All posts tagged berlin

Berlin’s Media Art Community: A Female Perspective

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.

Liberal Arts

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.

Free Culture

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!

Mozilla Webmaker auf Deutsch

I was kindly invited to speak at the press conference for Campus Party Europe, a one-of-a-kind hack camp taking place in the former Berlin airport Tempelhof from August 21 – 26.

Campus Party is truly a remarkable feat of logistics and organization, with 10,000 participants camping out in nearly as many tents.

It’s got an unfathomable reputation in Latin America and Spain, taking place in dozens of cities with partying hordes of hackers. In Brazil it’s been rumored that government ministers dance with Free Software mascots. And it’s exciting to see the event coming to Berlin.

I prepared a talk in German about Mozilla’s involvement in Campus Party, and since there isn’t that much information about Mozilla Webmaker in German, I thought it might be useful to share the slides and notes: HTML5 slides and PDF.

Viel Spaß!

Campus Party 2012 & Mozilla

Herzlichen Dank für die Einladung.

Mein Name ist Michelle Thorne. Ich bin für Mozillas globale Veranstaltungsstrategie verantwortlich. Wir haben uns gefreut, als wir gehört haben, dass Campus Party nach Berlin kommt.

Mozilla und Campus Party (CP) haben sehr viele Werte und Ziele gemeinsam. Nur um ein paar zu nennen:

1. Campus Party

CP zielt darauf ab, junge Leute für offene Technologien zu begeistern Es ist eine globale Plattform, die jedem ermöglicht sich und seine Ideen einzubringen.

2. Telefonica

Wir arbeiten auch gerne mit spannenden Partnern aus der Industrie zusammen. Mit Telefonica arbeiten wir schon heute eng zusammen um mobile zu revolutionieren. Unser Ziel bei dieser Zusammenarbeit ist, die Prinzipien von Open Source Technologien auch im mobilen Internet zu fördern.

3. Mozilla will in Berlin wachsen

Mozilla hat bereits eine Präsenz in Berlin, und will weiter wachsen. Mozilla schafft am Standort Berlin neue Arbeitsplätze. Campus Party ist für uns eine gute Möglichkeit Kontakte zu knüpfen.

Was also ist die Vision, die wir bei Mozilla verfolgen?


Unsere Vision ist: Millionen von Webnutzern zu Webmachern zu verwandeln.

Bei Mozilla geht es immer darum, die Nutzung des Web so sicher und bequem wie möglich zu machen, Zusätzlich wollen wir mehr Menschen dazu inspieren das Web selbst mit zu gestalten.

Webmaker Initiative

Der Schüssel hierfür liegt in der Medienkompetenz von Jugendlichen.

Wir sehen Ergebnisse von einer Bitkom Untersuchung in 2011, die 10 – 18 Jährige fragte, wie sie onlinte tätig sind:

  • 98% der Jugendlichen sind online.
  • 74% der Jugendlichen nutzen aktiv soziale Netzwerke
  • 23% Webseiten erstellen

Die letzte Zahl ist nicht schlecht, aber wir glauben, dass es noch viel besser geht.

Bei Mozilla heisst “das Web Gestalten” mehr als Status Updates zu schicken. Wir glauben, dass viel mehr Jugendliche das Web aktiv selber gestalten können.

Werkzegue wie Thimble

Um Jugendlichen beizubringen, wie sie mit offenen Webbausteinen das Web gestalten können, stellt Mozilla diverse Werkzeuge bereit.

Zum Beispiel Thimble:

  • Thimble ist ein visueller Webeditor.
  • Damit kann jeden Webnutzer Webseiten erstellen, anpassen und veröffentlichen.
  • Ohne zusätzliche Software installieren müssen, alles läuft vollständig im Browser.

Im Editor kann man links den Code verändern, rechts sieht man Live die Vorschau. Mit einem Klick wird die neue Website veröffentlicht.

Thimble reduziert die Hürden zum Einstieg in Webmaking.

Summer Code Party

Tools sind ein wichtiges Standbein unserer Strategie. Veranstaltungen sind das andere.

