MozFest 2017: Wrangling Space
This year I had the privilege of working as a Space Wrangler for the Web Literacy Track at MozFest 2017. Our team met in person in London and worked together from October 26 – 30 to create an awesome experience for festival attendees. By the time we arrived in London to prepare for the festival our original team was down to three of us: Luke Pacholski, Edoardo Viola and me. I realize now that if I’d been properly documenting and meeting my writing goals as I set for myself I wouldn’t need to provide details leading up until the festival as they’d be documented. I also should have documented that Edoardo is the first person I’ve met who consumes more coffee than I do. However, I had consistently failed to meet my writing goals since summer 2017, so I’ll now provide the aforementioned background and context leading up to the festival!
The Road to MozFest
In June, I was asked by Luke, Mozilla Foundation designer and all around awesome guy, to join the Web Literacy wrangling team. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I usually agree to things that sound like they’d be great opportunities, so I gave Luke a tentative yes which then quickly evolved into a definite yes. Throughout the next several months, our team worked to curate the session proposals for the Web Literacy space, and eventually we came up with the schedule. We selected roughly 40 sessions from nearly 180 proposals! I was glad to be working on such an important project. Luke had the idea that the space theme/story for our space would be a garden since web literacy is something that needs to be nourished to grow. Luke wrote an excellent post describing the vision and the importance of the metaphor. Since web literacy, and other peripheral topics such as accessibility and inclusion, are topics that I greatly care about I was excited and thankful to be working with a great team on an important project.
Several of our teammates had to back out of the project in the months leading up to MozFest, so within two weeks of the festival we were down to three of us. This seemed somewhat daunting considering the other tracks had twice as many wranglers working to design and curate the space, but we were confident that we’d be a small but mighty team.
MozFest was comprised of several spaces, each of which is a key aspect of internet health: Web Literacy, Privacy and Security, Decentralization, Open Innovation, Digital Inclusion, and the Youth Zone. Each space, and the space organizers, then worked to curate session proposals and craft an experience and story for attendees. Mark Surman, Mozilla Foundation Executive Director, wrote about the importance of internet health in early 2017. Mozilla then released v01 of the Internet Health Report, which asks critical questions about the state of the internet. Each of the tracks at MozFest are key components of internet health. We crafted our Web Literacy space and created a story and experience for our attendees centered around the metaphor of the garden and how everyone can help empower themselves and others to plant seeds and provide nourishment to create a healthy internet.
The Garden Comes Alive
Our team met in person on Thursday, October 26. Previously, Luke and I had a conversation about decorating our space and decided that we wanted to make our space as much like a garden as possible, and that meant that we would be purchasing and including live plants! Luckily we scouted out a local garden store that delivered to Ravensbourne, making our lives far easier. We did some intense budget shopping for plants and scheduled the delivery for later that afternoon. In the meantime, Edoardo, Luke, and I began to plan how we wanted to bring our vision to life. We spent much of the first day drawing plans and figuring out creative ways to integrate the mannequins that were scattered throughout the floor (our floor was the fashion student wing of the university). We left feeling confident and excited!
Friday was spent meeting our session facilitators, hanging decorations, and working out last minute kinks in the schedule. This was an incredibly busy (and highly enjoyable!) day. We really wanted to bring the garden vision to life, and that meant that we were going to create a giant paper tree as the centerpiece. This turned into two trees, one of which included vines hanging from the ceiling!
Our facilitators often remarked that they appreciated how much effort we put into making the space look like a garden, and how they loved our commitment to making sure that they had what they needed. We left Friday night with a fully decorated space and looking forward to a two days of awesome sessions.
At some point in the planning conversations, we had decided that since our space is a garden, and we were the space curators, that it made sense for us to dress like gardeners! Luke did an awesome job ordering us outfits and we spent the entire weekend wearing them as we tended to our decorations and plants (and made sure that our sessions ran smoothly and that our facilitators had what they needed, of course).
Getting in the Van
We were determined to not let the small size of our team hinder our ability to create an impactful space and provide an excellent experience to facilitators and attendees. We took minimal breaks throughout the days leading up to the festival, and both days during the event. I had been listening to lots of Henry Rollins leading up to the festival, and was telling Luke about how the phrase get in the van came to be a battlecry for those who just simply get things done. We were reflecting on the experience and how we could have given in to frustration and stress at any point due to losing team mates and becoming overwhelmed, but instead we chose to get in the van each time. Each day of the festival we got into the van. During some stressful moments when we needed to do last minute fixes to the schedule, we got in the van. When we were exhausted after ten hours of setting up our space but still needed to move around desks and chairs, we got in the van! Our facilitators and attendees were happy that we did and witnessing (and hearing) them mention how great they thought our space was, how much they enjoyed the sessions, and how much people loved experiencing our garden felt incredible.
The weeks leading up to the festival were so filled with lots of late night thoughts and meetings about the space, and it felt strange once the festival finished. It was cathartic but also somewhat sad in the way that it always is once a massive event or project finishes. I greatly appreciate the dedication, brilliance, and hard work that my team mates put into our space. I have the utmost respect and admiration for them, and will continue to get in the van knowing that I have such incredible peers by my side.