Why I became #Mozfest decentralization spacewrangler?

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Back in October I was again a spacewrangler for Mozfest. I haven’t had a proper chance to write-up the experience since I was going from one place to another. Unlike previous years as a spacewrangler, Mozilla themed the festival around the internet health report issues.

Originally during Mozretreat in Tallinn, I was going to spacewrangle the privacy & security space but during the workshops decided that decentralisation was under represented. Under represented as its always seen as technical, too difficult a problem or in the realm of who cares?

Decentralization in Mozretreat
An internet controlled by many, no one actor can own it, control it or turn it off

In the discussions in Tallinn it was clear the root of the issue is Power! Its what lives deep under the data ethics, hence why I keep mentioning data portability (the ability to own and not be reliant on one system/service)

…power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely – Sir John Dalberg-Acton

Big centralised power tends to lead towards corruption. A good example of this is the dating industry which is centralised and treats its customers like cattle. There is something about these centralised services which cuts people off from each other, hence everything is mediated through the centralised server. Of course they would claim its to protect the users, which is certainly partly true (based on the amount of women’s profiles which say please no pix of your parts) but thats not the only thing they do…

So with all this in mind, I switched from privacy and security which had enough momentum; to decentralised with a Z; poor Erika had to hear me joke/moan about it everytime (thanks Erika for being such a sport).

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

The timeline from the Mozretreat to Mozfest is pretty aggressive, and with just me and Viki working on the whole decentralised space at the time. It became clear we needed to have more people. In past Mozfests, its been a team effort of Jon, Michelle, Michael, etc. However earlier in the year Jon told me he wasn’t spacerangling this year. Jasmine had stepped back from spacerangling last year anyway, so I thought long and hard about what people would be ideal. This was all during working out the call for participation. I asked a few other people and luckily 3 out of the 5 people I asked agreed. The wrangler team now included Tim and Jon from BBC R&D, then Mark joined a bit later.

Organisation of time and space

It wasn’t easy as everyone was super busy but we made it work using lots of google docs/sheets, github, google hangout, skype, trello, etc. As I was the most experienced there was a lot of weight on my shoulders but by the time we started getting proposals in, things felt better. After the call closed, we read every single one rated and ranked them all. First cut was the travel stipend ones then the others afterwards. There was something strange that the quality of the proposals seemed to better in the middle of the call. The late & early ones seemed less thoughtful.

The wall of mozfest issues in the decentralisation space
The wall of mozfest issues in the decentralisation space

The months moved on and we slowly cut the list down to 44 proposals. By September there was a lot of logistics work including working out where everything was going to fit (we had selected far too much). We ended up with 3 talk (learning) spaces, 2 workshop (shed) spaces and 1 gallery space; 6 things happening in parallel just in the decentralised space alone. It was going to be tricky but I thought we can manage it with 5 spacewranglers. Unfortunately Viki couldn’t make it but at the last minute Jon convinced 2 trainees from BBC R&D (Kristine & Kristian) to join us, without them it would have been near impossible, very thankful for their help and stepping in at the last minute. If there wasn’t enough challenges, our commissioned artist (Archana Prasad) also ended up not coming from India due to illness. This made us scramble a little to come up with an overall theme to fit, which was the one thing which I knew we didn’t do such a great job on as previous years (the library) & (ethical dilemma cafe)

#Mozhouse (Royal Society of Arts)

Philo talking at Mozhouse

Mozfest this year tried something quite different from previous years. Instead of the weekend festival in Ravensbourne alone, they hosted a week long of events at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA). The events were very varied and the space was opened as a co-working space all weekend. This seemed to be very fitting with the RSA’s own plans for a 21st century coffee house?

We ran our first community of practice event in London too, which was well attended and included colleagues from the object based media team.

Databox meet York Uni

I also attended a few other events including Mel’s slidedesign and the glassroom which I wrote about already, it was also a good time to arrange meetings with people including Nesta. Later in the week, spacewrangler duties increased meaning more time at Ravensbourne oppose to the Mozhouse, this means I could only attend the first part of the databox event. But I was able to capture the interchange between Nottingham Uni (Databox) and York Uni (OBM engine). The conversation at the table in Mozhouse will have big consequences for the living room project and more.

Mozhouse was a very good idea and I think with more events using up the space, it could really add something different to Mozfest.

#Mozfest 2017

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Mozfest is always something you are not totally sure will work but it always does. The space was tight but my gut reaction of the layout was just about right. We squeezed in 6 spaces and it wasn’t so bad, although talk space 3’s intimacy was a little lost sadly.

