This was a busy month for me here in London with four great events happenining all close to one another, which was awesome because I was feeling a little bored. Instead of doing a little travelogue of the events, I’d rather talk about what were my perspectives and ideas for joining them and what I think are the important trends that we should be paying attention right now while also highlighting what I think is great from each gathering of course.
Chronologically, the first event was the Agorama co-op meetup that happened on the 18th of October, followed by View Source 2018, then Mozilla Festival and ending with the Redecentralize Party but to follow the little journey I have planned for you in this blog post we need to use a different order and like most things, it starts with MozFest.
Mozilla Festival 2018
It is hard to describe MozFest for those that have never been there or even saw the pictures. The best I can say it is like a festival, like burning man or coachella, but for the intersections of networks, culture and digital realm. It is a chaotic ambient, where ideas storm and collide and beautiful things are made. Some of these things are like little seeds that will grow all over our beautiful planet.
Three years ago, I remember MozFest having 1500 attendees of which 500 were facilitators. That means that for each three people in the festival, one was there to help you learn something, unlock some skill, or build up some idea. This leads to a very powerful and empowering event. I don’t have the numbers for this year but I believe it was similar.
It was there, three years ago that some seeds were planted on my mind. Some powerful ideas of connecting the disconnected and unlocking agency, retaking control over our online lives. These little seeds would stay largely dormant, they would be growing underneath my conscious mind, and be noticeable in my discontent with the current social networks and business practices of Silicon Valley.
Little decentralization seeds grew and grew and finally breached surface after André Staltz talk in BrazilJS 2017 which lead me to Secure Scuttlebutt but more about SSB later. It was in MozFest that I took this path, and it was in MozFest 2018 that I saw how it changed me.
There are at least 15 simultaneous sessions at any time in MozFest. The most common feeling during the festival is the FOMO of not absorbing all that is happening. During the times I’ve been on the festival years ago, I would, like everyone else, be a busy bee flowing from session to session but this year I took a different approach.
If we think that MozFest sessions are little houses in a beautiful valley, then the paths people take from session to session, their personal growth roads, are the connections between these houses. Much like a little village or a network graph.
Instead of traversing this graph like everyone else. I decided that this year, I would meet people on the roads. I went to zero sessions but I’ve engaged with a ton of people all over the event. Meeting people at the cross-roads between sessions, as they are exiting a session with their head full of ideas or excited about the next wonder they will go into is an fantastic and I think it made MozFest more about human relationships for me than sessions ever did. I wish the organizers set some blank space blocks of time so that people would simply network.
There were many highlights on the even this year for me, the one thing I loved the most was the amount of Mozilla TechSpeakers facilitating sessions at the event. There were at least six of us doing sessions there as can be seen on our Twitter feed. And it is awesome to see these very talented people, all of which have deep knowledge in their fields, sharing and brainstorming at MozFest.
I was a co-host for a session about Secure Scuttlebutt at the festival, but before talking about my session, we need to detour to…
Agorama co-op meetup
Agorama is a critical exploration of digital network culture through public events, residencies and collective research groups. On the 18th they had a hands-on meetup about Scuttlebutt hosted by Kieran and I.
This was a chance for me and Kieran to meet IRL for the first time as we’ve only known each other through the Scuttlebutt platform. This was a wonderful group of humans and I loved how free-form our meeting was. The group was separated into two groups, one being Earth and the other Mars. Each group was interacting on Scuttlebutt on a different network we setup with routers named after each planet. Every now and then, someone would travel from Earth to Mars and vice-versa (switching routers) which causes the gossip protocol to exchange the past data and synchronize communications. This role-play about colonists and earthlings was first devised by other hermies from Scuttlebutt, I think it was Mix and Piet who first created it and it is an awesome model for workshops.
Thanks to Agorama, Kieran and I could practice what would be our session at MozFest on a very safe and very welcoming environment. I can’t wait to reconnect to the Agorama people, they’ve been awesome to me. Alejandro and the crew there rocks!
