[okfn-help] FAO people at Open Everything Open Space meeting on 26th September

Jonathan Gray jonathan.gray at okfn.org
Thu Oct 23 18:50:30 BST 2008

Hey Josef,

Didn't mean to rile you. Comments were intended to address 2 (separate)

 * Previous suggestions like "helping activists change the world
through web technologies" are probably too broad for this list, which is
for people doing stuff at Open Knowledge Foundation. I.e. focus should
be on stuff thats open. Pretty sure we agree here.

 * The OKF + community is diverse, and while I won't attempt to guess
people's personal feelings about 'changing the world for the better' in
an activist type way, I suspect this is not something which the OKF (as
a not-for-profit organisation with a specific remit: 'to promote open
knowledge') directly seeks to address. Thats not to say we couldn't
publicise or pop in. Just that we've got limited resources and this isn't
really our focus. To get a better idea of the sort of things we do, you
can see what we've been up to on our blog: http://blog.okfn.org/

More detailed comments below.

Perhaps we can discuss this in person on Open Everything event on 6th
November? Suggest this is best way to take this forward.

Hope this makes sense.


Josef Davies-Coates wrote:
>> The 'open everything' events are supposed to be an international series of
>> informal meetups for people interested in diverse aspects of openness -
>> whether knowledge, software, organisations, government, or salad.
> "supposed"?
> It clearly states on http://openeverything.net/ :
> "Eventually, we hope different kinds of Open Everything will happen
> all over the place. The idea is for people to pick it up and morph it.
> The events above should be a good start. "

Agreed. By 'supposed' I was referring to intentions of Mark Surman et
al, not normative restrictions on OE events that would prevent other
people building on the idea!

>> Though
>> there may be hints of a Popperian pedigree, I think there is an implicit
>> focus on the transfer of methodologies and practices from the software
>> to other domains. E.g. looking at cases where material can be re-used
>> data, to hardware specifications to knitting patterns),  where projects
>> participatory, and so on. Openness along one axis is compatible with
>> 'closedness' along another - and I'm under the impression that the main
>> dimension of openness of interest to the original Open Everything
>> is where there is something that can be re-used, modified, built on, etc.
> "where there is something that can be re-used, modified, built on, etc."
> Exactly, like the great open appropriate technology designs Open
> Source Ecology lot are doing in Factor E Farm.

Yep. I know you're interested in open stuff! :-)

> Speaking for myself (but also, I think, Chris, Beth, tav, Sofia, and
> like you say probably lots more people on this list too) I am
> interested in re-using, modifying and building on successful
> strategies and methodologies for radically improving our world.

Absolutely, I was more responding to more general proposals, like
"helping activists change the world through web technologies" and
"changing the world through technologies'...  and letting that include
social technologies..". These are both quite broad and don't explicitly
indicate an interest in being able to re-use/build on anything. E.g.
'social technologies' might mean Facebook, which isn't so open and
probably isn't per se of interest to the OKF/community.

> I understand that lots of "big bad corporates" are taking advantage of
> open methodologies too, using crowdsourcing (as opposed to peer
> production) etc. to "oppress for less".

Worth pointing out the the OKD is deliberately agnostic to
persons/groups and fields of re-use (cf. 6 & 7).

> But the world is in such a huge crisis that not trying to harness the
> power of openness to explicitly try to change the world for the
> better, to me, would be grossly irresponsible and akin to putting ones
> head in the sand :)

I think its possible that other individuals/organisations who might be
generally interested in open stuff might not universally frame it like
this. It could also be that people/groups with their 'heads in the sand'
vis a vis 'harnessing the power of openness to explicitly try to change
the world for the better' could be (nevertheless) interesting to have at
an Open Everything type event. E.g. high energy physicists who use CC0
to share their research, or people who share knitting patterns, who
don't necessarily use such open stuff to try to change world for better.

>> I think this list, generally for 'nitty gritty' stuff at the Open
>> Foundation, is appropriate for use by people interested in organising an
>> event where this is the focus.
> Is that a polite way of saying "if you lot want to be explicitly about
> improving the world using openness then this list probably isn't best
> place for it"?

Not at all. Just that general tech + social change event is probably not
in itself appropriate for this list - which is used by OKF people for
OKF stuff.


>> If it is an 'Open Everything' event, as Josef suggested,
> 'Open Everything' is not a fixed thing. I thought that was self-evident.

True. But would be wary of, e.g., conflating openness with accessibility
or web 2.0.

>> and as he's keen to
>> have an 'open space' format instead of a structured programme - what about
>> just having an open space, and calling it 'Open Everything'? I think
>> an all day loosely structured event that was low on costs (so there
could be
>> free, or very low cost, attendance) would be really good.
> 'open space' doesn't mean unstructured, it means using a well
> establish participatory structure.

Agreed. I meant not as structured as event where programme is
pre-determined. (Also have been to many interesting events that have
been pretty much: invite interesting people + make agenda on the day on
a whiteboard.)

> It works best when a specific
> question is being address.

I'll take your word for it, as I'm sure you've got more experience of
these sorts of things than me! :-)

> 'Open Everything'? isn't a very clear
> question.

Thats because it isn't one. Either my original question is truncated, or
the question mark should be in quotes, which it isn't.

> It sounds like you are saying (please correct me if I'm wrong, I hope
> I am) that OKF wouldn't be able to be seen to support an open space
> event that is explicitly about how openness can help us to create the
> world we want?

Who is 'we'? The people on this list? I can only guess what kind of
world they want (and perhaps hope or assume its the same as the one I
want). The world I want and the world the OKF wants (if it can be said
to have such a want) might not be the same. Do people from mySociety and
Mozilla want the same world? What about Sun Microsystems and the Sanger
Institue? Perhaps I'm missing something.

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