In London for Mozfest and Internet Week Europe


Mozilla Festival London

Mozilla’s big open/free culture festival, aptly called Mozilla Festival, is on this coming weekend. I’ll be headed over to London and stay for the full festival as well as the beginning of Internet Week Europe. (Sadly I won’t be able to stick around for the full thing.)

Can’t wait for the festival that I’ve seen come together up close, so I trust it’ll be fantastic. (It’s organized by the good folks of the Mozilla Foundation, notably by the lovely Michelle Thorne & Alexandra Deschamps-Sansino, so I’m clearly biased.) Last year’s Mozilla Festival in Barcelona – called Drumbeat at the time (my blogposts) – was basically a geeky love fest, which I say with respect and admiration. This time around it’ll be great, too, and it focuses on a topic that hits even closer to home for me – it’s all about the open web and media.

As someone who for a long time wanted to (and occasionally did) work as a journalist, seeing these two cultures of journalists and geeks (or hacks & hackers in Mozfest speak) merge is great. There’s so much both can learn from each other.

Beyond purely personal interest, I’m also interested in how these spheres can learn from another. After all, I’ve been advising media companies for years, first as a freelancer then through my company Third Wave. So I love geeking out about these things and learn from some of the smartest folks in the industry (and beyond).

Long story short: If you haven’t yet, join us at the festival > sign up here; and I’ll be in London for a few days, so ping me to meet up.

Disclosure: I was on the jury for the Lovie Awards, which are part of Internet Week.

Drumbeat: The Future of Education (and Video)


Drumbeat “Future of Education” Demo from David Humphrey on Vimeo.

The Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona is over, but my head is still buzzing. It was fantastic to see what happens when you drop a whole bunch of enthusiastic educators and geeks in one location and let them go crazy.

While I’m still processing all the things I saw and heard (Graffiti Research! Hackbus! Massively Multiplayer Thumbwrestling! Robots! Hastac! Peer-to-peer learning! Badges!), Gabriel Shalom and Brett Gaylor interviewed me, along with some others, for WebMadeMovies. I was asked about the future of education. (Funny thing – I was supposed to answer in German, but my brain kind of refused to. I felt –and sound– like I was reading out a Google Translation of myself. Aaanyway.)

What you see above is of course just a video of the demo. It’s much, much cooler out in the wild, when the Open aspect kicks in and the video can interact with the HTML outside. (Like here.)

Interview: Mark Surman (Mozilla Foundation)


Mark pic by Kate

Mark Surman, Executive Director of Mozilla Foundation and program chair of Drumbeat Learning, Freedom and the Web Festival, kindly gave me an interview about Drumbeat and why the Open Web is so relevant.

In three sentences: What is Drumbeat?

Mozilla DrumbeatOk. Three sentences. I’ll try 1. Mozilla exists to make sure the internet stays open and awesome. 2. With Drumbeat, we’re moving beyond Firefox to build more things that make the web better — not just software. 3. We’re doing this by reaching out new kinds of people — teachers, filmmakers, lawyers, journalists.

Why is that important?

It’s important because these people — in fact all of us — will have an impact on the future of the web, on what the web becomes.

If we care about the internet for the long run, that means getting people like educators involved in shaping the web in their world. Especially educators who are trying to disrupt and innovate. We can give them open web tools and thinking to help do this, which in turn helps the education web move in the right direction — towards something open, free and hackable.

This same scenario plays out with journalists, artists, filmmakers and so on. We want to help the innovators in these spaces take best advantage of the web, get them on board as our allies.

Which fields is Drumbeat focusing on?

Education and cinema are the two places we’ve put the most attention on in the first year. You can look at:

P2PU School of Webcraft, where we’re helping to build a free online school where web developers teach each other.

And Web Made Movies, a lab where filmmakers and engineers work together invent new kinds of web films.

These are examples of the kinds of things we want to do with Drumbeat. There are dozens more small projects brewing. I think you’ll see some the ones in journalism and art grow bigger next year.

In November you’re planning the Drumbeat Festival. What’s that?

It’s a crazy event where 400 people come to talk about the connections between learning, freedom and the web. And make things. And have fun.

More concretely: we have working on everything from web developer education to open text books to hackerspaces coming. And alot of tech and open source people. The ideas for them to find ways to shape the future of learning together.

It’s meant to be the first of many events like this, where we invite the the kind of people we’d like to bring into Drumbeat, find ways to work together and to work with each other.