This year Mozilla used Slack to bring conversations with spacewranglers and session owners together, it kind of worked but there was some missed/dropped conversations between slack, github and emails. There was a discussion about Mozfest using the centralised Slack service oppose to decentralised systems like matrix and mattermost, but it was a matter of practicality at the time. Maybe next year Matrix could be be the host? Sure Matrix must have a feature some serious dataportability features.

The reason why I mention Matrix, is I was seriously impressed with the Matrix people. They really got the while Mozfest thing and setup Matrix node (a mini PC) over the course of the festival weekend. It ran for most of the weekend and was perfectly timed for their session. As it was federated, when the PC did hit a problem, the other Matrix servers took on the processing instantly.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

As always I never get the time to wonder around the other spaces due to spacewrangling in one zone. But I did get to see a few other things including the Privacy & Security space (they shared the floor with us), Unbox space and tiny rolling IOT home.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Some of the highlights included when Storj labs failed to turn up and having to announce to a busy audience of people this fact. I said people could leave as the session facilitator was no where to be seen, or they could talk between themselves. Of course being Mozfest, the expert audience started talking and 40mins later they were still talking and Mich Baker had joined the conversation. This sums up the emergent nature of Mozfest, spacewranglers are simply constructing the environment for this all to happen.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Another few sessions were cancelled including the much  wanted connected world of music, which I had planned straight after Kristian’s Smart Blockchain Indie Film Distribution, and the Internet Of Things. Another well attended interactive session with lots of questions and discussion asking the expert audience again instead of speaking at them. Very happy we were able to host the session as we seeked out using decentralised solutions on existing problems rather than just talking about the underlying technology.

Another good non-technical session I poked my head into but knew would be good when choosing it was the co-op talk. On the face of it some might ask whats that got to do with decentralisation? But it fitted the wider theme of power and distributed and federated power.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Although we did have some sessions which were about the technology too. One example was host your data on the peer to peer web with Dat. I walked through the session a few times and was quite enjoying it and wish I could have attended the whole thing.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Seeing a youth led session Introducting Code Club in the decentralised space, Mark talking to a very nervious Abhiram before his session Demystifying ethereum to build your own decentralized app (Ðapp) using blockchain, seeing people around a table wiring their own fibre hosted by Neharika.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Let’s Keep Our Chat Local was the Matrix session and although waking back and forth, I caught enough to learn quite a bit about Matrix service. Earlier that week I had installed riot.im app on my Android tablet and through-out the week finally got myself on the server.

To prove the power of Matrix, they had already setup a bridge to the #decentralized slack channel and made it super easy to talk between the services. On top of all this, I saw audio/video messaging over matrix, something around VR and other very cool things. I took away the need to investigate more, and maybe consider using it for decentralised dating?

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Dating on the Open Web with Evan was good but I’ve gone into a lot of detail in a previous blog post. We needed more conversation, which is why I did a follow up on the Sunday.

Spacewrangling for Mozfest again was really good and maybe slightly less stressful except the unexpected surprises near the end. I think we got a real nice balance of topics through-out the decentralised spectrum. From general interest to deep rooted knowledge, everyone was catered for making decentralisation interesting to everyone. Next time, I would work harder on the theming because although the theming and navigation was mixed together, in retrospective we could have set this much earlier and included the likes of databox project into the experience. I was impressed with the diversity of speakers and audience. There was a deep fear we would end up with all white men and actively worked hard to make sure this wasn’t the case.

Party at #mozhouse

Party time

The night parties at Mozfest have always been great and the Saturday night one was good but I did prefer the creepy one in 2016, however I know immersive theatre isn’t everyone’s bag. The venue of Mozhouse/RSA was great and it would have been great to throw some more of the rooms open to others to do things like host a game of werewolf (for example).

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

We had hoped to secure someone from the decentralised space to play at Mozhouse but it didn’t happen. However on the Sunday night party, I did get to DJ on my pacemaker like previous earlier Mozfests. Unfortunately I didn’t record the mix but I can assure you  it was really good and got quite a few people dancing.

Thank you to all!

Mozfest 2017

I want to thank the wrangler team Viki, Jon T, Tim C, Mark B, Kristine and Kristian. Sarah A, Erika D, Marc, Emse, Dan R, Solana, Sam B, all the other spacewranglers, Ravensbourne’s staff including Claire, our decentralised sessions owners who did a excellent job through all the chaos.

The attitude and spirit of the session was higher than ever before. It might be the fact they could talk beforehand via Slack or something else? Even with the challenging emergent environment, imagine doing a large 50+ people session about digital colonialism with no chairs! This happened and we/they made it all work regardless.

Mozilla Festival 2017: Decentralized Zone

Lastly I’d like to thank the audience who attended this excellent festival and attended a lot of the decentralisation space. The engagement was higher than last year and rightly so, the work we put into getting a balanced set of talks worked out very well.

