September 7, 2011 § 6 Comments
When I say ‘maker’, most people understand what I mean: a DIY ethic, a hankering to create. Often, makers are into robots and gadgets. Physical things. But the web is also filled with people who love to tinker, create and make.
In my last post, I argued that Mozilla should engage these ‘web makers’ as we refine and evolve what we started with Drumbeat. Which begs the question: who are the web makers?
Looking at the people who have joined our community recently, I see teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists, game makers and curious kids who a) want to be part of what Mozilla is doing and b) are making things using the open building blocks that are the web. I believe Mozilla has alot to offer these people, and vice versa.
To understand this, it’s worth looking at the people who have gotten involved Mozilla as a result of Drumbeat. Here are three examples:
Jess Klein is a designer who teaches kids about technology. She’s designed games. She’s worked for Sesame Street. And now she’s helping Mozilla bring Hackasaurus to life, designing a whole new way for kids to learn about the web.
Kat Cizek is a documentary filmmaker. She’s chronicled the participatory media org Witness. She’s won an Emmy for a web documentary she made in Flash. And now she is making a whole film with Popcorn and WebGL, a film made for the browser and solely with the open building blocks that make up the web.
Cathy Davidson is an iconoclastic professor at Duke University. She let’s her students choose their own grades. She wrote a book about how the web is rewiring our institutions. She also built out a huge part of last year’s Mozilla Festival, and now is helping us figure out where to go next in education.
These people have some things in common. They share Mozilla’s open spirit and maker ethic. They see the open web as a canvas for their ideas. They are building things with the web. And they are all actively contributing to Mozilla.
I like to think Mozilla offers these people something special: a chance to build — and learn– alongside people from Mozilla’s more traditional community who are creating the cutting edge of the web. This is what we’ve started with Drumbeat.
On the flip side, these people clearly have something to offer Mozilla: help building a world where millions more people understand that the web is about making things.
This is why I want these people actively involved in shaping where Mozilla goes in the future. In my next few posts, I will talk about how these people can help us build on the work we’ve started with Drumbeat, especially how we teach and build tools for web makers.
A question in the meantime: what do others think about the role the people I am describing here can play in Mozilla?
August 31, 2011 § 5 Comments
We started Drumbeat as an experiment to bring new people and new ideas into Mozilla. Some results from the first 18 months: 20,000 people signed up, dozens of new community leaders and solid core projects like Hackasaurus, School of Webcraft, Popcorn, MoJo and OpenBadges.
While I’m proud of all this, I actually think Drumbeat’s biggest achievement has been carving out a new way for Mozilla to work: teaching and building things with people I call ‘web makers’.
The projects at the core of Drumbeat have been built by matching teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists, game makers and curious kids with the kind of developers who make up Mozilla’s more traditional community.
While these new community members come from different backgrounds, they have two things in common: 1) they share Mozilla’s open spirit and maker ethic, and 2) they want to use the open web as a canvas for their ideas.
As part of Mitchell’s broader conversation about the next era of Mozilla, I want to explore how we can work with these web makers to refine and evolve what we’ve started with Drumbeat.
Specifically, I want to explore how we weave teaching and building things with web makers into the core of Mozilla’s work. The MoFo team came up with some early thinking on this over the summer:
- We set up Drumbeat to figure out how to extend our mission beyond Firefox (and beyond software).
- What we found: Mozilla has an opportunity to build the next generation of web makers. This opportunity is huge.
- This is partly about teaching: helping people learn how to use the building blocks that make up the web.
- It’s also about making tools: tools for creativity, tinkering and invention. Built by and for web makers.
- We can — and should — do these things. They will keep the Mozilla spirit alive, advance our mission, and build our values into the future of the web.
Of course, Mozilla should continue to invent and evolve the core building blocks that make up the web. That is what we’ve always been good at.
But — as our early work in Drumbeat has shown — teaching people how to use and extend these building blocks also has huge potential to advance Mozilla’s cause. As Mitchell said last year in Barcelona:
One of the values of Mozilla is that we *build* things. Moving individuals from consumption to creation is Mozilla’s goal.
Reaching this goal will take millions of individuals teaching each other how to build things, and then extending how things are built. I can imagine Mozilla as a new kind of learning institution and open research lab that brings these people together. That’s something that can — and should — be a part of who we are.
