Tag: mozfest


Mozfest Report Back: Community Toolkit

What happened to the Community Toolkit project? Last year many community leaders at Mozfest hacked the table of contents for a Community Handbook. Our goal was to take all the content, divide up the chapters and start writing on Github.

Web speaker by Mazil (Noun Project)

About the project:

Open wins when we share tools, tips and cheats to build community. This remixable toolkit aims to help communities and community builders learn best practises and remix tools, guidelines and resources. The emphasis is on practical, “grab-and-go” templates, worksheets and modules anyone can use quickly! :)

  • Remixable toolkits
  • Best practises, use cases and examples
  • Cheatsheets, recipes and templates

The team set up a trello board, Hackpad and a github account. Then, while it would be simple to say life and work happened for the leaders, there is much more to this story for me.

The Missing Chapters

Perhaps this Toolkit needed some missing chapters:

  • Hiring a new Executive Director
  • Onboarding your Executive Director
  • Guiding your community through a the largest event they have done (7500 mappers for Nepal)
  • Negotiating, navigating and transitioning the community and organization through big changes
  • Crowdfunding must be your friend
  • Board management and call a friend/Advisor

As volunteer who started a job in a new country, I only had 10-20 hours a week to contribute to a project this year. I really did not anticipate that I would be working countless extra hours to help on the above big items. But, as the president of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team‘s Board it was absolutely what had to be the priority. While every community leader is a master of all trades, these were some big lessons for me and for our community. One thing I will be doing soon is open sourcing all the templates for how we handled the transitions, search/outreach, evaluation, and hiring. We had some excellent help from Allen Gunn (Gunner of Aspiration Tech). I looked long and hard for guides and resources on how to do this. There were just few documents for open source communities, so we created them. We will share these back with you because at some point your community will need to do this. (All the personal info will be removed.)

What’s next

This project needs to live, but we need a few more hands and someone else to be lead dancer for awhile.

If you and your team ever have these types of big items happen in your community, contact me. We are in this together to build open. I am your resource and support.

Ode to Mozfest

For my Mozfest allies: This year for the first time ever I am missing Mozfest. I was there at Drumbeat and then all the next iterations. Living in Doha makes for a long trip and work has me head down on tasks. I miss the creative interactions and wonderment of hanging out with my open soulsisters and brothers. Truly, I can’t wait to see what you create. Happy Mozfest!


Connecting the open dots

When I think of open, I think global. A number of us have the privilege of collaborating on large scale global open communities. We all see the potential of combined efforts and dissolved borders/barriers to all our common success. What have we learned and what are the next steps?

This week I’ve had the honour to participate in both the Mozilla Festival and the Open Government Partnership. The conversations have really distilled the question: what are we waiting for? OGP is a common language building forum for governments, business, civil society and the technical communities. Yes, we do have some different priorities and agendas. But let’s dream big then build it. Policy discussions should and must beget action. How can we get there for more open and very global communities? How can we better support each other? At heart, I am a maker. I need to see and be part of evidence and impact.


Here are some key actions and win suggestions:

1. Master search
There are open data portals and github repos. Yet, there is no master search of which open data and which code is available and remixable. This will help us build on The pain of duplication and vanity ware (creating software for the sake of “new” rather than sustainable, built-on efforts).

We need this to help anyone build on the open source ethos. We need common standards in creation. This is not to stifle great new ideas but to end the “reinvent the wheel” model that is causing us to stall. If people can find the existing work, irrespective of country, perhaps we can build faster. I realize that software and data really counts on local needs, knowledge and language, but have we asked what are the common needs that we can remix.

I ask: what are the top 10 software topics that we can focus on as open source communities and civil society communities collectively need or want? Can we use the power of agile software development to guide us?


2. Code of collaboration
Last year I spoke with someone who apologized to me: “I received funding for x and even though it is duplication of efforts on existing software, we need the funding and have to do what they funder wants.” This conversation made me realize that the funding model also needs a shift. If we are funding without building on existing work and existing knowledge, are we regressing? Are funders funding only new ideas and potentially shiny ideas? Are the funders sharing data? Believe me I want to eat and really respect how hard it is to find the bright spots and the right things to fund. I am really learning as I go, but am struck with this dilemma.

