Ben’s 2012

Twenty twelve: a year of political transformation, superstorms and science fiction, but no apocalypse.

We live in a really weird time. For me, the zeitgeist is defined by things like drones, algorithmic trading, and passive surveillance by your friends in the advertising business—the stuff you’d read in Neal Stephenson novel, but for real. If that stuff isn’t weird enough for your tastes, consider 2012: the year in which the major sex scandals centered around Elmo and David Petraeus.

I had a pretty weird year myself. If you’re interested in how I spent my time in 2012, please read on.

Most of my time was channeled into the various activities of the Popcorn project. This year we launched Popcorn Maker 1.0; greatly expanded our Popcorn.js developer community; and formed deeper partnerships with a number of media organizations. We helped develop a few showcase uses of Popcorn, like the PBS NewsHour Ad Libs tool.

We launched the Living Docs experiment, ran a series of special hack days at film festivals, and contributed a web-native perspective to the major documentary forums and funders. I documented lot of our process and values and taught a class on the “Connected Documentary” at the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

Over the same period, I oversaw development and launch of the Mozilla Ignite challenge: a partnership with the National Science Foundation to demonstrate potential uses of next-generation (~1Gbps) networks. As part of this project, we’ve written the first introduction to software-defined networks for application developers, and fostered close relationships with gigabit cities like Chattanooga and Kansas.

The project officially launched at the White House in June, and we’ve had some great success: over 300 ideas submitted, $100,000 of funding support disbursed to date, and almost 30 events.

On the personal front, it’s been bittersweet (and weird). I moved to the SF Mission but still spent many hours on an airplane. I visited China for the first time. It’s the first year since 2009 that I haven’t organized an Open Video Conference, but I did help form a team at The Star newspaper in Nairobi that is being funded to fly DIY journalism drones (ask me about drones).

I feel extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to work on all this stuff, even if it all feels a little weird. OK, really weird. But I think it’s just a sign of the times.

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