Spring renewal: Pysanky and Community

One of my favourite rites of spring is to create Pysanky with family and friends. It is about renewal, taking off the wax and welcoming the rebirth of colours. As with most years, I host a pysanky day with friends and family. This year I decided to create a pysanka in honour of a community I admire that needs to renew. I’m answering Emma’s call with an art kitchen party.

Emma Irvin, Mozilla Rep: “I think blogging, or sharing positive messages about Mozilla and community would be most welcome. I agree the more the merrier – we know what brings us to Mozilla, reasons we contribute (or work) for Mozilla, and those perspectives and stories tell the Mozilla story better than any single attempt ever could.”

About Pysanky:

Pysanky is a traditional Ukrainian and Eastern European art based on many designs and stories. Some designs are very religious eggs such as the 40 triangles while others design pagan art or even modern art. It is up to the artist to remix.

Imagine you have a fragile egg in your hand, you use a stick, beeswax and colours to create a simple or intricate design. Then, after layers of colour, you wipe off the wax by the light of candle. Revealed is this egg – handmade by you. Often it takes hours to do. In the end, your home smells like honey and beeswax. You’ve created something fragile and beautiful. Smiles abound.

Reflection in photos:

1. Mix your dyes

make dyes

2. Prepare your workstation

eggs ready

row of dye

3. Get your decorating station ready

supplies for decorating

4. Design

Colours are added from lightest to darkest. Dip into colours. Each line that your draw with your kitska (stick) using hot beeswax becomes that layer of colour.

open web

5. Be sure to snack on candy

basket of candy

6. Wax off

wipe off colour

7. Create something special

mozilla egg

8. Share the experience with friends

all eggs

9. Spread the happy in your neighbourhood

sidewalk art

10. Most of all: have fun


About the Mozilla community

Mozilla is one of my community homes online. Truly, as a community organizer, I learn so much which I remix and share in other communities. I’ve participated in some local Toronto meetups. Mozilla Drumbeat which became Mozfest continues to one of my favourite events. I believe in an open web. And, I think renewal to share all the parts of the community will take time, integrity, trust, dialogue and a willingness to build something special together. Mozilla’s global and diverse community inspires me. I am sure that each of us will work to keep building an open web.

Some of my Mozilla moments:


Ethics in CyberDialogue

The Internet connect us in so many ways. As we navigate online global activism and data-sharing, how can we find our ethical compass and the core principles across disciplines?

In the Crisismappers wider network, we actively discuss issues pertaining to ethics and digital humanitarians. When should digital volunteers review and assess imagery? Who owns that data? What is the agenda? How do we protect the communities we serve? Which data types should be collected and shared? Which data types should we anonymize or refuse to publish? With new technologies, what are some key guidelines for data collectors, consumers and citizens? Can this data be used as evidence for conflict zones and peace-building? Should it? Citizen Lab are great convenors for wide networks to talk about surveillance, security, and privacy. I am super honoured to be co-hosting a CyberDialogue Working Group. with Meredith Whittaker of Google Research. The sessions will be on Monday, March 31, 2014. One of the ethical scenario groups will review the Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct (draft) and provide input to this new community of interest.


The CyberDialogue Session: Our Data, Security, and the Digital Commons: What are the Challenges and Opportunities?

The world of Big Data is revolutionizing research, humanitarianism, conflict prevention, open accountable governments, and the work of secretive intelligence agencies. This working group will explore the opportunities, tensions, and challenges of data collection and use in business, government and civil society. What are the data needs from different stakeholders? What are the unforeseen risks, especially security risks, that go along with them? How can we ensure the privacy and confidentiality of our data? Do we need to encourage more emphasis on digital security? What are the ethical and legal issues that need to be considered? What are the tradeoffs and risks?

I’ll be sure to post about some incites post-event. Note: I am participating as a Board Member of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.


WFA: Work from Anywhere, but Deliver

The Future of Work is on my mind: for individuals and organizations. I get dressed up and goes to ‘work’ every day in my home office or an associated city coworking space. I’ve spent the last 4 years digitally working and/or volunteering for some digital humanitarian and social tech organizations. On my journey to think about how to work better, I’ve been collecting books, websites, blogs and stories all about how others consider the work.