Seit Juni feieren wir die Mozilla Summer Code Party, eine globale Reihe von Lehr- und Lernveranstaltungen. Mitmachen kann jeder, die Veranstaltungen sind kostenlos.

Wir stellen dazu neue Webmaker-Werkzeuge und Event-Kits zur Verfügung. Von Indien bis Argentinen, vom Kuchentisch bis ins CERN, gab es bereits 600 Veranstaltungen.

Die größte Summer Code Party findet demnächst in Berlin statt: Campus Party Berlin.

Mozilla bei Campus Party

Mozilla bietet bei Campus Party Aktivitäten für Anfänger, Fortgeschrittene, und Experten an.

Wie sieht das konkret aus?

  • Webmaker Pop-up: Mehrere Stationen an denen man mit “Mitmach-Projekten” spielen kann
  • Workshop zum Entwickeln von mobile Apps, die auf Web-Technologie basieren und daher Plattform unabhängig sind
  • Keynotes von Mark Surman, Executive Director von Mozilla und Chris Heilman, Principal Developer Evengelist Mozilla

Wir sind dankbar für die tolle Zusammenarbeit mit Campus Party und freuen uns sehr auf die kommenden Wochen!

Awesome Foundation Berlin: ACPad Guitar

A modded acoustic guitar snapped up the most recent Awesome Foundation Berlin grant. The €1000 cash was handed over in a brown paper bag to Rainer from RobinSukroso to further develop his stringed axe meets drum machine, the acpad guitar.

Rainer spent the last 3 years kitting out his guitar and now, with the experience behind him, he wants to build a mod that lets musicians play the acpad without having to completely rip up their guitars. The grant will help Rainer get his tool market-ready.

Awesome Feedback

During the betabreakfast, we also received good feedback for the next rounds of the Awesome Foundation.

Firstly, some previous applicants told us they’d appreciate a heads-up about the status of their application and the invitation for feedback on why they weren’t selected. Unfortunately, it’s too much effort to write an email responding to every application, and to be frank that sort of admin is exactly counter to the Awesome Foundation, but the sentiment is duly noted.

In the future, we the trustees want to invite all applicants to the final demo round and offer feedback if they show up and ask us in person. We see this as an opportunity grow a network of creative projects and collaborators, and these grant events are perfect for talking about ideas and finding other people who are interested. If we can facilitate more match-making, beyond just the one grantee, than all the better.

Also, for the next round we’ll invite past grantees to demo what they’ve made since receiving the money. This provides a chance to see how the projects have grown, or where they’ve run into trouble, and hopefully spark even more collaborations and awesome projects. ^^


One of the joys of working out of betahaus is that whirling, creative projects unexpectedly sweep you up into their world — even if for a second.

Last week a few betahausers & I joined in for a scene in Diego Agullo and Dmitry Paranyushkin’s “Politics, politics politics politics. Politics…” film.

Let’s just say it wasn’t hard to remember the lines.

Politics, politics politics politics. Politics… from Dmitry Paranyushkin on Vimeo.

Iron Blogger Berlin

Inspired by Joi, who in turn was inspired by Mako, my jacket-twin Nicole & I are tying ourselves to the mast and taking up the Iron Blogger challenge.

The set-up?

Iron Blogger is a blogging and drinking club. The rules are pretty simple:

  • Blog at least once a week.
  • If you fail to do so, pay €5 into a common pool.
  • When the pool is big enough, the group uses it to pay for drinks and snacks at a meet-up for all the participants.

I’m setting up the script to run on my new server (woot! geeking out), and if you’re up for the challenge, drop us a line.

Drinking buddies, I mean, fellow bloggers are very welcome.

