Days

Pixels, Politics and P2P – Internet Days Stockholm 2016

Internet Days Logo

I just got back from the Internet Days conference in Stockholm, Sweden. I was flattered when I was asked to speak at this prestigious event, but I had no idea until I arrived just how much fun it would be.

lanyard

I loved the branding of he conference as it was all about pixels and love. Things we now need more of – the latter more than the former. As a presenter, I felt incredibly pampered. I had a driver pick me up at the airport (which I didn’t know, so I took the train) and I was put up in the pretty amazing Waterfront hotel connected to the convention centre of the conference.

chris loves internet

This was the first time I heard about the internet days and for those who haven’t either, I can only recommend it. Imagine a mixture of a deep technical conference on all matters internet – connectivity, technologies and programming – mixed with a TED event on current political matters.

The technology setup was breathtaking. The stage tech was flawless and all the talks were streamed and live edited (mixed with slides). Thus they became available on YouTube about an hour after you delivered them. Wonderful work, and very rewarding as a presenter.

I talked in detail about my keynote in another post, so here are the others I enjoyed:

Juliana Rotich of BRCK and Ushahidi fame talked about connectivity for the world and how this is far from being a normal thing.

Erika Baker gave a heartfelt talk about how she doesn’t feel safe about anything that is happening in the web world right now and how we need to stop seeing each other as accounts but care more about us as people.

Incidentally, this reminded me a lot of my TEDx talk in Linz about making social media more social again:

The big bang to end the first day of the conference was of course the live skype interview with Edward Snowden. In the one hour interview he covered a lot of truths about security, privacy and surveillance and he had many calls to action anyone of us can do now.

What I liked most about him was how humble he was. His whole presentation was about how it doesn’t matter what will happen to him, how it is important to remember the others that went down with him, and how he wishes for us to use the information we have now to make sure our future is not one of silence and fear.

In addition to my keynote I also took part in a panel discussion on how to inspire creativity.

The whole conference was about activism of sorts. I had lots of conversations with privacy experts of all levels: developers, network engineers, journalists and lawyers. The only thing that is a bit of an issue is that most talks outside the keynotes were in Swedish, but having lots of people to chat with about important issues made up for this.

The speaker present was a certificate that all the CO2 our travel created was off-set by the conference and an Arduino-powered robot used to teach kids. In general, the conference was about preservation and donating to good courses. There was a place where you can touch your conference pass and coins will fall into a hat describing that your check-in just meant that the organisers donated a Euro to doctors without frontiers.

Foodrobotwater

The catering was stunning and with the omission of meat CO2 friendly. Instead of giving out water bottles the drinks were glasses of water, which in Stockholm is in some cases better quality than bottled water.

I am humbled and happy that I could play my part in this great event. It gave me hope that the web isn’t just run over by trolls, privileged complainers and people who don’t care if this great gift of information exchange is being taken from us bit by bit.

Make sure to check out all the talks, it is really worth your time. Thank you to everyone involved in this wonderful event!

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Interviewing a depressed internet at The Internet Days

This morning I gave one of two keynotes at the Internet Days in Stockholm, Sweden. Suffice to say, I felt well chuffed to be presenting at such a prestigious event and opening up for a day that will be closed by an interview with Edward Snowden!

Presenting the keynote

Frankly, I freaked out and wanted to do something special. So, instead of doing a “state of the web” talk or some “here is what’s amazing right now”, I thought it would be fun to analyse how the web is doing. As such, I pretended to be a psychiatrist who interviews a slightly depressed internet on the verge of a midlife crisis.

A depressed internet

The keynote is already available on YouTube.

The slides are on Slideshare:

Here is the script, which – of course – I failed to stick to. The bits in strong are my questions, the rest the answers of a slightly depressed internet.

Hello again, Internet. How are we doing today?

Not good, and I don’t quite know why.

It’s not that you feel threatened again, is it?

No, no, that’s a thing of the past. It was a bit scary for a while when the tech press gave up on me and everybody talked to those other guys: Apps.

But it seems that this is well over. People don’t download apps anymore. I think the reason is that they were too pushy. Deep down, people don’t want to be locked in. They don’t want to have to deal with software issues all the time. A lot of apps felt like very needy Tamagochi – always wanting huge updates and asking for access to all kind of data. Others even flat out told you you’re in the wrong country or the phone you spent $500 on last month is not good enough any longer.

No, I really think people are coming back to me.

