop because I now I have a brand new laptop and although they are both Ubuntu the first three were Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS. While I was running Ubuntu 20.4.2 LTS for the publicspaces conference and Mozilla festival. This leads me to the other common element which is Google chrome, which I use because its google slides (I tend to only sign into my google account with chrome).
Even if its not quite right, I’ll be testing running Google slides from Firefox instead.
One upside of todays presentation is the amazing response I got from people on the call who really enjoyed the pure storytelling. Although I am glad for my co-host, having shared the slides and miro whiteboard right at the start.
Big thanks to everyone and the lovely words people have shared with me.
I can finally tell you two of my three submitted sessions were accepted. The big one is a workshop around adaptive podcasting which will happen Monday 15th at 2015-2115 GMT. Don’t worry there is calendar invites for all the sessions including mine.
Now we can reveal more details for the conference and you can get your tickets now. The conference runs from late afternoon (5pm CET/4pm GMT) of Thursday March 11th (English speaking) and Friday March 12th all day (partly English mainly Dutch speaking).
After a short break there will be several community announcements, followed by a panel discussion on an open letter launched by the SDEPS calling for digital European public spaces. Before a summary and plans for the Friday.
On Friday (10am CET/9am GMT) which is mainly Dutch language but has English tracks, the conference continues with 4 tracks.
Track 1: Towards an ethical internet
Most of the essential applications on the internet have turned into vehicles for political control and economic profit, in which citizens are no longer subjects, but objects. How can public organizations reclaim again the internet as a public space and offer their audiences services that embody public of which they subscribe the ethical values?
Track 2: The Digital Public Spaces Ecosystem
We are seeking to build digital public spaces that are in line with our common values: we want them to be open, democratic, and sustainable. Many initiatives exist that work on alternatives that can be part of this ecosystem of change. In this track, we will get both an overview of what organisations and projects are already out there, get a sense of how they can work together, and build new connections between initiatives and networks that operate in this ecosystem. Central to this track is a map that we are working on and build on during the sessions in this track. We invite participants to join us and add to this map as well as to find new potential collaborations so that together we can make these digital public spaces a reality. Ian Forrester, BBC R&D, will moderate the sessions in this track and invite you to join us on the shared ‘map of change’.
Track 3: Meet the disruptors
Silicon Valley and the world of venture capital revolve around the notion of radical disruption. Those ideas that change the world instantaneously. The question: ‘what comes after the break?’ is deliberately postponed until a later date. First, innovate, then improve is the device. In order to move towards a better internet, incremental change is not enough. In fact, it may actually be the mentality of ‘ship first, fix later’ that may have led to the problems that we are currently facing. In this track, we want to highlight the trailblazers that aim to create a different form of disruption. People that do not only want to change the world for a moment but those that have the stamina and patience to persist.
Track 4: Matchmaking track
In the matchmaking track, supply and demand come together and new alliances are forged and partnerships are built. The purpose of the round table sessions is to bring new parties from different disciplines together around one topic. The conversation serves as an introduction and starting point for a workgroup or collaboration, also after the conference.
Ian thinks: Mozilla’s well researched look at the state of the internet is a one of those reports which spurs thought and action for the coming year. Its been a tricky year with lots of up and downs, nicely documented in this massively detailed report/playbook. You might recognise someone in the report.
Ian thinks: The post has quite a few errors within it, like how they keep referring to Mastodon as a single network and missed the memo how Gab removed themselves off Mastodon. BlueSky sounds only slightly interesting, but the core of this post is focused around the risk of extreme groups using decentralised technology.
Ian thinks: Although this well written paper focuses on public service broadcasting, I would consider the wider question of publicservice full stop. Its clear the likes of Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook etc are aiming to replace public utilities Of course I think so but publicservice needs to double down on things which break silicon valley
Ian thinks: Well its about time, but expect more E2E and Zero-knowledge buzz words to be thrown around this year. Question will always be, are they actually doing what they say they are? Looking at you Zoom.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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 . 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?
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.
Its all about the people and community of Mozilla!
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…