Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellowship — My experience at MozFest Nov ‘15

I always say time flies by whether we are having the time of our lives or we are not. In the case of my Fellowship it is the former. Events and trips that seemed far away and that I anticipated with much excitement are now great memories.

In this post I want to share my experience running a session about gender equality on the Internet at MozFest 2015. My session was called “A Feminist Internet in 140 Characters” and it was part of the Digital Citizenship track. The idea was to run a session using APC’s “Feminist Principles of The Internet”. If this is the first time you are reading one of my stories, you should know I am APC’s Ford-Mozilla Open Web Fellow.

It was my first time ever at MozFest (and hopefully not the last). It really is an incredibly intense and enriching event. For me running the session using “The Feminist Principles of The Internet” represented a challenge because I didn’t fully understand all of them and I didn’t fully agree with them. This had me a little worried. That was until I sat down with my good friend Drew who is also a Fellow. One of the best things about this Fellowship is having become friends with the Fellows. Drew helped me look at the situation from a different approach. He said something along the lines of making my session about the topic I care about (gender equality on the Internet) and not to worry too much about the Principles and how they are worded.

Following this advice I decided to use the Principles as a starting point for the conversations I wanted to happen during my session. I began my session sharing with the participants how APC had been receiving attacks on Twitter from hateful people and since my session was all about using Twitter to discuss gender equality I had been initially discouraged. But then I realized that is exactly the kind of outcome haters are looking for and then their hate and narrow mindedness became an extra motivation for running an awesome session.

Screenshot of one of the attacks APC staff members got on twitter (accompanying image removed out of respect for my readers).

After that I shared the fifteen original “Feminist Principles of the Internet” with the attendees. Then we followed what I’ve named the “traffic light” method. I asked the attendees to place stickers on the Principles as a way to vote. Red was for “principles you don’t agree with”, yellow was for “principles you agree with but are not your favorite” and green was for “favorite principles or principles you agree the most with”. Each participant got 3 stickers of each color.

Participants casting their red, yellow and green votes.

Then we focused on discussing and rewriting the ones with the most green and yellow stickers. This was also a good way to reduce the number of principles to work on which was important given we only had one hour for the session.

The next task I gave the attendees was to make the Principles tweetable. This implied two things: a) 140 characters or less b) something that they themselves would feel like tweeting, retweeting and/or liking from their own Twitter accounts. We would call this remixed version “The Open Web Feminist Principles”.

I split the big group in sub groups and assigned between 1 and 2 principles to each group. With this task in mind a few insights starting coming up. For example, some participants shared how some Principles were confusing or unclear. Some mentioned they found certain Principles to be repetitive and that they could easily be merged. Participants were having in depth discussions about these topics and when the time to share the tweetable version of the Principles came some groups were sad they didn’t have enough time to rewrite all the Principles they had been assigned.

Participants discussing the Principles and making them tweetable in groups.

I loved everything about this session but my highlights were:

  1. At the end of the session we put something on the Internet.

2. A few participants enjoyed the session so much that they stayed afterwards to keep the conversation going.

3. All my cohort and the Mozilla team was there in one way or another. The other two female Fellows (Gem and Paola) were participants which was super important for me, Tim and Tennyson where sitting nearby as a way to show support, Brett (our Director) was a participant and taking some great pics, Melissa (our Program Manager) was around for support too and the remaining fellow (Drew) who had been running a session in parallel came as soon as his session was over to see how I was doing. Sometimes being the first cohort of anything can be tough and we have faced many challenges but one thing is for sure: We are a team and that day in particular I felt incredibly grateful for being part of it.

Here you can find all the tweets we shared that day using hashtag #mozfeminist.