That’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Yes, I suppose. But, I feel bad. I don’t think I make a difference any longer. People see me as a given. They see me as plumbing and aren’t interested in how I work. They don’t see me as someone to talk to and create things with me. They just want to consume what others do. And – much like running clear water – they don’t understand that it isn’t a normal thing for everybody. It is actually a privilege to be able to talk to me freely. And I feel people are not using this privilege.

I want to matter, I want to be known as a great person to talk to.

Oh dear, this sounds like you’re heading into a midlife crisis. Promise me you won’t do something stupid like buying a fancy sports car to feel better…

It’s funny you say that. I don’t want to, but I have no choice. People keep pushing me into things. Things I never thought I needed to be in.

But, surely that must feel good. Change is good, right?

Yes, and no. Of course it feels great that people realise I’m flexible enough to power whatever. But there are a few issues with that. First of all, I don’t want to power things that don’t solve issues but are blatant consumerism. When people talk about “internet of things” it is mostly about solving inconveniences of the rich and bored -instead of solving real problems. There are a few things that I love to power. I’m great at monitoring things and telling you if something is prone to breaking before it does. But these are rare. Most things I am pushed into are borderline silly and made to break. Consume more, do less. Constant accumulation of data with no real insight or outcome. Someone wants that data. It doesn’t go back to the owner of the things in most cases – or only a small part of it as a cute graph. I don’t keep that data either. But I get dizzy with the amount of traffic I need to deal with.

And the worst is that people connect things to me without considering the consequences. Just lately a lot of these things ganged up on me and took down a large bit of me for a while. The reason was that none of those things ever challenged their owners to set them up properly. A lack of strong passwords allowed a whole army of things that shouldn’t need to communicate much to shout and start a riot.

So, you feel misused and not appreciated?

Yes, many are bored of how I look now and want me to be flashier than before. It’s all about escaping into an own world. A world that is created for you and can be consumed without effort. I am not like this. I’m here to connect people. To help collaborative work. I want to empower people to communicate on a human level.

But, that’s what people do, isn’t it? People create more data than ever.

Maybe. Yes, I could be, but I don’t think I am. Sure, people talk to me. People look into cameras and take photos and send them to me. But I don’t get explanations. People don’t describe what they do and they don’t care if they can find it again later. Being first and getting quick likes is more important. It’s just adding more stuff, over and over.

So, people talk to you and it is meaningless? You feel like all you get is small talk?

I wished it were small. People have no idea how I work and have no empathy for how well connected the people they talk to are. I get huge files that could be small. And they don’t contain any information on what they are. I need to rely on others to find that information for me.

When it comes down to it, I am stupid. That’s why I am still around. I am so simple, I can’t break.

The ones using me to get information from humans use intelligent systems to try to decipher what it all means. Take the chat systems you talked about. These analyse images and turn them into words. They detect faces, emotions and text. This data goes somewhere, I don’t know where and most of the users don’t care. These systems then mimic human communication and give the recipient intelligent answers to choose from. Isn’t that cool?

People use me to communicate with other people and use language created for them by machines. Instead of using us, humans are becoming the transport mechanism for machines to talk to each other and mine data in between.

This applies to almost all content on the web – it is crazy. Algorithms write the news feeds; not humans.

Why do you think that is?

Speed. Constant change. Always new, always more, always more optimised. People don’t take time to verify things. It sickens me.

Why do you care?

You’re right, I shouldn’t be bothered. But I don’t feel good. I feel slow and sluggish.

Take a tweet. 140 letters, right?

Loading a URL that is a tweet on a computer downloads 3 megabytes of code. I feel – let’s name it – fat. I want to talk to everybody, but I am fed too much extra sugar and digital carbs. Most of the new people who are eager to meet me will never get me.

This is because this company want to give users their site functionality as soon as possible. But it feels more sinister to me. It is not about using me, it is about replacing me and keeping people inside of one system.

I am meant to be a loosely connected network of on-demand solutions. These used to be small, not a whopping 3 Megabytes to read 140 characters.

People still don’t get that about me. Maybe it is because I got two fathers and no mother. Some people get angry about this and don’t understand it. Maybe a woman’s touch would have made a better system.

But the worst is that I am almost in my 30s and I still haven’t got an income.

What do you mean by that?

There seems to be no way to make money with me. All everybody does is show ads for products and services people may or may not buy.

Ask for money to access something on me and people will not use it. Or find an illegal copy of the same thing. We raised a whole generation of people who don’t understand that creating on me is free, but not everything that I show is free to use and to consume.

