[okfn-discuss] new brand, new website: coming up next week

Rayna rayna.st at gmail.com
Tue Apr 15 14:26:56 UTC 2014

Hey there,

I haven't been very talkative on this list but the discussion is an
important one and I feel like I have things to share. Not sure I'll be able
to join the community call, am sick and kinda voiceless, so here are some

On a very practical note, devil is in the details. The logo is super nerdy
-- and will not mean much to colour-blind people. (I won't discuss whether
I like it: this is a matter of personal taste and is irrelevant in the
current discussion.)

To be honest, I could just copy and paste Tim's comments as they frame my
own impression very well. The reluctancy Peter expressed (re: 'data' org
instead of 'knowledge') also resonates with me.

What struck me unpleasantly is to see a top-down approach here. Which kinda
put me off. I'm not sure I responded to the survey Laura referred to: In
the first place, it wasn't announced as addressing the rebranding question.
More importantly, when we as a community need to address things --
especially of that importance!, -- this must happen through an open and
transparent discussion, not through forms and passive input. What is
currently happening is precisely a community discussion indeed, and it
should have been initiated when the whole idea about rebranding kicked off.
It is the appropriate way to channel our visions and opinions. Lastly, I
haven't felt the need for rebranding -- might it be that I missed something
important somewhere: what motivated this huge shift?

Apologies if this sounds blunt but I do not identify with the tagline. My
aim within OKFN is not this one. The tagline reflects *a* vision, but is
not a comprehensive vision. And again the whole thing was done without any
interaction whatsoever with the community. If it is true that OKFN has
grown organically, it is also true that this needs structure -- but not
shoehorning. Why centering on data? Data is a means, not an aim. Data is a
particular "dress-up", not a goal *per se*. How will science or access to
research or GLAM or hardware or climate fit in this 'data' tagline? Should
we all try to twist our angles to fit a data-driven vision if we want to
continue working on these topics within OKFN? Should I go into explaining
that for some places in the world, such a direction will be redhibitory
because it'll be seen as an intrusion to national security? (Whether you
find this ridiculous or not is not the point; the point is that such a
brand will make an already Herculean task impossible to fulfill.)

Over the past few months, I've had quite a few discussions with staff and
community members regarding diversity. The observation is that, despite its
non-tech-centricity, if I may say so, OKFN is still quite uniform when it
boils down to diversity (gender, nationality, social status, pick yours).
The new brand will probably make this worse as it is much more
tech-centered. I have been in many other communities before -- and much
more tech-centered, too -- yet what pleased me with OKFN was precisely this
capacity to speak nerdy without requiring that everyone able to respond is
necessarily able to write software. Let me explain further:

Before we get into a n-th round of how much external communication experts
have provided great advise, I want just to emphasize that the whole fuss
around this is because a) *external* people do not provide proper feedback
about the community; b) communication is not about what you say but about
what people hear. My a) speaks for itself and just complements my own
frustration of being an active member of the community and of not being
consulted on such an important topic given that people outside of the
community assume I represent OKFN up to a certain extent. I guess others
from the community have/will relate(d) to such a frustration.

My b) might need some more elaboration. We can play with the words, make
modular statements and taglines and decide to cut-paste stuff to fit
whatever purpose. This is not a tagline, it's tinkering. Tinkering is
awesome by the way. Yet, if I need cut-paste-arranging-tinkering, then a
tagline is useless. Complementarily, what people hear is not necessarily
what you want to convey. When you speak to people outside of the 'usual
data suspects', you see that opening up information or knowledge is NOT
about data. They need to have some information accessible because stuff.
The formalism of "knowledge" or "data" comes at a much later stage. The
rebranding process IMHO should have been much more focused on outreach and
usability than on data in order to include the overwhelming majority of
humans whose brains are not rewired in data-centric way.

