MozFest leads to Open Eugene Festival

I was grateful to attend MozFest in London in October 2018. I’m no stranger to conferences. CES, OSCON, Build, NOMCON, Maker Faires, I’ve seen a few. Too few to mention. Hackathons are my favorite, or were until I encountered MozFest. Most conferences you go for the speakers, the swag, the talks. At MozFest you go for the people, the projects and the community.

Folks posing for a group shot at MozFest

What’s “Moz” ?

If Moz is not a term familiar to you, or you think I’m talking about an SEO products company. Moz is short for Mozilla. Yes, that Mozilla, the one that makes the Firefox Browser. Well, sort-of, let me explain: It’s a tale of to Mozillas really. On the one hand you have the Mozilla Foundation. Think of this as Mozilla Prime. Self described as “a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet.” It’s one of the oldest and more involved organizations that try and keep the web free and put into the hands of as many folks as possible. Super-do-gooders as it were. On the other hand Mozilla Corporation makes the Firefox browser (among other things), has employees, and strives to “promote choice and innovation on the Internet.”

Eugene Perspective

Mozilla Foundation makes it rain grant money all over the world for many well intended projects. We experienced this locally when Eugene participated in the Mozilla Gigibit Cities program in 2017–2018. Moz hosts a festival every year in London where teams from all over the world get together to celebrate the projects they are working on, provide great experiential spaces, hold workshops on things people care about and generally get to see each other briefly IRL (In Real Life).

I was lucky enough to be invited as part of my attendance in Mozilla Open Leaders program and a stipend from the aforementioned Mozilla Gigabit Cities grants. It’s unclear how I stumbled into such luck, but it’s likely related to the time and energy spent collaborating with the Eugene grantees.

What’s “Open” ?

Tech folks know about “open-source software” that’s shared with the community. DIY builders know about “open hardware” and share and remix projects openly on sites like Instructables. Scientists and government agencies talk about “open data”. Artists release art under creative commons licenses. Mozilla Open Leaders teaches “working open” defined it as:

  • Easy to understand,
  • Easy to share, remix and build on, and
  • Welcoming to all participants, from any background.

EugeneTech, with its mission of creating open and inclusive tech community in Eugene, runs projects in the open. We’ve been doing this without formal training for projects like KING-PONG that wrangled a dozen collaborators with diverse skills. Now we are formalizing our processes. We use tools like the Switchboard and the ET-Slack to work open. These are tools we also maintain for the community as a free community service. How open is that?

Say hello to Open Eugene Festival

Students in Mozilla Open Leader training being a project with them and “Open Eugene” is my project. I had a vision for open data in Eugene similar to Open Austin and was hoping to gather together local government, educational, and tech industry leadership to build a community of practice around open data. Fifteen weeks (the length of the course) is not enough time to create such a consortium, but it is enough time to throw a party. And that’s what we’re doing. Sort of a nerdy, do-gooder party, but we’ll make it memorable.

A gathering of open enthusiasts

EugeneTech and Silicon Shire logos

This is the likely the first intentional gathering of open enthusiasts in Eugene. BarCamp in January 2018 was a great un-conference and one of the most well attended sessions was on open data. For Open Eugene Festival we’ve spun up a fresh leadership team by soliciting the community, launched a web site, and are on-boarding projects, speakers, and entertainment for a fun fresh event December 14–15th downtown. We are very pleased to have local open source heroes Badgr hanging out. Our theme is “open all the things” and welcome everyone to the conversation in the process. This is the first of what will hopefully be an annual event.

What to expect at Open Eugene Fest

Friday night we’ll be kicking things off with some great local food and drinks at 5PM on Friday. On you way in you’ll do some DIY badge building, listen to the mellow jams, get your wild-crafted festival notebook and do some mingling as we wait for our friends to arrive. Friday’s main event is the projects themselves. A short demo and then an ask for community contribution from each. This can come in the form of launching the project in the open, efforts to gain collaborators, setting up milestones and roadmaps. This will set the stage for the weekend as collaborators gravitate to projects. We’ll end the night with some organized frivolity and then devolve into freeform networking, dancing, etc (otherwise known as a party). I heard a rumor there might be a large scale interactive art installation to play with as well. We the doors close just keep things going at Claim52 or Level-Up.

Saturday doors open at 9AM with folks working on said projects. Rotation stations with experts will set these projects up for success. Noon is a very special international experience about open communication live-streamed and followed by sunset exposition from a children's drumming troop from Rio de Janeiro. Locally sourced lunch and free-form time to button up the projects in the afternoon. Highlight of the day is a fantastic influencing workshop followed by an Open Badges big finish from the Badgr team.

I, for one, embrace our open future

It’s a reflective time in tech. We’re actively unlearning decades of bad patterns that closed doors to so many while holding them open to so few. The science is clear that diverse teams are better for not only the participants of projects, but also the consumers of those products, and the bottom line of the companies that make them.

When fostering innovative communities, exploring the collision of Arts and Tech, I see working open as a big hammer in the toolkit. I expect working open philosophy to be adopted in many projects both public and private.