Many MozFest participants are making a repeat visit to London this week for the Festival. And some make it a habit of returning to the Festival year after year. Bastian Greshake-Tzovaras is one such MozFest regular; he’s also Director of Research at the Open Humans Foundation, a data-sharing and collaboration platform; and co-founder of openSNP, an open-source website for sharing genetic data.
What’s made Greshake-Tzovaras a repeat MozFest participant? He cites the variety of experiences MozFest offers, from interactive workshops and hands-on collaborations to art exhibitions and art-making experiences. And, he says, “there are so many interesting people from so many walks of life that you’re guaranteed to broaden your horizons and make friends by chatting with any of the other participants. Making these friends is one of the biggest draws of going to MozFest, it’s always a pleasure to meet up again with participants and make new friends.”
Greshake-Tzovaras was originally drawn to MozFest when the event featured an entire floor devoted to Open Science. A bioinformaticist by training, he works on enabling peer-production through collaborative citizen science. His work with Open Humans “enables people to learn from their own personal data and share them in a secure way to be used in citizen science research collaborations.” Open Humans looks to potential data sources that many of us generate without even thinking about it, like social media trails or data from wearables. The platform aims to help people make informed decisions about how to use and share this data. When MozFest evolved to focus on five core internet health issues, Greshake-Tzovaras’s citizen science project found a natural home in this emerging movement.
“Our work is pretty much at the intersection of Privacy & Security, Openness and Web Literacy,” he says. “Our goal is to empower people to learn and understand the data they are collecting and leaving all across the web. As these data can be quite sensitive, we are of course very interested which privacy and sharing models can be applied to them to make the data as useful for research as possible, while honoring the consent and sharing of individuals.”
As the Festival evolved, Greshake-Tzovaras’s work has evolved and grown as well, and benefited from connections made and ideas sparked at the Festival. “Going to MozFest has been great for developing our ideas on data management and designing for collaboration,” says Greshake-Tzovaras. “With participants of so many different backgrounds, it’s a great place to discuss your own project and figure out what needs and wishes your potential users have!”
Greshake-Tzovaras highlights what might be one of the main reasons why so many participants become MozFest regulars. “Even when coming to MozFest for the first time it felt like coming back to family, in the best possible sense. People are so welcoming and friendly!”
And, finally, he offers a bit of advice to both newbies and veteran festival-goers alike: “Don’t miss out on the great parties after the main program to hang out with the new friends you’ll make!”
Get your tickets to MozFest 2019 now! Can’t make it to London? Follow #MozFest and @mozillafestival on twitter, and check out mozillafestival.org for a livestream of the Festival’s Dialogues & Debates series over the Festival weekend.