I went to Mozilla Festival again this year, Mozilla’s annual convention dedicated to building a better web. What I noticed most this year was the greater emphasis on discussion in sessions. The first two years that I went were much more focused on building and doing.
I had mixed feelings about this: I always view Mozilla Festival and other conferences as a chance to improve my technical skills, or at least to benchmark areas for improvement and find new things that I want to learn. As a former academic I’m never one to shy away from a good old chinwag at a conference session, but one thing I found lacking in this more discursive approach was less focus on documenting session outcomes. Even in sessions that I didn’t feel technically competent enough to participate in last year, the links to etherpads for every session in the schedule made it easy to contribute and make a lasting impact through session documentation. This year the schedule app worked more smoothly, but there weren’t any links that I could find to the program sessions in GitHub, which would have made it easier to document or review sessions through issues and Wiki pages.
On the other hand, it was cheering to reconnect with my roots as a humanities researcher with so many sessions on about sociology, ethnography, and other research methods in the social sciences. As I wended my way through the festival this year with its emphasis on the web as a means for connecting people it struck me that digital products and platforms are stories that are told in a different kind of language: they have a central conflict or problem, characters, and a narrative that evolves with each new interaction between people. Maybe I should propose a session on that subject next year.