Building a Virtual MozFest
MozFest 2021 was always going to be a different festival for many reasons - our original plan was to invite you and the rest of the community to Amsterdam to share the festival experience in-person. This year, 2020, has brought a unique set of challenges in creating the MozFest feel in a way that is safe and accessible to everyone, which is why in September, we announced that the festival is moving online.
Over the past six months, we’ve designed and developed the platforms to recreate the in-person experience, which thousands of participants have grown to love over the past ten years.
Moving to virtual means that we also have an opportunity to create an experience that is as accessible to many more people, reducing the barriers, such as travel, that a physical event introduces. However, just because the event is online doesn’t make it accessible - we need to ensure that the platforms we use welcome as many people as possible.
To keep up to date with everything going on behind the scenes at MozFest this year sign up to be a Festival Insider:
At the start of the process, six months ago, we gathered as a team both internally and partnering with virtual Production House, Giant Cookie, to develop an interactive and engaging ‘virtual session.’ We reviewed how facilitators would present their sessions at a typical physical event and then reflected on the ways audiences could engage online.
We have decided on five formats for MozFest sessions:
Art, Films and Podcasts
In previous years, artists in the MozFest and Internet Health community have used MozFest as a space to gain new audiences their work, bringing fresh perspectives. We plan to continue this for 2021 by including art exhibits, film & video, or podcasts, allowing you and other participants to explore these at your own pace throughout the festival.
Discussion sessions provide space for everyone to join together, live, with other members of the community, to discuss specific topics. The goal of discussions is to build shared understanding, compare diverse experiences and divergent perspectives, and to share knowledge or surface collective vision.
At a virtual festival, we won’t be able to bump into friends and meet new people as naturally as if we were in person. Bringing the MozFest community together is critical as we move online. We’re excited to see sessions like fitness or yoga classes, baking lessons, or a games evening taking place alongside the program.
Facilitators create videos, audio, or other learning materials shared with participants, who can work individually (or as groups) to create or develop something of their own. Having offline content helps with accessibility for those with lower or no bandwidth availability, or whose schedule doesn’t allow live participation, as they can take the materials offline to view later.
Workshops will provide the opportunity to collaboratively work on a project, learn a new skill together, or co-develop ideas to collectively problem-solve.
In order to provide the greatest interaction among facilitators and participants, and to provide maximum accessibility, MozFest will be using many platforms to produce the festival.
We developed criteria that allowed us to choose the platforms for the festival:
When looking at accessibility - it’s essential to look at more factors than at a physical event. MozFest previously provided closed captioning, induction loops, and translators to ensure that we meet the needs of those who attend. Going virtual adds another layer to this; we need to ensure that internet access and availability don’t limit facilitators or participants’ experience.
To meet the top marks here the platform needs to allow for engagement in ways that requires little to no bandwidth - such as dial-in options for conferencing or downloading content to be used offline.
The participants’ primary device will differ throughout the world; some will use a laptop or PC as their primary device, while others would use a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. To ensure that we can meet different communities’ needs, we need to look further than the laptops we rely on for our work. Platforms that would pass our criteria for hardware were browser-based, allowing users of different operating systems and devices (both PC and mobile) to access without requirements to download or install additional software easily.
As well as these two areas, we also ensure that the platforms we’re asking people to add their personal information into meet Mozilla’s privacy and security standards when they handle any personally identifiable information.
When you first enter into the virtual festival - you’ll see our agenda hub. This will be the home across the festival, providing a live stream of talks and highlights, as well as the place you can see the schedule for the 12 days of programming.
Every participant will then be able to register for their sessions - as to keep sessions participatory - we will place a cap on the number of people in each session. Once you’ve registered, you’ll be given the link to join the session.
Sessions Focus on Conversations
The heart of the festival is the conversations that take place between participants. We chose to use Zoom as a way of bringing us together. We use Zoom day-to-day at Mozilla for our internal and external meetings; as part of this, we can access some enterprise features that ensure the festival is more inclusive and accessible. We will offer local dial-in numbers for over 90 countries and live closed captioning for all sessions held in Zoom.
Earlier this year we shared some tips on how to get the most out of online meetings.
Complimenting Zoom will be Miro, a space that allows us to have a virtual wall of sticky notes and work in real-time together. We’ll also be using a polling tool as a way of engaging in questions and audience participation for our live Dialogues and Debates.
Creating Virtual Spaces
We’re planning to use Spatial Chat to provide a method of meeting together and being present with each other, creating a gathering point for each space. Our live stream will then be available to watch on our website, whilst some on-demand content can be accessed through the hub using HyperAudio, providing both a video and transcript of the content.
We can’t wait to see the sessions being brought to life by the facilitators of MozFest 2021 on our virtual platforms, as well as seeing the ways that all of you will experiment and adapt them to your own needs.
If you’re interested in attending MozFest - tickets will go on sale early in 2021, and you can be the first to know by becoming a Festival Insider.