Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (June 2021)

Mozilla's instagram adverts

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed seeing Google’s new dermatology system wasn’t built with darker skin ,the relative landmass the big tech corps are taking in make believe maps and seeing Mob-rule encouraged by the Citizen app.

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.

You are seeing aspects of this with Google finally processing dark skin betterco-ops changing the gig economy and seeing the number of iOS 14.5 users taking back their privacy.


Digital inclusion in the UK

Ian thinks: OFCOM’s report highlights the importance of digital inclusion which most assume is pretty much over, judging by the general press coverage.

Mozilla on the transparency march

Ian thinks: Mozilla picks up where Signal and Facebook left off with creepy personalised adverts in Instagram. They also did a good job explaining the signals which are used in Youtube’s recommendation.

A Planetary-Scale, Pluralist and cooperative commonwealth for the Digital Economy

Ian thinks: Such a interesting read starting with an alternative to Amazon and ending up rethinking everything. This is the kind of thinking we need more of.

Thorp attempts to make a statement

Ian thinks: Our European friends in the publicspaces collation take on the messaging and (small S) social networking big tech giants with a new matrix based server service which promises to be exciting.

The public interest internet

Ian thinks: The Electronic Frontier Foundation starts a series of postings around the concept of the public interest internet. Similar in many ways to the public service internet I do believe.

The Knight institute asks us to Re-imagining the internet

Ian thinks: There were some good sessions and like most online conferences, you can catch up with everything. I normally would point at one or two but they were all worth watching.

Smart contracts or Smart coins?

Ian thinks: I’m always interested in whats possible with DID’s and smart contracts and this high level Identity talk around Chia raises many ideas for non-commercial use.

The stress of digital currency on our existing banking sector

Ian thinks: The economist outlines the massive power struggle going on with company digital money, p2p cryptocurrency and government backed Central Bank Digital Currency

Why Recapture is getting much harder for humans

Ian thinks: If the captures are annoying now, don’t worry because behavior recognition will judge us all, all the time. Feedback loops make this a reality forever more.

The opt out game

Ian thinks: Its rare I mention a game but this frustrating trip through opt-out web interfaces/dark patterns that we all loath so much, is worth it. Even I have to admit to not getting 5 of the opt-outs correct!


Find the archive here

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (April 2021)

Deep fake technology

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed, seeing how Amazon won’t support public library systems and how good / prevalent deepfake technology is becoming.

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.

You are seeing aspects of this with fashion taking on surveillance, Google finally being called out for the not so incognito mode in Chrome and introducing a progressive tax-like system following Apples store changes.


Meet the disruptors at publicspaces

Ian thinks: From the publicspaces conference where you can watch all the talks. I personally found Melanie Rieback and post growth entrepreneurship quite inspirational for all those new startups. We need more of this!

Evidence disappearing right under your nose

Ian thinks: This short documentary from VPRO, highlights the problem with archiving and moderation in critical cases like war crimes.

TransCopyright realised with Micropayments?

Ian thinks: Delivered at Mozfest 2021, Amber got me thinking when she mentions the dream of Ted Nelson’s TransCopyright (co-creator of hypertext) realised using web monetisation for attribution.

Why the excitement over non-fungible tokens?

Ian thinks: March become the month when most people heard the term non-fungible tokens for the first time, likely for a piece of art which sold for the equivalent of 69 million.

Some of the facts and myths surrounding China & America explained

Ian thinks: Useful overview from Wired magazine on the clear differences between the two but also the misconceptions which are portrayed by the media and each other.

We all knew Facebook is hooked on mis-information

Ian thinks: Interesting to see Facebook time their AI fairness paper on the same day. Who are they trying to kid?

A bank is the last place I think about when thinking purpose and human rights?

Ian thinks: I’m not so sure how much is honest in this video but Paypal, are not just saying the right thing but actually doing. Such a important difference from a lot of the D&I efforts being talked about now.

