Real talk at Mozfest’16: disruption, algorithmic bias, responsible delegation & community

I was going to start this blog with “Mozfest is one of my favourite conferences of the year”. That would have been incorrect, I realised as I wrote down those words. Mozfest is my favourite conference. It’s eclectic, organic, unpredictable, weird and immensely original.

Last year was the first time I was neither a volunteer or speaker. I went without any expectations of hitting any deliverables for work, and just went to enjoy being around a community of skilled developers, organisers, educators, librarians, journalists, civic tech projects, policy advocates, artists and scientists who believe in a free and open web. A messy web, for sure — but one that lets everyone claim their space and grow without impinging on the freedom of others.

As we near Mozfest 2017, I dug out notes from last year and wrote up my favourite take aways.

Disruption, impact & algorithmic bias

It’s strange being caught between the worlds of data and technology evangelists, tech phobes (technology will destroy democracy and human rights) and technosolutionists (technology can save the world).

Mozfest had a fascinating line up of speakers, including a favourite of mine, Zeynep Tufekci who spoke about algorithmic bias. She’s published a book about it, which you can read here.

Games & Fun

Mozfest would not be the same if it weren’t for games and a bit of fun. I saw people laser cutting necklaces, spray painting activist art, and my favourite — constructing a model of the human brain with paper. I loved this game so much that I took the instructions with me to try it in a workshop for @chaynHQ with women in shelters.

Responsible leadership & delegation

Politics & Art

As always, Mozfest is the place to discuss the threats our movement faces and this year was no exception.

Community

From being a eager volunteer four years ago to wrangler, the main stage speaker and workshop host — I’ve had an adventurous Mozfest journey. This year I found myself in the schedule which was both surprising and special.

This was the year I wanted to participate with no pull on my time. Early morning on the first day, I got a message from a friend who asked me when my session was, as she saw my name in the programme. My heart jumped out of my body.

Was it possible that I had applied for a session without realising it, got accepted, ignored all the session host calls, got a free ticket code but still bought a paid ticket, turned up to the conference venue and had a session?

I was terrified. I had not prepared for whatever I had subconsciously proposed and very concerned for my sanity. I could not find myself on the web schedule so I asked her to send me a picture. Turns out a quote from me had been included in the programme on the same page as the fabulous Mitchell Baker, Executive Chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation.

And that encapsulates the spirit of Mozilla and Mozfest in one page — where the community and the staff are featured equally.