Wednesday, 30 November 2016

MozFest, part 3: everything else

Last month I went to MozFest - the Mozilla Foundation's Festival for an open internet. I started sharing my notes in a first post about all the sessions on open data I attended, then a second post on sessions related to copyright and remixing public domain works, and now here is, well, everything else.

GitHub's Patchwork
Introductory session to GitHub, using the Patchwork learning module.

Let's encrypt : someone could listen
The facilitators started the session by trying to make us understand the principle of encryption with a simple exercise. It involved us splitting into groups subdivided into three teams: teams A and C decide on an encryption method (e.g. letter replacement); A write a message - the encrypted version goes to team B who try to decipher it. Then C get the message and decipher it using the key previously agreed with A. If B manage to crack the encryption they win.

After this, the facilitators mentioned a few tools, including:
  • Panopticlick, which checks how secure/private your browser is, and advises on how to make it better;
  • Lightbeam, a Firefox add-on which lets you visualise how your data is being shared by a particular website with others, and who these other parties are.

A bit of painting using stencils
Ok, so that's not the title of a session, but I did some of that too! It was fun, and there were some Creative Commons stencils...

Photo by @biblioluke; used here with permission

Dialogues & debates: Katherine Maher, Chris Soghoian and Ashe Dryden 
Over the week-end there was also a series of talks. In the session I went to Katherine Maher of the Wikimedia Foundation asked how communities can be called open if the issue of online harassment exists, Chris Soghoian of the American Civil Liberties Union talked about privacy and Ashe Dryden discussed the ethics of unpaid labour in open source.

Here are some points made by Chris Soghoian during his talk:
  • Before Snowden's revelations "we the tech community have been a bit lazy: we knew how to encrypt, but we weren't." Now encryption is finally used in mainstream consumer products: iMessage, WhatsApp... You do not need to be able to understand and use complex systems like PGP anymore to communicate securely.
  • Governments are now trying to force companies to weaken or remove encryption, because they can't spy on people. In the countries where putting this into law is not happening governments are also looking at hacking software.
  • There are privacy issues but also some human rights issues: we are not equally vulnerable to surveillance. Not everyone can afford an iPhone - "security shouldn't be a luxury, but it is." We need to do a better job of ensuring it's just as hard for authorities to watch deprived people as wealthy ones.
  • "Android is rubbish for security" [polite version!] Unlike iPhones, Android phones don't use encryption by default and often don't get security updates.
A comment from the audience pointed out surveillance techniques were not just used against "terrorists" but also children pornography.

Unleash the creator in you
"Whether we like it or not, realise we are doing it or not, we all create something, every single day."
In this session the facilitator made us break into groups of 5-6 people before taking us through a (very accelerated!) process of creating a product. She had prepared product ideas - each group picked one at random and got started straight away. Here are the stages we went through and the time we were allocated for each:
  • Brainstorm (10min) - we have what we want to do, what is the challenge of that product or idea?
  • Research (10min) - get user feedback on ideas. Sometimes you need to pitch your idea to the user: "Would this work for you?"
  • Mock up (5min) - designing a visual representation of the product on paper.
  • Prototype / model (10min) - that's the bit where we used Play-Doh!
  • Code / pseudocode (5min)
  • Presentation
My group was given the task to develop a device that regulates the temperature of the room around a person. In the brainstorming we talked about ways this could work, as well as issues arising when several people are in the room, each with their own temperature preference or need! For the research we presented our ideas and issues to the other team and listened to their feedback and questions.
It was great fun, and also showed what you could achieve working as a team with different areas of expertise and backgrounds!

And that's it (finally) for MozFest 2016 - roll on 2017?!

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

MozFest, part 2: copyright & public domain remix

Last month I went to MozFest - the Mozilla Foundation's Festival for an open internet. I started sharing my notes in a first post about all the sessions on open data I attended, and here is a write-up from two sessions related to copyright and remixing public domain works.

Reform EU copyright: what's wrong with it, and what you can do
What better way to start the festival than with a session on copyright - right?! Plus it took place in the library... 😍

Inside the library at Ravensbourne - with CC cushions for the occasion!
The facilitator explained that the European Commission has now handed the draft copyright law to the European Parliament - "MEPs are elected by citizens, and they will listen, if we're loud enough". Each speaker outlined a particular issue in the draft.

