The Web Summit Awakening

 20151104_155706 20151104_230845_LLS_resizedHaving taken the weekend to recuperate from the Web Summit and of course the Night Summit fervor I’m finally documenting my reflections on the amazing Web Summit held last week that I finally got the chance to check out as a volunteer. This provided the perfect opportunity to meet new people and innovators through that experience but also hear from amazing leaders in the tech space. And wow inspired I was!

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As someone doing a PhD in Web Science and currently figuring out how to combine economic geography with business innovation in an interdisciplinary way to understand business models on the web this was like being a chocolate lover at the Willy Wonka, chocolate factory! It brought to life so much of what I have been researching yet emphasised just how much research is still needed. I am currently focusing on ‘sharing economy’ or ‘on-demand’ models online, but there are so many different terms and  interpretations of what that is. They can be peer to peer (P2P), business to business (B2B) or even consumer to business (C2B) nowadays and they are continually emerging to solve every-day nagging human and business problems.20151104_230836_LLS_resized

At the Web Summit I got a chance to speak to so many of them and learn even more not only on my subject but on topics as diverse as the Internet of Things, Gaming, Music and Entertainment, Marketing, Machines, Coding, Fintech and much much more. You can have a look at the schedule on the Web Summit website and the video of talks from center stage are available on the Web Summit YouTube Channel. There were also TV stars (Davos Seaworth from the Game of Thrones), sport stars, and  well known authors like Dan Brown wandering around and voicing their views on tech. The Nasdaq Closing Bell even rang at the Careers Summit. There was also the welcome announcement that the Web Summit would be giving away 10,000 tickets to women entrepreneurs to attend their events. This is a brilliant step in helping to address gender diversity in tech which will benefit women and by default wider society as well.

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No matter how advanced communication technology gets, the magic of face to face interaction really cannot be replaced. The buzz at the Web Summit was overwhelming and electrifying. The social and networking element seemed to be as important as the tech that brought everyone together with many opportunities available for socialising, most notably the Night Summit. This provided for the unpredictability of serendipity for those truly in search of it. I hope I get the chance to attend yet again in Lisbon next year or one of their events in America, Hong Kong or India!

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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BRCK

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!

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.”