If it was just Mozfest, it would be great but add the glassroom exhibit and #Mozhouse and you got something much closer to the impressive festivals like TOA Berlin and SxSW. The extra days before the festival really elevated it beyond previous years and likely kept the festival base in London for the foreseeable future?

You can see the whole schedule on Guidebook and of course the proposals on Github.


Space wrangler for the global connected village at #mozfest

Mozfest 2015

I got hoodwinked into spacewrangling at Mozfest again. Not quite sure how it happened again, theres a unwritten rule that unless you flat out reject the invite, you will be involved again

. That and Michelle and Sarah can be very percussive with their super bright smiles. Of course its not just them, you have the Mozilla community (almost family) which are such lovely people you can’t say no.

The festival really starts way before in Spring. For the BBC R&D team (myself and Jasmine) this was the Moztreat in Scotland with our fellow space wrangler Jon Rogers. It was soon afterwards we joined the weekly calls and developed the connected library idea further.

Mozfest Global Village

Like most things in Mozfest, its never quite solid till it actually happens. Meaning the concept of the connected library became part of the Home of the future. This then became part of the global village concept. To be fair I had already set my sights on a much bigger concept of the home of the future. A connected home with spaces which are connected virtually, to explore the concept of home from home and the population increase we are due facing. Homes too expensive that families share them and make use of them in different ways. We didn’t quite get there but next year I’m certainly thinking about it (yes I’m already thinking about next year).

So while the focus was on the library and public and private spaces, I picked out sessions which fit with the humanity theme. For me humanity included inclusion, diversity, storytelling and expression through media. This was boiled down to the line up you can see on the public Github.

Global Village at Mozfest

One of the big challenges with organising such a festival in the open way Mozilla do is to coordinate everybody together and give them the tools they need to get things done. In the past this has been done through a combination of etherpads, google docs and a lot of emails. This time however some smart person thought about using the Github issue tracker? It worked incredible well with all the public calls appearing here. We were then each invited to the repo and could add labels (pathways) or a milestone (spaces). It all worked incredibly well and I’ll consider it for future applications. I did make a joke about forking it to create my own festival one day.

With all the work around the schedule and speakers done by myself, Jasmine took charge of the actual space. Sarah connected us with a number of people including a very talented set designer called Jess. They came up with the concept of cardboard, which involved lots (500 in total) cardboard boxes about 40cms cubes. It all came back to the idea we had originally when we bought a Ikea unit and decided the cube spaces were deep enough for books, picture frames, anything we were planning to do with them.

One of the key ideas was to have actual books alongside generated books. Yes we were planning to print books out in real time. A kind of print on demand service with books showing their status of buffering as they are being printed. Looking back it was ambitious but we did manage to print a few books by Sunday afternoon.

Global Village at Mozfest

The non-generated books were ordered in via a very helpful Ravensbourne librarian called Sarah. She was great and got us as many of the books as possible. For Ravensbourne they would be good for the students to have recommended resources from experts in the industry. Not only that, they would some reasoning why and who recommended it. The list would make a really good resource for the future.

Nicky asked if the complete list would be made public in the future. Fear not… Its all in Google Spreadsheets here.

During the process of putting together the global village it became clear this was going to be one heck of a project and the only way it was achievable was by collaboration. Now collaboration has overhead and especially when working with people you haven’t ever met or can’t get in a room together.

Global Village at Mozfest

We seeked collaborators to create different parts of the global village. After much back and forth we had 4 distinct spaces.

  1. The Library by BBC R&D
  2. The Garage by Dundee Uni and Mozilla
  3. The Garden by the MET office and the Unbox Festival
  4. The Kitchen by Designswam

Each space adopted the theme of cardboard, building out their spaces from the cardboard boxes. It was quite an amazing thing as you can see. Many people said some great things about the whole of the 6th floor where they all existed together. The cardboard was great because it also helped isolate the noise a bit. They also made interesting barriers between session spaces and great stands for various things.

Global Village at Mozfest

Everything from a kitchen table only complete with Alex’s table cloth to a make shift hacked together garden shed. The highlight of the cardboard was the circuital columns designed by Jess which were quite amazing. And just when you thought that was great, you walk into the garden and find the banyan tree. Elegantly put together by the Unboxed festival organisers from India. It was pretty stunning and the space it created within its branches was like nothing you can imagine. I wanted to move the eye contact experiment to that space but it was already being used for something else.

Global Village at Mozfest

Honestly I was impressed (it takes a lot to impress me, many friends will tell you) with all the spaces in the global village. Last year the ethical dilemma cafe up the game and this year we broke through and created something which everybody was talking about. We may not win any design awards for it but it worked so well.

