OTA this year: How do we Extend the Web?

Over the Air is a hack day – combining an overnight hack-a-thon format with a developer conference where you can come and learn and hear from your colleagues about new and emerging technologies (and ideas) that you can pick up and use.

This year’s programme is coming together. We have some amazing speakers on tap and a few focus areas are emerging. At Over the Air we’ve always had an underlying theme of connected applications and the interconnection of things. We’ve also always had a focus on the open web, and especially the use of the web on mobile devices. This year our focus turns to how the Web can be extended – extended to the world around us (through the internet of things), extended to the way we communicate, extended to new modalities of use and extended to across diverse communities of users.

Here’s a sample of some of our speakers for the two-day session schedule:

Keynoting our event will be Hadley Beeman, someone well known to the UK tech community. Hadley is currently a member of the W3C Technical Architecture Group which I co-chair and works with me there at the cutting edge of web technologies.

Keynoting our second day will be the Léonie Watson, also a leader in web standards and as co-chair of the Web Platform working group also at the forefront of emerging web tech.

Ada Rose Edwards will be talking about the future of Web VR, moving the web into emerging virtual reality platforms.

Peter O’Shaughnessy will be talking about web bluetooth, extending the web by allowing web applications to connect to devices around you.

Tim Panton will be talking about how to use WebRTC peer-to-peer technologies to enable control of connected Internet-of-Things devices in a secure and decentralized way.

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino will give us a snapshot of the IoT landscape today. Terence Eden will be speaking about some of the dangers and anti-patterns in the Internet of Things.

Charlotte Spencer will be speaking about the culture of open source and James Smith will be talking about how we can take open source / open web culture and apply it to the political arena.

…and we are still announcing / confirming speakers for both day one and day two of our program.

As usual, all of our speakers will be talking about technologies and ideas that we hope our attendees will pick up and build with. Sound interesting? Come join us at Over the Air!

On Diversity at OTA

As more and more companies become aware of the issues of diversity of representation within the technology industry, we occasionally get asked where we stand on this issue as Event organisers.

Well, we care about it very much, and make a concerted effort each year to reach out to communities of people who are typically under-represented at technology events, especially Hack Days. It’s one of the reasons that we have always worked hard to keep the event free to attend – we know that financial barriers also play a role in this.

We are quite proud of our consistent gender balance at our events, which has ranged from 30% to 50% female amongst both participants and speakers (check out the 2015 speakers list on Lanyrd). Exactly half of our Keynote speakers over the years have been female as well.

To ensure that our event remains a welcoming and positive place for all, we explicitly support the Hack Code of Conduct and the Diversity Charter.

But we are not resting on our laurels, and care about other areas of diversity as well. Technology events are rightly challenged on their record in welcoming and giving the stage to people of colour, people of different faiths, people with physical mobility challenges, and people in the LGBT community.

Help us spread the word!

When community groups form along these lines it is quite simple to reach out with an invitation – but we know that we could be doing better at spreading the message more widely. As we prepare to open up this year’s registration, please share your suggestions with us about how we can reach new people who might not otherwise know about Over the Air.

Recommend a Speaker

Know somebody who is involved in an innovative / inspiring line of work and a great speaker, who isn’t getting the stage time they deserve? Then encourage them to submit a workshop proposal or Lightning Talk proposal (while getting them on our radar as well) – or better yet, recommend them to us as a potential Keynote speaker.

Younger participants also welcome

It’s worth mentioning that we make the event accessible to younger people as well, not only inviting students and recent graduates to join us as participants, but also offering ‘Coding for Kids’ workshops on the Saturday morning. Last year for example, Coder Dojo London ran a highly successful BBC Micro:bit workshop for kids on Saturday, which was the first public event of it’s kind, and Microsoft ran a BBC Micro:bit training session for parents, ‘Coding for Kids’ volunteers, and enthusiasts the day before. (N.B. that children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult at the event)

Sponsoring Diversity

We are still looking for Sponsors for this year’s event – if your company is passionate about supporting diversity in tech, then OTA16 is a great opportunity to keep those financial barriers down and add your voice to the welcome call. Specific opportunities include sponsoring this year’s Coder Dojo workshop, sponsoring the Lightning Talks that feature a diverse range of speakers, and sponsoring the venue, which is fully wheelchair accessible. Get in touch with margaret at overtheair dot org to find out more.