1. mySociety at MozFest 2013

    mozfest from the 9th floor

    We’re good friends with the people at Mozilla. Every Wednesday, they welcome us into their London Moz space for our weekly meet-ups. They are champions of empowering possibilities of the web through Open Source software (a world we’re part of too). And they’re all so smart and lovely. So of course we’d been looking forward to this year’s Mozilla Festival for some time.

    We had a table at the “Science Fair” on Friday night, where we literally had buckets of sweets (OK, they were little plastic buckets). Tom, our director, and Dave, from our international team, talked about mySociety’s work with anyone who came close. Perhaps people were drawn in by those sweets, or the FixMyStreet demo on the monitor, or even the (new!) stickers we had to give away… but regardless of the lure, we think they all learned a little bit more about how our platforms help empower people’s civic lives: from something as simple as reporting a flickering streetlight, to holding a public authority to account, to monitoring a whole parliament. (That’s FixMyStreet, Alaveteli, and Pombola, if you were wondering).

    O2 through Ravensbourne windows

    The Mozilla Festival’s venue was, once again, London’s astonishing Ravensbourne, right next to the O2 Millenium Dome. The setting magnifies the wonder of the event. Those big round windows make it feel like being in a spaceship made of Swiss cheese. The place is so open, and so vertical, that the activity and enthusiasm doesn’t just spread out, it spreads up. There is making and teaching, learning and sharing, going on across nine floors, and it’s easy to drift up and down from one themed space to another.

    We met old friends. We got to hang out some more with our Chilean brothers-in-code from Ciudadano Inteligente, and the excellent Gaba from Uruguay’s DATA, together with the good people from the OKFN. We made lots of new friends too. And all this didn’t just happen at the sessions. A lot of serendipitous encounters took place by the Alchemy coffee stations. Or on the stairs (khun Toy and khun Hui — hi!). Or in the Alphabet City party venue, afterwards.

    So a big “thank you” to that Fiery Fox, and an enthusiastic high five (yes, there was an unLondonlike amount of enthusiasm on show — possibly because quite a few of the attendees were over from the USA — which it is impossible not to be caught up by) to all the people we met at the event. Dave grinned his way through a wonderful Scratch tutorial from Code Club, met a whole array of cool people, got answers to some nerdy coding questions, and learnt about the awesome Hive learning networks… and lots more things besides. That already describes a great weekend. But beyond that, we hope we might see a few new mySociety-powered sites spring up elsewhere in the world due to sparks that were sparked at mozfest last weekend.

  2. Edinburgh meet-up

    Edinburgh - Victoria Street by Zoute

    Hey ho, Edinbro’.

    We’re holding our next pubmeet at the Kenilworth pub and we’d love to see you there.

    If you’re curious about mySociety’s work, or just interested in the wider digital democracy scene, do drop by for a drink and a chat. You’ll meet (at least) a couple of mySociety’s Developers, our Senior Consultant Mike, and our Marketing and Communications Manager Myf.

    When: Wednesday 30th of October, 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm-ish
    Where: The Kenilworth, 152-154 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3JD Map
    How: Add yourself to our Lanyrd page so we know there’ll be enough people to make it worthwhile.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.
    Hashtag: #mysocial

    NB: Look out for the mySociety hoodie (they look like this, only usually with a person inside). Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice about where we are sitting or if we have moved venues for unforseen reasons.

    The next day, we’ll be at the Capita Channel Shift conference. If you’re going too, we’d love to see you for drinks the night before.

    Photo by Zoute (CC)

  3. Where to meet mySociety

    For an organisation whose members normally work from home, we’ve been pretty sociable recently, with meet-ups, conferences, and our annual retreat. We’re glad to discover that we haven’t actually lost the ability to communicate face to face…

    If you’d like to come and sample our sharply honed social skills for yourselves, there are a number of opportunities still to come.

    Every Wednesday: London meet-ups

    Jed and Firefox[Above : mySociety designer Jed, chilling in front of the Mozilla Firefox]

    If you’re in London, do feel free to drop by and say hello, any Wednesday from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm. We meet at the Mozilla London space – and there are often other interesting things going on too.

    Meet-ups are not just for coders – they’re for anyone who would like to talk more about mySociety projects or the wider eDemocracy field. On October 30th, we’re tying in with the Open Government Partnership event; you’re welcome to attend then or any other week.

    Fancy coming along? Add your name to our Lanyrd pages here.

    mySociety and Mozilla meet-up

    [Above: Our meet-ups are not always this busy! On this night, we happened to coincide with a Mozfest planning event.. speaking of which, see below]

    25th – 27th October: Mozfest

    Mozfest in Ravensbourne, London, is Mozilla’s annual innovative open web event for ‘technologists and creators’.

    The event kicks off on the night of Friday 25th with a Science Fair. We’ll be there, showing our wares – in this case, we’ll be hoping to meet many of the internatonal attendeees and let them know about our open source software. But if you’re not an international attendee, you should totally swing by and say hello too.