In my next posts, I plan to explore this web maker concept and introduce some of the new people who have joined Mozilla through Drumbeat. I will also float some concrete ideas on how we can refine Drumbeat with the help of these people, rolling it back into the mainstream of Mozilla and growing it into something bigger at the same time.
March 24, 2011 § 5 Comments
As I pointed out a while back, this year is Marshall McLuhan’s 100th birthday. It’s a good time to be thinking about media and the web: in particular about how the free and open medium of the web is shaping all media that came before. Increasingly, this is a theme for Mozilla Drumbeat in 2011.
Why now? Yes, partly because it’s Marshall’s birthday. But more importantly, we’re at a key juncture: traditional media are increasingly reinventing themselves by tapping into the essence of the web; at the same time monopolies in spaces like social networking and mobile apps are calling the freedom of the web into question. Things could go either way: open or closed.
Back in February, I explored this theme in the annual Marshall McLuhan Lecture at the Canadian Embassy in Berlin. I’ve re-recorded the talk and posted it here:
At a high level, I believe we have to make a number of critical choices in coming years that will impact media and society for decades to come. My three top level points are:
We rarely call it out, but the same basic principles that make free software and open source great are also baked into the very fabric of the web itself. The web gives us the freedom to use, study, remix and share — that’s what we are all doing at a massive scale. We do these things because they are baked into both the technical building blocks and the culture of the web. When we think about the web as the medium that is shaping our times, it’s important to remember that this kind of freedom that is central to what’s going on.
McLuhan said: “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form.”
This has happened. And it hasn’t just happened to television. All media have become the content of the web. As a result, all media are wrapped in this context of freedom: in a world that lets you bend and share without asking permission. The initial reaction from old media was push back. But times are changing. We’re very clearly entering a phase where smart media players are using the essence of the web to reinvent themselves. Eg. witness the Guardian and Wikileaks or Al Jazeera in Egypt.
The context is a web built on freedom. The opportunity is that all media are reinventing themselves in this context. If we seize this opportunity, we can bake things like transparency, remix and sharing into the media culture and practice for the next 100 years. That’s what we’re trying to do with Mozilla Drumbeat projects like popcorn.js: build tools that give filmmakers and journalists access to the essence of the web. If we succeed, we also bake the web into how whole industries work and think.
Of course, there is another direction we can choose: we could close down the web. Tim Wu talks eloquently about this in his book the Master Switch. Talking about media empires in the last 100 years, he says: “Open eras tend to last for about 15 – 20 years. And then they flip into being more closed. We may be at the beginning of the closing with the internet.”
Specifically: we could give up our privacy and identity to one or two social networks; we let one or two companies decide who gets to innovate and create software; we could let governments decide whether we get to access the internet at all. The result would be a very different web than the one we have now.
It’s this point about choice that makes media such an important theme for Mozilla and Drumbeat in 2011: now is the time to aggressively, creatively and playfully promote web technology and web thinking in the broader world of media. What we do now will shape media — and society — for a long time to come.
I’d love to get people’s feedback on the ideas in this talk. And, even more, I’d love to see people building things and playing with the theme of media, freedom and the web as part of Mozilla Drumbeat in 2011.
This is the third in a series of posts about media, freedom and the web. I’m hoping to do more, including a few posts on the future of cinema.
September 2, 2010 § 17 Comments
We’re eight months into Drumbeat. We’ve built a bit of a brand. People are interested. They want to get involved. More importantly: new people have shown up. Educators. Filmmakers. Artists. Not Mozilla natives. These new people are doing interesting things. And their peers are noticing.
It’s is a good start. We have some momentum. There is potential. Which begs the question: now what?
One thing is clear: we need to turn interest into action and impact. With 2011 on the horizon, I’m asking: how do we best do this? What does Drumbeat do next?
I want to know what you think about this. As comment fodder, here are three + one things I think we should focus on as Drumbeat moves into 2011:
0. Narrow our focus. Pick grokkable, magnetic topics.
Drumbeat started with a very broad call to action: ‘help keep the open web open‘. This didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. Some people responded. Most just stared back blankly.
Recently (and somewhat by accident), we’ve shifted focus to more specific mashups of Mozilla’s mission and other people’s big ideas. Re-invent cinema using the open web. Use the culture of the web to transform education and learning. And so on.
These mash ups have been much more magnetic. People already excited about the big ideas in question have looked up and said: ah, the web people are interested. Cool. How can I join in?