Mozfest this year ran very smoothly, partly because we had most of Friday to setup, unlike previously when we had to rush to do everything on Friday night during the science festival or straight afterwards. This usually leads to very early setup and rushing around on Saturday morning, but this time we knew what space we had on Thursday and Friday we could setup the library and think about the other spaces.

Global Village at Mozfest

During the planning stages of the global village, I had considered workshops, hacks and exhibits. Exhibits would be things which people would interact with independently of a session,  A hack would start as a  workshop and then disappear into the garage for further development. We had a few exhibits of our own including ambient media, our book printing, a cardboard dollhouse, a augmented telescope, digital me, etc, etc. The whole space felt like there was energy and something to see and do. My only regret is not having a little more space for free roaming.

Global Village at Mozfest

The sessions are big part of Mozfest and this year rather than the long running sessions, this time Mozilla suggested a hour long session time. This was good because it meant everybody moved around and settled at roughly the same time. It also made scheduling sessions a little easier but it would have been easier to do if people had known in advance when planning their workshop. For example a few of the workshops, had planned for 3 hours and this was still possible but would break things quite a bit.

Generally everything went into a brand new app created by Ryan at Mozilla. It had been used at one or two other conferences but nothing like Mozfest. It was good and in the usual Mozilla way worked on the open web with some very smart clientside caching for access when the wifi drops out, which I have to say didn’t happen from what I could tell. It got slow sometimes but generally it was good when I needed it.

I didn’t go to enough workshops once again, heck I just caught the end of some of the keynotes.

Mozfest 2015

I was around in the building adaptive storytelling with Lancaster University, who had built a second Perceptive Radio for BBCRD. This time the radio was built as a platform for perceptive narratives. The workshop included a quick demo of the radio in action and then a class getting people to make new perceptive narrative by combining dice. I tried to connect up Brian Chirls with Lancaster Uni but it didn’t quite happen, which is a shame.

Mozfest Global Village

One of my favourite sessions or even pathways (a few joined sessions in a sequence) was around humanity in the form of talking about things which are usually brushed under the carpet. Mental health and happiness in the digital era were discussed in the libraries back room space. A space deliberately tucked away from the glaze of the general public walking around the library space. On reflection this also made the space quite tricky to find and I had a number of people looking around confused trying to work out where it actually was. We had planned to make a map but it didn’t quite happen unfortunately. The Ravensbourne floor plan didn’t really help either, as the space was divided up between the kitchen and the libraries back room by cardboard boxes and a portable screen.

Eye contact at Mozfest Global Village

However once you were in the space it did feel like you stepped out of the festival a little. Nothing like sitting under the banyan tree, which was positively zen liike but a little different regardless.

Global Village at Mozfest

The Banyan Tree was setup by Unboxed festival as part of the garden. It was great but I have to say the MET Office also did great job turning making the garden complete with garden shed.

Mozfest Global Village

Another pathway/theme we had in the library spaces was around diversity. We had a number of talks covering diversity in new and interesting ways. We had a number of talks from diversity in the new economy, hiphop, hypertext and hackerspaces to a zombie apocalypse.

Global Village at Mozfest

There was a micro theme around neurodiversity as the zombie apocalypse workshop was created by somebody with autism, she took part and the feedback was amazingly positive. The hope is to make it a workshop for future BBC diversity training.

Mozfest Global Village

Dyslexia also got a workshop and spawn another ad-hoc session on Sunday afternoon also in the library. Some of us felt the term assistive technology was slightly patronising. Assistive technology should be seamless, not call attention to its self and the user plus just be useful. A artist from the Tate took part and we talked about future plans of theirs to do more around diversity in 2016.

I have to give it up for the excellent agenda and space put together by Alexandra DS from Designswam. The agenda was spot on and so well thought-out. Everything in the kitchen was around the future of the kitchen by looking at gender roles, food production and consumption.

Mozfest Global Village

She tempted people into the area with fresh/local food and some incredibly good workshops given by some great guests. I mean a carbon zero lunch with local cheeses and fruits with a discussion about the nature of carbon zero food, who could resist this?

Mozfest Global Village

Outside the Library, the #HomelabKitchen was the place I spend most of my time. The Garden was on the other side and the Garage was beyond the Kitchen. In the  Garage the BBC Microbit table football was extremely popular and it was great to see people really interested and engaged with the possibilities. Spencer did a fantastic job telling people about the BBC micorbit and what he had done so far with it.

Mozfest Global Village

I didn’t get around to many of the other areas on the other 8 floors! Which was a shame but I did drop in on a few while walking around looking for people and seeking food I could eat.