Image: Iron Angel by BurnBlue / CC BY NC SA 2.0

€1,000 from Awesome Foundation Berlin – Apply by July 10


It’s been one helluva few weeks for Awesome Foundation worldwide. Our fearless founder, Tim Hwang, was awarded $244,000 from the Knight Foundation to:
experiment with a new funding model for local journalism, The Awesome Foundation: News Taskforce will bring together 10 to 15 community leaders and media innovators in Detroit and two other cities to provide $1,000 microgrants to innovative journalism and civic media projects.
This is brilliant and underscores earlier thoughts on how more traditional funding bodies can take advantage of Awesome’s machete-cutting-through-red-tape funding approach. As Knight itself noted, the typical grant application process is lengthy and “inconsistent with the rapid pace of innovation and affects applicants’ ability to respond to market opportunities.” Awesome is fast, and no-strings-attached, which means you can turn around applications like whoa. Which is what we want to do in Berlin. So, get cracking. Apply by Sunday, July 10 with your most awesomest idea for a chance at a brown bag stuffed with €1,000 cash to make your project a reality. Make sure to select “Berlin” from the chapter menu. With our recent €1,000 grant, Agent Scott and the Graffiti Research Lab could purchase a bike and a heap of electronics for their latest adventure, blitzTag + Light Rider. [vimeo]

OKCon and A Generation of Bold Web Makers

The Open Knowledge Foundation is putting on its annual conference in Berlin at the end of the month. Daniel Dietrich has done a stellar job pulling together some of the most active and inspiring people in the Free/Open space, and I’m really looking forward to geeking out with folks about lsharing, hacking and building a Free Society.

I’ll be holding a pre-workshop on a topic that’s been on my mind since GlobalMelt and joining Mozilla to run event strategy, naming how can we get more out of meeting each other face-to-face?

The workshop is on June 29 from 10:00 – 14:00, and you can sign up here.

Internet-y communities love to meet IRL. Something about online collaboration fuels the need to see each other in person. With years of conferences, meetups, hackdays, barcamps, and all sorts of event formats in between, what have we learned about events as a effective way to embolden contributors, accelerate projects, and make a difference? I posit that we have to leverage the maker’s mindset, together with some webby wonders, to really grow the community circle and do events right. That means building things together in realtime, physical prototyping, and flexible, participatory agenda. Goodbye, industrial-era conference formats! How can we do this? What initiatives are in play that we learn from? How can we organize shared action IRL that fits our principles of openness? We’ll examine some of tactics from the maker scene as well as successful (and failed) efforts among open communities to be more effective, more impacting, and more fun when we meet IRL.

1000EUR for your awesome idea

A Street Named Awesome by moonlightbulb available under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Spring has sprung, and the Awesome Foundation Berlin is springing 1000EUR cash money for a mindblowingly awesome project.

The setup is simple: visit the online application form, write a short summary of your idea (better to explain what your idea is  rather than list all the awesome things you’ve done in the past), and please please please select “Berlin” from the chapter drop-down menu.

Afterward the trustees will comb through the ideas over multiple bottles of wine and decide on one submission that will receive 1000EUR in a brown paper bag — no strings attached.

Applications will be accepted until April 8. The grantee will be announced on April 14 at the betahaus breakfast.

What’s the Awesome Foundation all about? Read about our first grant that sent ice skaters to the Plexiglaswald or about other awesome projects the world over.

Ready, set, peer-fund!

Global Melt — the aftermath

It’s been a fantastic two days at Global Melt, and boy is my mind liquid. In a room filled with talented community instigators and caretakers, we hacked on tools and strategies to boost community health during events, to get things done IRL, and to most importantly enjoy what you’re doing and make a difference.

Global Melt 3 by jagataj, available under a CC Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 license.

The event kicked off with facilitation by the masterful “Don’t get me started on panels and Powerpoint” Allen Gunn. There was a post-it note mosh pit where we scoped pressing questions about how global, peer-driven communities benefit from live events (many thanks to SJ for transcribing nearly a hundred notes). We asked some tough questions, but there was one fundamental thing to tackle:

Why events?

Global Melt focused on the role of events for three reasons: 1) we’re prototyping this type of workshop, so it’s better to start with some concrete; 2) events are a microcosm of a community, so the dynamics manifested in them reflect the organization as a whole (think governance, funding, interactions among members, etc); 3) furthermore, all of the participating groups run events — some small, some large, and certainly many confronted with deep questions about purpose and impact.

With so much time and energy invested in events, isn’t it worthwhile to take some time to define why we run events in the first place?

