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#mozfest

18 Nov

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Popcorn Maker – video of the web, for the web

November 18, 2012 | By |

At Mozfest, the most recent version of Popcorn Maker was launched. Popcorn Maker is a tool to more easily remix and share video on the web, and to make it interact with the web directly & in real time. It’s quite amazing if you think about it – so far, video on the web has been locked into a little rectangle, largely disconnected from what was going on around it. With Popcorn, video re-connects with the web: Of the web, for the web.

At last year’s Mozfest, I got to play around with an early version of Popcorn Maker. Seeing the new version launched now, exactly one year later, it’s mind blowing to see the polished, powerful beast that Popcorn Maker has become. It’s truly a joy to play around with.

Just to get a better feel for what Popcorn Maker is currently capable of, we took it for a spin. Concretely, in a small group we took this video about a potentially quite damaging & dangerous power shift in regulation the web, and translated it to German (current version here, as well as embedded below, but please note it’s a quick demo with plenty of kinks):

With just a bit more time, we could’ve added more or different sources, for example in German, or newspapers that are better known in the country than some of the US-based papers would be.

Seeing Popcorn Maker in action is amazing – huge props to the team.

Take Popcorn Maker for a spin – seeing web video that pulls in Google Maps or a Twitter hashtag search live feels almost like magic. It’s incredibly powerful, and I’m convinced it’ll change our understanding of how video works on the web.

12 Nov

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Mozfest: Thoughts on a more sustainable Summer Code Party

November 12, 2012 | By |

Summer Code Party. Image by Mozilla

This year has seen Mozilla’s first Summer Code Party. SCP is a decentralized, global series of community events, and a simple toolkit to help local organizers get their events set up more easily. It’s also a template for three event formats ranging from so-called Kitchentables (3-5 friends hacking at home) to Hackjams for up to 50 participants.

At Mozfest, Mark Surman hosted a brainstorming session that also touched on the question how the Summer Code Party can be both spread even further and made more sustainable.

There were a few key thoughts and ideas that emerged in our group – apologies for not being having the participants’ names at hand – that I’d like to share. Curious to hear your thoughts on them.

For one, localized resources are always helpful. The more language are available in both tools & materials, the better. Everything that lowers the barrier of entry. While in our tribe everybody speaks English, to reach out to all the people beyond the inner circle it’s key to make participation as easy as possible, and language is a big part of that.

Another way of spreading the word is to make use of cultural specifics per country/region. As one participant pointed out, in Austria there is one presence reliably in every small town across the country: A local brass band. Is there a way – any way – to take advantage of that fact? Can the brass band be harnessed as an ambassador for an educational endeavor? What other cultural hacks can we come up with to tap into local communities? I’m sure there must be more of these types of very specific cultural and local hacks to grow Summer Code Party.

The third big point is to coordinate with the probably largest network of learners and educators, namely by partnering with the school and university system. The advantage in size is obvious. However, there are also specific challenges and needs there. Concretely, it’s anything but a given that educators have the skills and/or the confidence to teach web making. Providing more formal resources could be one way of getting them onboard. I think there might be a more appropriate way, though: Educators should use the same tools and formats that the Summer Code Party proposes to the “end users” – by hosting peer exchange Kitchen Tables or Hack Jams or similar formats. That way, educators become an integral part of the Summer Code Party, and like the kids they try to encourage and empower they, too, would be both teacher and learner simultaneously.

Curious to hear your thoughts.

15 Nov

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Mozilla Festival 2011

November 15, 2011 | By |

Fox, girl, squirrel by Peter Bihr #mozfest
_Image by Peter Bihr, Creative Commons (by-nc-sa)_

Mozilla Festival (aka #Mozfest) is over, and it was intense. Throw a mix of 500 journalists, hackers, web devs and activists in a room and shake it up, and interesting things are going to happen. As well they did.

There’s plenty of good reviews out there, so I’m just going to highlight a few points that stood out for me.

Education for the open web

Ben Hammersley, who among many other things advises the EU in digital matters, made a point about the importance of education: Those who decide upon the future don’t understand the present.

We have several digital gaps in education – education in all things digital, about all things digital, across all things digital. One, there’s a gap along education lines. Two, there’s a global divide. Three, there’s a gap along income (and education) of parents that prevents kids in poorer neighborhoods the same chances to participate online (which might enable them to bootstrap knowledge).

