Week 111

Maddie gives a (very positive) account of the Mozilla Festival in London.


I’ve been away for most of the last three weeks on various trips, one of which, notably, was to the Mozilla Festival in London. Here I would like to pay homage to the great work of Michelle Thorne, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino and all the others who helped put this wonderful event together.

MozFest can’t really be called a conference in the usual sense: its structure is looser, and better able to adapt to the particular interests of the people attending. The thing that made MozFest great was the friendly, accessible, open atmosphere. The setup wasn’t rigid at all, and we were encouraged to swing by any workshop that interested us, and dart out again if there was something else we didn’t want to miss. Coming in halfway through a session wasn’t a problem, since others would fill you in on what was happening. There was no elitism and nobody was judgmental. You simply tried things, chatted, tried more things. Workshops and sessions were described minimally on the schedule, and so were allowed to evolve in unforseen directions.

To give an example, our friends Louisa Heinrich and Martin Spindler conducted a session on hacking the city, or exploring ways to improve the quality of urban life. We jumped right in, throwing post-its on the walls, splitting quite organically into groups, quickly getting ourselves deep in conversation with perfect strangers, and scribbling notes on large pieces of paper. One group tackled quality of life in terms of health services, and devised a way to make use of already-present infrastructure to take better care of the elderly and the sick: repurposing the postal service to include not only mail pickup and delivery, but also checking in on customers’ wellbeing. At least one member of that group fully intends to continue developing the idea and to implement it. (My group was working on culture – our final idea involved laser beams, robotic bumblebees and Weavrs – we went a bit “off-piste” as one participant put it.)

I also saw Joi Ito speak for the first time. He talked about his emancipatory experience with learning on the internet. One line of his really stuck with me:

Education was something other people did to me. Learning was something I did for myself.

This embodied the spirit of the event: we were all stopping and starting wherever we liked, learning together or alone, and relying heavily on our own motivation and initiative, with minimal lecturing and instruction. We were given the resources to go exploring on our own.

More on the topic of digital learning to come.

Week 89

After almost two weeks of constant travel, I’m reporting back from two fantastic conferences, Foo Camp and the Open Internet of Things Assembly, as well as a few days in the Bay Area.

Foo Camp, San Francisco, OpenIOT

After near to two weeks of constant travel, I’m writing this on the plane back from London, both exhausted and exhilarated. What a trip! When I received my invitation to Foo Camp, O’Reilly’s invite-only un-conference at their HQ in the Bay Area, I was as surprised as I was stoked. It’s an honor to be invited, and certainly felt like a rite of passage in some ways. So last week I went, and found the gathering of smart folks simply mindblowing. I put up a few impressions on my personal blog.

Invisible economies #foo12

For a few days afterwards I got to spend time in San Francisco, meet a bunch of people and also visit some offices, like the EFF and Mozilla, both who kindly hosted me for awhile. Of course there was also time to check out some fancy coffee – in fact I spent almost two full days at Ritual, who don’t mind laptop dwellers and produce some mean brews.

Working with this view, courtesy of the lovely folks at Mozilla HQ

To round things off, on the way back I stopped by London for the OpenIOT Assembly that our friend Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino had put on. The assembly aimed high – we tried to write the next iteration of a Bill of Rights for the Internet of Things. You can find and undersign the current document online as it’s evolving. It was a great crowd, both the speaker lineup and the audience, with a pretty darn impressive in-depth knowledge of all things IoT.

Wrap up at #openiot. Good day!

Stepping in for Mark Shephard, I hosted a session on the city aspects of the Internet of Things. The session notes are up for discussion on the platform, and I posted my notes over on my blog for easy skimming.

city session at #openiot

New faces

Just when I left we also grew a bit. We mentioned this before, but also posted a brief introduction for our summer intern Jasmine (one more for our new trainee Doro will follow shortly), so make sure to say hi!

What else?

A few weeks back, Prof. Faltin, who researches and teaches entrepreneurship at Freie Universität Berlin, had invited me to an ongoing series of talks and interviews, the Labor für Entrepreneurship. You can find the video online now.