Moz Fest 2015: Righteous hippies… or the future of the web?

“Your Moz Fest experience is as magical as you make it to be,” yelled the ‘Space Wrangler’ leading the first Saturday keynote at this weekend’s Mozilla Festival at Ravensbourne College. “This is your magic carpet ride…”


The festival, which is in its sixth year running, saw 1700 developers, designers, journalists, students, educators and more, assemble from across the globe to attend two days of very varied hands-on workshops.  Ages span the spectrum from under 10 to over 60 – with the average standing at around 30.

The meet is arranged across all nine floors of the sprawling venue with a massive schedule of individual events covering education, science, journalism, localisation, globalisation, participation, and a youth zone.  The big aim is to build upon the wider Mozilla mission statement.


If you attend Moz Fest it is impossible to ignore just how engaged the community it. During the keynote the crowd is very enthusiastic … whooping and hollering along.

People chat to strangers in the queue for coffee, the lift and over lunch. The general vibe is homemade – or ‘maker community’ – with hand written signs and notes stuck everywhere around the building. While the minister of fun and his team – who come dressed in spangly shirts and jackets – are dotted around the venue to help anyone who looks lost.


“It is chaotic by design – like the web,” said Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla foundation, during his time on stage. “We specifically designed Moz Fest as a platform that is open. It is ours – that we shape – just like the web.”


One of the most interesting areas is the “garage” on floor six. This is one of the rooms in the imaginary connected home of the future. It includes some of the hobby projects the community around the world are tinkering with. And features a true cloud gaming experience where you type a URL into your smartphone to instantly transform into a consul.

The leaders at Mozilla are keen to stress that the organisation represents far more than just Firefox. It is a global community of people that are committed to the goal of internet openness now and in the future.  This makes the real purpose of the gathering to help people find like-minded individuals to work with in future, thus spreading and deepening the reach of the community.

The atmosphere is anything but corporate with the sessions feeling more like seminars at university than anything you normally see in the workplace. Yet this doesn’t come without its difficulties.  In the ‘house rules’, spelled out during the keynote, there is a lot of emphasis placed on the need for respect and listening. And you can see how this could become an issue because such a clever – and at times intellectual – gathering can easily degenerate into self-important smarty-pants wind-bagging that leads nowhere. 

It is always easy to criticise organisations for their failings. Righteous hippies, puffed up with their own importance, is one criticism that certainly gets levelled against Mozilla. The true test will be whether Mozilla can build on its work with Firefox and strengthen its “open” mission as the web itself continues to accelerate. 


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