Today I tried out Google Fonts but think I made a mistake, since they weren’t displaying properly. So then I went crazy trying to recreate a Super Mario scene, using images picked up across the web. I still can’t get the li to align properly. But, knowing it’s far from perfect, still happy with how far I got!
After publishing this, Laura generously sent me a remixed comic with very cool CSS tricks. Will try these out tomorrow!
Taiwanese animation about Prism, Stop Watching Us, and an NSA octopus.
These days, with all the Prism/Tempura surveillance we’re learning about, one can feel quite powerless.
While it’s only a very small piece of a larger effort, I’m proud to be working with people who care about a third way.
A Third Way: Teach the Web
We believe in user empowerment that balances free expression online with a respect for user privacy.
We want to help people take control of their digital lives—and foster a user-centric web. We can rebuild the web we lost.
To get there, we need to help people discover the joy of making things on the web. It’s important to show that the web is not a scary place. It is fun and useful to participate online while still controlling your data. This is a valuable lesson and one that should trump flashy apps or simple convenience.
I’d like to share some stories about people who volunteer to teach the web. Be it in their homes, their neighborhood shops, their city squares, or wherever, these are real stories about people who want to empower users of the web.
It’s grassroots, it’s modest, but it’s a start.
Teach your family
Activism starts at home. You begin with the people you care about, the people closest you.
Like the activists who install Firefox for their friends and families, teaching the web at home doesn’t cost anything and is sustainable. You don’t have to worry about big budgets or outreach. Just help the people in your living room.
This is Unnati, a 14 year-old webmaker. Under the mentorship of Gauthamraj, she’s gone from learning about the web to teaching it. At home, she’s taught her mother and father how to make the web. And now this year, bolstered by her new confidence in teaching, she’s organizing a bigger event in her city.
And there’s Brendan, who started a maker club with his kids. Together they try out fun projects each week and use the web to blog about them. The web is a platform that helps the family find new things to make and to share them with the world.
Teach your neighbors
Sometimes to make a difference, you want to go outside your home. Teaching your neighbors is a natural next step. It’s about giving back to your community and helping people near you.
That’s what Meraj did. He visited a shopkeeper on the corner, and taught them how to hack. The shopkeeper made a new website for his store, and his whole family left feeling empowered and joyful about the possibilities of the web.
Recently, the Greek government abruptly shut down the state broadcaster, ERT, as part of its ongoing austerity drive. To help keep the news on air, Nikos, Freddy and Pierros ran workshops to teach webmaking and Open News tools to professional and citizen journalists. Set up in a public square, they taught fellow Greek citizens how to be the makers of their own news.
Teach the teachers
Once you’ve taught your family and your neighbors, the next step is to teach other people how to teach the web. This means helping others develop techniques and tools that they can use to teach their family and neighbors.
This step is harder, but ultimately very powerful. It can increase the impact of grassroots engagement by an order of magnitude.
Lawrence and San James organized their first “train the trainer” event in Kampala, Uganda. They wanted to host a multi-stop webmaking tour to local schools, and in order to teach all those students, they needed more mentors.
Using techniques from our training in Athens, Lawrence and San James successfully mentored 40 new teachers. Lawrence noted, “It didn’t feel like a training but like a collaborative exchange of knowledge and ideas on hacking the web.”
To scale these efforts even more, we launched an online training/collaboration called Teach the Web. With nearly 6,000 participants, and despite all the associated challenges of coordinating and mentoring so many people, it was incredibly rewarding to find so many kindred spirits who care about making the web.
These are stories from the participants in this course. And there are many more.
The Web is made by people
As the first iteration of the #teachtheweb course comes to a close this week, we’re asking ourselves: what next?
There are a several promising opportunities. Several mentors are localizing the course and will run the it again in different languages, including Spanish, French and hopefully others.
We’d also like to repeat the course, rolling in what we learned this time around. Likely, the course will be shorter (3 weeks instead of 9) and perhaps involve more tools than just webmaker ones.