For those who lead in civil society and open source communities, including hackathons, are we encumbering the open growth? Leaders need to build on the open source methods, encourage good practices and encourage mission before branding. By means, fork the code/idea. Please. But, document and collaborate, be responsible and stop duplicating. Who are we serving and what is the real demand/citizen need? Sometimes we are not building priorities based on feedback and real people. And, sadly there are examples of chasing the shiny and quick without considering privacy and risk. Really, this is new ground and we are all trying to figure out the way to get there.

The Crisismappers community created a community code of collaboration. What would a funder, civil society and open source community code look like for open government and open data?

I propose that we build a code of collaboration beyond the policy aspects.


3. Open community leader collaboration and census
Who is doing what where and how to collaborate? What can an open data hacker from Kenya teach someone in India? I’ve seen this power of global with Random Hacks of Kindness, International Space Apps Challenge, Mozilla, Ushahidi and more. We don’t see borders, we see and build on ideas and skills.

At Mozilla Festival my colleagues at Wikipedia, OKFN, Creative Commons and others hosted a session about Building an Open Community. A followup session was held at the Open Government Partnership Civil Society Unconference. How can we keep the momentum of this? We need to continue to learn and share these ideas. Are there other examples out there?

Often I am asked to do introductions to open community members around the world. What I would really like is an open community footprint of who is doing what where? Apparently, the legacy icommons.org served this need. We build our open networks and relationships. Great. If communities shared their networks, best practices and commons goals, we could move this ball forward.

Who is already working on this idea, especially in the tech for good and social good space? Can we collaborate? My goal is to start finding and connecting all these leaders. We are stronger together as we teach and share.

Thanks to my colleagues at Mozilla, OKFN, Wikipedia, Second Muse, Random Hacks of Kindness, Geeks without Bounds and Creative Commons. We’ve had a number of conversations in the past few weeks. In the spirit of open, some of you directly contributed to this text.

Moar is more.


(All photos are from events that I’ve attended or coordinated in the past year).


Global Community: the road to learning

For the past 3 years, I have focused on building global community via maps, hacks and data. The journey has introduced me to a number of communities plus I’ve been fortunate to lead efforts in a few great spaces.

For the past month, I’ve been head down at Open Knowledge Foundation working on the Open Data Partnership for Development project as well as learning all about Open Knowledge Foundations’ communities and networks. We have the amazing opportunity to activate everything from open data to open government to open science to open glam (galleries, libraries, archives and museums.) Having library training background, I’ve always thought that the Internet opens up large borderless communities, much like the old Mechanics Institutes*. It gives us a chance to connect with fellow leaders and support the unusual suspects who want to use new technologies to disrupt and activate change.

stools aiweiwei
(Stools by Ai WeiWei)

Some might consider it a tall order to involve citizens and technology to activate change. I see it as an art. What if we looked at it differently? Many of us are focusing on building stuff and showing the potential of opening data, creating apps and convening at hackathons/sprints. Others are focused on analyzing our methods. Great! We need to have real-time analysis/research in all our projects. Giving evidence and showing impact is mandatory as we move forward. ABC: Always be communicating/changing. Some folks make a career out of highlighting the faults in the old systems and faults in attempts to use new technology to see the world and the information overload in a new way. Also, great. The truth is: None of us are getting it right, yet. But, we are trying.

Meeting, Making and Showing

In the next month, I am going on a whirlwind of meeting, making and showing. Each of these spaces involve communities of folks trying to use policy, information, maps, hacks, data and more to open up our world. It is a huge privilege to participate and learn. I’ll try to post some ‘Dispatches’ as I have done at previous events:

1. Mozilla Festival – London, UK October 25-27, 2013.
MozFest is a home for me. I’ve attended each of the fests including its predecessor (Drumbeat). Imagine rooms full of brilliance in everything from Open Hardware to Open News to Open Internet. My brain and heart will burst with happiness in seeing old friends and digging into learning while making stuff. There are few events that are this interactive. The Open Knowledge Team will be hosting a few sessions (Building collaboration across the open space and a Data Expedition)

2. Open Government Partnership Summit – London, UK October 29 – November 1, 2013
The OGP summit connects governments and civil society communities to discuss policy and demonstrate the latest actions by country, topic and movement. The Open Data Partnership for Development is focused on helping connect governments and civil society folks. My goal will be to meet others on this journey and see how I can help support their efforts. As well, the Open Knowledge Foundation team will be supporting the Civil Society Day.

