Who is the [science] fairest of them all? #mozfest

I’ll admit my only real understanding of the concept of ‘science fairs’ comes from a mild addiction when I was younger to shows of the ‘Saved by the Bell’ genre. So any such event without Screech is a little bit of a let down.

The #mozfest version is however something to behold. There were apparently more than 50 stands with people demo’ing things – from an amazing robo-painter to real time 3D maps of the London underground to websites for reporting potholes. Every single table seemed mobbed and there were all sorts of splinter demo’s happening in free corners of the building.

The atmosphere, once again, was buzzing and once again it felt like a young and diverse crowd. Seemed to be even more of our American cousins this year? What I love about this event is that it seems to fly in the face of all the depressing stuff I read about tech/dev culture – it is dominated by amazing women, there is no brogrammer vibe and the international nature of the delegates is inspiring.

I didn’t really get to speak to the exhibitors I set out for. Rob(in) Hawkes and his ViziCities demo was a hot ticket and he never seemed to have a second. The MySociety guys were similarly caught up so that was a pity for me, if not them!

The conversation I had with the team from the Met Office was hugely helpful though as I’ll be doing some similar work in the near future – I was really impressed with the extent to which they had embraced an open way of working with their data and also the almost ‘Pervasive Media Studio’ arty element they had started to bring to their hack-days etc.

I also chatted to Francis about some of the stuff the Royal Society are up to. Their involvement in the recent ‘Women in Science’ edit-a-thon with the MRC and Wikimedia UK was something I was really happy to see take place – certainly the poshest venue for an event I can remember seeing!

Bumping into the great Alan Levine (@cogdog) early on was a real treat. I briefly met Alan in London a couple of years ago but have followed his adventures online for a long time. His early work with WordPress when he was at the NMC was something that I cribbed from shamelessly while at JISC and his work with the ds106 gang has always been great fun to watch. Also I think I have used more of his pictures that any other source in my presentations over the years 🙂

The gang from my last #mozfest where I was a Rep are all around so I had chats with Leo, Henrik, Spike and briefly (as he was on the clock) with Laurian. These guys are really dedicated to the Mozilla cause and are lovely chaps as well.

It was brilliant to see Marieke as well. She and I have known each other through the JISC world for a number of years and share a lot of friends – she escaped the JISC implosion to the Open Knowledge Foundation where by coincidence my main #mozfest buddy Heather is now Community Director. As usual Heather led my astray 🙂 and I ended up in the pub with a gang of OKFN folks and interested strays.

The word is that around 1500 people could be attending tomorrow – and that there are more facilitators this time than there were attendees at the first event in Barcelona. I’m not going to lie I think that is a challenging number and I wonder if the event can retain its unique quality at that scale. That said if anyone can make it work it is Michelle and her merry band of event ninjas – I’m certainly interested to see how it shapes up thats for sure.

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