Open Knowledge Festival 2014 Day 1 - Free Your Mind

Written on July 17, 2014

After a promising kick-off on day 0, I was looking forward to a fun and inspiring day 1, and was not disappointed!  The day started with a surprising opportunity to contribute to the OKFestival storytelling team, who called out to folks to live-tweet the keynotes in different languages. Once again, my Hebrew (and background as a translator) came to my aid and I decided to join the circus.

The experience proved to be not only a fascinating mental exercise (how do you translate “fireside chat” to Hebrew when there aren’t many fireplaces in Israel?) but also a great way to meet new and exciting people who live-tweeted in English Spanish, German, and even Russian!

The first keynote was by Patrick Alley, who talked about the efforts that Global Witness is making in breaking down the secrecy walls that corrupt corporations and governments have built to keep the public out of their business and their purses. The organization has done a commendable job at exposing national and global corruption in governments and corporation and strives to expand its operations to establish open data legislation and jurisdiction for enforcing this legislation on a global scale.

The second keynote was by Beatriz Busaniche, who talked about the past, present, and future of intellectual property, copyright, and patents. She called all citizens to participate in the shaping process for keeping governments and corporations from exploiting the not-yet-mature legislation around IP and stop governments and corporations from hijacking and twisting the human rights to infringe upon the same rights that they claim to protect.

Both keynotes expressed highly critical but tough concepts, and gave the tone for the rest of the day, which was filled with sessions ranging from data journalism, government transparency, environmental data analysis, and open data community management. The general atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm among the attendees, who are happy to share their ideas with like-minded folk who might help transform them to tangible actions.

I ended up spending most of the day stretching my mental envelopes in somewhat unusual ways. After the keynotes I joined a graffiti workshop, run by my new friends at ArtistsWAC where we got to pick a message, sketch it out, and then paint it on a mobile wall-o-cardboard-boxes that was set up for us in the courtyard. This workshop was not only an opportunity for me to get back in touch with my artistic side (it’s been years since I got to hold a can of spray paint!) but added a layer of the art-with-a-cause concept, which was something I never really got to practice. My message was quite an obvious choice to me, and I’m pretty pleased with the results!

After lunch I was very happy to attend another unusual workshop, in which the goal was to package and deliver your message through music. Sensing a pattern here? So did I! I’ve been a musician all my life, but never coupled the creative practice with a specific message (other than “music is awesome”).

The bulk of the workshop was spent on brainstorming ideas on what we, at OKFestival, wanted to share with the world and how we want to convey our message through imagery and metaphors. At the end of the workshop each of us got to step up to the microphone and speak a phrase, and the trainers recorded us for what is to become the OKFestival anthem. I’m definitely excited to hear the results!

At the end of the day I managed to catch the tail-end of the session about the Code For fellowship, where fellows from different cities shared their experiences from their work with local city government to accelerate technology innovation and implementation in their IT systems.

It seems that the biggest challenge wasn’t the actual project delivery, but the process of convincing the cities to examine and discover problems that they didn’t even know they had. The majority of the projects used agile methodologies to develop, test, and integrate new information management systems, end-user applications, and data analysis tools for different city government infrastructure.

At the end of the day I wound up at Pratergarten with a lovely group of open mapping project contributors, who make up an innovative and socially- and environmentally- conscious sector in the open data community. I spent the evening hearing fascinating stories about projects like tree-counting applications and geo-mapping data storage systems, and geeking out over data formats and image analysis tools.

The festival is already halfway through, and today is already proving to be an even more intricate and versatile collection of sessions, people, and ideas. More bloggy goodness tonight! (or tomorrow if I’m too tired after the closing party)