  • Caroline (Copyright for Creativity) made us do a quick quiz to see how well we knew copyright exceptions in Europe - "Is it legal to quote a picture, a film, ... ?" "Those of you who said yes, you live in Finland!" She was dynamic and frank in her way of speaking; after the quiz question around the copyright exception for text and data mining and the circumstances in which it is legal, she made the comment: "As soon as it's too efficient, it's illegal"!
  • Alek (Centrum Cyfrowe and Communia) discussed copyright and education - "Ask yourself which of the two is a basic human right, and I hope the answer is obvious". Education is so important, it is good that a copyright exception was included into this reform but the proposal is not enough. The text and data mining exception includes a non-contract override but not the education exception - which to Alek does not make sense.
  • Karolina (IFLA) gave more details on the proposed text and data mining exception in the draft: it would only apply to research organisations and for research purposes, whereas libraries want text and data mining to be allowed both for non-commercial AND commercial purposes. It is important that we don't let culture, research and enterprise be limited by arbitrary restrictions.
  • Dimi (Wikimedia Foundation) talked about the need to strengthen the commons. For example, laws in Germany and Spain are inconclusive when it comes to copyright in copies or digitised versions of public domain works - this is true to an extent even in the UK. "We're afraid that our public domain is being carved out. We believe there should be a clause to safeguard our public domain in the copyright legislation."
  • Tim (Creative Commons) explained the proposal on ancillary copyright for press publications. This type of copyright has already been tried in Spain, where people realised it wasn't working the way it was supposed to. In fact the web traffic to press websites decreased and Google News just decided to shut down. But "the publishers need Google News more than Google News needs the publishers". Another problem is that the proposal would not affect only articles, but also snippets on social media, potentially articles under open licenses; it would apply to scientific publishing too, threatening current open access models. Tim's view was that ancillary copyright (also called "link tax") goes above and beyond copyright, and the draft law does not make clear who that right applies to, potentially making it dangerously broad.
  • Diego (EDRi) described the proposed copyright upload filters on user content as a "massive attack on the Internet", YouTube's Content ID but worse, a "censorship machine". The Commission wants to prevent the availability of content by monitoring uploads, shifting the responsibility of enforcing copyright to the content platforms.

So, what can we do about all this?
  • Tune in to the #FixCopyright hashtag and find out what will happen;
  • join Wikimedia, Creative Commons or another organisation involved in pushing for copyright reform;
  • "Your voice matters!" - feedback during consultations, sign petitions, email your MEP;
  • play the numbers: the more we shout the more we'll get heard.

And finally:
  • We need to have these complicated conversations with people who may be unexpected allies.
  • Libraries need to advise users on how copyright works, because people don't know what they can and can't do with creative works. [Not my words, the speaker's!!]

Remix your own historical narratives
This session was delivered by three librarians from New York State - Nate, Davis and Matthew. They were clear from the start: "We're using you as guinea pigs!" They explained they are aiming to run this type of sessions for librarians to gain some web literacy skills, and for them to in turn run sessions in their libraries.

"There's a tremendous push from galleries, libraries, archives and museums to put collections online e.g. images" though some are locked down with copyright while some are open. In this workshop people learn some basic HTML and discover sources of free-to-use historical images by remixing and manipulating media to produce a zine or a comic.

The zines and comics can be created "in hard copy" by printing pictures and using paper and glue to put them together (which is what I did during the session!) but the aim is to use the zine-o-matic and comic creator templates. Using Mozilla Thimble to remix projects, you simply need to edit the code to make your own comic/zine by inserting the URL of pictures that are in the public domain or openly licensed and by changing the captions.

I loved the session as it was exactly the type of things I've been trying to do these past couple of years with the workshops part of my Commons are forever project: getting people to be creative and remix works that are freely and legally accessible while making them aware of public domain and open licences... And now I have two new tools to try out in a future workshop in my library!

Beer : a short story in 3 pictures GIF
The zine I created during the session... brought to you as a GIF

Notes from the remaining sessions will be published in a third blog post.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

MozFest, part 1: open data

Last month I went to MozFest!!! (And yes, I am still very excited about it.) MozFest is the Mozilla Foundation's Festival for an open internet. Session themes include "fuel the movement", digital arts and culture, open science, demystify the web, ... There is also a youth zone where adults are welcome and where most of the "making" happens.
MozFest 2016 took place at Ravensbourne College in London from 28th to 30th October. I was there as part of a group of six lucky librarians from across England to have received a bursary from the Society of Chief Librarians (SCL); you can still check out our adventures via Twitter under the hashtag #MozLibs. I have already written up my MozFest highlights for the SCL blog (watch out for the snapshots from the rest of our group!) but here I wanted to go in more details into some of the sessions I attended.