Mozfest 2015

Unlike previous years, I didn’t get to dj at all, instead there were two options on the table on Saturday evening. One being a quiet night at a hotel bar and the other being a night at Namco station near Waterloo.  They were pretty good options and I think better suited the Mozfest audience. 1700 people would agree and I can’t wait to take the homelab concept to the next level.

Over all Mozfest has grown from strength to strength. Mozilla really shifted into another gear and made Mozfest a unmissable festival.

Global Village at Mozfest

There are so many thank-you’s I would love to say but I fear I will miss somebody. Michelle, Jon, Jasmine, Sarah, Claire, Jess, Mike, Alexandra, Maxine, Misty, Rhianne, Leanne, Mia,, Spencer and Marc all stick out in my mind. But there are so many more including the Salford media students, everybody who did a workshop and session in the global village, lots of the other spacewranglers, etc, etc…

It was a blast, with plenty of opportunities to follow up on.

Sarah always said it was going to be a home run, and it really was…

I was a space wrangler for Mozilla Festival 2014


The Mozilla festival is something I’ve had the pleasure of attending almost every single year except last year for personal reasons. The festival always feels like something between a conference, unconference and a festival.

As most of you know, myself, Jon and Jasmine were Space wranglers for the Mozilla Festival. This meant we were given a big space to curate a schedule and program of workshops around the theme of Physical.

Right from the get go, we didn’t want it to be the 3D printed, Arduino fest of previous years. We carved together our thoughts into a call and put it on Lanyrd. The physical track became the open web with things track and took on a form asking questions of the things we connect to the web. I liked to describe it to others as whats the reason and existence of the thing? So a more critical look at Internet of things without getting negative.

Mozfest 2014

Being a space wrangler included regular video calls, lots of collaboration in google doc, tons of etherpadding and narrowing down the open public call for workshops down to something more manageable. I can’t state how much work this really is, not only do you have go through them all and form some kind of schedule in your minds. But you also need to think about ones which don’t quite make the cut and discuss how to make it better or if combing sessions would work better? Its a lot of work and to be fair I wasn’t too sure how things were going to pan out.

Myself, Jon and Jasmine didn’t just want to have the sessions/workshops. We needed somewhere to show things off and being the creative people we are, wanted to do something a little different. Originally we thought about some kind of bar or cafe where people can feel comfortable and play with things in their own time. And somewhere along the line, it became the ethical dilemma cafe.

Mozfest 2014

Ethical dilemma cafe

The ethical dilemma cafe, did include a space to show physical work in action and/or finished. Plus it included a physical dilemma of what people experience online all the time without really thinking. Having to decide between giving up data in  return for smoothies and popcorn.

Mozfest 2014

Give up data? You ask? Well we wanted to include a number of things/systems stealing/taking liberties with you’re data. We had planned a jukebox which would encourage you to feed it more personal data. It was going to be like a film I watched recently called 13 sins, lure you in with the small harmless data requests then request more and more till you felt slightly violated.

Instead in the lead up to Mozfest, we ended up with something even more interesting and more instant. Libby, Andrew and Jasmine created a system which sniffs the radio waves (802.11 space) around discretely positioned  picture frames around the space. They also had a cameras to take pictures of people when there was movement.

Mozfest 2014

The results were shown on a screen and more interestingly printed out on a dot matrix printer like a receipt of your time in the cafe space. The receipts came thick and fast as lots of people came flooding in with the promise of iot, smoothies and popcorn. We decided to hang some of them up, seemed fitting as we were airing peoples data in public.

Mozfest 2014

Lastly Matt included a conversation recording system. Interestingly people didn’t really notice the microphones positioned around the space and were surprised when they heard their voices played back randomly.

Mozfest 2014

We never quite got the rest of the concept up and running till Saturday afternoon, but that included terms and conditions for entering the cafe (just like the end user license agreements people never read), a clear line for the entrance and a web connecting the things together. Once those were in place and things got more interesting.

Mozfest 2014

Some wrote “Popcorn and Juice with strings” and they were right. Tempting people with what they could have if they just agree to the conditions and step over the line was kind of fun. When pointing out the agreement, most people will stop have a read and then shrug their shoulders and cross the line. However some people would read it and actively turn 180 degrees and walk away. Some would hover around the line and look at the fresh popcorn and smoothies, wondering if it was worth it?

Mozfest 2014

The ethical dilemma cafe served its purpose as many of the public caught on to the fact of free comes with strings. Positioning the popcorn and smoothie maker in direct view of the entrance, had the desired effect of people wondering straight pass the signs and taking popcorn.

