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.
February 13, 2009 § 2 Comments
Just now, I was commenting on my friend Steve’s post on The Yin and Yang of Open. As sometimes happens, the comment grew into a bit of a tome. Or, at least something long enough that I figured I should make it a post instead. So here it is.
Great post, Steve. While I am always waving the flag of open, I am also a big yinyanger. Balance is important.
But, for the most part, I think were already surrounded by enough ‘closed’. Getting to balance is a long way away. So, closed mostly doesn’t need our help.
There are exceptions. Privacy is a big one. We’re losing it quickly. And it’s a pretty critical part of the balance. You need the privacy kind of closed in order to protect most of what we value in freedom and openness.
On the elements of open, I think you mostly have them. The three that I stick to these days are:
1. Transparency: Can you *see* inside something, and understand how it works.
2. Permeability. Can energy / labour / ideas / whatever get in *and* out of the open thing you are talking about.
3. Malleability: Can you shape / remix / make something new. This is similar to Zittrain’s generativity. Or, in layman’s terms, it’s hackability.
… and then iterated and tested by talking to alot of people in alot of ‘what’s open?’ conversations.
A fourth item that may be on the list: permission. As in, you don’t have to ask for it to do something. I am not sure it’s quite the right word. But my colleague Jay suggested it as we were talking about what an open mobile ecosystem would look like. It would be one where you don’t have to ask permission to add new apps, invent new services, and so on. Like the internet.
One small area I disagree: you say ‘openness is not in and of itself a virtue’. Something can be virtuous but, like all things, require moderation and balance. Personally, I see both ‘openness’ and ‘privacy’ as virtues, and don’t see much of a contradiction.
That’s all for this sunny Friday. ‘Hi’ to family and all in Durbanville.
And, to anyone else reading this, happy Friday to you too.
February 10, 2009 § 15 Comments
On Saturday, I gave a keynote at FOSDEM called Free. Open. Future? My goal was to encourage people think of free and open as concepts that extend beyond software, and to spark a conversation about the ideas / design frameworks / mental maps we’ll need to make sure complex spaces like mobile and messaging are open in the future. The slides are here:
If you don’t feel like flipping through the slides, the basic line of reasoning goes something like this:
- Free software and open source have been successful in part because there is a clear mental map and values. RMS‘ four freedoms — use, study, modify, copy — and similar ideas make up this map.
- The mental map that guided free software has also contributed to the creation of an open web. Transparency (study) and remixability (modify) are particularly critical to the web feeling and being open, and have started to bleed into more than just the code that makes up web pages but also into how regular users experience the web when they remix content and reconfigure their online tools.
- The challenges we’re about to face in coming years are complex, and it’s clear we will need more than just use / study / modify / copy to chart our future course. If you just look at mobile, we need to figure out what ‘open’ means not only at the hardware and software level, but also in cloud services, carrier pricing, end user rights over their devices. There is a great deal to sort through if we want to get anywhere close to the success we’ve had with free software and the open web.
All of this ends up with a question: what new ideas can we add to our mental maps to make sure we can take free and open even further? Similar to the mobile scenario above, the current state of online shows why this question matters. David Ascher pointed out in his FOSEDM talk that things like Facebook and Twitter now make up a huge percentage our online conversations. Yet they are mostly closed and walled off, much more so than standardized email. If we want messaging to be a part of the open internet we’re building for the future, we need some sort of shared (but probably quite rough) mental map that includes criteria to answer ‘is this approach toonline messaging open?’ Without this, it’s hard to build innovative products will win win in the marketplace, which is critical to ensuring that ‘open’ wins. The same is true for spaces like mobile and cloud computing.
I gave a couple of quickly hacked together ideas on what I think our future maps need to include, and listed them near the end of my slides:
- Strong values, freedom beyond just code
- Great free software, that people love to use
- Users as hackers, anyone can bend anything
These aren’t necessarily the most important ideas, except for maybe the last one about ‘users as hackers’ — that’s critical to the future of open innovation. And there are definitely places like the Mozilla Manifesto that have key elements for the mental map we need. However, my main goal here was really just to spark a conversation.
And, I must say, I failed dismally at that goal. One question from the floor, and it was off topic. Some good comments from Mozilla people afterwars. But the conversation I wanted.
On the plane to Munich, I asked a fellow FOSDEMer about this — someone who works in big car company and also attends Chaos Computer Club every year. I figured he’d have a good perspective. His response: “You made some inroads. Ideas like these take time to settle in, and make cracks. But you also need a broader audience. Ask more people.”
Funnily enough, simply throwing my slides online yesterday sparked a few replies. One about the importance of open innovation. And another about the value that comes from ‘acting’ online, simply being a contributor to the openness of the web by posting content. Interesting.
So, taking my flightmate’s advice, this post is another chance for people to answer: what’s on your map? What are the critical ideas that will help us succeed with free and open in the future? If you think these are interesting questions, comment away.