When was the last time you picked up a book about workstyle and drank all of it in a matter of days? Well, The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the future of work now tops that list. How can all of us learn from WordPress? Reading about remote working is kind of soothing. The insanity of ducktaping together various tools for global collaboration and basic communications is a microcosm of the Internet. We are a growing oddity of remote workers. A few months ago a dear friend had his job relocated. While the work he does is Internet-based, he has to travel up to 3 hours a day to get to work. Last fall while temporarily living in London (UK), I spent over about 4 hours a day commuting to the co-working space just so that I could have solid internet and co-work in person. The toll was insane. In the past years, I’ve always worked biking distance from employment. This is my continued plan: WFH or bike distance. As a community organizer, I tend to have verbal calls in various timezones. This makes co-working hard on occasion because you need to be at a location at 07:00 ET or take over a board room for a day.

Berkun is hosting a webinar this Thursday. I highly recommend that you read the book and attend. Go! You have 3 days to deliver.

words on metal

In the Social Policy Forecast by Stanford’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, they cite non-profits like Mozilla and Ushahidi:
“They are blazing new paths regarding community accountability and decision-making, cross-border (and-currency) financial management, and multiple layers of reporting. For these organizations, and many to come, the governance requirements of nonprofits – particularly in terms of how decisions are made, how they are reported, who has final say, and to whom results are reported – are more limiting than helpful.”

They go on the highlight the need for the possibility of new governance needs for global, digital, networked civil action. This really means thinking about how we interact and work with communities while getting things done. Their research into the various types of funding and models for sane, stable organizations is just the surface.

Both Mozilla and Ushahidi, like Automattic, have highly distributed teams. There is no one formula for work style or funding models, but each of these bodies of thought are helping me unclutter the “what works” and “needs work”.

(photo credit: Heather Leson (October 2013) The Crystal Sustainable Cities Initiative: Safe and Sound Exhibition)


Faith in Using Technology for Good

Have a little faith is what Neelley Hicks and the United Methodist Church remind us. Today they have launched their paper about their experiences in using Tech for Good.

“Technology is a tool for economic and social development that can aid in the reduction of poverty and change lives.” – Larry Hollon, Chief Executive, United Methodist Communications

I’ve talked with Neelly and her team a number of times throughout the last year regarding their Crowdmap. The experience taught me that we should all be partnering with faith-based organizations to help them learn and use technology for good. The United Methodist Church is using Ushahidi, Frontline SMS and other technical tools. Community organizers, especially CrisisMappers or ICT4D programme managers, know that the best projects include matching offline and online networks, training and planning, testing/iterating, having a strong infrastructure, taking care of your volunteers and doing something meaningful. As the United Methodist Church proves, faith-based organizations and technology are a great match. Neelley’s team taught me much about their sense of community and dedication to do great work. They have global, active community members who give their time and energy. Great community programmes should consider collaborating with local community centers (eg. Harassmap’s best practice) and local church groups (eg.United Methodist Church’s best practice).


Need convincing? Here are their #ICT4D Best Practice – 10 Tips: (follow their hashtag #ict4dBP)
#1: Put people first.
#2: Understand the local landscape.
#3: Design using appropriate tools.
#4: Prototype, fail, iterate, succeed.
#5: Build in #monitoring & #evaluation.
#6: Consider privacy & security.
#7: Enable user feedback loops.
#8: Remember community is critical.
#9: Build for sustainability and scale.
#10: Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.

Congratulations Neelley and UMC team! Keep inspiring us to do good with purpose.


Get the full Using Technology for Good report.

The United Methodist Communiciations Press release.


Community is hard…and beautiful

We are polygamists. Seriously, do you belong to one community? I like to think that a number of us are all involved in many communities both locally and globally. For community leaders, we know that this journey is both beautiful and hard. We want to encourage active participation in a collaborative method.

Community Management – my top 5 go to list

Montreal Lights

Over the past months, I’ve had a few conversations with folks just starting out in Community Management, especially HFOSS Communities. They all ask for resources on how to get oriented and meet others. There are Community Manager Linked In groups and regional organizations. This is my top 5 go to list for community managers:

1. Community Roundtable
While the audience is focused on corporate Community Managers, they provide rich data with regular Roundtable newsletter and annual community survey.
2. Community Leadership Summit
OSCON is the largest OS conference in the world. The Community Leadership Summit happens right before it. I find that HFOSS groups still get a ton of value. You can read our notes from last year.
3. The Art of Community
Jono’s book, The Art of Community, is fantastic.
4. Dave Eaves – Django talk
Community is negotiation. I tend to re-listen to Dave Eaves’ Django talk (video) at least once a year. There are books on negotiation, but he really nails the nuances of global open source community.
There is a wealth of articles on here about community engagement and open source projects.