Ads are making me sick and obese. Many of them don’t stop at showing people products. They spy on the people who use me, mine how they interact with things and sell that data to others. In the past, only people who use me for criminal purposes did that. Blackmail and such.

Can’t you do anything about that?

I can’t, but some people try. There’s ad blockers, new browsers that remove ads and proxy services. But to me these are just laxatives. I still need to consume the whole lot and then I need to get rid of it again. That’s not a healthy way to lose weight.

Some of them have nasty side effects, as you never know who watches the watchmen.

What do you need to feel better?

I want to communicate with humans again. I want to see real content, human interactions and real emotions. I don’t want to have predictable creativity and quick chuckles. I want people to use me for what I was meant to do – real communication and creativity.

Yes, you said that. What’s stopping you?

Two kinds of people. The ones who know my weaknesses and use me to attack others and bully them. This makes me really sick, and I find it disappointing that those who act out of malice are better at using me than others.

The second kind of people are those who don’t care. They have me, but they don’t understand that I could bring prosperity, information and creativity to everyone on the planet.

I need to lose some weight and I need to be more open to everybody out there again. Not dependent on a shiny and well-connected consumption device.

So, you’re stuck in between bullies and sheep?

Your words. Not mine. I like people. Some of my best friends are people. I want to keep empowering them.

However, if we don’t act now, those who always tried to control me will have won. Not because they are good at it, but because the intelligent, kind and good people of the web allowed the hooligans to take over. And that allows those who want to censor and limit me to do so in the name of “security”.

You sound worried…

I am. We all should be. This is not a time to be silent. This is not a time to behave. This is a time that needs rebels.

People who use their words, their kindness and their willingness to teach others the benefits of using me rather than consuming through me. Hey, maybe there are quite a few here who listened to me and help me get fit and happy again.

The feedback so far was amazing. People loved the idea and I had a whole day of interviews, chats, podcasts and more. Tomorrow will be fun, too, I am sure.

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Firefox OS App Days: It’s a Wrap!

Over the last few weeks, Mozilla sponsored a worldwide series of hack days for developers to learn about creating apps for Firefox OS. Dubbed “Firefox OS App Days,” the events took place in more than 25 locales around the world, starting on 19 January in Mountain View, California and ending on 2 February in Berlin, Germany. The events were organized with the support of our Mozilla Reps, the Mozilla community and Firefox OS partners Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom in Africa, Asia, Europe, New Zealand, as well as North and South America.

Hacking

Hacking at a Firefox OS App Day

2,500 New Developers for Firefox OS

Our goals were to educate developers around the world about Firefox OS and open web apps and inspire them to start building apps for the Firefox Marketplace.

We engaged with over 2,500 developers worldwide. Hundreds of apps were demonstrated at the events, and many of them have already been submitted to the Marketplace. Some of the apps developed include:

  • Bessa – An image editor for Firefox OS, demonstrated in Berlin
  • Web Sliding Puzzle – a sliding puzzle game made from the Firefox OS App Days logo, demonstrated in Paris by Mathieu Pillard
  • Ash’s Rising – a strategy game, demonstrated in Toronto
  • Travel Saver – a local travel app, demonstrated in Warsaw
  • FoxKehCalc – a Fox-themed calculator, demonstrated in Tokyo

In addition to apps, we saw over two million impressions of the #firefoxosappdays hashtag on Twitter, and hundreds of photos from the events were posted on Flickr, Facebook and other social media sites.

Sample of Apps Developed at Firefox OS App Days

Sample of Apps Developed at Firefox OS App Days

Going Forward

Thanks to everyone who participated in the App Days, and if you haven’t submitted your app to the Marketplace yet, please do so as soon as you can. If you have a website or github repo hosting your app or a post about your App Day experience, please add your links to the comments below. We’d love to hear from you and check out your apps in progress. If you missed the events, or there wasn’t one in your area, stay tuned — our Mozilla Reps team plans to enable more in the near future.

And if you are just hearing about Firefox OS, and want to get started developing apps on your own, the Developer Hub, the Hacks Blog and the Mozilla Developer Network are excellent places to start. To stay in touch with upcoming App Days, developer phone releases, and app development news, subscribe to our monthly Firefox Apps & Hacks newsletter.

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Join Us for Firefox OS App Days

Firefox OS App DaysIf you’re a developer interested in web technologies, I’d like to invite you to participate in Firefox OS App Days, a worldwide set of 20+ hack days organized by Mozilla to help you get started developing apps for Firefox OS.