No matter what else we decide to do, one of our next steps should be to consistently use these ‘somebody’s big idea + open web tech and culture’ combos to focus what we’re doing. On the flip side, we should (dramatically) turn down the volume of the generic ‘help the open web’ angle.
1. Follow through on what we’ve started. Amp up participation and impact.
During the last eight months, we’ve dug our teeth into some awesome and substantial projects — Web Made Movies, Mozilla / P2PU School of Web Craft, Universal Subtitles. And it’s possible we’ll start work on a couple more by year end.
Each of these projects has big dreams. They also have clear goals for the coming year. A web developer education program that is 10,000 learners strong. A bustling open video studio pumping out productions with leading directors from around the world. Grassroots subtitling taking hold on well known, globally important video sites. These are amongst the 2011 goals Drumbeat projects shared in Whistler.
One answer to ‘what’s next for Drumbeat?’ is ‘follow through and help these projects reach these goals’.
There are three primary ways we can do this. Help with the technology side of these projects (e.g. P2PU leveraging Labs’ open social tools). Build fundraising capacity by actually designing and running campaigns with the projects (we’re doing major campaigns this fall and into next year). And, bring more people and profile to the table (e.g. volunteer recruitment in mainstream Mozilla newsletters and more promotion on Mozilla sites).
Helping in these ways will drive participation and impact in the projects we’ve already started. This, for me, is the baseline of what Drumbeat should do next. If that’s all we did in 2011, would it be enough? Personally, I don’t think so.
2. Get get good at open innovation. Find and grow more promising ideas.
We’ve always seen Drumbeat as a way to get many good ideas on the table, and then to back the best. A decent number of people have responded to this aspect of what we’re doing — there are now over 220 projects on drumbeat.org.
We’ve highlighted and helped a handful of these projects in small ways. Promoting them in our newsletter. Setting up peer coaching on our community calls. But, overall, we haven’t yet figured out a good and sustainable way to help these projects evolve, expand and succeed.
What we need is a simple, systematic way to find and grow promising ideas. One approach: combine the Mozilla labs open innovation process with the ‘magnetic topic mashups’ described above. Pick a topic. Run an innovation challenge. Back the best ideas that come out of the challenge.
For example, we might run a challenge around the question: how can the culture and technology drive innovation in the world of journalism? The challenge process would get many ideas on the table, spark collaborations. We’d offer fellowships or grants to the ‘winners’ of the challenge.
If Jetpack for Learning was any indication, this approach is more likely to yield results than the general Drumbeat ‘propose a project that helps the web’ call to action we’ve been using so far. One of our priorities for 2011 should be to put this open innovation model centre stage, pick some awesome topics and see what we learn.
3. Spark people’s imagination. Make it easy for them to connect. Focus on (big) visibility.
While our existing projects are awesome and important, Drumbeat (and Mozilla as a whole) needs another side to it — a side that is lightweight, easy to engage and, well, sexy.
Why? Because part of our goal with Drumbeat is to spark people’s imaginations — to get millions of people excited about how the open web can liberate, empower and delight them.
If you look at this from a ‘what’s next?’ perspective, this is partly a matter of linking what we’re doing already to things people care about. Making Web Made Movies with well loved producers and artists. Connecting Universal Subtitles to widely known content brands. Showcasing robots, lasers and other shiny open tech toys at Drumbeat events. The good news: we’re working on all these things.
However, ‘sparking imaginations’ need not — and probably cannot — be completely tied up in the idea of Drumbeat projects and events. We should embrace anything we can dream up that delights and engages, and the connects people to Mozilla outside of their day to day experience of using our products.
Google showed how you can do this with it’s recent HTML5 Arcade Fire video. It was a lightweight, fun, internet-scale way to demo what HTML5 video can be. And people loved it.
We hope to do something similar with our upcoming Firefox 4 parks campaign with the World Wildlife Fund — using sexy demos to make the link between the forests of the amazon and the web ecosystem that Firefox helps sustain. We’ve got other ideas up our sleeves as well (including some involving cats!)
But, the fact of the matter is, Mozilla isn’t naturally good at this. We’re more often than not too earnest about the web. We need to develop or lighter sexier side. Especially if we want millions of people across the web to join and support our cause. In terms of Drumbeat next steps, this is a major area we need to work on.
These are early thoughts that need much shaping and refinement. I’m interested to know: Which sound right? Which sound exciting? Which sound unachievable? You’ve been watching Drumbeat unfold. Where do you think it should go next?
