Open 2017 (day 1)

The day kicked off with a number of inspiring talks, with interactive real time voting.

Introduction /

Oliver Sylvester-Bradley introduced the conference and, the team behind the conference, clarifying that climate change and sustainability was the main driver behind setting up (Nice domain!) Oliver then asked attendees to go to and vote on a poll of ‘How comfortable is your chair?’. It took a while for people to work out where to go on the site to find the poll, but when we did the results were projected on the large screen and updated dynamically in real time. Very impressive! I didn’t find the chairs very comfortable and voted 2, but most people clearly felt they were at least a 4! The next question was more interesting, something along the lines of ‘How well do you know what a Platform Co-operative is?’, revealing that there was quite a range of understanding.

Platform Co-ops: How we’ve got to here

Trebor Scholz then talked about inequality and where platform co-ops can help. He authored Uberworked and Underpaid: How Workers Are Disrupting the Digital Economy and edited What's Yours Is Mine - Against the Sharing Economy, both of which look like interesting books. He suggests that the ‘Sharing economy’ (think Uber, AirBNB) is not really sharing at all and we need a co-operative model to really share the wealth generated in these sorts of interactions. ‘Neoliberal capitalism is too successful for its own good.’, with a ‘winner takes all’ endgame, and $21 trillion to $32 trillion in tax havens.

On a more positive note, Oliver cited a number of exciting co-ops that are leading the way with co-operative models:

He shared #wearetwitter a movement of people who are trying to take over Twitterand turn it into a co-op. Pretty cool!

Open + Co-op: A force to be reckoned with?

Josef Davies-Cotes and Laura Hilliger argued strongly that the open source and co-operative communities have so much in common that it is crazy that there is not more collaboration and crossover. Why aren’t more co-ops are using more open source software? Why aren’t more companies that use and create open source software also governed as a co-operative? They are very much preaching to the converted as far as I’m concerned, with Agile Collective being a case in point. Jed and I hosted a talk at Co-operatives United in 2012 along the same lines, which generated some interest but lost momentum afterward. I am glad that this conversation is finally getting more mainstream in both the open source and the co-operative communities. The network of Cooperative Technologists and this conference are both strong evidence that both communities are coming together more and more. Let’s keep up the momentum!

Open Badges.

Doug Belshaw ( from We Are Open Co-op talked loads about Open Badges, which I've heard of by only now get the bigger picture. 

Badges are kind of like certificates, but a certificate is a poor relation to an online badge. A certificate can be forged and doesn’t contain that much information. Images have exif data, recording where the photo was taken, when, what camera, colourspace etc. Open Badges have similare metadata, but with open badges:

  • You can’t strip the metadata out of a badge, as you can with images.

  • Badges can be evidence based, with embeded links to online evidence (videos / blog posts / profiles)

  • Badges are stackable (you can take badges that have been issued by other people and add your own badges on top, dependency)

An example:

Anyone who comes to a We Are Open Co-op meetup can get the ‘Co-op curious’ badge.

Mozilla started Open Badges in 2011, but it is mainly Focussed on Firefox. When Mozilla feels a project has outgrown, it leaves Mozilla. Open Badges is now with the and the W3C is working on making this the international standard for online certification. So it is probably here to stay.


The badges are currently linked to a person via an email address. In version 2 of the spec, there will be other ways to tie the badges together to an individual.

Also in version 2, certain metadata will be obvuscatable, to help with laws around publicly identifiable information for young people.

What can badges be used for? Anything, but usually: membership, participation, capability, mastery.

Extensions: Open Badges can have extensions.

Pathways: you can provide a badge that is a combination of other badges, certifying a longer pathway.

One employer who started using open badges commented: “Now we’re not just interviewing the extroverts.” because the badges carry a wealth of data about an individual's exprience. One of the presenters highlighted that he was less interested in the corporate usage, more interested in the people who are dropping off the end of the education system. The system tells them they have nothing to offer, but they do, and badges can help to prove this.

Badge bootcamp

for anyone who is new to Open Badges, We Are Open have started the Badge Bootcamp:

All images free to use / reuse:  

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