Value proposition to participant

Often as event organizers we neglect or inadequately address the question: what does a participant get out of an event? In the trenches of logistics and operations, it sometimes feels like there’s not enough time to frame the Why. During Global Melt, we dedicated a round of discussion to defining several value propositions to participants on one hand and to the organizers on the other.

By identifying and articulating what someone gets out of an event, some issues around promotion, engagement, and the Caring Problem are resolved. So, for example, rather than saying you’re hosting a meet-up for web developers, which is very general and hard to gauge the relevance, you could invite experienced developers from news organizations to design HTML5 applications for visualizing raw data sources. Through clearer definitions of the target audience and the event’s purpose, you increase the probability of getting engaged participants who know why they’re there and what they will achieve.

Make the Hard Stuff Easy

On the first day, even before the planned tool sprint, we had our first beta release. Have you ever been to an event where you end up in a really interesting conversation with someone, exchange business cards and promise to be in touch, only to return home with a fistful of email addresses and numbers, unable to track why you’re supposed to talk with whom? Enter Sparklez, an analog interaction reminder conceived and prototyped by Asaf and others at Global Melt. It works like this: the event organizer hangs a piece of paper on the wall, aka the Sparklez interface:

Whenever participants make a connection with someone during the event and want to follow up on the conversation, they write their names on the paper with a brief note about what they want to talk about. After the event, the onus of following up with these interactions lies with the event organizer. The organizer must contact each listed person and confirm whether they have been in touch as indicated. Sparklez is a lightweight and fun way to ensure that people get the most out of networking and conversations at the event and that social ties are revisited and reaffirmed after the event is over.

Event documentation is another task that often withers on the vine because it’s tough and time-consuming. But we thought about how documenting an event could be more fun and engaging. Together with Alek and SJ, we conceptualized a Rapporteur Bounty. The game creates external incentives for attendees to document and talk about what they did and learned at an event.

For example, the organizers of the next Wikimania could offer a bounty for a Global Melt participant to speak at the conference about workshop or to send a write-up about certain sessions or topics. The bounty would vary depending on the people, the resources, etc., but you could think of fun ways to encourage groups to share outcomes and talk about what what achieved. It could also work for participants who couldn’t make it but were keen to attend. They could offer something symbolic or funny to incentivize someone to create more documentation about the event they missed.

Entertainment as an Organizing Principle

Having fun is an incredibly strong motivator. And especially when working with volunteer contributors, it’s paramount to ensure that people have a good time. But usually, entertainment is an afterthought and not strictly productive, such as a party following a workshop or an outing to Cirque du Soleil. But what about ways to leverage our drive for fun into positive contributions? Gamification is a horrible buzz word, yet the approach can be useful.

One prototype we produced plays with the concept of a totem and an evolving documentation monument. A data totem is a storage device such as a USB that is passed on from event to event. It contains curated content from the event, such as videos, photos, and summaries of sessions. The object serves both as a reminder to the recipient that they should add information and hand off the totem to the next event organizer.

For example, there are CC Salons all over the world. What if an organizer in Guatemala City copied the creative works showcased at his event and then passed on the USB to a salon organized in Warsaw? The totem evolves and takes on more information as it travels. Plus, you have increased interaction among the event organizers, since they can discuss the data on the device as well as chat about how their event went, etc. Moreover, the effort to compile a curate folder for the USB also means that it easy to copy the file and share it elsewhere.

I hope to continue working with Alek to iterate on the Global Melt Event Totem below. I’ll post the file for Global Melt soon. Who will get the totem next?

Leadership is a behavior not a person

Many participants noted that fatigue is a huge concern facing many event organizers and attendees is fatigue. There’s too much going on, too much of the same same, too much pointless blather, too many expectations and no replacements or fresh blood.

Jay offered the great insight that leadership is a behavior, not a person. That means the role of a community leader isn’t tied to a person as such but is instead a role adopted and adapted. If an organizer, for example, no longer has the capacity to do something like host a regular meet up or plan big annual event, it doesn’t mean that the project dies. Rather, by indicating that leadership is a way to act, and not the individual that fills it, there are ways to empower and inspire others to adopt leadership behavior. Are there projects that you’re involved with where leadership in this manner could be framed anew?