Forget GDP, Its time for a new metric and the UN is engaged

Ian thinks: Its great to hear the UN is considering a move away from GDP to natural capital. Its about time the alternatives are taken deadly seriously, for the benefit of us all. Of course BBC R&D are researching Human Values in a similar mind.

The walled garden is the new security through obscurity?

Ian thinks: Feeling comfortable behind a walled garden can make you reliant on them for security, but like the MIT piece makes clear this can be a bad mistake for your own security


Find the archive here

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).

Publicspaces conference: towards a common internet – March 11-12th – tickets now available

Publicspaces conference - towards a common internet

I previously blogged about the publicspaces conference.

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.

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).

I’m really happy to say I’m one of the people behind Thursday evening and we have some great keynote speakers presented by the amazing Marleen Stikker of Waag. Paul Keller of the Open Future foundation, Katja Bego of Nesta and Eli Pariser of Civic Signals; will all present short keynotes followed by a communal Q&A.

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.

Publicspaces conference - towards a common internet

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.

Sounds great? Go get your tickets now.

Public Service Internet monthly newsletter (Feb 2021)

Survillence everywhere
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

We live in incredible times with such possibilities that is clear. Although its easily dismissed, seeing the de-platforming and even the royals snubbing social media.

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.

You are seeing aspects of this the privacy first search engine duck duck go surpassing 100 million daily searches, the move to Signal messager from Whatsapp causing it to fall over temporarily and Facebook forced to rethinking their strategy.


Its the Internet’s health check up time!

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.

How can we achieve public spaces online?

Ian thinks: on 11-12 March a online conference by a number of partners including BBC R&D bring together organisations and vendors who are interested in the development of a public stack in line with the principles of democratic, sustainable etc. This is all part of the Mozilla Festival 2021 which is in Amsterdam for the next 3 years. Tickets are now available for Mozfest. and the publicspaces conference.

The new state of the self sovereign internet

Ian thinks: A deep dive but also accessible look at the current state of decentralised technology like self sovereign identity. Maybe one of the better summaries.

Some of the challenges to decetralisation

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.

Imagine a Buddhist-inspired AI

Ian thinks: A truly real rethink of AI ethics based around Buddhist ethos is something worth pursuing. There is a lot of modern life which could be re-thought with a eastern view.

Do Facebook really think we won’t notice?

Ian thinks: Will the name change from Libra to Diem make any difference? Its still got Facebook behind the scenes and almost all the original backers have left.

The future of shopping faces the same dilemma as everyone else

Ian thinks: Its later in the video when Ian talks privacy and luxury but also luxury and personalisation. Its good to hear these discussions happening in the retail world too.

(How) will Public Service survive Silicon Valley?

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

How eXistenZ, Pizzagate, Qanon and Augmented reality all fit together?

Ian thinks: Mark Pesce is interviewed by Douglas Rushkoff for team human, and its quite a fascinating interview linking all these topics together.

Ring doorbells get on the E2E train

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.


Find the archive here

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.

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

Public value

Back last year when we could go to conferences and festivals without fear of the covd19 pandemic. BBC R&D, Mozilla and Publicspaces put on a conference during the Mozilla Festival week.

It was a great conference but unfortunately it never was written up. Its a real shame but you can understand with all the build up to the coming pandemic. So I thought it would be worth writing something short at least because it was enjoyable and full of great speakers.

We started with a keynote from Rachel Coldicutt – Doteveryone – previously CEO of Doteveryone

Rachel talked about the importance of public value, what’s at stake if we leave it to the market and the notion of just enough internet, which I mentioned previously. It was great keynote and really kicked off the day of panel talks in the right manor. Its still a shame doteveryone is no more.

Session One – Public-Controlled Data

Public-Controlled Data panel

Rhianne started the session with a look at the new forms of value work in R&D before Jeni and Katja followed in discussion with a look at the challenges facing the industry in which public controlled data can be ethically and unethically used.

Session Two – Equal Access for Everyone

Equal Access for Everyone panel

Bill kicked off the conversation looking at the important issue of inequality with Laura and Isobel looking at it from their points of view. All very enlightening with the different views coming together into we can all do better.

