MozFest 2021: The view from a newbie

Emily Parker, Volunteer Coordinator for Bath & North East Somerset Council Library and information services, writes about her experiences of MozFest 2021.

From chatbots combatting fake news to the many uses of AI in policing, MozFest 2021 was an explosion of ideas and discussion; a place where people came together to share their skills, thoughts and research with the aim of making the world a safer, better place.

Over 12 days I learned to make games, apps and pop-up houses, explored the benefits and limitations of AI, listened to experts discuss how the pandemic has changed our world and how micropayments will change our future. Most of all I discovered a community that wants to work together.

I was a Mozfest ‘newbie’ so when I was put in a breakout Zoom room during my first session, I felt compelled to confess to my fellow attendees that I’m not an expert in the field, or even in tech, I work in a library! By the next day I realised the first group were not just being polite; the MozFest community really does value, and recognise the importance of, the thoughts and opinions of non-experts.

During every talk, workshop and chat there were people who offered research, links and recommendations. ‘#Open-Source’ should be the unofficial hashtag of the festival - a great boon to public libraries!

AI was a major talking point of the festival and one website stood out as a great resource on its use in facial recognition: This interactive documentary demonstrates the types of data that can be collected, how it is analysed and how it is easily fooled and unreliable. It’s a thought-provoking introduction to the subject for non-experts and I encourage you to share it widely!

Now MozFest is over for the year I have a list of great resources to share with our local community, ideas for ways we can improve our offers, contacts with people across different disciplines and a hopeful outlook for the future of the internet.

Thanks to Libraries Connected I got to attend my first MozFest, but it will definitely not be my last!