I happen to have attended three sessions touching on open data - I'll put all the other sessions I went to in another blog post. But before I start with the notes from my "MozFest open data Sunday afternoon" I want to share with you two quotes from Mark Surman (Mozilla Foundation Chief Exec) in his opening speech; just to get you in the mood.

"All of us has a chance to be leaders in this movement."
"Coding is a way to be an activist, to build to change the future". There are other ways: to campaign for copyright reform, privacy, through art...

Spot: six excited librarians in the MozFest crowd
Original photo (cropped here) by Paul Clarke under CC BY-NC-SA (Source: Flickr)

Open curriculum for open data training, presented by Stephanie Wright
This open data training programme has been developed by the Mozilla Science Lab; it's available on GitHub under an open license (Creative Commons Attribution). It comprises primers - short guides for self-guided learning - and instructor guides for using the primers in a group setting, with participatory exercises.
So far the topics covered include the why of open data, how to make your data open and share it, how to find data made available by others. Future topics being considered: visualisation, data ethics, privacy... The course writers are looking for feedback on the training and help from new collaborators for future topics (e.g. visualisation).

It was one of those sessions that four of our #MozLibs group attended a bit by chance, after meeting the session facilitator. Steph is a former librarian and had spotted on Twitter that there were a few of us around, so we arranged to meet up on the Sunday morning, she said she was running a demo on open data training... et voilà.
As it turns out, it's also the one session that I have already been able to do something from within my job. There are other things I have learnt at MozFest that I will be using, but this one has already had a visible impact: I have enrolled my colleagues to try out the open data training next month. I have set aside three one-hour sessions for us to explore the topics currently available as part of the course and see how useful it is for them - we may then (who knows) run sessions for other colleagues in the Council. I am also hoping to be able to give feedback to the course writers on how it worked for us and possibly inform future development.

Let's construct open data initiatives that last, facilitated by Rory Gianni
Open data is a common infrastructure. To make it last, it needs to offer value to everybody using it.
There may be issues around sustainability: if an organisation folds, the data needs to still be available so published on a platform that continues to exist. There is also the need to expand the data, i.e. update it regularly - it can't be something set up by one person that will stop being updated when that person leaves the organisation.
Note: the European Data Portal has an e-learning programme which includes a module on sustainability.

Rory made us discuss in small groups different aspects of open data within our organisations and how to make it sustainable. I was sitting next to @biblioluke so of course we unpicked Newcastle Libraries' open data, helped in our thinking by the people around us. Rory's questions - what's the vision for open data in your organisation? Who's involved? How will they succeed? - and examples made Luke and I feel good that we seem to be on the right track!
A conclusion to the session or next step for us could be: "Go to where people involved in your open data vision are and tell them what you're doing"!

For examples of what was discussed within the groups check out the session's collaborative notes.

Rory giving examples of what could be part of an organisation's vision regarding open data

Creating data literacy, facilitated by Dirk Slater
In this session we discussed how to "make data accessible for people who don't understand spreadsheets" by connecting different actors doing similar things for their own communities e.g. journalists, government, universities. Below are some of the points mentioned.

  • In libraries we are both data publishers and intermediaries. As an intermediary it is important to have a neutral position when doing data literacy work. 
  • Intermediaries need to show the result or tale that can be told from understanding or knowing how to use data, rather than just telling people: "these are the tools you could want or need to use" otherwise people are not going to be interested in learning about data or will not use the tools nor remember about them.
  • A problem may be that the quality of the data is linked to where you got the data from - being data literate is definitely a part of being information literate and knowing to differentiate between sources of data and information based on whether they are an authority in the sector discussed, what is their interest in publishing the information, etc.
  • Data literacy: a way to be a better citizen, exercise your democratic rights and duties better. If you can make sense of the data that is being published you can better understand how your environment works and what the stakes are when making decisions and participating in public consultations.
  • There are groups that have experience of connecting with citizens i.e. advocacy groups, activists group - would there be scope to partner with those groups?
  • There is a role to be played by data regulators, people looking at how data is being used.

Note: Tabitha, another of the #MozLibs, has also blogged about the open data training programme - on her site there are write-ups of some of the sessions she attended.