Besides the dilemmas, there was also some live making, the physical playlist machine and penguin books Steven fry project (myfry).

Mozfest 2014

The sessions/workshops

I didn’t get a chance to go to many of the workshops unfortunately… The cafe was opposite the physical area on the mezzanine level while the rest of the physical sat on level 1 with mobile along side. Jon took the actual subtracks wrangling while myself and Jasmine positioned ourselves in the cafe. We had 3 subtracks within the open web with things track.

Mozfest 2014

Once the furniture was rearranged in the cafe and workshop spaces, it all worked out great. I did get to show the Perceptive Radio at the Science Fair on the Friday, Dj on the Saturday night and attend a couple of workshops around the ethics of data and iot.

Mozfest 2014

I do wish I had gone to more sessions and workshops but Mozfest was full of ideas people learning and sharing all over the place. One of the best examples was Stuart Nolan talking about the physicality of things (and entertaining people and himself in the cafe – Thanks for that Stuart!) and the security expert Babak  who showed people the skill and (crack like) addictive nature of lock picking. So amazing was his session that hours and hours afterwards people were lock picking everywhere.

Mozfest 2014

I actually stopped a lady and asked her how she was able to teach somebody else about lock picking. She replied, saying she picked it up from Babak and just found it fascinating so shared it on. The sharing on went on and on, that heck even at the ending/demo party people were still picking locks!

Mozfest 2014

The Mozilla festival was stressful and I had to be careful not to get too stressed about it but now I’ve done it and learned from it, I think I could do it again next year with less stress and even more impact.


Massive thanks to the Mozilla Festival crew, and I’m sorry to Sarah, Misty and Michelle who put up with our crazy asks (What did they think when we asked for rope, padlocks and popcorn machines?) Their energy and positivity was crazy good. Almost no matter what the ask, they were ready. It was amazing to sit and think about what was achieved on the train home on Monday night. Big thanks to all the other space wranglers, people who stepped in and helped out on the days (Spencer, Natasha, etc), people helped get our kit to Ravensbourne (Elizabeth), those who helped with the ethical dilemmas (Libby, Jasmine, Andrew, Matt, etc). And of course Jon, who is amazing and kept me going with his insane ideas and drive to keep on going…


The combination of data ethics and internet of things was good but I think we only just scratched the surface. Look out next year, there maybe a lot more to come…! Oh and thanks for the Firefox phone, I’m actively using it as my work phone at the moment, look forward to developing for it soon.

Firefox phones

Live pacemaker mix from Mozfest2014

I had the pleasure to play the Mozilla Festival again in October. It was meant to be 2 djs but only myself showed up. Here’s a good hour of dance music for you’re lovely ears to take in. Recorded live using the Pacemaker device’s build in recorder (now I’m using the old firmware). I did a longer mix but the Karaoke took over and to be fair I was pretty much messing around by that point.

Enjoy! And blog post about Mozfest is coming soon.

The Mozfest 2014 party live mix by Cubicgarden on Mixcloud

Banging the drum for Media Freedom and the Web

I was very excited to invited to the Mozilla Festival which this year was in London. Not only that, it was in South East London.

The Mozilla Festival use to be the Drumbeat Festival but got a rename. The event is something between a un-conference and a hackday. A whole series of challenges which people can duck in and out of. Challenges ranged from Data Journalism to Disc Jockey hacking (ironically both DJ).

Dj Challenge

I headed up the DJ (disc jockey) challenge which was first formulated quite some time ago on behalf of BBC R&D and FutureEverything.

The challenge was to reinvent or at least evolve dj’ing. We started the challenge on Saturday afternoon and it kicked off with a little stimulus from myself and others in the form of a modified presentation. On top of that, we pointed to the Google Doc, which was an aggregation of thoughts from not just myself but many others including BBC staff.

That list is still available if your interested in getting involved in the challenges.


But what came out of the challenge were 2 very strong ideas…

  1. Can we create a format which supports tracks or layers in songs, then build Dj software which takes advantage of them.
  2. Can we build a club environment which makes use of sensors to feedback to the Dj and Vj in real-time through meaningful visualisations
More were talked about but these were the strongest ones, and these are the ones which will be taken forward hopefully into the Future Everything festival next year.
The theme for the conference/hackday was around media & web freedom and there was a question how does the Dj challenge fit into this? Well I gave the example of my pacemaker…

Dj Challenege

A few of us were looking at the problem of what you do with mixes once there finished? Actually one of them was from Mixcloud.com and we were exploring the idea of licensing, etc but we started to think what other ways can you experience mixes? One idea was to map locations to places in a mix.
On my pacemaker, I’ve done mixes walking through locations such as the wrong end of irlam mix. Imagine if it had GPS, so you could map sections to a location. When the mix is uploaded, it could lead people through an artificial version of my journey. So you could experience that moment when the bus streamed past and almost knocked someone over 🙂 How exactly this works, we don’t know, but that’s the challenge…


