MozFest: Badges, Making & More

I keep holding out for a magical pocket of time when my thoughts from the annual Mozilla Festival (“MozFest”) will crystallize. Realizing that that’s foolish–and inspired by Grainne Hamilton’s thinking about badges in Scotland post-fest and Pamela Fox’s inspiring take on proving your worth as someone who’s self taught (first and last step: “open-source everything on Github”)–it’s time to share a few takeaways from London.

A few dozen people joined my colleagues Doug Belshaw, Sunny Lee (that’s her at right) and I to think about Designing Open Badges in the Wild and another 20 came together to give feedback on the user experience around earning and hosting badges. They are educators, designers, non-profit organizers, business folks, and people designing their own personal learning pathways. Among our caffeinated chats about skill sharing and badge creation, these themes especially resonated:

  • Experimentation is important. None of us knows the shape that the badges ecosystem will take, but we’re building it together. It’s been fantastic to see community members’ contributions on our weekly Wednesday calls, but watching the question asking-and-answering happen in person is a completely other beauty. I do think there’s a sort of neat kismet that happens when a career educator talks to a startup founder and then break bread together while talking about what badges might become.
  • Badges can be aspirational. In both of our focus groups we heard both badge issuers and earners talk about wanting to be able to share potential future badges that have not yet been earned. Might “enrolled” badges offer inspiration while learning? Could they take the form of low color or phantom badges that others can see and encourage someone to keep working towards?
  • Show me the numbers. MozFesticipants are eager to see the number of people who have earned individual badges, in part to be able to determine those that may be of interest. (There is a major component here about self-initiated value that will no doubt be explored more as Open Badges expand beyond their current 30K issuances.) One participant suggested that badge issuers provide data on the number of issuances (via standardized sub-domains, a la thesanfranista.com/badges). Another said they would want to be able to opt in to see everyone else who has earned the same badges that they have and connect
  • We’ve all got work to do. From the little things (like the description of “pushing” badges to the personal repository Backpack potentially needing rephrasing) to the big (making tens hundreds of thousands more Open Badges available), our work is cut out for all of us. I’m excited to see what the next year until MozFest will bring in terms of learning and earning.

We also explored the differences between Open Badges (community-created and earned) and Webmaker Badges (Mozilla-created, community-earned). We shared handouts for MozFest participant badges and were glad to see hundreds of festival-goers earn their first badges for creating on site. And Badge Bingo from our friends at Go Codery and 3D printed versions of badges by Tinkercad made for fabulous fun. Until next year.