Reflections on #mozfest

This weekend past in a building resembling a Borg cube (landed next to a 50’s flying saucer) a remarkable group of people from all corners of the globe came together to celebrate what it means to be a ‘web maker’.

This was the second Mozilla Festival (though it has had a bit of a rebrand since last years ‘Drumbeat’ festival in Barca.) If anything this year seemed an even more ambitious undertaking than what was a pretty insane event last year but lessons had been learned and there was a feel of a more stable foundation this time – upon which the chaotic creativity was unleashed.

A mix of hack day, unconference, meetup and classroom it doesn’t quite resemble any event I have been to before and my admiration for the ringleaders of this three ring geek circus (Michelle, Alex, Gunner, Matt, Dees and Mark to name a few) is boundless.

To be honest I was not at my best at this event and didn’t really feel like I contributed much. A combination of being under the weather and some news that knocked the stuffing out of me (RIP Paul) left me below par for the time I was there. Also if I am entirely honest I was more than a bit out of my depth – I am far from a ‘maker’ more of a ‘watcher’ or a ‘fixer’ – I just didn’t have the skill set to contribute to much of what was going on and probably would have been more help as a standard volunteer (who were incredible by the way!). I do think if I hadn’t have felt the need to return home rather than break down in front of strangers that I might have made a decent contribution to the School of Open discussions as that is something close to my heart and I was sorry to miss Mark Surmans ‘fireside chat’.

There was no doubt that the star of the show was Popcorn and particularly Popcorn Maker. It seemed like every other overheard conversation and tagged tweet was mentioning this amazing (though *very* alpha) tool for making ‘web native’ videos. The demos were amazing and the potential is huge (WordPress for video was a phrase I heard more than once.)

The HiveNYC ‘pop-up’ was also a huge success. I won’t say much here but read and you can’t fail to be impressed. Also the work the Hackasaurus team were doing to build new learning ‘games’ was also amazing.

I learned alot about the crossover between technology and journalism in a short time – the overview of the Knight Foundation – Mozilla Journalism stuff was very interesting as were the talks about ‘Timeline Journalism’ and the Al Jazeera Live Blogs. The Data Journalism Handbook session was also clearly a huge success with people working on it non-stop over the weekend so congrats to the Open Knowledge Foundation gang.

As always though the real win for me was catching up with people and meeting amazing new folk. The Mozilla Reps I met up with led by Pierros and including Carlos, William, Laurian (who I shared a room with and who was one of the stars of the event thanks to winning a MoJo fellowship and his M for Mozilla outfit!), Guillermo and Henrik were all top chaps and it was an honour to meet all of them. Leo joined us later and was amazingly assured for one so young – a true Mozilla community leader in the making.

It was great to catch up with Heather again and to learn more about the amazing work she is doing at Ushahidi (something that is really of the ‘moment’ I think) and to meet Laura properly this year (last year the only thing I really knew about her is she whacked Phil!).

Chatting to Mozilla usability guru, game builder and accordian player Jono was a real pleasure and truly interesting and bumping into Dolf, builder of 3D web robots!, and chatting to him on the bus and over beers and fish and chips was another highlight.

I also got to briefly chat to Atul, whose work on Hackasaurus I have written about before, and said ‘hi’ but little else to Jess Klein which was a pity as I really did want to pick her brains about my ‘web made comics’ stuff.

I caught up with Doug as well (who is making quite a name for himself on the learning side of Mozilla) and met the dynamo Leon Cych in person for the first time.

There were many, many more people I met up with and even more that I wished I had but there is always next year!

Thanks Mozilla – keep up the ‘awesome’ work 🙂


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