I’ve posted an etherpad version of this content for people to hack on. And you can also make comments below. I’ll feed whatever people post into a Mozilla board discussion mid-September. And, if there is alot of interesting changes, I’ll repost the full etherpad version here.
PS. I know this post is too long. Sorry about that. I really want to see how people react to the whole set of ideas here — so my attempts at chopping it into a bunch of smaller posts didn’t work.
August 27, 2010 § 3 Comments
I just had a fun breakfast with Simona Levi from ExGAE/ / oXcars. What I learned: Learning, Freedom and the Web isn’t the only interesting thing happening in Barcelona two months from now. There are at least seven open internet / open education / free culture events happening over the span of 10 days.
Between October 28 and November 6, Barcelona will host: the 2000 person oXcars free culture festival; the Free Culture Forum; the P2PU summit; Open Education 2010; Drumbeat Learning, Freedom and the Web; an open ed play day in the Raval; and possibly a Communia meeting. Phew.
We should find a way to shout and promote all of this. Barcelona will be the global epicentre of free culture / open education / open web stuff for 10 days this fall! We need a phrase or a name for it. ‘10 days of freedom‘? ‘Barcelona abierto‘? Not sure, but Simona and I agreed to call out for suggestions. If you have ideas, post them below.
PS. goes w/o saying -> book an extended trip to Barcelona if you can.
August 12, 2010 § 10 Comments
Figuring out who to pay attention to and who to work with is a big challenge in a community like Mozilla. Using the Whistler Science Fair as example, Les Orchard points out the underlying issue — we don’t have a quick way to parse through all the awesome to find out who’s good at what / who’s contributed what / who is doing things relevant to me. This is a common problem in online life overall. We don’t have an easy, portable and reliable way to represent our skills, achievements and social capital.
Over the last two months, I’ve been talking to people about this same challenge in another context — learning and education. Historically, we’ve used degrees and certificates to show what we know. This breaks down online — partly because we have no good way to show these credentials and partly because so much of our learning is now informal that degrees aren’t really relevant. People like P2PU, Remix Learning and others have come same conclusion Les has — we could use online badges to represent these things. Sites like Stack Overflow already use badges like this. We’re going to do the same for the Mozilla / P2PU School of Webcraft.
Which brings me to the experiment I want to do: a digital ‘backpack’ that lets you store and display badges you pick up from many different sites across the web.
Badges can provide a good way for potential friends, collaborators, co-workers and employers to size you up. However, that’s only true if they can associate all your badges with you. You don’t want to send them traipsing around the web to look at sites like P2PU, iRemix and Badger to see your badges. Instead, you want to all the badges from these different places reliably associated with your online identity.
With this in mind, I’ve been talking to Mike Hanson and others about an experiment that displays badges from multiple places as a part of the identity you build up through Firefox. Someone wanting to check you out would see something like this:
At an implementation level, this would work by storing your badges (or references to your badges) in both a personal data vault like Weave and some sort of claims system. It could work something like this:
The main ‘layers’ of this system are the 1. the badge issuer, 2. you and your online identity and 3. badge display and badge viewers. Specific to my proposed experiment are:
- P2PU, Badger and iRemix -> these are places where you *get* a badge for some skill or activity. They act as ‘badge servers’ and would expose all the badges they have awarded to you in a structured and standardized way.
- A personal data vault (e.g. Weave) and a claims system (Mike Hanson is working on a general system like this) -> from a user perspective, these items combine into a ‘personal badge manager’ that you access via identity tools in your browser or on a web site.
- Your identity profile (webfinger?) plus social media sites like LinkedIn -> these display all of your badges and associate them with the rest of your identity.
At a practical level, we need a system like for P2PU School of Webcraft and the kind of badge platform Les is proposing for Mozilla. Connecting badges a version of your online identity the you control also presents a huge opportunity in informal digital learning – everyone working in that space needs something like this as well.
With this in mind, my proposal is to roll out an proof of concept for the idea described above using badges from Mozilla, P2PU and various orgs in the MacArthur Digital Media and Learning Network. I’m going to work with Mike, Les, Philipp, Robert and others on this in the next few months, with the hope of showing the prototype at the Drumbeat Learning, Freedom and the Web Festival in Barcelona this November. If you’ve got ideas or want to help out, please post comments below.