• Mozilla Festival 2013 (#MozFest)

    by  • October 28, 2013 • Conferences • 0 Comments

    The Mozilla Festival (MozFest) is a three-day long celebration of the Open Web. Bringing together people from all over the world to build, teach, learn and discuss, it’s the single-most most inspirational event in my calendar. Which is awesome as I’m a paid contributor (as it’s termed) to the Mozilla project.

    You can view all of the photos I took at MozFest in this Flickr set.


    MozFest crowds

    MozFest is important for many reasons, not least it’s the place that many at the Mozilla Foundation use to launch, double-down or start work on projects. An example of this is the Web Literacy Standard, that I have been working on with Carla Casilli, others from the Foundation, as well as an important group of community stakeholders.

    There’s always a lot of preparation immediately before MozFest, so I was planning to be in London from Tuesday and head home the following Monday. Unfortunately, my health and the British weather conspired against me. I woke up last Monday feeling terrible and, instead of infecting colleagues immediately before MozFest, decided to self-quarantine until Thursday. Then, with the impending storm likely to lead to delays on Monday, I decided to head home Sunday night. So I ended up with just over three days in London instead of six.

    All in all, I presented once and facilitated three times this year. I also got a shout-out from Brett Gaylor and Chris Lawrence during the Webmaker update on Saturday and Mark Surman in the opening plenary on Sunday. Happy days.


    Pre-MozFest staff meeting

    I arrived on Thursday in time for the staff meeting. The Mozilla London office was packed, but there was a buzz in the air, a palpable excitement. Procedural stuff was couched in the language of us changing the world. And we believe it: we’ve very much drunk the kool-aid, gone out and done awesome stuff over the last year, and come back for more.

    In the evening we headed out for drinks and nibbles and then found an Indian restaurant in a slightly sketchy area. We walked back to the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge – one of my favourites. Not only is it super-quiet, but it’s a bit swish with helpful staff. I like it. I was also upgraded, which is always a bonus!


    At the first Mozilla Drumbeat Festival (which became MozFest) there were 300 participants. If I tell you that there were around 270 session leaders and 1,300 attendees this year you can see how it’s grown! Those session leaders were enthused by Gunner before being given the lowdown by the Space Wranglers (i.e. those in control of each floor). A big shout-out to Meg Cole-Karagoy and Tim Riches for their co-wrangling of the Skills & Badges floor. Great work!

    MozFest Science Fair

    The Science Fair at 6pm kicked off proceedings at MozFest by focusing on what the community has built since last year. Before that there was much working making the place look less like Ravensbourne College and more like a venue for hackers. There were banners everywhere and much bedazzling.

    I ended up, for reasons too boring to go into, not having a table at the Science Fair for the Web Literacy Standard. This was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed me to wander round and see amazing things like Rob Hawkes showing off Vizicities. I bumped into the Snook team, who I persuaded to strike the following pose(s):

    Snook team

    Afterwards, I went with the Open Badges team and a few others to Wagamama near the O2 where I was fascinated by a conversation between Andrew Silwinski and Brian Brennan. I didn’t understand most of it, but then Brian got onto his new-found hobby of collecting and using fountain pens, which was unexpectedly fascinating.


    At the end of last year, Anil Dash wrote an influential blog post entitled The Web We Lost. He, along with Mark Surman and Mitchell Baker opened MozFest this year on this theme.

    Anil Dash at MozFest

    As usual, nothing at MozFest ran to time, with this opening session running over and pushing everything back a bit. After finding some time to get my Web Literacy Standard badges canvas photocopied, it was time to present an introduction to Open Badges and the Web Literacy Standard. The (HTML5) slides from that session can be found here.

    During lunch I discussed with Andrew Silwinski integration of the Web Literacy Standard and Open Badges with DIY.org. We’re both enthusiastic about the possibilities. Afterwards, it was time for me to lead a session on prototyping (badged) activities that could align with the Web Literacy Standard. This went really well, with around 20 people thinking through how that would work. The idea of a Minimum Viable Badge came out of that session!

    MozFest Maker Party

    I wandered down to the huge Maker Party on the ground floor after this and had a discussion with various people, including Rafi Santo and Marc Lesser. In addition, it was great to meet so many people I’ve only ever interacted with previously offline.

    There was a closing plenary followed by an after-party. I had intended to just head back to the hotel as I wasn’t feeling 100% but bumped into Joss Winn and Alan Levine. We decided to get a free drink at the after-party and then head to a quiet pub to have a chat. Joss found a place he used to frequent when he lived in London and we shared a bottle of wine along with some bread and cheese. It was ace.


    The clocks went back to GMT early on Sunday morning which, even if my devices automatically know what they’re doing, always confuses me. Thankfully, I bumped into Pomax and Arty who kept me right. There were rumours and whispers of an impending storm, so after a conversation with my wife I decided to make use of my open return and head home late Sunday afternoon.

    After the opening plenary session I ran an Open Badges and Web Literacy Standard FAQ session. It was reasonably well-attended, but I had to bail half-way through and hand over the reins to Carla Casilli as the time slippage meant I had a clash. Jamillah Knowles from BBC Outriders wanted to interview me about my impending #BelshawBlackOps13.

    It was great to catch up with Alan Kligman, Vinay Gupta and Leo McArdle over lunch to discuss the project formerly known as Firecloud. Exciting times! I also bumped into a guy called Sam from CryptoParty who showed me an Open Source Oculus Rift:

    Open Source Oculus Rift

    I’d been asked by Kay Thaney to contribute to a Citizen Science session where badges were going to be mentioned. In the end, I asked Erin Knight to send someone from the Open Badges team as I had to leave. Instead, and slightly earlier, I ended up co-facilitating a session in the Privacy strand at the request of Ben Moskowitz. We discussed ways in which we could create realistic and rigorous activities relating to the Web Literacy Standard.

    Privacy and the Web Literacy Standard session

    Leaving at 4pm with an Irish goodbye I was in time for the 5pm train from London Kings Cross. Unfortunately, many others had the same idea as me to avoid the storm, so they were only letting those with specific reservations for that train past the barrier. In the end, I had a slightly delayed and diverted journey via Stevenage. Due to low blood sugar and general knackeredness, I fell asleep and ended up calling my parents to give me a lift home (which I very seldom do). I got home around 10.30pm.


    The Mozilla Festival is something that really needs to be experienced live. There were many people who I interacted with who I haven’t had room or time to mention in this post. Thank you to everyone who contributed to my sessions, to the Badges floor, and to MozFest overall. You rock.


    Open Educational Thinkerer. Consultant focusing on #digilit & #openbadges. Previously: @mozilla / @jisc / school senior leader / #historyteacher.

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