Tech 4 Good Organizers

I started a google group for folks who lead in HFOSS or Business (corporate social responsibility) who run tech 4 good events or communities. There are a number of groups out there, but I feel like there is a gap for leaders in Tech 4 Good. It is just getting started but you are welcome to join: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/tech4goodorganizers. We are stronger if we learn and engage together.

How to analyze and build a community:

Another question I often get is how to activate community. People have a finite amount of time and energy. If you build spaces and interactions, they will stay. To me the basics of service design are core to building community. Do something that is relevant, build ‘With‘ the community not only ‘For‘ your goals, and plan for the community to change you and your organization.

Everyone has their own methods, but here is a list that I tend to share:

1. Collect Data
What is the current state? Do some interviews with stakeholders, ask questions, ask to talk with people who have left the community, survey and use the stats (website, newsletter, blog, social media).
2. Do analysis and decide future goals
Assess the community maturation model. Decide what the community wants and build goals of organization with that in mind. Here are some tools to help: Diytoolkit and Reboot’s Service Design model.
3. Test ideas with the community. Prepare to adjust.
4. Start small for wins for engagement. You will know what these are because you’ve done your research and tested out the spirit of the community. Think in the frame of Dan Pink’s model of Drive: Autonomy, mastery and purpose.
5. Prioritize, co-brain and deliver
6. Delegate and co-lead
7. Global means that translation is part of your plan, not an afterthought.

(ps. Foxclocks and timeanddate are your event planning friends.)

Some Tech 4 Good Issues

I’ve been in a number of communities both volunteer and paid. These are some of the harder issues to consider. While I don’t have the answers, I think it is appropriate to share and see if we can learn to solve and adapt together.

  • How do we get to the next 1000 active community members. We know that the potential of small asks, big tasks is the key to community engagement. Communities like Zooiverse are schooling us on capacity, value and relevancy. How can we learn from them? (See Patrick Meier’s post on this topic)
  • Early adopters can sometimes scare, deter new strangers by their sense of ownership and entitlement. Building a community that serves all the types of community members, cultures, languages and, personality styles, is a tall order. But, it is necessary.I have been thinking of ways to build to the silent doers. (see my post on the Welcome Committee)
  • I think the social economy/social entrepreneurship model of NGOs builds accountability and transparency. Maybe it is my tech start up background, but I think that NGOs need to consider shaping to serve citizens with feedback loops and new funding models. In the last while, there have been a number of coalition and partnership funding programmes. This gives me tremendous hope in the adage that we are stronger when we build together.
  • There is an uncomfortable digital scramble for open territory which sometimes goes against the values of open and global collaboration. While it may be naive, I think there is enough digital space for everyone. This is not a gold rush. Being open and sharing will win. I trust in the Economic Impact of Open Source (Business model) transferring to other open communities. (see my presentation: Coining Global(especially the notes))
  • Building duplicate efforts hurts the opportunity to build with each other. Remember: Community is a beautiful gift in which people share their intellect, time and energy. We owe these folks so much as their interactions and contributions are a gift. The key is that they add value and that we, in return, reciprocate and thank them.

What are some of the community building conundrums you have encountered? Solutions, Ideas?

(Photo: The Lumiere path in Montreal, Heather Leson, January 2014)


Map Library

In my first year of university at Carleton University, I found myself drawn to the Map Library. I would spend hours scouring maps. That Christmas my gift to my grandfather was a series of photocopied maps and town directories of Western Ukraine (Bukovina, Chernivtsi) for a 100 year period. We read through town names together. It is a beautiful memory of how much the maps and data can be so personal for us.

Today I hosted Max Richman on a Community Call to share his Open Maps talk which he previously presented at Open Data Day DC. (His slides). In our chatting, which spilled over to twitter, we started to collect a list of map books that we love and that we recommend. I have too many that I haven’t read, but some that I have.

Here are some of the ones suggested:

stack of map books

What’s in your Map Library?

In an effort to keep tracking, I created this open Hackpad to build a fun Map Library. Recommendations welcome.


A Forward Looking Board with HOT

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team community membership has re-elected me as a Board member. I am delighted.

The announcement on the OpenStreetMap wiki.

We have a strong mandate and an engaged membership. These past few weeks have included many discussions about the role of a Board and the changes that we, collectively, need to make. It is a true honour to be charged to continue support HOT’s mission.