At each App Day event, you’ll have the opportunity to learn, hack and celebrate Firefox OS, Mozilla’s open source operating system for the mobile web. Technologists and developers from Mozilla will present tools and technology built to extend and support the Web platform, including mobile Web APIs to access device hardware features such as the accelerometer. We’ll also show you how to use the browser-based Firefox OS Simulator to view and test mobile apps on the desktop.

Firefox OS App Days are a chance to kick start creation of apps for the Firefox Marketplace, and represent a great opportunity to build new apps or optimize existing HTML5 apps for Firefox OS, as well as demo your projects to an audience of peers, tech leaders and innovators.

We’re exciting to be working with our Mozilla Reps, who are helping organize these events, and with our partners Deutsche Telecom and Telefónica, who are supporting a number of them across the world.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Event Details

The agenda for these all-day events will be customized for each locale and venue, but a typical schedule might include:

  • 08:30 – 09:30 Registration. Light breakfast.
  • 09:30 – 11:30 Firefox OS, Firefox Marketplace & Mozilla Apps Ecosystem.
  • 11:30 – 12:00 Video. Q&A.
  • 12:00 – 13:00 Lunch
  • 13:00 – 17:00 App hacking.
  • 17:30 – 19:00 Demos & party.

Signing Up

Firefox OS App Days launch on 19 January and continue through 2 February, with the majority of the events taking place on 26 January. This wiki page has a master list of all the events and their registration forms, from Sao Paulo to Warsaw to Nairobi to Wellington — and many more. Find the App Day nearest you and register. (N.B. Venue capacities vary, but most are limited to 100 attendees so don’t delay.)

Getting Ready

Plan on bringing your Linux, Mac or Windows development machine and an idea for an app you’d like to develop for the Firefox Marketplace. If you have an Android device, bring it along, too. You can see the Firefox Marketplace in action on the Aurora version of Firefox for Android.

If you want to get started before the event, review the material below and bring an HTML5 app that you’ve begun and want to continue, get feedback on or recruit co-developers for.

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Report from San Francisco Gigabit Hack Days with US Ignite

This past weekend, the Internet Archive played host to a crew of futurist hackers for the San Francisco Gigabit Hack Days.

The two-day event, organized by Mozilla and the City of San Francisco, was a space for hackers and civic innovators to do some experiments around the potential of community fiber and gigabit networks.

Kick-off

The event kicked off Saturday morning with words from Ben Moskowitz and Will Barkis of Mozilla, followed by the Archive’s founder Brewster Kahle. Brewster talked a bit about how the Archive was imagined and built as a “temple to the Internet.”

San Francisco’s Chief Innovation Officer, Jay Nath, talked about the growing practice of hackdays in the city and the untapped potential of the City’s community broadband network. The SF community broadband network is a 1Gbps network that provides Internet access for a wide range of community sites within San Francisco—including public housing sites, public libraries, city buildings and more.

These partners are eager to engage with developers to use the network as a testbed for high bandwidth applications, so we quickly broke off to brainstorm possible hacks.

Among the proposals: an app to aggregate and analyze campaign ads from battleground states; apps to distribute crisis response; local community archives; 3D teleconferencing for education and medicine; “macro-visualization” of video, and fast repositories of 3D content. Read on for more details.

Hacking

Ralf Muehlen, network engineer, community broadband instigator, and all-around handyman at the Archive prepared for the event in a few very cool ways—unspooling many meters of gigabit ethernet cable for hackers, and provisioning a special “10Gbps desktop.”

The 10Gbps desktop in action

 

The 10Gbps desktop was a server rack with an industrial strength network card, connected to raw fiber and running Ubuntu. While not a very sensible test machine, the 10Gbps desktop was an awesome way to stress the limits of networks, hardware, and software clients. Video hackers Kate Hudson, Michael Dale, and Jan Gerber created a video wall experiment to simultaneously load 100 videos from the Internet Archive, weighing in at about 5Mbps each. On this machine, unsurprisingly, the main bottleneck was the graphics card. Casual testing revealed that Firefox does a pretty good job of caching and loading tons of media where other browsers choked or crashed, though its codec support is not as broad, making these kinds of experiments difficult.

Demos

Here are some of the results of the event:

Macro-visualization of video

Kate Hudson, Michael Dale, and Jan Gerber created an app that queues the most popular stories on Google News and generates a video wall.