And then we have – four! – a gap between those who by belonging to the group that really gets the web and how it works and those who don’t, where politicians are mostly on the wrong side of the gap. It’s a structural divide more than anything – give it a few years and things might work out fine, but as it stands (repeat!) Those who decide upon the future don’t understand the present. And this is something we need to work on. Luckily, it’s easier to educate some smart folks than change whole strata of society. (At least in theory.)

This is where we all can come in and help out. If you find yourself talking to a politician, help them out. Take the time to explain stuff. Don’t be snobby about it. It’s politics where we can leverage power, and it’s politics where the foundation is laid for how our most important infrastructure will work (or be broken) for years.

Let’s all work on some truly relevant things.

Mozfest from above, image by Pierros Papadeas Image by Pierros Papadeas, some rights reserved

Data Journalism Handbook

Just a brief shout out: A large group of journalists and data diggers gathered and wrote a Data Journalism Handbook. It’s not finished, but it’s an impressive draft and a great basis to extend over time. They just dug in, and built something cool over the weekend, then took it from there. This is the way to go, really.

Popcorn – making your videos talk to the web (and the web talk back)

The real killer – a real eye opener! – for me was certainly Popcorn.js, or rather the Popcorn Maker. Popcorn.js is a framework to make video on the web more interactive – more of the web – an event framework, or in other words: a little toolkit that helps you make your videos interact with the websites around them and vice versa. For example, you can pull maps or Flickr images or a live Twitter search into your video, or into an adjacent box (or pretty much wherever you like, really).

It’s harder to explain than to understand, so here’s a Popcorn demo.

And the Popcorn Maker, launched last Friday, is a web-based authoring tool to make all this more accessibel to non-developers – you need only the most basic understanding of HTML etc to use a video you uploaded to Youtube or Vimeo and enrich it with web data.

It’s super impressive, and it’s great how this has come about since last year‘s Mozilla Festival in Barcelona.

It’s also very clearly alpha software at the time, so try at your own risk – in a first test, I wasn’t able to save a project, but could pull a Youtube video and add map data, photos and tweets within less than 5 minutes – it’s really quite something.

Standards for space, time and the web

Every morning, I went for a run. Since my hotel was close by, my run would take me around the Royal Observatory. At the Observatory there are a number of mindboggingly interesting things on display: The Prime Meridian, the original kilogram, a measurement of feet and inches (to compare with your local merchant), as well as the (probably) first clock to display Greenwich Mean Time to the public (since 1852). There’s also a red ball on one of the rooftops that every day would be pulled up slowly, then drop at exactly 13:00h every day. The ball was visible from the river Thames, allowing the ships to reset (and thus synchronize) their clocks.

The Royal Observatory was by and large the center of standardization for most of the world. From here, standards of space and time would ripple and spread throughout the Commonwealth.

It’s a bit like what the W3C is for the internet today. And like we needed to agree on standards for space and time 150 years ago, we need to agree on standards for the web today. The more open they are – the more they allow us to look inside the box, and tinker, and exchange data, and the more anybody can use and contribute to them – the better off all of us will be.

01 Nov

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In London for Mozfest and Internet Week Europe

November 1, 2011 | By |

Mozilla Festival London

Mozilla’s big open/free culture festival, aptly called Mozilla Festival, is on this coming weekend. I’ll be headed over to London and stay for the full festival as well as the beginning of Internet Week Europe. (Sadly I won’t be able to stick around for the full thing.)

Can’t wait for the festival that I’ve seen come together up close, so I trust it’ll be fantastic. (It’s organized by the good folks of the Mozilla Foundation, notably by the lovely Michelle Thorne & Alexandra Deschamps-Sansino, so I’m clearly biased.) Last year’s Mozilla Festival in Barcelona – called Drumbeat at the time (my blogposts) – was basically a geeky love fest, which I say with respect and admiration. This time around it’ll be great, too, and it focuses on a topic that hits even closer to home for me – it’s all about the open web and media.

As someone who for a long time wanted to (and occasionally did) work as a journalist, seeing these two cultures of journalists and geeks (or hacks & hackers in Mozfest speak) merge is great. There’s so much both can learn from each other.

Beyond purely personal interest, I’m also interested in how these spheres can learn from another. After all, I’ve been advising media companies for years, first as a freelancer then through my company Third Wave. So I love geeking out about these things and learn from some of the smartest folks in the industry (and beyond).

Long story short: If you haven’t yet, join us at the festival > sign up here; and I’ll be in London for a few days, so ping me to meet up.

Disclosure: I was on the jury for the Lovie Awards, which are part of Internet Week.