This for me is the effect of the web on Djing, perfecting fitting into the media and web freedom ethos.
The challenge asked a lot of the people who did attend and frankly if I was to do it again I would size down the challenge down to a few core areas and work on things which can be done in the 90mins we had. Mozilla did allow us to run over 2 days and we have some ideas did run through-out them.
Moving away from the Dj challenge for now, I didn’t get much of a chance to attend the other challenges, but they sounded great. There was a real feel of excitement in the air and the location of Ravensbourne added another layer to it all.

Mozilla Festival

Here’s some of the other stuff which looked very interesting to me…

This Javascript library is looking very impressive and the documentary combining Popcorn with WebGL was impressive. I can only imagine what Adam Curtis could do with this… I’ve made a note to check it out in detail soon. I also think it could be useful in the area of Perceptive Media.
Its another one of those Javascript library’s (seems to be a trend). This one is a nice gaming framework, its still in alpha but it slightly crosses over with the BBC R&D universal control spec from what I saw in the demo.
Hyperaudio links written text with the spoken word. This means you can edit a audio file like how you edit text. Its quite magical when you see it, and would make a great tool for remixing
Teaching young people through standard web technologies how to change the web and make it there own. I think of it like One Laptop Per Child’s Sugar but less programmatic…
Although this wasn’t in the event, I found them from one persons suggestion and then when I went to look up the Eatery I found it again. Its like Creative Commons for privacy, interesting…

Mozilla Festival

Unlike Hackdays where everyone gets a chance to demo there hacks to everyone else, the Mozilla festival had the challenge leaders stand up on stage and give a brief overview of the best ideas and prototypes. On the Saturday night there was keynotes from a whole bunch of people including Tim Hunkin. Everything was good till a guy from the Tech City commission or something started going on and on… Wrong place and wrong time to do a pitch for how great silicon roundabout and techcity are… Frankly I would have liked to have thrown a popcorn.js rubber toy at him because it was so out of tune with the rest of the event. Of course I didn’t do that… but it was bad. Honestly if I caught his name, I would be naming and shaming…

Luckily all the rest of the keynotes and presentations were actually good to excellent.

The event finished with the Dj challenge taking control, because we didn’t have anything built I Dj’ed on my pacemaker along with the Alphasphere guys putting on a performance on stage. If we had thought about it a bit more, we could have Jammed together but alas maybe another time? Maybe at the Future Everything festival…

Congrats to the Mozilla crew, it was great and certainly a highlight. Mozilla’s mission is a good one and something we can all get behind. I was surprised how many people I know from Yahoo, Ebay, etc who are now working at Mozilla. Although it was very adhoc it kind of worked…

I look forward to next year…. Excellent work Michelle, Dees, Alex and a whole host of other cool Mozilla people. It was a honour…

Welcome back to South East London

I was very excited to invited to the Mozilla Festival which this year was in London. Not only that, it was in South East London.

I decided to split the entry, so if your just interested in the Mozilla Festival, skip to the newer post…

For me it was a bit epic because not only was it exciting because I was leading the DJ Challenge on behalf of the BBC, it was in south east London and frankly nothing geeky happens there. The nearest place is maybe the Excel centre which is more east London or Docklands than anything. Not only that, it was North Greenwich which was 5mins ride from Woolwich where I lived with my ex-wife (Sarah) for years. I hadn’t been back for (I believe) 5 years! When I left they were building the DLR to Woolwich Arsenal and of course the housing prices had gone up. So I was amazed to see how it looked now things were actually open.

Woolwich to be honest has changed quite a bit in some parts and not so much in others. Most of the structures and shops are still where they were when I was living there (this is very true of Greenwich too) but things like the square have been totally revamped with a massive screen showing local information and BBC News. There’s even a Starbucks now but didn’t spot a Pizza Express? Its maintained its down-market feel but also embraced the new upper market shops. For example the market selling copied perfume, clothes, etc is still in place.

Lastly the college I studied & taught Interaction design at, was the host for the Mozilla Festival.

For years people in Ravensbourne banged on about the move to North Greenwich. right next to the Dome. It was going to be a landmark building, etc… Well its certainly different, not quite sure it fits in with the rest of the north greenwich developments but its actual quite nice inside. Reminds me of Salford University in MediaCityUK actually with all the space and multiple levels. Right now it feels very bland because they only moved in a while ago?