Next year, we’ll likely have a different theme. Maybe ‘media, freedom and the web’?

How can the rest of us get involved?

It really depends what your interested in. If you are an educator or filmmaker, the projects I’ve mentioned above are easy entry points. And there will be more entry points in places like journalism, art, etc. coming very soon. Same goes if you’re a web developer or engineer who wants to help on projects like these.

More broadly than this, there want to do local Drumbeat events and a online activities and challenges that almost anyone can get involved in. We toyed with this in 2010, but really plan to go bigger with them next year.

Drumbeat Festival is from Nov 3-5 at Barcelona. The (already pretty sweet) program is further developed in the Wiki. Register for Drumbeat Festival here.

The interview was first published on netzpiloten.de under a CC by-nc-sa license. Photo by Mark Surman (some rights reserved).

Brief updates & announcements (too much going on)


space invaders - under attack

There’s so much going on at the moment that I’d love to write about at length, and so little time. So here’s the super-brief version, aka bullet points.

  • Was at Picnic 2010. Picnic is one of those conferences that I wanted to attend for a long time, and just had the chance. On super short notice I went to Amsterdam and covered the conference for berlinblase.de, if only via Twitter. I had a great day there (or two half-days, rather). Hope to be back next year to cover it more extensively.
  • The program for Drumbeat Festival (3-5 November, Barcelona) is snapping into focus. Drumbeat is Mozilla’s recent open web initiative, the festival in Barcelona will focus on the intersection of open web and education, so it should be cool. Make sure to say hi if you’re around.
  • We’re bringing the Awesome Foundation to Berlin. More updates soon!
  • We announced our company name,Third Wave Berlin, and it took hardly a couple of days till someone (not doing his homework and not warranting a link) invoked Godwin. Was impressed by the accuracy of Godwin’s Law. Also, amused. And since haters gonna hate and playas gonna play, we’ll have a cup of great coffee and focus on a great start by officially kicking off Monday in a week.
  • Free Culture Research Conference 2010 is going to happen 8-9 October in Berlin. I’m not involved here, but if you have any academic interest in free culture, you might want to attend the conference or talk to Michelle.
  • If you know of great apartments in Berlin, preferably in Kreuzberg or around so-called Kreuzkölln, please let me know. Right now a whole bunch of friends is about to move to Berlin and any hints are much appreciated. Thanks!

Hope to blog more detailed again soon; for now I wish you a relaxed Sunday and a great start into the week. Or like David recently said: “It’s Monday. Let’s change the world.”

Image by gnackgnackgnack (Some Rights Reserved)

Thoughts on the mainstreaming of openness


Disclaimer: I’m strongly biased towards openness. I prefer free and open software over closed systems, I prefer an open and decentralized web over a closed and centralized one. I prefer transparency over obscurity.

That said, I’d also consider myself a pragmatic idealist (thanks for the hint, Igor) in the sense that I think to reach certain idealistic goals it’s sometimes necessary (or even ok) to make compromises.

Examples: I use a Mac (closed) to feed my WordPress blog (open); I use Twitter (kinda closed) to promote open web ideals (open: duh!); my phone is powered by Android (open) but uses HTC’s Sense UI (closed).

So when we were about to announce an event that’s promoting the ideals of an open web (Drumbeat), we discussed how to best promote the event. We decided to complement the “official” event page on the Drumbeat site with a Facebook event page.

I insisted on having this second option, and for several reasons. One of those reasons is merely of the practical kind: it’s much easier to organize an event if you have any idea how many people are coming, and Facebook is very, very convenient to use that way. The other reason is more philosophical: I believe to reach out to new people, i.e. if you want to mainstream the discussion and get more people involved, you have to reach out to them where they mostly communicate. Facebook is an obvious choice, as you get access to a whole lot of people.

Like we almost expected, we got into a little flame war over this decision, including all the all-so-common personal attacks and insults. (My favorite being the statement that it’s “people like [me] who destroy the open web”, and that we’re “riff-raff”. I was surprised not to see Godwin’s Law invoked, but maybe that will happen in the next few mails?) To put one thing straight: I’m not even insulted, I find it very amusing to read a lengthy, hand-crafted personal attack. I appreciate, one could say, the effort people like this invest in personal trolling. (As long as – like in this case – it doesn’t even hit the mark and stays within certain boundaries.)