The wall is created by searching the Archive’s video collection by captions and finding matches. Imagined as a way of analyzing different types of coverage around the same issue, the app has a nice bonus feature: real-time webcam chat, in browser, using WebRTC. If two users are hovered over the same video, they’re dropped into an instant video chat room, ChatRoulette-style.

The demo uses some special capabilities of the Archive and can’t be tested at home just yet, but we’re looking to get the code online as soon as possible.

Scalable 3D content delivery

As Jeff Terrace writes in his post-event blog: “3D models can be quite big. Games usually ship a big DVD full of content or make you download several gigabytes worth of content before you can start playing… [by] contrast, putting 3D applications on the web demands low-latency start times.”

Jeff and Henrik Bennetsen, who work on federated 3D repositories, wanted to showcase the types of applications that can be built with online 3D repositories and fast connections. So they hacked an “import” button into ThreeFab, the three.js scene editor.

Using Jeff’s hack, users can load models asynchronously in the background directly from repositories like Open3DHub (CORS headers are required for security reasons). The models are seamlessly loaded from across the web and added into the current scene.

This made for an awesome and thought-provoking line of inquiry—what kind of apps and economies can we imagine using 3D modeling, manipulation, and printing across fast networks? Can 3D applications be as distributed as typical web applications tend to be?

Bonus: as a result of the weekend, the Internet Archive is working on enabling CORS headers for its own content, so hopefully we will be able to load 3D/WebGL content directly from the Archive soon.

3D videoconferencing using point cloud streams

XB PointStream loads data from Radiohead's House of Cards music video

Andor Salga, author of an excellent JS library called XB PointStream, wanted to see if fast networks could enable 3D videoconferencing.

Point clouds are 3D objects represented through volumetric points rather than mesh polygons. They’re interesting to graphics professionals for a number of reasons—for one, they can have very, very high-resolution and appear very life-like.

Interestingly, sensor arrays like the low-cost Microsoft Kinect can be used to generate point cloud meshes on the cheap, by taking steroscopic “depth images” along with infrared. (It may sound far out, but it’s the basis for a whole new wave of motion-controlled videogames).

Using Kinect sensors and WebGL, it should be possible to create a 3D videoconferencing system on the cheap. Users on either end would be able to pan around a 3D model of a person they’re connected to, almost like a hologram.

This type of 3D video conferencing would be able to communicate depth information in a way that traditional video calls can’t. Additionally, these kinds of meetings could be recorded, then played back with camera interaction, allowing users to get different perspectives of the meetings. Just imagine the applications in the health and education sectors.

For his hack, Andor and a few others wanted to prototype a virtual classroom that would—for instance—enable scientists at San Francisco’s Exploratoreum to teach kids at community sites connected to San Francisco’s community broadband network.

After looking at a few different ways of connecting the Kinect to the browser, it appeared that startup Zigfu offers the best available option: a browser plugin that provides an API to Kinect hardware. San-Francisco native Amir Hirsch, founder of Zigfu, caught word of the event and came by to help. The plan was to use Websockets to sync the data between two users of this theoretical system. The team didn’t get a chance to complete the prototype by the end of the weekend, but will keep hacking.

Point clouds are typically very large data sets. Especially if they are dynamic, a huge amount of data must transfer from one system to another very quickly. Without very fast networks, this kind of application would not be possible.

Other hacks

Overall, this was a fantastic event for enabling the Internet Archive to become a neighborhood cloud for San Francisco, experimenting on the sharp edges of the internet, and building community in SF. A real highlight was to see 16-year-old Kevin Gil from BAVC’s Open Source track lead a group of teenaged hackers in creating an all-new campaign ad uploader interface for the Archive—quite impressive for any weekend hack, let alone one by a team of young webmakers.

From left: Ralf Muehlen, Tim Pozar, and Mike McCarthy, the minds behind San Francisco's community broadband network

Thank everyone for spending time with us on a beautiful SF weekend, and see you next time!

Get Involved

If you’re interested in the future of web applications, fast networks, and the Internet generally, check out Mozilla Ignite.

Now through the end of summer, you can submit ideas for “apps from the future” that use edge web technologies and fast networks. The best ideas will earn awards from a $15k prize pool.

Starting in September, you can apply into the Mozilla Ignite apps challenge, with $485,000 in prizes for apps that demonstrate the potential of fast networks.

Check out the site, follow us @mozillaignite, and let us know where you see the web going in the next 10 years!

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