open the past, create the future

Sun, surf and the network


My regular office and sometime office companion

On Christmas Day I got on a plane at London’s Heathrow and took off for Sydney. The plan was to enjoy some of the Southern Summer, see my brother and his wonderful family and catch up with a dear old friend. I was booked to return by the end of January so I was fairly confident that my Violet would survive in the soaking tray I had left.

Funny how things turn out.

It is June now. And I am still in Sydney. To my great surprise I have fallen in love with Australia all over again. It of course helps that the sun is still shining…mostly… and everyday I am reminded how much I love (and missed) my brother and his family. But the real change was my realisation that I could now do what I wanted to do from Australia.

For the last 15 years, whenever I was asked, mainly by London Cabbies, why I wasn’t heading back to Australia as fast as my arms could flap, I would always say, “I love Australia. I love the life, the humour, the light, the weather, the food and on and on…But, there just isn’t the scale of impact that I am interested in”. Which was my way of saying that I thought Australia was just too small and too far away from everything else.

But here is the thing. I have travelled to every continent bar Antarctica, and lived in one of the world’s great super cities – London – for the last 15 years.  I have been fortunate to have been involved in some of the most interesting, large scale projects and movements  of the network era thus far. Many of them have genuinely changed the way a very large number of people think about how we live our lives today. And yet it simply didn’t occur to me that the very thing I was doing meant that Australia was neither small nor too far away anymore – if it ever was. The network has fundamentally changed my sense of geography, scale and access.

So I find myself back in Australia, setting up a new company that combines making experiences that are inherently networked, with my business partner’s experience in making things that move (real things that you can touch!). It is called and we will make things that move in your home, your office and your industry starting with our old stomping ground – the entertainment industry.

I will be back in London again soon. There will be drinks and proper goodbyes. But most important of all – I have to rescue my Violet.








Filed under: Uncategorized

Mozilla and I

I am an employee of the Mozilla Foundation. My colleagues at the Foundation and the broader community we support are an extraordinary group of people aligned around a mission for an open and inclusive web. We work tirelessly to create the conditions for everyone to thrive in an age defined by the web. My colleagues spend their lives actively and vocally advocating for open, inclusive societies through the web.

I can’t walk away from these people nor the cause I share with them nor the potential for Mozilla to once again be known as the champion to all but neither can I continue to earn my living from Mozilla while it is seen to exclude and alienate anyone. So as of today, I am on unpaid leave. Hardly a brave act but one that I can take that doesn’t break my heart at the thought of permanently severing my connection to an organisation that I hope will very soon find its way back to the core values that I hold so dear. I will continue to work next to my colleagues for an open, inclusive web, continue to help Mozilla through these difficult days but I will do so as a volunteer for as long as I can.


Update: 28th March 2014

Under UK employment law I am not able to take unpaid leave and continue to work substantively for Mozilla. Given that, I have elected to stay in a paid role but will be donating my salary to Mozilla’s Webmaker programme –


Update: 30th March 2014

I am delighted that Mozilla has issued such a strong, positive statement on our position on equality


Filed under: Uncategorized

Why make the web?

First up…wow – it has been a long time since I have put fingers to keyboard on archiville!


What brings me back is I am doing some work for Mozilla on their Webmaker programme. Mozilla’s Webmaker is just what is says – the tools, the learning model, the communities and the content to ensure current generations and ones that follow are makers of their web. As you would expect we have mountains of writing, discussion, events and experiences that support Mozilla’s decision to invest in Webmaking. But as we head out for the big time, aiming to reach millions of people we realise that we don’t have a crisp articulation of Why making the web is so important. I mean we know why making the web is so important but we don’t feel as if we have found the right language that takes it from geekdom to everyonedom.  Which is why you find me dusting off archiville and asking for your help.

Mark Surman – Executive Director at Mozilla – has had a crack at a human readable explanation but it really is only scratching the surface and we need your input. Which bits resonate? What is missing? What have you read, heard, experienced that we could use to support our statements? Drop your thoughts into Mark’s blog comments or feel free to twitter thoughts to me @archiville if you prefer brevity.

Filed under: mozilla

Pullman at Modern Liberty Convention

Amongst many inspiring words coming out of today’s Modern Liberty Convention, I was particularly impressed with Philip Pullman’s keynote address. His closing assertion that,

“We are a better people than our government believes we are; we are a better nation.”

had me cheering in front of my webcast. However, when I read back over the whole speech I was struck by something I didn’t hear first time round (yay for the webcasts but they were sometimes a bit challenging to access):

Another virtue that a nation needs is intellectual curiousity. Wakefulness of mind, one might put it. A nation with that quality would be aware of itself, conscious of itself and its history, and every separate thread that makes up the tapestry of its culture. It would believe that the highest knowledge of itself had been expressed by its artists, its writers and poets, and it would teach its children how to know and how to understand and love. We have to be taught how to love, how to love their work, believing that this activity would give them, the children, an important part to play in the self-knowledge and the memory of the nation.

A nation where this virtue was strong, would be active and enquiring of mind, quick to perceive and compare and consider. Such a nation would know at once when a government tried to interfere with its freedoms. It would remember how all those freedoms had been gained, because each one would have a story attached to it, and an attack on any of them would feel like a personal affront. That is the value of wakefulness…

In order for this to be possible, history has to be something that we can first access in order to attach our stories and make those key moments personal. History has to be something that we can engage with if we are to be able to “compare and consider”.  The fact that we can’t access, interpret, share and chat around much of the cultural heritage of Britain as contained in our publicly funded cultural institutes is a further symptom of our disengagement with ourselves as a nation. The mandates under which the BBC, the British Museum and others operate should today ensure that we have the greatest, most meaningful access to the collections they have so carefully created and protected on our behalf. And yet, even as the technology makes it possible, we still can’t engage with our cultural history in meaningful ways.

Filed under: events

Communia Workshop: Accessing, Using, Reusing Public Sector Content and Data (London, 26-27/03/09)

Right then.

A long time ago, about 10 minutes down the road, I worked for a large public service media organisation. One magical day some smart people at the organisation asked me to think about the theory and practice of establishing a public facing repository of their audio and video archive. We went away and thought about it and quickly realised that it was everything that a public service media organisation ought to be in the digital age. Our boss agreed, and the Creative Archive was born. An archive to fuel a nation’s creativity. An archive we can download and re-use in our own creative works. I can still do the sound bites :) Anyway, it didn’t happen.  That is another story.

After that I spent a year hanging out with some of the world’s smartest, most exciting people. They were loosely aligned under the Creative Commons banner but really what drew them together was the sheer potential of Open Culture.

All of which is by way of explaining why I am so excited about Communia – back to my passion for figuring out how to encourage publicly funded archives to open up, with a bunch of fantastic folks I haven’t seen in years.

Filed under: events,

Archiville shorts

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