I’d also love to see more resources on how to teach privacy. I whipped up a prototype to teach encryption, using material from the EFF. But there’s a lot more we can do to make these topics approachable, fun and easy to learn.
As we look to what else we can do, how we can promote a third way of online participation, I’m reminded of a story Jeannie told. She was helping a young learner make his first website. After publishing on the web, something clicked for him. He said, “Wow, so if I can make and share something on the web, does that mean that everything on the web is made by people?”
Yes, yes it is. And we can do our part to help more people not be intimated or indifferent about the web, but instead to make things together and celebrate our shared, connected humanity.
In debates about the need to protect privacy, the most common response from people is, “Well, I have nothing to hide.”
Daniel J. Solove in The Chronicle of Higher Education unpacks this reply and provides nuanced arguments about why the usual back-and-forth on privacy is missing a key point.
Solove argues that usually, when people describe the abuses of personal data, they refer to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The novel describes a harrowing totalitarian government that watches its citizens obsessively and demands strict discipline. Yet when faced with a Big Brother situation, many citizens may not be troubled by severe government monitoring. Especially if that information is seen as trivial, such as the hotels they stay at, the books they own, or the kind of beverages they drink.
Instead of Orwell, Solove recommends the metaphor from Franz Kafka’s The Trial:
Kafka’s novel centers around a man who is arrested but not informed why. He desperately tries to find out what triggered his arrest and what’s in store for him. He finds out that a mysterious court system has a dossier on him and is investigating him, but he’s unable to learn much more. The Trial depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people’s information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used.
The Solove concludes that the real concern is not necessarily the collection of data, but the processing of it.
Legal and policy solutions focus too much on the problems under the Orwellian metaphor—those of surveillance—and aren’t adequately addressing the Kafkaesque problems—those of information processing. The difficulty is that commentators are trying to conceive of the problems caused by databases in terms of surveillance when, in fact, those problems are different.
The individual, living in our contemporary all-too-real Trial, is frustrated by a system in which they feel helpless and powerless. It’s not about inhibiting behavior through monitoring, but rather the denial of participation in data processing.
Privacy is often threatened not by a single egregious act but by the slow accretion of a series of relatively minor acts.
It’s a great read.
[24-Hour Bookclub](24-Hour Bookclub is a reading flashmob organized by Diana Kimball and Max Temkin. Every few months, we pick a book, read it in one day, and talk about it on the internet.) is a reading flashmob organized by Diana Kimball and Max Temkin. Every few months, we pick a book, read it in one day, and talk about it on the internet.
Nice idea. Think I’ll dive into the first read, Jack Cheng’s These Days.
All a-glow still from our wedding last week. Couldn’t be happier, Peter!
PS. Some meme-tastic hadouken images as well.
Back in March, we kicked off the first in hopefully a series of train-the-trainer (TTT) events for webmaking.
The idea is to run events that train people who go on to train others how to teach the web. We focused on practicing an open and participatory ethos, adapting lesson plans, and facilitating events.
This is a post to share what we did and encourage people in designing their own train-the-trainer events.
How to run a Webmaker Train the Trainer
Our prototype, the Reps Training Days, ran for four days in Athens, Greece with 40 Reps from around the world. The agenda was based on Laura Hilliger’s research and insights on successful TTT program and on Allen Gunn’s participatory event methodology. It was made possible by the amazing Mozilla Greek community.
Our participants were Mozilla Reps, a fantastic ambassador program with some of the most active and thoughtful Mozillians. Reps have been early adopters and innovators with Webmaker. They organized nearly 50 events during last year’s Summer Code Party and are leading the way in developing tools, tutorials, and localization for Webmaker. It seemed like a natural fit to run our first TTT with them.
1. Participate in a Webmaker event
The first day of Training Days was spent observing and participating in a Hive Pop-Up, organized by Hive Athens. This was an opportunity for the participants to experience a webmaker event firsthand, to see the tools and activities in action, to learn about the logistics, and to understand the vibe.
We then circled up to discuss what we saw. Participants shared their reflections on what worked well at the pop-up and what they would change if they did their own.