Relatedly, Charlie mentioned that communities are healthier when each member knows it can leave at any time. By having a clear exit, every moment someone stays is an autonomous decision to be there. This is deeply important is combating fatigue (sometimes people feel obligated to stay or that there’s no way out).

Talk about Events as Events

We all attend and many of us organizer lots of events. It’s incredibly helpful to be deliberate about why one participates at an event, and even more, to discuss this question with others. One tip for organizers is to offer a session or feedback round at an event to provide feedback but also to talk about why one holds an event in the first place, what it achieves and doesn’t, and how formats and other factors can be tweaked to reach goals.

What I also find useful, especially at an event where you’re highly involved, is to plan in the time immediately afterward to document, say thanks, and collect feedback. Even building in time during the event, while energy is high and everyone is sitting in a room, can be very effective. Or bake an extra few hours on the following day to digest and write-up meaningful summaries and thoughts. On-the-fly stuff is great, but a planned decompression can have even more impact.

There’s more!

Speaking of wrap-ups, this turned out to be quite a long summary. ^^ But, there are a few places I’d encourage you to look if you want more info. We’ve got a lot of documentation growing on the wiki, including an excellent survey of available communication and collaboration tools for events. There’s also a forthcoming list on 10 Ways to Make Your Event Not Suck, some helpful threads for an local organizer’s handbook and some event toolkits, plus some microevent formats and other ideas.

Importantly, we’d love to hear feedback and ideas to improve. And there’s a list of actionable next steps — like blog about Global Melt in your language or sign up for the discussion list to learn more.

Thanks everyone for coming. A super special thank you to Alina and Gunner, to Mark, to Alek and Joanna, and to all the participants and to studio70. Meeeeeeeeeeeelt!

Global Melt

Global Melt logo by Joanna Tarkowski, available under a CC Attribution Poland 3.0 license.

Very excited about this weekend’s inaugural Global Melt, a workshop for members and leaders of global peer-driven movements to explore what our movements have in common, share what we have learned, and discuss solutions and ideas for our respective communities.

We’ll be bringing together staff, board, and community members from organizations like Creative Commons, Wikimedia Foundation, Mozilla, as well as Global Voices, KDE, P2PU, Open Design City, CiviCRM and many more fantastic projects.

Global Melt will be the beginning of more deliberate inter-organizational collaboration, of shared action plans, and shared resources. Our immediate goal is to troubleshoot one concrete issue that is common to all participating organizations. We will conclude the workshop with a deeper understanding of running local, community-organized events that contribute to organizational goals in meaningful and sustainable ways.

Participants are looking to develop tools that makes their work more efficient, more effective, and more impacting. Rather than building resources in isolation or continually investing in event strategies from scratch, we can gain more by pooling resources and ideas.

Possible shared resources include:

  • Local planner handbook – How can we communicate best practices to better inform and inspire local organizers?
  • Event calendars – How can we coordinate calendars of events from our organizations and community members?
  • Event and agenda formats – How can we learn about other event formats and adapt them to our purposes?
  • Facilitation practices – How can we grow the network of experienced, collaborative facilitators?
  • Documentation and communication platforms – What tools and methods are effective for documenting and promoting events?
  • Contact database – How can we map and connect community members and contributors across projects?
  • Evaluation of venues, vendors, and public partners – How can we collect organizational and logistical experiences from hosting events?
  • Event funding sources or templates – How can we generate resources to help local organizers bootstrap their events?

We’ve got a very rich collection of discussion questions to kick us off. We’re also keen to collect input from people who can’t attend in person (the workshop is still open — let me know if you want to join! There’s also a party on Monday, March 28.)

A taste of the agenda topics:

  • What do you gain from inter-organizational collaboration?
  • How do you balance grassroots values with global consistency?
  • How do you make events sustainable?
  • Addressing “The Language Challenge”: Building multilingual movements.
  • Parachuting into larger events.
  • What tools do you use for contact management, calendars, communication, translation, venue information, and documentation?
You can read more on our wiki and sign up on the discussion list. This event won’t be possible without the support of Mozilla, studio70, and all the stellar participants.