Session Three – A Healthy Digital Public Sphere

A Healthy Digital Public Sphere panel

Solana started things with a look at what makes up the internet heath report with Miles and Tim talking about the looking further and deep into what we mean by healthy and society

Session Four – Public Service Networking

Public Service Networking panel

Paulien kicked off the last session with a look at Publicspaces,net and their projects including the badges project. Ira followed up by exploring the notion of publicservice networking through the Redecentralize organisation. Alexandra then followed with her experience looking at the internet of things with a more ethical lens.

The whole event was very well attended and served as good follow on from the previous year. So what about this year? Well as you know Mozilla have moved the festival to Amsterdam but the pandemic has shifted things to a mainly virtual festival next year in March. Plans are a foot to follow up with something in collaboration with Publicspaces.

Bill thanks everyone

A review of my 2019 resolutions

Me with birthday ballons

2019 has been quite challenging for me and I know many others!

Looking from the Quantified Self point of view

  • My sleep deficit over the whole year has massively decreased to 36 mins,   My average sleep this year has been 7 hours 20mins (down from 2018). Average deep sleep has been 4.03 hrs now only 48% of my sleep.
  • According to Gmail I have had 54,325 conversations, have 33345 emails in my inbox and sent 7241 emails this year
  • Have 111,540 photos and 3,971 photos albums in Google photos.
  • Tasks wise I have 267 open tasks and completed 2,876 over the year
  • Been on 52 trips including Manchester, Edinburgh, London, Bristol, Guernsey, Madrid, Amsterdam, Venice (first time in Italy), Berlin, Helsinki, Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp, Nottingham, The Hague, Bath, Newcastle this year.
  • According to Trakt, my most played show is Supergirl and film was John wick 3, Most listened to podcast is the Daily Tech News Show.
  • I spent 655 hours watching films (16.2 a month) and 300 hours watching TV series (37.5 a month)
  • This year I started a gratitude diary which now has 7,303 words

Regardless of the data he’s the review of my new years resolutions from 2019.

  1. Head further a field with the scooter
    Again I missed this one and its very unlikely this will happen before the UK leaves Europe.  Theres still an idea of visiting my  friend in Rotterdam then drive around and maybe into Belgium & Germany. But this may change massively if I move to Amsterdam?
  2. Ride a roller coaster in yet another country
    This also didn’t happen this year, although I did go to Madrid again and ride lots of coasters in the scorching 41c sun. Also I decided to give the rollercoaster park in Helsinki a miss this year. Next year I’ll be in looking out for coasters in other countries including South Korea.
  3. Look after myself better
    Didn’t do so badly but theres a lot of room for improvement. I do a lot of walking when away from home but Volleyball isn’t as intense as it use to be due to not being in the team now.
  4. Spend more time in the UK
    This happened I think and my partner agrees.
  5. Enter the bake off at work
    This is a yes, I baked some banana bread with chilli chocolate inside and it was very nice except when I took it to work things didn’t quite turn out as expected.  But I did get six peoples vote and there’s photos of the caroline reaper chocolate volcano cake here.
  6. Explore more about the brain using neuroscience
    This needs some work, as I didn’t go to any events this year at all from memory.
  7. Do more with my Estonian e-residency
    I did extended my e-residency another 2 years and I do use it as ID when entering some physical businesses. Its not quite what I was thinking about but it slightly counts. I did also look into using it as another form authentication for some services and finally setup a email address for it.
  8. Explore the future of decentralised and distributed systems
    I spent a weekend at IndieWebCampBerlin and the following days at Republica19. It was quite an amazing and my follow up to R&D with a lunch time lecture with this presentation.
  9. Make some changes to the flat
    I finally started by finally removing the filing cabinet to the local dump, getting a large Billy bookcase in my partners new car (with the roof down in the Manchester rain). I bought a sitting and standing desk which is smaller but yet to put it up due to having the existing one still in place. I didn’t realise my Jerker desk is over 20 years old! I’ll be offering it on ebay in the new year if anyone is keen to have it?
  10. Host film nights and more dinner parties at mine
    This needs to happen in 2020, I had a couple of evening with my new projector, but nowhere what I was hoping for. My partner and friend had not seen Inception so we had fun with that one evening. Another friend suggested she had never seen Kill Bill, so that could be a back to back session with the projector and surround sound system.
    When it comes to the dinner parties front, theres been a bit. Likely the best was the chocolate tasting party which was great.
  11. Work on the dating book
    Since Hannah offered her copy editing skills to help make it a real book, I have done what I can. She suggested ghost writing the book and we have agreed thats a way forward. When I last spoke about the book, I saw 11+ chapters of my previously badly written nonsense, rewritten and re-imagined. Its going to be amazing!
  12. Be a stronger advocate for Team Human
    This is summing up so much of 2019 for me. Not only in daily life but in work. Its appeared in presentations, in talks I’ve given and the way I go about things. Ok its not really about team human but new forms of value or rather. Its one of the reasons why I’m considering a secondment.

