What I learned and built at the Mozilla Festival in London…

by Alina Mierlus

I like those kind of events and situations – experimental, unusual and with mixed audience, flexible agenda and hackable spaces.  Because they are inspiring, you meet new people, get new ideas and most important, makes me reach the “aha!” moment.


This year I was at the Festival as a participant, volunteer and ReMo – so I had the opportunity to help facilitate and participate in the same time which was fantastic. I had conversations about opening everything and learning and met inspiring people and projects such as Cash Music (a WebFwd fellows – non-profit, social enterprise helping musicians to create on the web).

When I arrived on the first day, I had the opportunity to meet and talk to various projects at Hive London Pop-up, a group of organizations from New York and London who are working at the intersection of learning, digital technology and media, offering after-school programs for youth. And if you are curious to see what the young web makers attending the Festival, learned from this experience, here is a blogpost and here, the work did by a 10 years old participant.

The next two days were a bit chaotic for me: I jumped in a Hackasaurus session, a fireside talk about the Web literate planet, then in a session on P2PU and badges and hanging around with other ReMos, facilitators and volunteers.

But, now I want to talk a bit about my “aha” moments at the Festival:

On the first day, I was part of the Hackasaurus Innovation challenge, where we worked on some ideas around curriculum and games to engage the youth into the art of web making.


Hacking Battle

Hackbattle fight

This was a exploration on how to make a “website remixing” activity more engaging. The main concept is: After learners remix a website – they can submit their hack into the Hack battle where website visitors vote on the best hacked version of whatever website the learner started from (see interactive prototype here).

This already opens the way to more creativity and ideas around  how we can engage the young webmakers, how to inspire to them the culture of collaboration, sharing, openness? I spent some time thinking and having conversations about those community spaces (both physical and online) that can become kind of playground and place for learning and creating (but more on this in a next blogpost…).

This is an ongoing work that needs experimentation. But the most important is that at Festival we got already the concept, a set of ideas, even a working prototype so we can start iterating on top of it in Barcelona.


“Messing Characters” (badges, stories and fueling intrinsic motivation in open communities)

I jumped in a session facilitated by folks at P2PU and Open Badges project. This was a like a challenge. I received a set of two cards, having written on them two words (in my case, messing and characters) which in this case where part of the “mechanics of a P2PU course).

So I gave the example of a course (the first one!) that I proposed months ago: Open Governance (how open communities as Mozilla, P2PU or others can get things done and govern themselves to become more effective). And yes, designing the course is as complex as the title suggests.

Having to imagine the “messing characters”, a mechanics for this course, was another “aha” moment. The concept is simple: imagine the various open source communities facing w/ different challenges, as growing, diversifying their reach, increasing participation, opening their way to working, collaborating, delegate responsibilities etc.

The characters are community members that sometimes feel like stuck inside of a box (no ideas, plans, answers). Messing characters  can be a process of putting together people from different communities, with different skills and even creating situations that we are not feeling comfortable with. How does it work? I don’t know…it may be a series of challenges built inside the course, it may be a series of face to face or online events. There are plenty of possibilities.

Still, the most important bit was introducing the concept of badges in all this. Badges are the element that could make the mixing characters possible. It could be a good way to make visible a character’s story, skills, vision.

This is also an example of how a simple session at the Festival spurred the thinking, imagination and gave me (and others) the building blocks for what we are going to do next.


Learning and discovering new horizons…

Another thing that really keeps me excited about the things we are building at Mozilla is that it offers you the possibility to learn new things every day. As many other Mozillians, I have to say that I never thought that, for example, I’ll see myself in the journalism and media communities.

That was until I had the opportunity to meet, work and talk to people from the Mozilla News Innovation Community at MoJo Hackfest in Berlin.

And the Festival almost filled this imaginary gap. Journalists as well as educators are very important part of the our community and of the Web in general.


What was different from the first Festival in Barcelona? Was it better or not?

This is a question a received from various people during the last weeks.

Well, Barcelona Festival was awesome, was special, was different.

This year was better from the point of view of program and the sessions, which were much flexible, and thus easily inviting people to participate. On the other hand the ways you could participate were much more diversified: learning labs, innovation challenges, fireside conversation and hacking spaces. And I loved that the London Hive Pop-up (kids event) was open to the public for one day.

And this year we already have some building blocks and concrete things to play with: Hackasaurus, Popcorn, P2PU platform and open badges, which actually emerged from the Festival in Barcelona.

If I were to describe the difference from Barcelona, I can say that this year in London I saw a more mature, better organized (in terms of content and diversified participation) and much more focused. And that’s the way to go.

Oh, and the coffee, was probably the best I ever had at an event, not to mention the dedication and love the awesome baristas put on preparing it (IMO, that should be replicated in all Mozilla events :) ).

But in the end… I missed the party on the roof.