On that note, I found this Mckinsey Report on shaping a Board. If you have any resources on how to help a new Board, being a Board Member and organizational change in the Humanitarian and Open Source fields, please do send these my way.

“Governance arguably suffers most, though, when boards spend too much time looking in the rear-view mirror and not enough scanning the road ahead. “

The McKinsey Report on Building A Forward Looking Board.

To my fellow Hotties, thank you for the trust to continue my supportive role.


Open in Protest and Crisismapping

Protest and Crisismapping are intertwined with voice. I think conflict mappers, videographers, data analysts and storytellers are incredibility brave and important to our future. But, local knowledge, local language and local context must guide decisions. There are some tough questions to ask about what should be openly shared or why not have something as open data?

Videos, imagery layers, pictures, reports, maps, stories and datasets are used to both give voice and collect evidence on human rights violations. From the comfort of my home in Canada, I have not lived in times of civil war in Syria. I have not stood in the freezing cold in Kyiv alongside protestors. We can, in solidarity, write about it, share links online, become crisismappers (Digital Humanitarians), petition our governments, but for the most part, we are a world away. No matter how connected we are via the Internet, we can be equally disconnected.

On Protest

At Info Activism Camp, I joined the protest salon. Speakers discussed their activism in various global contexts. You can download and watch the discussion, read the protest mini-magazine and listen to the protest soundtrack.

There is a big difference in marching down to Queens Park (Toronto) vs. trying to feed your friends in Taksim Square in Istanbul or keeping your friends safe in Brasil. The stories of people’s lives, their efforts to protect rights and collect evidence gave me a profound backdrop for how I observe the world. The videos and livestreams from Ukraine tell a story of another country’s people in protest. There have been over 3 million views for the video I am a Ukrainian. The first time I watched it I cried. On the second view, it hit me how powerful video and Internet remains. Then and now: I fear for their safety.

Crisismapping Syria

Talking with Brown Moses, Women Under Siege Syria, or Syria Tracker, I have come to learn about the tenacity of humans and potential of digital forensics. These projects and their leaders are the forefront of asking questions: what should be published or not published. Their verification methods for video, pictures and reports are mapping new ground. They work very closely with people in the affected regions alongside global helpers. Brown Moses is meticulous in his analysis of social media (how Facebook is destroying History), weaponery and videos. Lauren Wolfe has built the Women Under Siege project to give voice to women who suffer brutal violence in times of war. Her methods in research, journalism, online engagement and verification highlight how a map can be one corner of a larger, more extensive project. Both the Syria Tracker and Women Under Siege teams do not publish all the details outright. They review, debate, curate and anonymize. Brown Moses has a unique talent of identifying and teaching methodology. These digital skills show us how crisismapping has evolved. Evidence and data collection happens in real-time. People are using these tools to make decisions. This is the nature of data and information. And while data can and has been used as a commodity and a power device, these types of projects show focus on those we serve – the survivors and the affected.

From Aleppo

“We struggle with this challenge, balancing between the imperative to do no harm with the virtues of transparency and openness.”

All of us seek information for evidence or even to help guide humanitarian decisions. This week First Mile Geo released it’s detailed case study on Aleppo complete with a set of open data. Collecting data about bakeries, locations and, potentially, movements in a conflict zone and then releasing that data will surely bring on questions. But, the First Mile Geo is already asking them with us:

Matt McNabb: But the principles underlying open data have their limits in conflict-affected areas, where the contest of information can –and often does –emerge more frequently to support actions that may have a deleterious effect on citizens’ safety or well being. Perhaps obvious to say, data in war can be a dangerous thing.

I firmly believe that the next future of open data is collected by citizens for whom the data is about rather than only stored in a government or business sanctioned data portal. We need both. The success or failure of Open Data will happen in the “majority world” (or as others call it the Global South or Developing world.) It is great to have Open Data events in over 110 places around the world on Open Data Day. One day is a start, but I think the penetration of Open Data will only happen if it follows the lead of OpenStreetMap. People need to be involved at a local level. Simply put: people don’t trust government and want to be part of the process (have agency over their data.) So, it is with this that I think methodology of First Mile Geo is at the forefront of combining offline community engagement (paper and pen) tied with maps to build local help. Crisismapping shows us that the raw questions alive in the field and being shared openly by folks like the First Mile team, Brown Moses, Syria Tracker and Women Under Seige. We need to consider what they have learned and how it can apply in conflict, crisis or developing areas.