Back to our Offgrid Connections Session at MozFest
Our session was a recreation of the Agorama session. They were different in some sense because most of the people at the session were actually seasoned hermies while at Agorama most people were new to Scuttlebutt. So our session felt more like old friends playing than new friends playing.
We didn’t do introductions, we didn’t gave a passive speech, we basically set the hardware up and let people role-play. Every now and then we’d do a helicopter hover and swing by some cluster of people and talk to them quickly and then let them be.
This has worked pretty well and even though many of the people at the session were already on-board at the Scuttleverse, some new people decided to join afterwards, which is quite positive for us.
Other highlights of MozFest
By devoting my time to be around people instead of sessions, I could do a ton of stuff at the event. I could hang out a bit with Hélène Petry and Carolina Tejada both who were involved in the Mozilla Clubs team and the digital literacy programs. Hanging out with the old team was awesome! <3 <3 <3 We just missed Amira and Julia a lot there.
There were a lot of people from Scuttlebutt as well and hanging out with them and seeing them host amazing sessions was awesome. There is a lot of interest in the decentralization space right now, great sessions were present at MozFest but I think the festival could do better in that space. For example, the venue network blocked most of the decentralization protocols. If Kieran and I hadn’t thought about that in advance and brought in our own routers, we wouldn’t be able to do our session. I’ve heard from both IPFS and DAT people that they too had some issues with the network. You can’t really put decentralization as a priority in an event where decentralization is blocked.
By being in London and able to join many events that were off-limits to me living in South America, I am now able to meet often with some people who I love very much. My fellow TechSpeakers at Mozilla, hanging out with them and knowing that even after MozFest, they will be within easy reach. I can’t wait to see the amazing stuff we’ll organize here.
View Source 2018
The View Source 2018 was the fourth event in the View Source series. This is a traveling conference that changes venues and countries every now and then.
Mozilla invites front-end developers and designers to participate in this one-day, intimate, single-track conference. At View Source, we’ll bring together visionary speakers to look at the web from technical and design perspectives, across platforms and devices.
All the speakers were amazing and very inspiring. I could spend a whole blog post just dissecting every single talk, but instead of hearing about the talks, I think you’d rather form your own opinion by watching them.
I gave a lightning talk at the event, very quick one, 5 minutes about the Web Ecosystem and why we should be approaching it like a Milpa instead of a Plantation. You can watch my session here or if you’d like to see an extended 7 minutes version of that talk (which I prefer), then watch this instead. In that talk, I talk in the end about how I created a tiny language to do the talk, a language specialized in building presentations, the source code for nanodeck is on github.
I believe that by building new languages and thus being able to experiment with new forms of expression, we’ll enrich our web ecosystem and make it more fertile for the future. me, every day.
Which brings us to the Redecentralize Party hosted by the fantastic people from https://redecentralize.org. They are reigniting their meetups and assembling a new group of volunteers to help out. They’ve also started a new Patreon campaign which I think you all should join.
This was a very informal event with friendly people and awesome ideas. I gave a 5 min talk about Mozilla Libdweb, a birds-eye view on what it is, why should you care, and how to help out. I wish I had more time to do a proper libdweb talk, maybe in a future conference :-)
Decentralization and new forms of expression and taking back the control of our own online lives are all the same stuff when you think about it. It is all about making it easier, convenient and practical forms of distributing power and trust. All these events touched decentralization in one way or the other. When you’re providing on-ramps so that more people can become developers, you’re democratizing access to knowledge and in essence decentralizing it from the places where it used to be stored and shared with the few who were inside. When you show people how to build their own blog and host their data on DAT with Beaker Browser, you’re moving people away from silos and walled gardens, giving them back control.
Decentralization is a deeply technical problem, one that requires rethinking everything, from infrastructure to programming languages. But the impacts of it are felt far away from Computer Science discussions, they are felt in the millions of disconnected people who suddenly have control and knowledge.