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  • Doug Belshaw 4:32 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Mozilla,   

    Mozilla Foundation ending its web literacy work 

    Tired red panda

    From an email blast sent to those involved in Mozilla’s education work:

    Mozilla Foundation will be ending all staff support for the Mozilla Hive and Mozilla Clubs initiatives by December 31, 2017. While we remain active in web literacy work through fellowships, research, and curriculum, we will no longer directly run local, on-the-ground web literacy programs. These changes will happen over the course of the coming year.

    I had the privilege of being Mozilla’s Web Literacy Lead until 2015, and took their Web Literacy Map work up to version 1.5, thanks to the help of a wonderful community of contributors. The work continued through the Mozilla Clubs after I left for the world of consultancy. All of the curriculum and related materials can be found in this GitHub repository.

    Chris Lawrence, until recently VP of the Mozilla Leadership Network, and my former boss, has written a blog post about Mozilla’s decision:

    But unlike the promise of a digital utopia that existed when we entered this work, when the Internet seemed like a grand path to greater participation and engagement, we now have seen the pendulum swing decidedly towards a dystopian narrative where surveillance, ever-connected devices, and pipelines of propaganda dominate. Of course, both and neither are completely true, and the binary choice further divides us and blocks thoughtful solutions from emerging. We are so excited about the Internet health framework because, like all ecosystems, the Internet is best understood when you realize that aspects can be both sick and healthy and need all of us to help tip the balance to health.

    To do this, Mozilla’s attention needs to be on a more immediate and bigger set of fights. We need to use our assets — our brand, our megaphone, our global community, our money — to confront those challenges head-on.

    I think another story can be told. One about politics and egos, of ‘missed opportunities’ and grant funding; and certainly of ways in which organisations should treat their community volunteers. But that’s a story to tell another time — preferably while nursing a drink. I’m happy to reminisce about a time in my life when, certain personalities aside, I can truly say I worked with some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.

    Thankfully, open stuff never dies. It forms the coral reef for the next generation of activity and action. I’m pleased to say that’s already been happening through We Are Open, a co-operative I formed with former Mozilla colleagues and friends. I’m also looking forward to leading Moodle’s work on a new project which, because it’s not grant-funded, hopefully won’t be subject to the same mis-steps as Mozilla’s work.

    So this post is a farewell to Webmaker and Mozilla’s Web Literacy work. I have fond memories.

    Image CC0 Mathias Appel

    • Chris Lawrence 11:40 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Doug,

      Thanks for the post, you were indeed an important person and thinker in this work and that it is no small thing that you have stayed involved. I do however think your title is misleading. Mozilla isn’t ending Web Literacy work as you suggest, but instead ending on the ground programming targeted at education. What we called Mozilla Learning (among other things, I grant you) is winding down and the programs you quote are ending or transitioning. But Mozilla is still committed to WL as it is a key plank in the Internet health report/movement. We are still investing in the concept through targeted fellowships, grants, research money, public advocacy campaigns and other programs that the foundation plans to roll out over the coming months. Mozilla is still investing in many of these programs to find new life outside of the organizational confines. This will look different in different places/projects and we have taken time and care to make sure aspects continue in other forms or end with grace. So the foundation’s tactics with the commitment to WL may be changing, it isn’t “ending.” Some, maybe you, might think this is parsing language but I don’t and I have confidence that Mozilla can make me not look silly saying that. Mozilla also has gotten better at realizing that it can be good at catalyzing something and then knowing when it grows and has life past its stewardship. I think Badges is a good example. We didn’t always handle that artfully but at the same time we also knew how best to get out of the way and start to find others that could take it forward better. Often with our money, help and partnership. I am immensely proud of the work I did helping IMLS Global, Digital Me, LRNG and others take the ideas/tools/assets further faster then we could.

      There are many stories that can be told of great wins, self-inflicted wounds, changing funding landscapes and yes missed or not chosen opportunities. I would actually call that working for a dynamic non-profit org. Also I’d love to see an org that didn’t struggle with politics and egos (seriously, where do I sign up?). Was this work victim of that sometimes, of course. I have often reflect on my own part to play in that and can only hope to improve from learning.

      It’s maybe an odd day for me to be in MoFo defense mode and there are certainly aspects of this I would have loved to see trend in a different direction, but in the end it became hard to justify the level of commitment and resourcing to do the local and groundwork that digital learning programs need, especially when so many others have the capacity to do it better and with the landscape changing so much over even just the last 18 months decisions had to be made on where the energy went. Mozilla resources must go into the advocacy/public education and investment in people who can effect change at key places like policy. Some of which are directly targeted at Web Literacy issues. In some ways its the logical extension of the great work you started. Glad to hear about your Moodle work, unrestricted funds are always good. But grants and grant funded work are a reality (and a positive one often) and we did our best to leverage that towards much of what you highlight here in your post, for good. It was our fiscal reality, and ALL money has strings attached.

      Anyway I just wanted to highlight some of this on your post. Missed you at MozFest, maybe next year we will both be there as community members and we can swap stories while nursing a drink or 3.

  • Doug Belshaw 3:24 pm on July 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: consultancy, freelancing, Human API, MozFest, Mozilla   

    How thinking of myself as a ‘Human API’ helped me get over my ego 

    Five years ago, at the Mozilla Festival, I walked around in a pimped white lab coat with the bedazzling words WEB LITERACY stuck onto it.

    Human API

    Beautiful, I’m sure you’ll agree. The point of the exercise was to be a point of contact for people who wanted to know more about the area of Mozilla’s work you were representing.

    I’d pretty much forgotten about the idea of ‘Human APIs’ until recently, when a couple of things happen. First, I started to do some work around an introduction to coding for a new client, which had me thinking about APIs again. These, for the uninitiated, are defined by Wikipedia as:

    In computer programming, an Application Programming Interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components. A good API makes it easier to develop a computer program by providing all the building blocks, which are then put together by the programmer.

    That sounds super-geeky, but it’s basically a way in which, for example, you can share something from your web browser to Twitter by clicking one button. It connects things together. It’s the reason awesome services like IFTTT can exist.

    Second, I’ve been reading Ryan Holiday’s new book, which in turn reminded me of the advice in his previous work, Ego is the Enemy.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how thinking about yourself as a Human API can help get rid of your ego in several useful ways. This is particularly important when, like me, you deal with lots of different people on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.

    1. APIs don’t complain unless you provide an invalid input.
    2. APIs provide an expected output for a given input.
    3. APIs are (usually) well documented.
    4. APIs are inclusive and don’t discriminate between users.
    5. APIs enable things to be built that are bigger than themselves.

    Another way to think of this would be to consider yourself a jigsaw piece and just one piece of a solution to a wider puzzle. You get to decide what ‘shape’ you are and where your edges are, but ultimately, the way to be successful is to help construct the solution. The great thing is that you also get to decide what puzzle you’re trying to solve.

    Thinking about life in Human API terms can be liberating. It forces you to think about what you’re willing to accept as an input, what you’re providing as an output, and what overall puzzle you’re helping solve. I think it’s a great metaphor and it’s one I’ll be using more often.

    Photo by Astrid Maria Bigoni used under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence.

    • Aaron 6:02 am on August 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Not only is it a great metaphor Doug, but a great way of introducing APIs.

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