Also see the Wired article on Mapping Aleppo

And now for more questions:

What does it mean to be “open” and “collaborative” in a conflict or crisis zone? What does it mean for protestors? When does the affected population get a voice in what video/picture or imagery gets used and for what means? What are the new ethics for the digital crisis? In January of this year, I joined a round table and said: we need an imagery code of conduct (for satellites and drones). I advised them that we can’t wait for 4 years of research. This is happening now. People are being affected now and digital humanitarians are having these discussions now. I shared some of the example discussions we have had within the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. As security analyst Bruce Schneier rightfully points out, location is being used and we need to prepare for the new level of privacy and security discussions. While we race to share, collaborative and open up information, we need to build stronger data guidelines and data training.

Please go to: RightsCon and Responsible Data Forum to talk among peers. I’ll be watching via the Internet trying to catch snippets.


What are you doing Open Data Day?

What do Buenos Aires, Edmonton, Porto, Prata, Osaka, Bandung, New Haven and Cotonou have in common? Well, there are incredible community organizers leading Open Data Day Events in their cities joining a total of 109 events globally.

As you may know, I am a bit of an addict when it comes to global events. Borders dissolve and mission rises. All of us join to make our communities better. I am not a ‘coder’. As a community organizer, I am throwing my brain at helping people connect and share stories. If I can successfully contribute, so can you. I hope you’ll join your city.

The team at Open Knowledge Foundation has been supporting our local groups community and the wider network. This means we are managing the website, wiki and hosting a few online events. I’m specifically curating the wiki alongside our incredible helpful community volunteer, Mita Williams.

Dave Eaves, one of the founders of Open Data Day, and I have hosted two Google Hangouts to connect the community:

Round 1 – What is Open Data Day

This 30 minute hangout explained the roots of Open Data Day (ODD14), Dave explained the core goals and we talked about types of events along with some event planning tips.

Round 2 – What are you Doing Open Data Day

This 45 minute hangout featured participants from around the world sharing their stories about what they will be doing Open Data Day. We grappled with some tech signup issues, but folks managed to get connected both in writing and in person.

Here’s one fantastic example:

Ome Mejabi: “We are lighting up Ilorin, Nigeria at the University of Ilorin campus with Unilorin ODDC Data Hack Event coming up on February 22nd, 2014 to coincide with the 2014 international Open Data Day. Details for the event.

ODDC is acronym for “Researching the emerging impact of Open Data in Developing Countries”, a World Wide Web Foundation/IDRC funded research project.”

What am I doing Open Data Day?

My Open Data Day is actually a 3 – day weekend.

The Toronto Open Data team has invited me to join their Problem Curation Roundtable. I’d provide some input for challenge leaders.

Then, I go to Washington, DC to join the School of Data Nigeria Extractives team. We will look into contracts, datasets and, hopefully, find data on which Canadian companies are active in Nigeria.

I wish I could be in 3 places at one and join Canada’s first Open Data Summit hosted by our friends in BC.

The Canadian Open Data Recognition Awards

These awards are to recognize outstanding work of an individual or an organization in the area of open data in Canada.

Three categories have been identified. They are:

Open Data Innovation Award
To recognize innovation in open data, whether with respect to policy, implementation, or use of open data.

Open Data Community Award

To recognize a significant contribution to strengthening the open data community, whether through outreach, education, commentary or otherwise.

Open Data Social Justice Award

To recognize the use of open data to increase social justice and community wellness.

We are accepting nominations until Midnight Feb 13, 2014 Pacific Time.
Please submit your nominations for the 2014 Canadian Open Data Recognition Awards using this form.


The Day We Fight Back

The web is the biggest global community we all want to protect. My career has been an OSI one – from Internet ISP to domain registrar to online citizen voices via open maps/data/technology. In that time, I have worked on projects involving domains taken down, data center outages and activists threatened for simply trying to tell their story.

I am shaken by the brave people who use the web to give voice to the disposed and cite the horror of atrocities. As part of the Ushahidi community, I have had the honour to work closely with the folks from Harassmap and Syria Tracker. They are my teachers in why an open web matters. They are my teachers on why we want an internet that is not crippled by fear and surveillance. While I am based in Canada and many people I work with are not in the US, we are without a doubt affected by the laws and activities of the USA (NSA). As well, I look to the Canadian government and other governance bodies globally to do better.

More about the Day we Fight Back.

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