The Triumphs and Tribulations of MozFest Curation

MozFest 2017 has six themes, called Spaces: decentralization, digital inclusion, privacy and security, web literacy, open innovation and the youth zone. Each space is organized by a heroic team of wranglers, who go through the Github repository of session submissions and chooses the ones that best tell the story of that Space. This year we had over 816 submissions across the six spaces. With only 400 or so sessions featured at the festival, curation is an incredibly challenging task!

Space Wranglers and sessions facilitators meet at MozFest 2015

Brett Gaylor, one of the wranglers for Privacy & Security, defined space wrangling as:

“a consensus-based deliberation program with a group of other Mozillians, and together we pour through the submissions to see if they match the vision for the space.”

He added, “It’s really interesting to see the diversity of approaches and perspectives that come in from such a global call for proposals.”

Veteran Space Wrangler, Erika Owens

What’s it like to space wrangle?

“A mixture of exciting and terrifying,” said space wrangler Martha Sedgwick. “Working with the Digital Inclusion team is true to its name — everyone feels included.”

Edoardo Viola, one of the wranglers for Web Literacy agreed:

“Being a space wrangler is like being part of a team in a final of the Superbowl. We need to use all our energy and our talent to plan and manage a wonderful space for participants.”

How do you get involved?

Shwetal Shah, one of the wranglers for the Youth Zone, is a MozFest veteran, volunteering in 2015 and leading a session in 2016. Having worn all the festival hats, she can definitively say that being a space wrangler is the best way to experience MozFest. Shwetal is a great example of the opportunity for personal development that wrangling can have.

As one of the youngest wranglers, she identifies strongly with her chosen space:

“Since a lot of older generations think that young people can’t really be leaders or lead change, forums like these act as great platforms and catalysts to not only change their views but also challenge it.”

Edoardo has also held other roles at Mozilla Foundation. In addition to attending MozFest 2016, he helped organize a free and open weekly lab series called WEBATECA to help locals in his hometown of Cagliari, Italy increase their web literacy skills. Edoardo was also the Regional Ambassador Lead of the 2016 Mozilla Day Cagliari and Mozilla Dev Day hackathon events.

For Edoardo, wrangling for the Web Literacy space is a chance for him to continue along the same lines of these projects and also gain additional skills to take back to Cagliari for future projects.

Promoting the Youth Zone at MozFest 2015

How do the travel stipends work?

The space wrangler teams carefully sift through each submission, asking follow-up questions and looking for a variety of thought and experience. Each space has travel stipends to ensure a diversity of voices are taking part in the conversations to promote and protect a healthy Internet.

“The stipend program is a good initiative to make this festival inclusive and give the chance to those people to come to the festival who might otherwise never been able to,” said Shwetal.

All of the space wranglers bemoan how difficult it is to choose who receives the stipends, since “we’ve had teachers, university researchers, charity workers, and community space leaders from nearly every continent apply for a stipend,” said Martha.

She joked she’s “slightly disappointed by the lack of submissions from Antarctica.”

2017 Digital Inclusion Space Wrangler Kenyatta Forbes

What can wrangling do for me?

The process itself of looking through the Github submissions has been valuable for the space wranglers. Viki Dhinakaran from the Decentralization space pointed out that many of the proposals are backed up by research and he “will definitely take that knowledge back to India for further projects.” As a software company employee in his native India, Viki has appreciated learning more about the policy and governance of the Internet, which enriches his tech background.

“The web right now isn’t just about tech. I feel a responsibility concerning that: there are so many stakeholders who have to be accounted for with different solutions over different verticals,” said Viki.

Other wranglers have a personal connection to their chosen space as well. As a teacher, Martha is surrounded by the imagination of the future generation:

“they will be the ones who will fully use the Internet we are shaping now. The future is so linked to the Internet that it needs to reflect everyone. If it’s built to be inclusive with an equal platform, the ideas aren’t lost.”

Learn more about this year’s space wranglers here.

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