Thus, sticking to data will not just alienate many from the community but
will also put others off. Nowhere in the rebranding we spoke about people,
about outreach. The rebranding is done to speak to a very particular type
of people, a result in striking contrast with the org's mission, to open
knowledge to the widest possible number of humans. People need information.
If experts narrow these needs to mean some flavour of data, then fine. Yet,
you can have all the data in the world, if you don't get people to use and
comprehend it, then it's useless. Data, just as code, is speech. You need
to make use of them for the change to happen. If you open up data but
nobody cares about using it for real social and political transformation,
than we have failed to achieve freedom. (Amen :) )

In conclusion: May we have 'knowledge' and 'people' back, pretty please? :)

2014-04-15 14:56 GMT+02:00 heath rezabek <heath.rezabek at gmail.com>:

> (This turned out much longer than I'd meant.)
> While I can see the critique that this particular set of decisions (the
> logo and branding) was made from within a hierarchy, I've also never seen,
> heard of, or run into an organization quite as functionally inclusive or
> permissive as OK.  A year ago, I was one of the first Ambassadors, and now
> we are many.
> In all cases, as far as I can tell, an individual or group can represent
> OK in their locality with extremely little oversight.  We do have to agree
> to a set of principles, but all in all this is one of the least
> hierarchical methods of growth I've ever known of.  I live in the US, so
> making my livelihood within the OKfn didn't turn out to be as practical as
> I hoped.  That didn't change my drive to be involved, because my own
> particular project still and always has a place within an org with as
> expansive a mandate as Open Knowledge.
> Here, (Austin TX), I finally have a collaborator on the major project I've
> wanted to do within OK all along (an open set of services / platform for
> facilitating long-term community collaboration and archival), and we are
> considering founding a Chapter.  If we do so, we'll be far away indeed from
> the OK leadership elsewhere, as are all Chapters now.
> Point is - This has its pitfalls, but to accuse it of being hierarchical
> seems unfair.
> It may be that in the case of OK central, they feel the most cohesive core
> activity they have involves data wrangling, and they want to make it easier
> to grow in that direction.  I was drawn to Open Knowledge for reasons
> having nothing to do with data wrangling (or rather, the data I want to
> wrangle is less of interest than the ways and reasons I want to wrangle it;
> I want to help people generate and create cultural material. I care about
> that much more than I do what governments are doing with piles of
> unstructured data, because for whatever reason, it's more empowering to me
> to do so).
> Over on OpenGLAM, (I'm a librarian, and my interest is essentially forging
> a new form of community library), the main focus is on pressing
> institutions to free up their catalogs of public domain material.  This is
> likewise different from my own primary interest in the potential generative
> power of libraries.  But it's a different focus from data wrangling, as
> well.
> Because of its name, Open Knowledge is destined to draw a vast range of
> interests, as they explore or advocate for different approaches to the
> sprawling Open movement.  (Some folks' main concern is a parallel
> definition of Open having to do with the word Libre.  Again, not my main
> concern but I'm quite glad it's theirs.)  This is a strength, and I think
> OK leadership realizes that ...  I doubt they want to kill the golden
> goose.  They just want to come to grips with a rapidly growing mandate and
> organization.  Or so I'd guess.
> For me, my bottom line is, "Do I still see a way to pursue and promote the
> approach to open culture that I am driven by?"  And, I do.
>  Organizationally, that's built in, thanks to the Ambassador / Chapter
> structure. The logo being made of data bars doesn't bug me.  I'm just glad
> it's an O.  ^_^
> A second, good, question is, "Does the new identity continue to draw in a
> diversity of approaches?"  *This critique to me is the much more
> important one that we be able to get to "Yes" on.  We risk distraction on
> nearly all the others. Because as the organization grows from here, so will
> its actual underlying mandate shift in that direction.  *If all you have
> is a hammer, eventually everything will look like a nail.  That is the big
> pitfall to be avoided.
> As long as it remains possible to pursue my particular vision within Open
> Knowledge, I'd be bound to remain if only to serve as a diversifying agent.
>  If divergent advocates depart, Open Knowledge becomes less and less likely
> to represent their activities (obviously).
> The community sessions are coming up, and hopefully another will happen