My Data: Public spaces / Private data

Mydata 2019 conference card

I’m back at Mydata this year, this time with more colleagues, Publicspaces.net and the Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

If you are at Mydata, our event is in Hall H from 14:00 – 15:45 on the opening day of Wednesday 25th September.

More and more people live their lives online, and we are encouraged to view the internet as a public space. However the personal data we bring to this space can be used in many inappropriate ways: Instagram stories are scraped to target advertisement; faces in family photographs are used to train the ML systems that will scan crowds for suspects; the devices we thought we owned end up owning us; and our browsing histories are stored and scanned by governments and private companies. This creates a tension for public service organisations as they try to deliver value to audiences and users online.

In this session experts from the BBC Research & Development, Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE, and PublicSpaces will consider how to resolve these tensions, and look at some specific interventions aimed at providing value to audiences and communities through the responsible use of private data in online public spaces.

The format will be four brief talks and a round table discussion.

Chair: Rhianne Jones (BBC)
PublicSpaces and an internet for the common good: Sander van der Waal (PublicSpaces)
The Living Room of the Future:  Ian Forrester (BBC)
How public service media can engage online; Aleksi Rossi (YLE)
Data Stewardship and the BBC Box:  Jasmine Cox/ Max Leonard (BBC)

If this interests you, don’t forget to add yourself to the London event with a similar name. Public Spaces, Private Data: can we build a better internet?

We need a PBS for the Internet age

PBS - Public Broadcasting Service Logo

Its quite amazing to read this opinion piece in the Washington Post recently… (if you like me are reading it in Europe, you might want to try this one)

Some bits I found amazing to read, especially since the united states’s public broadcast networks are so crippled. This says it all..

Americans like public media. NPR still consistently ranks among the most trusted news sources. Likewise, Americans have rated PBS among the most trusted institutions in the United States for the past decade and a half, according to polls conducted on PBS’s behalf. But these services operate in an increasingly challenging environment. Government cuts have forced public media to become far more dependent on listener contributions, sponsorships and private donors. These organizations have had to chase audiences migrating to private platforms along with the rest of the media, meeting audiences “where they’re at.”

To their credit, public media have made an impressive effort to upgrade on a dime. PBS states that its Digital Studios division averaged more than 38 million views per month on YouTube. NPR recently co-published a report about the promise of smart-speaker devices such as Amazon Echo for audience growth.

Rather than let public broadcasters who have accrued so much public trust languish — or, worse, be co-opted by a tech industry that has a vast interest in how its portrayed — both our federal and state governments need to play a more active role in public media’s health and digital future.

What the Internet needs is a fresh infusion of public media, properly funded and paired with federal policy that puts the public interest first.

Reading this piece, further reminds me why the public service internet research work is so critical. Without public media, we are lost. Can’t even really imagine what it must be like working for PBS and NPR consistently being knocked and sliced down. I mean the BBC has troubles but not like these (yet).