2. Build the training agenda
Then we opened up the training days properly. While we had topics in mind we wanted to hack on together, it was more important that everyone in the room thought about what they want to learn or discuss. So we had an agenda brainstorm.
To do this: we split into groups for 3 people. On post-it notes, we wrote down topics. 1 topic per post-it and the encouragement to write it as concretely as possible.
Then everyone pasted the notes on the wall. We read them all and then clustered them by themes. This collaborative board formed both critical event documentation as well as agenda fodder for the coming days.
3. Teach someone something
To warm up to the idea of teaching, we then got into pairs. The task: teach someone something in 5 minutes.
One person would go and then switch. Even if you knew what was being taught, you were encouraged to play a good learner, asking good questions and prompting the teacher.
After this exercise, we circled up and discussed what we observed from this experience. For many, it was a great way to think about how to explain something clearly, using metaphors and knowledge building blocks. It helped bring people into a teaching mindset.
4. Make a learner profile
Now that we’ve been thinking about teachers and learners, we made small groups and hacked together a learner’s profile.
This goal of this activity was to think about who our learners are. We used Webmaker tools to make these profiles, which was also a fun, maker-y way to be introduced to these tools. Participants were encouraged to think about real people they want to teach.
5. Hack an event invitation
After we’ve made our learner profiles, we thought about the kind of event we wanted to run. Most of the participants have already organized Webmaker events in the past, so there was already some familiarity with the format.
Nevertheless, it was helpful to hack together an event invitation. The idea was to think about your target learner and to make an invitation that would speak to them. Again, we used Webmaker tools to quickly pull these invitations together on the web.
6. Deep dive into lesson plans
With a learner profile, an event invitation and some familiarity with Webmaker tools, we then introduced the hackable kits. These are remixable lesson plans that help mentors, trainers, etc. to teach the web. The idea is that they are adaptable to different contexts and that people can share new ways of teaching in a shared format.
Participants poked around in the kits and asked questions. We also did some fun icebreakers so they could see the activities in action and get some energy going.
7. Playtest lesson plans
Now came the fun part. We had to plan for a real live event the next day. So participants got into groups of five with one group facilitator.
They had to design a four-hour agenda for local youth. Using three recommended activities from the kits, they adapted the lesson plans. Then they walked through a script for the next day, including having people role-play as learners. It was a lot of fun to see and a great way to prepare for the big day.
8. Put training to practice at a live event
So with some nervousness, we got ready for the live event. About a hundred youth were coming. We split into different rooms, each group of five trainers getting about 20 learners.
While there were the inevitable challenges (the internet is down! one kid won’t listen!), the Reps did a terrific job. They rolled with their scripts, adapting them as they saw what was working. They also taught well in smaller pairs with their learners, sometimes adding new challenges or tools to fit their needs.
It was a beautiful and fun thing to see. All the training the days before paid off: the youth had a lot of fun and so did we.
9. Reflect on event, lessons learned and where from here
We ended the event with a closing circle. We talked about what we saw that day, what worked well, what didn’t. We each shared one thing we appreciated about the experience, and what we’re excited about doing next.
With that, we headed out into the city to enjoy the day and the rest of our time together.
10. Go forth and teach!
Each participant left the Training Days with a local plan. It was a short list of possible collaborators in their hometown, a date for a small team huddle to bring those people together, and then a date for a larger Webmaker event to organize with their new collaborators.
We also started interest groups in topics like localization and offline tools. And now, a few months later, the participants from Training Days are now “Webmaker Super Mentors”, mentoring people in an online course to learn how to teach the web.
In the coming months, we hope to keep remixing and improving these agendas, as well as work with people who are interested in TTT in their own cities or communities.
Let us know if you’d like to get involved! #teachtheweb
Last month I was kindly invited by Supermarkt’s founder and curator, Ela Kagel, to speak about my perspective as a woman in Berlin’s media + tech scene. We were asked to share our influences, mentors and key life moments that shaped who we are.