> which I can make it to.  I hope all interested take part.  I particularly
> hope the focus soon turns form cataloging frustrations -- particularly ones
> that are very easy to spend hours wringing hands over, like whether or not
> Open Knowledge is a hierarchy -- to proactively constructing a means
> whereby Open Knowledge as a brand *can continue to include a diversity of
> approaches most easily, but meaningfully*.  Therein lies hybrid vigor.
> See how Open Minds can Change the World.
> (That's not a practical suggestion for an out-facing logo, but a hope for
> our in-facing process.)
> - Heath
> On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 4:34 AM, Peter Murray-Rust <pm286 at cam.ac.uk>wrote:
>> I've been honoured to be on the Advisory Board/Council for 10 years. I
>> have gained a huge amount.
>> It's a good thing that we are continually reexamining our fundamentals.
>> But we have to be very careful. I don't think any of this discussion has
>> been specifically referred to the AC - it might have been useful to do.
>> I make no comment on the logo - logos always generate irresolvable
>> discussion. I liked the old one. The new one has a hole in the middle where
>> Chuff can put her head. Bit prickly, but Okapis are used to prickles.
>> My main concern is that the new brand may be driving the philosophy and
>> practice of OKF rather than reflecting it. We've struggled for 10 years to
>> try to capture what we are about. Our diversity is part of our strength but
>> it's fragile.
>> The latest phrase I remember is something like:
>> "A community making knowledge open and useful"
>> The words aren't quite right but that expresses what I feel about OK. I
>> was happy with it. I've also taken part in the current review of the OKF
>> and found the 90 minute session very useful. We were able to prioritise and
>> the top of my list was "community" combined with the Open Definition.
>> I am worried about the use of "data" in the new tagline. "data" is
>> impersonal and cold; "knowledge" currently relates to humans and is warm.
>> Although it's harder to pin down knowledge it's much more than data
>> hacking. (and I say that as a data-weenie).
>> We have not, and I hope we never will, turn into a data organisation. So
>> please can we go back to knowledge?
>> P.
>> On Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 4:38 PM, heath rezabek <heath.rezabek at gmail.com>wrote:
>>> I'm glad for Laura and Rufus' willingness to engage in this exploration.
>>> We seem to know this much:
>>> - The logo is good to go.  Not everyone will love any given logo, but
>>> overall response is positive.
>>> - The tagline is contentious, mostly due to questions over how well it
>>> expresses the human and holistic aspects of our efforts.
>>> Two questions:
>>> Might the second tagline (Open Data / Open Minds) and the flexible use
>>> of 'Open _____' answer some of this?
>>> Can the process launch with the logo, while the tagline is further
>>> refined through community collaboration?
>>> - Heath
>>> On Monday, April 14, 2014, Aaron Wolf <wolftune at gmail.com> wrote:
>>>> There are many totally different ways to go with the tagline than those
>>>> I've seen proposed so far. For example:
>>>> Open Knowledge [logo]
>>>> "Empowering people by freeing ideas"
>>> --
>>> Heath Rezabek  //  labs.vessel.cc
>>> Long Now Foundation (Intern)  //  Manual for Civilization Project  //
>>> longnow.org
>>> Icarus Interstellar  //  FarMaker Design Corps  //
>>> icarusinterstellar.org
>>> Open Knowledge Foundation  //  Texas Ambassador for the OKFn  //
>>> okfn.org
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> okfn-discuss mailing list
>>> okfn-discuss at lists.okfn.org
>>> https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/okfn-discuss
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>> --
>> Peter Murray-Rust
>> Reader in Molecular Informatics
>> Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
>> University of Cambridge
>> CB2 1EW, UK
>> +44-1223-763069
>> _______________________________________________
>> okfn-discuss mailing list
>> okfn-discuss at lists.okfn.org
>> https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/okfn-discuss
>> Unsubscribe: https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/options/okfn-discuss
> --
> Heath Rezabek  //  labs.vessel.cc
> Long Now Foundation (Intern)  //  Manual for Civilization Project  //
> longnow.org
> Icarus Interstellar  //  FarMaker Design Corps  //  icarusinterstellar.org
> Open Knowledge Foundation  //  Texas Ambassador for the OKFn  //  okfn.org
> _______________________________________________
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> https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/okfn-discuss
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"Change l'ordre du monde plutôt que tes désirs."

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