Good to see a whole bunch of people popping up who I use to work with including Richard, Roman, Arthur, Hamid, etc, etc… each time I saw one of them, I would take a picture and post it on twitter mainly for the purpose of showing Miles and Dave.

So generally it was great to tie all these things together because generally when I come down to London for work or a un-conference and there never anywhere near south London let-alone South East. My only wish is that I could have visited a few of the people I had left behind. Would have been great to know what my neighbours were up to now, see how big their kid, etc.

Why you should go to the Mozilla Festival

mozilla festival poster

Just in-case you had any reasons why you shouldn’t be at the Mozilla Festival? Here’s a whole bunch of reasons why you should be there. As most of you already know, we’re running the Dj and Vj Challenges during the Mozilla Festival event in association with Future Everything, Mozilla and BBC R&D.

We’re going to explore possible futures in the fields of Dj and Vj cultures with a aim to go live with something next year at the Future Everything Festival.

The whole event is at my previous college (Ravensbourne) which moved to its new location next to the Dome in North Greenwich. I’ve never checked out the new look college but if its anything like the new Salford University in Media City UK it looks to be something special and a great place to do a challenge like this.

Of course you want to be part of this… So why not sign up now and I’ll see you there in just under a months time…



To the scumbag(s) who stole my scooter top box

Had a wonderful day hooking up with friends and ex-students from Ravensbourne. Our lecturer John Durrant was retiring from his role at Ravensbourne and Lisa setup a get together through Facebook and email to celebrate his clean break from Ravensbourne. Anyway it was going so well till I went to get my coat and a baby play rug from my scooter.

I walked the short walk to my where my scooter was parked and noticed from a far something was wrong. Yep some fucking loser had stolen my top box from the back of my locked silverwing scooter. I couldn't believe it and started swearing out loud before checking my scooter for any damage. The rest of the scooter was fine, they had not even tried the ignition.

I don't know what it was but I've never had a top box stolen from my scooter before and I've parked it over night in places like Kings Cross and Euston. Maybe it was because I decided to put my helmet out on the top of the scooter (it was hot and sweaty, so I wanted it to cool down in the natural air. Anyway it was gone, so I checked the local bins and asked a couple of women from a close by bar. I figured anyone carrying a large black and red box would be easily seen. Unfortually they didn't see anything so I called the Police and they ran me though the criminal reference stuff.

Generally I'm pissed off because I had my scooter coat, gloves, bungy net and baby play matt in the back box. SO when the thief/thivies open the box, there going to be pretty pissed off.

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My BBC talk at Ravensbourne College


So on Tuesday afternoon, I gave a lecture at Ravensbourne College to a mix of interaction design, broadcast and graphic design students. John told me, it just needed to be inspiring. So I was torn between my day job at BBC Backstage and things I think about daily. So I started with my presentation about what is backstage. I got to the 3rd slide before the whole lecture turned into a dynamic conversation about the BBC. It was fantastic, the students and staff wanted to know where the BBC was going in the future. Along that path we explorered the questions of advertising on the BBC's international facing website and the Microsoft BBC agreement. Miles did say this

I did find myself reminded of John Battelle's description of AltaVista as it was fucked over by DEC (just prior to the sale to Compaq): “a mammal chained to a dinosaur more likely than not will get trampled.

While I don't know the details of the agreement, there were lots of thoughts and worries about the future of non-DRM content coming out of the BBC. Someone mentioned Dirac and asked whats happened to that? There was also a serious debate about why we didn't write our own DRM? The suggestion was that DRM in understandable if we can't make up our mind between DRM and NoDRM at this point. And you know what thats actually a good question, even if we internally couldn't build it. Maybe someone else could have from a netrual position. I've heard good things about Open Source DRM but not seen any marjor adopters. This would be an ideal project for the BBC to trial. Hey maybe even a Backstage Project? Someone (i think miles) did ask what would happen if someone today created a videoplayer which looks and feels like the BBC player which is being worked on? I said we would certainly be interested in it from a prototype point of view and if it was that good, who knows what might happen.

Although most of this could sound like BBC bashing, it was far from that. It was concerned people wanting to understand why certain choices were being made without them and wondering what they could do to make sure the BBC values lives on in some form into the future.

For any students who might be reading, I uploaded the raw html from the cache of my desktop RSS reader. I hope to clean it up a little more in the near future.

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I’m off to work at the BBC

Yes yesterday I was offered a great job at BBC World Service and of course I took it. So I will be leaving Ravensbourne College behind for now, but I will still be hopefully involved with the Interaction design course even if its just regular checkups on students. I was also offered another position today, but for BBCi's iCan which I had to turned down.

Just wanted to say thanks to all which made my 5 years in Ravensbourne College enjoyable, challenging and interesting.

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