    30th October: Edinburgh

    The next non-London mySociety meet-up will be in Edinburgh – watch this blog, our Twitter stream and Facebook page for details of precisely where (it’ll be a nice, central pub that serves food… suggestions are welcome).

    That’s in advance of our attendance at the Channel Shift conference – but you don’t have to be a council employee to drop in. Come and share a pint and have a chat, whichever aspect of our work interests you.

    20th November: Online Information conference

    mySociety’s Director Tom will be giving the keynote presentation at the Online Information conference, the theme of which is “adapting to disruptive technologies and creating value with people, platforms and information”. Feel free to grab Tom afterwards for a chat!

    4th December: Manchester

    As with Edinburgh, we’re pitching up in Manchester for a Channel Shift conference, and will be taking the opportunity to mingle with lovely locals the night before. Again, pub suggestions are more than welcome.

    We hope to see you soon at one of these events. And, if you’re wondering what we look like, well, you’re in luck. At our recent retreat we took a photo of the entire team (plus a few guests). Here we are in all our glory – click to see a larger version, if you dare.

    mySociety team October 2013
  4. Cardiff meet-up

    Cardiff Castle by Candy Schwartz

    Hey, Cardiff!

    We’re having a meet-up on Thursday 17th of October, and we’d love to see you.

    We’ll be in the Goat Major pub from 7:00 pm. Do drop by if you’d like to. There’s no agenda – it’s a chance to talk about mySociety projects (charitable and commercial), or just to share a drink with friendly people.

    When: Thursday 17th of October, 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm-ish
    Where: Goat Major, High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PU Map
    How: Just turn up, but add yourself to our Lanyrd page if you’d like to let others know you’ll be there.
    Who: Anyone who fancies it.
    Hashtag: #mysocial

    NB: Look out for the mySociety hoodie (they look like this, only usually with a person inside). Watch our Twitter stream on @mySociety to check for last minute advice about where we are sitting or if we have moved venues.

    The next day, we’ll be at the Digital Public Services Wales conference. If you’re going too, we’d love to see you for drinks the night before.

    Photo by Candy Schwartz (CC)

  5. Save the Date: 30th October 2013

    The International team are taking over a Wednesday mySociety meet up!

    As you know, there is a large OGP event happening in London at the end of October. There are also a number of fringe events happening, some of which we’ll be attending, and one of which we’ll be running!

    Every Wednesday mySociety holds a meet up at the Mozilla Space in London. On the evening of October 30th we are hosting a slightly larger event and want to invite anyone who is in town for OGP as well as anyone who wants to attend from London or the UK.

    As always we’ll provide Pizza and Beer, as well as a range of other snacks and nibbles. We’d love it if anyone wanted to do a short lightening talk about something they’re working on. This would be really informal, no presentations, just a quick, snappy “Here’s my project, here’s why I think it’s important, here’s how you can get involved.” If that interests you, please email me at international@mysociety.org so I know you’ll be there and be talking.

    Most of all we want to meet more people from all over the world working on different projects around open data, civic engagement, social inclusion, transparency and accountability and other such topics.

    The space is limited to 70 people, so please do either register your attendance on Lanyrd or email me so I can add you to the list.

    We’ll be there from 6pm to 9pm, though the Mozilla space is open to anyone working on an “open project” – anything open source, open data etc – from 2:30pm. If you’re not going to be available until later in the evening, never fear! We’ll head to The Chandos, a pub just down the road, from 9pm onwards.

    This is one of many events that is a part of Global Transparency Week, please do check out what else is going on!

    Hope to see you there!

    Image credit Cocktail by Chamagraphy | Waterdrop World by Doug88888
  6. Coding, chat, and… hexagons

    Graphene by Michael StathamThanks to everyone who dropped into last night’s meet-up: we hope you had a good time. From our point of view, it was a fine mix of technical and social, with just as much chatting as coding.

    mySociety’s developers Mark and Dave, project manager Ben, and director Tom were on hand, and there were plenty of new folk, who’d come along simply to find out more about mySociety and the work we do.

    Dave reports:

    Quite often these discussions spill over into the whole Open Source world and how that works. After all, we’re at the Mozilla London space because we’re part of that sector, and Mozilla are a great example of people who generously share their (splendid) resources to make wonderful things happen in the tech community.

    Meanwhile, Andrew continued to chip away at issues on FixMyStreet, and we also enjoyed Viktoria’s impromptu explanation of how graphene works (she works with it) by ingeniously using the Moz space’s hexagonal-patterned flooring.

    These meet-ups are open to everyone. So whether you’re an open source veteran, or just a curious newbie who is bemused to discover that there is such a thing as free software – if you’re interested in anything you see on mysociety.org, please come along.

    Every Wednesday, 6:00 -9:00 pm. Sign up here.

    Photo by Michael Statham (CC)

  7. mySociety Wednesday meet-ups are for everyone

    Welcome to Fabuous Las Vegas by AD Teasdale

    We’ve reframed our Wednesday meet-ups: they are now open to all, not just to coders. That’s not to say you can’t come and hack — some people do, and have even been helping us fix some of our longstanding issues — but that is entirely optional.

