Posts Tagged with “guests”

Building the Open Web — Jesse Dylan and Elizabeth Stark today

August 5th, 2009

Jesse and Elizabeth will be at Mozilla today to talk about building the open web. This talk will be streamed over the web at I hope to archive this as well, especially given the short notice.

Jesse and Elizabeth are planning on talking about “the ideas of social movements and engagement as they apply to the Internet . . . draw[ing] upon successful examples to discuss the factors involved in engaging large amounts of people to support an issue. We will discuss what is needed to communicate complex ideas in a more accessible fashion, and examine ways to inspire people to think more about these ideas, and to get them to actually do something about it.”

Jesse Dylan is a filmmaker and idea generator. He has worked with organizations such as RED, Bono’s one campaign, the Clinton Global initiative, and TED. He is the founder of Lybba, a medical non-profit seeking to provide medical information openly and accessibly on the web. Jesse created the “Yes We Can” video in support of the Obama campaign, which garnered over 100 million views.

Elizabeth Stark is a free culture advocate. She teaches at Yale University, founded the Harvard Free Culture group, and most recently produced the inaugural Open Video Conference in NYC. She has worked for years engaging a variety of communities and organizations around the ideas free knowledge and cultural participation.

Positive Reinforcement for Creativity

July 1st, 2006

The discussion Bob Sutton lead at the Mozilla Corporation was also very helpful in thinking about the need to find people who can see and encourage the possibilities in a new idea. This grew out of a discussion of risk-taking and trying new things. In particular, the need to be careful about changing our products too drastically while at the same time encouraging innovation and responding to changes in how people use the Internet.

The discussion with Bob helped me see this in more general terms. Creativity needs encouragement. It’s not that easy to generate relevant new ideas. Brainstorming, encouragement and a sense of potential are needed to foster creativity. But it’s often hard to see the possibilities in an idea someone else has come up with. And it’s very easy to be critical and to think of all the reasons something won’t work. Put these together and it’s easy to end up with a situation where new ideas seem nearly impossible to implement, require too much change to even think about, or just not worth the risk.

So having a group of people to test out new ideas and see something other than the difficulties is important. Of course, many people do this informally, testing out ideas on growing circles of people. Some organizational awareness and focus on this can also do wonders. The Mozilla project has some obvious groups for trying out new ideas — module owners, super-reviewers, the peers for a particular module, etc. Most of these are code specific, and few of these address ideas across code modules. Also, there are an entire range of questions related to the products (in addition to the underlying code) for which we don’t have obvious “seed” groups for thinking about new ideas.

Sometimes I hear people say that all ideas should always be in a public forum such as a newsgroup and that all discussions in selected smaller groups should be avoided. Now I have a better idea of why this hasn’t seemed right to me. Some ideas get no response in these forums. And these forums suffer from the problem that it’s much easier to criticize than to see the possibilities in a new, unformed ideas. And sometimes the loudest, most aggressive responses get the most attention, regardless of whether they are the most thoughtful, knowledgeable or rational.

I absolutely agree that public discussions are critical in open source projects, both in getting information to make decisions, communicating decisions and archiving the thought process that lead to decisions. That doesn’t mean that each that each germ of a new idea needs to be launched into the public as the initial method of thinking about it. Sometimes a small group of people with expertise and the ability to see possibilities among the constraints is a fine place to start. They keys are to get the discussion to ever broadening groups of people and to a public discussion at the right time, to be open to criticism and change of plans at all stages, to have a good ultimate decision-making process and to get records of rational eand decisions in a public pace.

This fit in well with the project currently and probably temporarily known as “Mozilla Prototypes”, which I’ll write about shortly. It also spurred my thinking about the types of groups that would be helpful in questions of Mozilla project governance. I’ll write about that soon too.

Organizational Impossibility

June 29th, 2006

Earlier this week Bob Sutton came to talk with Mozilla Corporation employees. Bob is a professor in the School of Engineering and in Organizational Behavior at Stanford, part of the founding team of the Stanford Design School, and the author of a number of books about organizations and their behavior.

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