Mozilla, Webmaking, and the Architecture of Participation

Mozilla All Hands meeting, Toronto (10 September 2012)

(I’m currently at the Mozilla All Hands meeting in Toronto)

Last week I attended the inaugural EduWiki conference run by Wikimedia UK. It was a curious mix of Wikipedians, educators and academics who came together to discuss how Wikipedia could be used in more formal educational settings.

Martin Poulter, the organiser of the conference, was at pains to point out that Wikipedia isn’t phenomenally successful just because it allows anyone to edit. There’s a structure, albeit a fluid one, behind it all.

It got me thinking about an article from 2004 by Tim O’Reilly. He talks in that article about the importance of designing in ways for users to contribute effectively:

I’ve come to use the term “the architecture of participation” to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution.

Tim’s focus is upon the architecture of the web and how openness of both attitude and technology allows for participation by more than just geeks:

HTML, the language of web pages, opened participation to ordinary users, not just software developers. The “View Source” menu item migrated from Tim Berners-Lee’s original browser, to Mosaic, and then on to Netscape Navigator and even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Though no one thinks of HTML as an open source technology, its openness was absolutely key to the explosive spread of the web. Barriers to entry for “amateurs” were low, because anyone could look “over the shoulder” of anyone else producing a web page. Dynamic content created with interpreted languages continued the trend toward transparency.

Any project starts off relatively small and needs enthusiastic individuals (and usually some money) to get things started. Wikipedia, for example, had Jimmy Wales and the money he had made from previous ventures. But even if you do get initial funding, you still have to make things sustainable:

In this context, it’s worth noting an observation originally made by Dan Bricklin in his paper, The Cornucopia of the Commons. There are three ways to build a large database, wrote Dan. The first, demonstrated by Yahoo, is to pay people to do it. The second, inspired by lessons from the open source community, is to get volunteers to perform the same task. The Open Directory Project, an open source Yahoo competitor, is the result. (Wikipedia provides another example.) But Napster demonstrates a third way. Because Napster set its defaults to automatically share any music that was downloaded, every user automatically helped to build the value of the shared database.

We at Mozilla are hoping to help create a generation of Webmakers. By this we mean people who can not only elegantly consume, but help make the Web. To do this we need to get things right from the start: by building stuff, handing it over to the community, and supporting their efforts.

And of course, we’ll give them badges. 🙂

 

Join me at #MozParty Newcastle on 21st July 2012! [EVENT]

MozParty Newcastle

The Mozilla Foundation launched a Summer Code Party this weekend with events happening around the world over the next couple of months. These events can be hosted by anyone and are about introducing (young) people to the building blocks of the Web.

I’m delighted to be hosting a ‘kitchen table’ event for up to 40 people (including some kind volunteers) at the Centre for Life in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (England) on Saturday, 21st July 2012 between 1pm and 4pm (BST).

If you’re nearby and can bring someone along, please do! It’s free and you can sign up below.

Long URL: https://donate.mozilla.org/page/event/detail/wj7

Short URL: http://bit.ly/mozpartynewcastle

Questions? Ask away in the comments below. 🙂

 

School of Webcraft: Webmaking 101

Mozilla School of Webcraft

One of the main prompts for my getting started with evangelising Open Badges last year was stumbling across P2PU’s School of Webcraft pilot. It was rough around the edges, but the idea behind it was awesome: peer recognition of skills that can quickly go out of date.

I was delighted, therefore, to discover that not only has the Open Badges website been updated, but so has the School of Webcraft. It’s now possible to earn badges on both sites.

This post is actually part of Webmaking 101.

Why not join me on a quest to find out more about how the Web works?

 

Teaching the fourth “r:” webmaking as a vital 21st century skill?

Teaching the Fourth 'R'

On Thursday evening I listened in to a fantastic ‘fireside chat’ with author Cathy Davidson. She was in conversation with Michelle Levesque (mostly) and Mark Surman about what she considers to be the 4th ‘R’: algoRithmic thinking.

Session link: http://lanyrd.com/2012/CathyDavidson

Cathy’s fantastic. She’s an educational celebrity yet sharp, funny and incredibly warm. I had the amazing good fortune to interview her last year about her latest book, Now You See It whilst I was in New York for the Mobility Shifts conference. If you haven’t read that book yet, do so – I highly recommend it.

The audio should appear embedded below and the MozPad/backchannel/liveblog is available here.

More about this by Cathy Davidson:

 
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