    That means that YOU are welcome, yes you, and you. Come and hang out, find out about our projects or talk about your own. Meet people. Snack, drink.

    Last week was the first of these more open evenings, and loads of people came by. It was lovely to host our first “special guests” Richard and Arnaud, and to meet an international partner who happened to be in town, Gaba from DATA Uruguay. Plus Sam, who apparently runs “the funniest computer ever” competition.

    Heck, it was lovely to see everyone – we hope that you had a good time and will drop by again.

    mySociety meet-ups are every Wednesday in the Mozilla London space, from 6:00 – 9:00pm. And – did we make this clear enough? – they are for everyone. Including you.

    Photo by AD Teasdale (CC)

  8. Wednesday Meet-up: Richard Pope

    Nibbles by Dan CookWe’re meeting up every Wednesday night at the Mozilla London space. Hope you can join us.

    We mentioned that we’ll be joined this week by Arnaud from Google. We’re delighted to say that Richard Pope will also be there.

    Richard describes his current interests:

    • Location-based design “I have a bee in my bonnet about responsive design just being about moving pixels about, rather than responding to full context. I’m building an api/js library called ‘Habbit’ as an experiment using open street map data”.
    • “I’ve just started to get my head around the Remote storage protocol, so it’d be interesting to hear from anyone else who’s been using that”.

    Note: While these events have, up to now, been limited to coders, we’ve had a lot of interest from non-coders too. So we’ve decided to open them up to one and all. If you’re interested in any aspect of our work, you’re welcome!

    Just add your name to our Lanyrd pages. Then other people with similar interests will know you’ll be there.

    When? Every Wednesday, 6-9pm

    Where? Mozilla London

    Photo by Dan Cook (CC)

  9. From OKCon, with love

    As I mentioned on my last blog Dave and I spent this week in Geneva at OKCon.

    This was my first time at OKCon and it was great to see a number of familiar faces from both OGP events and AbreLatAm. Though this was definitely a conference, unlike the Latin American unconference, there was still that feeling of being able to walk up to people and easily start chatting about the projects you’re working on. I’ve been inspired by New Zealand (and their idea of open government data as the new “business as usual”), awed by UNHCR (with their open data for humanitarian crises) and discussed the risks of people getting involved in tech for transparency movements in closed countries.

    One session we attended was hosted by Code For Europe.  It’s an organisation based on the Code for America example and we listened with interest to their approach, and defense when asked questions by skeptics. Their main challenge to the workshop attendees? Instead of trying to solve a huge national level problem and failing thanks to government bureaucracy, find one Civil Servant or MP that has a great idea and work with them. And in fact, some of mySociety’s best known platforms were started before we had any buy-in from the government, but knowing we had support from a few key people.

    We made some great new friends, and caught up with DATAuy. Dave helped them set up FixMyStreet for Montevideo right there at the conference. This was a pretty amazing moment for us because it proved that the platforms, especially the Amazon EC2 hosted ones, really can be set up in less than a day! Don’t forget Dave is working on improving the documentation for this so if you are setting it up, please do fill in our survey.

    For me, the most inspiring talk came from Jay Naidoo. He spoke about young people using technology and the internet to fight corruption as digital warriors bringing a “tsunami of hope”. The dream is that these young people can get information into the hands of the communities that can use it to hold their leaders to account. The ideal would be that we create a world free of corruption, where aid money and NGO initiatives get to those that need it most, and moreover that once it arrives, people understand how and why to use it – all because they have access to that information. You can read his blog about the talk here.

    Thanks to OKFN for organising such a great event with such inspiring speakers. I’m looking forward to the festival in Berlin next year!

    The next big event we’ll be at is OGP in London at the end of October, though we’re hoping to speak at some of the surrounding events as part of Transparency Week. Please do get in touch with us if you’re coming to OGP and want to meet up! We’d love to see you! Plus, you could join our Meet up on the 30th October and meet some mySociety staff!

    OKCon main room photo by Arnaud Velten | Other photos by Jen

  10. Wednesday meet-ups: code, chat and crisps

    Mozilla London

    We’re meeting up every Wednesday night at the Mozilla London space. You’re welcome to join us!

    This coming Wednesday, we’ll be joined by Arnaud Sahuguet from Google. Normally resident in New York, he’s Product Manager for Google Maps infrastructure.

    Arnaud’s areas of expertise are digital mapping, cryptography, databases and data management.

    He describes his current areas of interest as “Civic Search Engine Optimisation; open data; and civic CMS. In general, I like to hear about a new problem and try to provide a first quick and dirty solution”.

    What happens at a mySociety meet-up?

    • Meet mySociety developers and other people interested in civic and democratic projects;
    • Talk about project ideas you may have; get advice or find people to help you;
    • Chat about our projects, data and tools;
    • Do some coding if you’d like to;
    • Drink beer, eat crisps and socialise.

    There’s no need to book – just turn up; BUT, do add yourself to our Lanyrd pages. Then other people with similar interests will know you’ll be there.

    When? Every Wednesday, 6-9pm

    Where? Mozilla London

    Links to Lanyrd pages:

    Photo by Jonathan McIntosh (CC)