But it did get me thinking, and we discussed this a lot afterwards: To which degree is it ok to use a closed platform to promote an open web? And I stand by my decision, and would like to re-iterate: it’s not only ok, but necessary not to insist on personal moral high ground and being the true believer that knows everything better; but to go where the people you’d like to get involved really are and discuss with them. It’s not ok, and most likely damaging, to just assume everybody on the planet is thinking about these issues all day, and if they don’t leave all their bad habits behind they don’t deserve any better.

This kind of thinking is, from my point of view, arrogant, hypocritical and damaging. It devalues the ideals these same people strive to promote.

(I’m sure many other professions have to make similar decisions every day, like international development aid workers, who buy building materials on local markets to strengthen the local economy, even though they know that a certain share of those revenues go back to funding the same groups that caused the underlying structural problems.)

Long story short: For the time being I’ll keep doing it the way I’ve done it so far. I’ll keep using Facebook to promote events, I’ll stick to Twitter if that’s where I reach new people. But I’d like to hear your take on this!

Drumbeat Berlin



Yesterday Mozilla held an event in Berlin to build ground support for their new open web initiative Drumbeat. For the super-brief version of what Drumbeat is all about, let me quote Mark Surman from the first Drumbeat blog post:

At its simplest, Mozilla Drumbeat is about everyday internet users using technology to make and do things that will keep the web open for the long haul. Diversity will be a critical to this. Drumbeat needs to engage the huge diversity of people who use the web in their work and play. Teachers. Artists. Lawyers. Filmmakers. Children. Everyone. It also needs to reflect — and be shaped by — the diversity of cultures that make up the web. Drumbeat needs to be truly global right from the start.

So with Mark, Henrik Moltke (Drumbeat Project Producer), Allen Gunn and a whole bunch of other crew members, Mozilla brought in the big guns, so to speak. And showed that they’re serious about Drumbeat. This is support building as it should be. The level of enthusiasm and energy was contagious. (And made me feel even worse for coming in way late.) It was a room full of folks from all walks of the web that share a mission: to keep & make the web as open as possible. And in this mission, I guess, is the key to what makes Drumbeat special: rather than an initiative, it felt more like there’s a movement building up.

I’m curious to see how to best get involved, and where this will take me. But trust me, this is going to be big.

Thanks a lot to Mark, Henrik, Allen and all the others for putting all of this together. You guys rock!

Weeknotes #186


olafur eliasson

The paperwork up front: As J. pointed out, weeknotes aren’t supposed to start at number #001 necessarily but rather at the first week of whatever it is you’re making notes on. I had a bit of a hard time finding a good starting point, but now figured one out: So from now on I’ll count from the first week after I decided not to stay in my job as an editor for a political magazine-slash-think tank, but rather went freelance to do web stuff on my own. It’s somewhat misleading as I had worked freelance for years before as a student, and would still be writing my masters thesis afterwards, but that’s as symbolic a starting point as there is. So, dating back to the first day after my brief editing stint, 17 October 2006, today it’s week #186.

It’s been a pretty productive week, and there’s just three things I’d like to highlight:

Betahaus study

We did a brief study on social security among the coworkers at Betahaus. I won’t go into the details (executive summary), but rather at how we got there, as I think it’s a good example of how quickly you can get something off the ground, particularly in a coworking context: Christoph Fahle of Betahaus and I talked about all the journalists checking out Betahaus and how the majority seems to expect coworkers to be there because they’re poor they can’t afford a “real office”. Since we had a gut feeling that they might – like ourselves – be at Betahaus voluntarily we decided to just ask and do this mini study. That was a couple of weeks ago. The first draft of the form was online hardly 48h later, then it took us a few hours over a span of maybe a week to tweak the details. Two emails (to invite and remind the potential participants) and 16 days later we closed the online form again to sit down and crunch the data. That, plus writing up the report, took about two full days. Idea, a few emails to coordinate, then just get it done: that’s the agile coworking way. Or at least it felt pretty good.

Mozilla Drumbeat

Mozilla organized a Berlin event (also at Betahaus) to spread the Drumbeat love. This deserves its own blog post, but allow me to summarize: It rocked.

Olafur Eliasson

There’s a new exhibition in town. Olafur Eliasson (Wikipedia) is a Danish-Icelandic artist living in Berlin these days. With major exhibitions at Tate Modern and the MoMa he certainly doesn’t need introduction, but if you’re in town, do not (NOT!) miss his exhibition at Martin Gropius Bau Innen Stadt Außen. (Don’t let the boring website turn you off.) In fact, go there now.

Image: Olafur Eliasson