February 5, 2009 § 4 Comments
In addition to blogging about the plans and rationale for Mozilla Education, I’ve also been wanting to describe the actual courses and content we want to pilot this year. As I noodled this, I realized: I’m the wrong person to describe these things. Better to have the educators and contributors who we’re working with talk about how they want to make Mozilla Education real. So, I’ve decided to do a series of interviews.
My first interview is with Dave Humphrey from Seneca College. Dave has been offering a Mozilla-based course for a number of years. Now he wants to open up the materials, community and mentorship system he’s been using to students and professors all over the world. Here’s the interview:
For people who are more text oriented, some of the things that Dave touches on in the interview include:
- Mozilla is a great place for students to learn because both the community and the technology are open. Students can do real work with Mozilla technology.
- On top of the technical skills, students also learn what it’s like to work in a global community, collaborating across timezones and languages. This ability to work in an open source way is a benefit to students even if they don’t continue to work with Mozilla.
- The opportunity for Mozilla in 2009 is to move beyond Seneca, collaborating across institutions. This sounds easy from a Mozilla perspective, but it’s radical in education.
- Succeeding requires people in Mozilla who are willing to support and work with students. Seneca has been able to find mentors because their students are contributors from the beginning. We need to see if this can scale.
- We need a site like education.mozilla.org to manage the the signal to noise ratio, creating a place that mirrors how Mozilla works but that is also a sandbox for students. This new site should also have Mozilla educational content and courseware.
In addition to extending the Seneca program for students and profs everywhere, Dave has agreed to help lead the process of thinking through and rolling out Mozilla Education. Frank Hecker and Dave will be hosting weekly Mozilla Education calls on Monday’s at 11am eastern time. Like other Mozilla calls, these are open to anyone who is interested.
Upcoming interviews: Gregorio Robles from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid and Pascal Finette from Mozilla Labs.
November 16, 2008 § 18 Comments
In 10 days, I’m doing a lunchtime keynote for 300 councillors, tech staff and agency heads at the City of Toronto’s internal Web 2.0 Summit. Beltzner’s great Changing the World slides (warning: big) got my mind rolling on this talk. So, I started writing it up. My main point will be something like:
Openess and participation created a better internet. They can also create a better city.
The talk will start with the Firefox story, much along Beltzner’s ‘this is how we changed the world’ line. Then I’ll tour examples of people using open, participatory webishness to make cities better. This will feed into a set of simple, concrete challenges to the people who run my city.
For this talk to rock, I really need help with the last two sections — the examples and the challenges.
On the examples front, I am looking for three very specific things:
- Cities (or other governments) that have opened up their data so citizens can mash it up and add value.
- Web apps created by normal people that do things city hall should do (e.g. transit maps), but do them better.
- Examples of cities listening effectively to their citizens at a customer service level (i.e. whether people are happy with how clean the streets are).
A few people (thanks, Sameer!) have already fed me great examples. FixMyStreet.com. The City of Portland (first to have google transit thanks to open data). Washington, DC‘s recent useful-services-for-the-city mashup contest. But I need more. If you’ve got ‘em, please comment on this post.
On the ‘challenges’ front, I want to come up with some concrete things city tech managers can do to make Toronto more open, participatory and mashable. I’m going to challenge them to:
- Open (y)our data. Transit. Library catalogues. Community centre schedules. Maps. Expose it all so the people of Toronto can use it to make a better city.
- Crowdsource info gathering that helps the city. I bet somebody would have FixMyStreet.to up and running in a week if the Mayor promised to listen.
- Listen to citizens. Not just in a policy-consultation-ish kind of way, but also on everyday things-I-need-from-my-city customer service issues. First step: send a copy of the Cluetrain Manifesto to every manager in City Hall.
The City of Toronto CIO has promised more Web 2.0. That’s great. Maybe it’s the right time for challenges like these to actually be taken up. In any case, my question is: are these the right three things to push? If not, what would you ask for? Again, comments below encouraged.
September 28, 2008 § Leave a comment
Some great reportage from the Open Everything Hollyhock retreat popped up online this week. If you really want to get a sense of what it was about, check out the Duane’s World Open Everything episode. I couldn’t embed it, but you can see it here.
This is the first of two parts from Duane Nickull’s show. It set’s the tone by showing the trip to Hollyhock, frames this issue with a teaser view of the speedgeeks and offers an interview with Hollyhock’s Joel Solomon. It also includes DW’s regular ‘code and tunes’ feature.
Also online this week, Julia Watson from Communicopia offered some reflections on her blog. Here’s a snippet description of the ‘leading open projects’ session from the event:
Executive coach Jeff Balin led a session on open leadership at the event. He sees open leaders as those that find the intersection between idealism and practicality. There is a healthy tension between the two. Traditional thinking would set the two as opposites but Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and JFK were all leaders that found a way to make their ideals practical. Open leaders see themselves not as top down authoritative decision makers but as facilitators to a discussion. They aren’t threatened by divergent views but welcome differences as a way to represent the whole picture.
There is still more coming from the Hollyhock event, including a second Duane’s World eposide and a full collection of video speed geeks. I’ll post when these come online.