First #MozFest but hope its not my last! – New Ideas, Tools, Services, Projects & Collaboration

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I sauntered down to the Mozilla Festival, which was being held near to the O2 in London last weekend not really knowing what to expect. I can report it was well worth the saunter! An atmosphere of openness, participation and a culture of inclusiveness, teaching and helping others and seems have grown over the years and was very encouraging. Many new web tools, ideas, projects and services were explained, some I knew a bit about, others I had never heard of before and some of them were pretty exciting. The festival was organised around the themes outlined below.

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  • Teach the Web. New approaches for teaching digital skills, coding and webmaking.
  • Connect Your City. Building local digital learning networks around the world.
  • Skills and Badges. New ways to recognise skills and learning that happen anywhere.
  • Look Who’s Watching. Privacy, surveillance and tracking. How do we protect transparency and user sovereignty online?
  • Open Games. The web as an open gaming console for the world. Play and create next-generation web-based games.
  • Source Code for Journalism. Creating the tools news organisations needs to thrive on the open web.
  • Science and the Web. Redefining how we experiment, analyse and share scientific knowledge.
  • Open Data for the Open Web. Uncovering and building with data from the web and everyday world.
  • Making the Web Physical. Hacking on physical devices and gizmos connected to the web in exciting new ways.
  • Webmaking for Mobile. Making apps and tinkering with your own phone. The web as platform.
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I did not just sit and listen but I learnt how to do things and left with tools and offers for future help if I got stuck and even possibilities for collaboration on projects. For example I knew about GitHub but now I know more about how I can use it for my research.  There are also a myriad of new initiatives using crowdsourcing to solve problems that are not usually referenced, which I learned in an Upscience workshop as I got stuck into doing some of the crowdsourced work for environmental projects myself. Other workshops focused on teaching digital skills, coding and webmaking. I also got an update on how BRCK is 250491-3e3d37ed0e30f58b5880d2a2e6e4b70b-medium_jpgbeing used in developing countries where access is limited, It was designed and prototyped in Nairobi, Kenya and has been adapted to address electricity and internet connectivity problems in Africa. Interestingly it is also being used extensively in the USA now too, where similar problems are also faced. One of the coolest projects I came across was SNAPP, which is enabling small businesses around the world to develop apps for their work without any coding skills from their smartphone.  It is based in Chile and I am looking forward to seeing how it develops. The closing keynote from Beeban Kidron on young people and the web, its future and how the web may influence what it means to be human was also on point. There were way too many workshops for me to review and you can find them all here.

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Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

However, the conference ended for me on a great note with a group of avid sci fi readers who discussed the Web of Things from the perspective of science fiction literature. I left with a load of suggestions of books to read and films/series to watch, the first of which will be Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. From our discussions it seemed like a lot of what we predict and we imagine comes to pass! The elevator chatter, corridor discussions and very boisterous karaoke, also helped to make it a fun event, one which I hope to attend again and I am especially looking forward to getting a chance to test out the Firefox OS smartphone which is being described as an OS or a computer rather than as a phone. Makes sense to me, I have been saying that for years!

The Real World Web OR The Internet of Things?

Wilgengebroed on Flickr CC BY 2.0

Wilgengebroed on Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Real World Web Or the Internet of Things – which term do you prefer? A report by PSFK Labs and Intel released this year refers to the Internet of Things as the Real World Web and for good reason. If you have never heard of the Internet of Things this report is a great introduction. The web we created has a symbiotic relationship with the real world and it is important to acknowledge the interconnectedness of what we do and how we impact each other when we use it. The word ‘Things’ in the “Internet of Things” suggests a generic randomness without a perception of how it relates to what we want and need. The term ‘Internet’ conjures up thoughts of going online and mouthing technical details without really understanding how we and our socio-economic systems impact the technology and viceversa.

Many use the terms Internet and Web interchangeably because they don’t understand the difference. The report says “We are living inside the internet of things”. If we are all living inside of it we need to understand it.

The report categorises the Real World Web into three distinct areas and gives some compelling and thought provoking examples to illustrate how each is developing.

Source: PSFK - REAL WORLD WEB Living Within The Internet of Things

Living Within The Internet of Things


“The development of a new set of software platforms and tools is building a growing network of individuals, sensors and wearable devices around the open exchange of real-time information streams”. Think of intuitive programming and sharing of data for the collective good.



“A new breed of social and attentive machines are being meaningfully integrated into daily life. These devices and systems are capable of understanding a wider range of human needs and behaviors to provide relevant assistance and support at key moments, which opens the possibility of more intimate relationships with the objects in our lives”



“A new breed of social and attentive machines are being meaningfully integrated into daily life. These devices and systems are capable of understanding a wider range of human needs and behaviors to provide relevant assistance and support at key moments, which opens the possibility of more intimate relationships with the objects in our lives.


You can read the report to find out more.

The spotlight has been increasingly focused on the ethical implications of the technology that we use post Snowden and this is timely. Ignoring the delicate balance of privacy versus access comes at huge cost and so finding ways to move forward ethically is of paramount importance. The personalisation of services and the protection of the personal are both important.

Many of these products and services are developed and brought to market by corporations and research institutes that are concentrated in rich parts of the world. Imagine the type of innovation that could occur if more users in different countries not only had access (See Why ‘Access’ Will Define the Internet of Things) but could create, with an understanding of what was possible and with the tools necessary to act upon those ideas both in their local communities and globally. They could innovate not just offline but online. However, overcoming the problems that arise with heavy handed government surveillance, which will inevitably increase as more of these services are made available the world over is not easy.

The business model premised on data grabbing needs parameters. Should we allow this sticky, tangled web, that we are weaving to trap us, or will we ensure that we design one that does not. We must learn lessons from the web as it evolves to make sure it doesn’t. Talking about the Real World Web is indeed a positive step in helping to explain the reality of the Internet of Things we live in, yet we need to do much more.

CONNECT – Internet Governance Forum 2014 Kicks Off in Istanbul #IGF2014

20140902_145420NetMundial progress, the IANA transition of ICANN, surveillance, cybercrime, infrastructure, interoperability, accessibility, net neutrality, inclusion and more are all under discussion at this year’s Internet Governance Forum (IGF) “Connecting Continents for Enhanced Multistakeholder Internet Governance”. This year it is being held in the very fitting cross-cultural city of Istanbul and on the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. However, what does Internet Governance actually mean decades since discussions were first held on a “Galactic Network” concept and 9 years since the first annual IGF was launched? Billions of connections later, in the trillion dollar internet economy, the social, economic and political stakes are high and I don’t mean this only in a Transcendence way. I happened to watch that movie on my flight to Istanbul, which was timely. This was quick on the heels of finishing up the BBC series The Honourable Woman If you watched either of them you will know what I mean…

There is no better way to demonstrate the benefits of ICT than by example and so this year I was really pleased that no paper agendas were made available for the first time since there was an online schedule.  Participants were encouraged to provide their information online and let others know which workshops they were going to attend via social media. The use of ICT in this way should not only be developed but promoted amongst not just digital natives but digital immigrants too… to those fortunate enough to be present but also to those that are remote, whose views are just as important.

As the IGF gets going and attempts to refine what it becomes, I hope that technology, the internet, the web and its policies will not just be seen as far away, in some isolated world by those that look on with intention or inertia. For we should see these tools through everyday, ordinary eyes for them to help us better understand ourselves and our world. Only by doing so will they support sustainable development, new business models and new politics, which benefit not just one society, business and community but also all of us in our connected world and our global ecosystem. As Deirdre Williams the civil society representative for the IGF opening ceremony said when she quoted the poet John Dunn “No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.”