The talk was part of an event called Berlin’s Media Art Community: A Female Perspective with ten female speakers.
Despite this large female contingent, and in a city where the workforce is generally evenly distributed, it is at odds that the theoretical discourse on media art and net activism, executive roles and directorships, as well panelists and participants at events and festivals, are still male-dominated. In a forward-thinking city like Berlin, this ongoing gap should be addressed so that the wider fields of media arts and activism are fully inclusive of the multitude of female skills and viewpoints on offer.
I quite enjoyed hearing the journeys of the fellow speakers, as well as the lively discussion afterwards. (What does feminism mean today? Is gender equality about an attitude or are there systemic forces that need changing? And “If I can’t dance it’s not my revolution!”)
In particular, it was interesting to reflect and share what moments I found pivotal in my life and to learn about the motivations in other women’s lives.
Here are the slides and notes from my talk.
We were asked to discuss what motivates us, who supported us and what were decisive moments in our career. I suppose like most journeys, mine started before my adult career. For me, the most influential activity growing up was playing soccer
From age 5 til now, I played a lot of soccer. And it’s biggest lessons to me were 1) team work and 2) confidence. Team work was hugely important in the adult world, and soccer helped you understand how each person plays their role, and how it comes together to something greater than it’s individual parts.
Soccer gave me that collaborative, psychological framework — and also physical confidence. A lot of young women have body issues. But what I loved about sports was how it made you feel confident and powerful in your body. Soccer showed me another kind of aesthetic. One that emphasized athleticism, strength and its own kind of sexiness.
This is Brandi Chastain, who scored the winning goal in the Women’s World Cup in 1999. There’s a beauty in her confidence, in her joy and accomplishment. Watching this moment live on TV made me want to be like her, to celebrate with her + her team.
So as I grew up, I kept playing. Even when I was the only woman on the team. I learned not to question why I was there. I learned that if I wanted to play, I had to be confident in who I was and that I belong on the field just as much as the guys.
Beyond just playing, I learned about encouraging other women to get on the field, and to celebrate them when they did well. I attended Mt. Holyoke College, a women’s liberal arts college in New England. It focuses on a generalist’s education, on interdisciplinary thinking. And socially, it really taught me about being supportive and inclusive.
It was a bit over the top, but the women there were so committed to helping each other. At every public event or class, you’d have someone shout “Go, girl!” and cheer each other. Of course there was competition, but the goal was not to discredit or undermine other women, but to celebrate each other’s successes. If felt like if we supported one another, there would be more successful women in the world. And that means there will be a better, more equal society.
Academically, at college there was one professor who was particularly inspiring. Prof. Hartley taught a survey course on the Great Books, reading things like Dante, Plato, and Descartes. We live in an era where the Western Canon is heavily criticized but the original works are seldom ever read. Prof. Hartley encouraged us to read the source material, to build up an historical foundation that we could respond to — and to understand how these thinkers shaped our world today.
The Great Books show us that we’re not the first generation to face deep change — be it technological, social or otherwise. And reading these books, freely and uninhibitedly, should not only be a right, but an intellectual need for humankind. And having access to source material is essential for our education, discourse and self-improvement.
From there, ideologically, it was an easy step to understand why Free Culture is necessary. Around the time I graduated, Lawrence Lessig, prof. at Standford, founded the non-profit Creative Commons. It’s a movement dedicated to making cultural works more accessible, more reusable with legal tools. Lessig was a philosophical mentor. And his arguments about Free Culture won me over so I began working for his organization, Creative Commons.
Working at CC was a huge opportunity to meet a tribe. A globally distributed group of people fighting for the same cause. A tribe that understood the value of collaboration and access to knowledge. But nevertheless, then as now, I would often find myself the only woman in the room.
That’s why I appreciate efforts like tonight’s event. Let’s get more women on the field and encourage them to keep playing. Let’s celebrate their successes together.
And especially here in Berlin, with people like you, we can make shape the world to our values. More free, more open, more participatory. More equal. I’m looking forward to learning from you all tonight and seeing what we can grow together. Thanks for listening!