Mozilla Festival is many things to many people. For me, it’s mainly encapsulated by a feeling. That feeling is passion for sharing joy in technology, tempered by a sense of responsibility to curate the web as a community space.
I find trying to explain the festival in any more detail than that makes the description of what goes on there so general that it can’t fully encapsulate any single type of the range of ways there are to engage with the festival. It attracts a truly diverse crowd from all over the world and there is a conscious effort to ensure many different types of voices are being included in many types of conversations. These range from highly technical skills sessions to community conversations about building best practices. There are sessions pitched at all age ranges and levels of experience. Really, the festival is what you make it.
Last year I captured my experiences in Storify, a tool for collecting and curating online content in a linear format. This year I wanted to focus more on ensuring that for the sessions I attended, lasting resources about what we learned or shared were available. The festival organisers facilitate a means for this by providing a link to an Etherpad for every session which can be used to capture documentation, but not every session facilitator makes use of them. I tried to take notes for every session I attended in the Etherpad and encourage others to contribute also. Personal notes are great, but shared notes are useful for everyone.
My sessions were:
- Building smart tools: how a culture can make or break your internal tools (Werewolf Edition) facilitated by Melody Kramer of NPR
- Join! Types of diversity and inclusion facilitated by Beatrice Martini, Katelyn Rogers, Flore Allemandou, J. Nathan Matias, Deb Soumya, Alifiyah Ganijee, Leo McArdle, Ibrahima Sarr, and Cynthia Ng.
- Network analysis and visualization for the web facilitated by Matt Hong
- Three Publishing Platforms Walk into a Bar… facilitated by Michael Donohoe of the New Yorker, Trei Brundrett of Voxx Media, and Matt Dennewitz of Pitchfork Media
- You All Meet in a Newsroom: How Game Mechanics Can Help Communities facilitated by Justin Myers
- Workshop: Turtle Power! Humans and Robots Drawing Together facilitated by Forrest Oliphant, Gabriela Thumé and Vilson Vieira (I’m hoping the facilitators will update this with the video they took of what we made, because it was pretty cool!)
But the festival is about more than the formal sessions. Serendipitous encounters and interesting conversations are also a key part of what makes the festival great. Following Melody’s session on the first day, I had a fascinating conversation about data as a cultural artifact which people perceive as powerful for emotive rather than analytical reasons. In my experience, frequently people’s relationship with data really boils down to the meaning of having or being denied access to it rather than understanding what they can do with it when they do have it. I’m considering proposing a session on the anthropology of data next year, because I think lots of people encounter this issue.
There was a whole track on the art and culture of the web this year which I really enjoyed. I would have loved to see some more engagement with digital performing arts as well as the visual and audio stuff which formed the bulk of exhibitions and sessions in that area.
Like lots of people, when it came time to say goodbye I found it hard to let go of the incredible spirit forged in the three days the festival is on. I left this with a personal goal to carry on the passion generated by the festival through the rest of the year. There are many conversations which started over the weekend that I plan to continue contributing to and learning from. I would really like to go back next year with a sense of continuity from the things I felt were most valuable, and how I applied these and helped them grow from one festival to the next. I’m looking forward to hearing from others on their between-festivals journey about how their own goals in that area are going.