3. International Conference of Crisis Mappers – Nairobi, Kenya November 18 – 22, 2013
The Crisis Mappers community is one of the most amazing ones that I’ve encountered. Each of us from business to open source to government and academic want to learn the best ways to use data, mobiles, informatics and maps to aid crisis response. We will meet for a week of training, ignite talks and collaboration/simulation. The opportunity to do this in Kenya is amazing. My heart remains in East Africa. Ushahidi was born there and has inspired so many of us to consider how citizens can and should be involved in the conversation. I’ll be running a full day training session with 4 tracks: Maps, data, mobile and knowledge. There are many community leaders helping out, including my colleague Michael Bauer of the School of Data.

I am really look forward to involving more people in each of these communities.

Here’s to amazing building and making. I am more than certain that the next weeks will shape the coming year and far beyond!

*On Mechanic’s Institutes: I had a membership at the Atwater Mechanic’s Institute in Montreal, Canada. I loved that I could use a library and get training. It is the way forward: we need to train a digital network of new leaders to use the power of technical skills to tell stories and use data/software to activate new ideas/change in their communities.


What kind of Internet do you want?

The Internet is our community garden, our public space and our workshop. Every day I work with people around the world who create maps and technology for good. A free and open Internet invites this collaboration beyond borders, religion, politics and societal barriers.

Crisismappers, particularly, conflict mappers do some of the bravest and scariest acts of Open Internet Activism. They take my breath away giving voice to the dispossessed, documenting atrocity and informing the world. Two such mapper groups are Syria Tracker and Women Under Siege Syria. Reports of a full communications shutdown in Syria takes away their voice. They should have the right to voice. We should protect their right to voice. What will the impact of this outage be on their important work?

Lauren Wolfe, Director of Women Under Siege, was interviewed a few months ago by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Current (audio) about this project and their verification process.

Women Under Siege

The Syrian Internet shutdown was reported as I was writing this post about why the ITU and WCIT need to open their doors and not make decisions on behalf of the globe. More about this from the Mozilla andGoogle’s Take Action sites.


What kind of Internet do you want?


At Mozilla Festival, we remixed video with Mozilla Popcorn. You can Make your own ITU activism video. There is something magical about being able to remix our web and amplify our voices. Webmaking is the kind of Internet that #freeandopen encourages and supports. It is the type of community space that allows for more voices to be heard and to interact. Creating the web is supporting it to exist.

Security and the Internet

Today the CBC posted an article: “Should the UN Govern the Internet“. They interviewed Citizen Lab’s Ron Deibert about his thoughts:
“the recurring push at the ITU to wield more control over the web is part of a bigger trend “towards greater state control of cyberspace and an older internationally governed system of telecommunications.””

I’ve been much inspired by the work of Citizen Lab over the past year. They fight the good fight with data and analysis about security. And, they’ve provided Ushahidi and myself some valuable help as I work to guide people through various security questions with technology. We need to be very mindful about What kind of Internet we are accepting and what kind of Internet exists. Ron’s TEDxToronto talk should be mandatory for any activist and Internet user.

Voices of Access, Infrastructure

Internet access is a growing human right. Attending Annenberg-Oxford’s Media Policy Summer Institute gave me an opportunity to meet citizens from around the world who study, work or are activists for media policy. Learning first hand about walled gardens and the advocacy of this type of “Internet” provided much framing for what kind of Internet other people might want. It was a rich discussion which could use a deeper study. Why do people support a closed internet? Who are they?

Working and volunteering in a space of Internet and mobile activism for technology and maps for social good, I’ve collected a number of maps that range from sentiment and demand for access, infrastructure reports, power outages and even how SMS campaigns are being used for ICT4D. Each is a unique project, but they collectively show how we could potentially map voices/stories and use this data to analyze with layers of hard data. We need to find new ways to use our technical might to show where access is and provide the qualitative feedback for “why”.

Launching an global map for stories about access and benefits of a free and open Internet would be a mighty task needing more than a few strong people. Perhaps not this time without a little help from friends. With Random Hacks of Kindness this weekend, it might even be feasible to consider? The question is: How can a map unite our common cause for the Internet we want or, even, open a dialogue about the different versions of an Internet?

Example Maps about Access, Voice and Infrastructure

Bring SuperFast Broadband to Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire (UK)
Reporting Mobile Coverage in Sweden
3G Fail in Brazil
SMS in action (Global)
Wimax Monitoring in Italy
Infrastructure issues after Hurricane Sandy (USA)
Powercuts (India)


(At Ushahidi, I write frequently about our community of deployers who give voice around the world during times of crisis, for elections, and for civil society topics varied from corruption to environmental movements to human rights to violence against women. )

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