Today we’re talking to Jess Klein, a principal designer at Wikimedia and a colleague and friend for…well, listen to find out how long we’ve had the pleasure of working with Jess!
Jess’ Favourite Books
- Forever by Pete Hamill
- Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Links and mentions
- Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher
- Facebook aware of Instagram’s harmful effect on teenage girls, leak reveals
- WAO’s premortem exercise
Tao of WAO S02 E02
Laura Hilliger: [00:00:01] This episode of The Tao of WAO comes with a content and trigger warning in our conversation about ethical design at around the 14th minute to about the 20th. We speak about trauma, including death and suicide.
Doug Belshaw: [00:00:39] Welcome to the Tao of Wow, a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Doug Belshaw.
Laura Hilliger: [00:00:49] And I am Laura Hilliger. This podcast season is currently unfunded and you can support it as well as other. We are open projects and products at open collective.com slash. We are open today. I am super excited and kind of nervous introducing our guest, the principal designer at Wikimedia and a long standing collaborator and friend, Jess Klein. Hi Jess.
Jess Klein: [00:01:18] Hi. I’m a principal designer. There’s, there’s two others.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:22] Okay. Okay. Good stuff.
Doug Belshaw: [00:01:26] So we’ve got some questions for you. But this question, this this kind of conversation might be under. We’ll see where it goes and we might have to chop it off because we could talk to Jess for, like hours at a time. Um, but let’s just begin by finding out maybe like, what Jessica’s favourite book is, because I think you told us this recently, but what, which one was it again?
Jess Klein: [00:01:48] My favourite books, Alice in Wonderland. I think I have like my book that I tell people, which is usually Forever by, by Pete Hamill. And then my real favourite book underneath that is is Alice in Wonderland.
Doug Belshaw: [00:02:04] Why do you have your real favourite book? And then you’re like public favourite book?
Jess Klein: [00:02:08] I don’t know. Well, I like them both and they’re both my favourites, but for totally different reasons. It’s kind of like having a like a secret lover or something like that. And my secret lover is Alice in Wonderland, and the book that go public with is is Forever, but they’re both amazing and probably very similar. If you had to look it up somewhere, like if you like, really read into the books and like compared their use of like imagination and portals into time, but.
Doug Belshaw: [00:02:42] Jess i’ve known you for 11 years and I feel like I know you better after those last few sentences already.
Laura Hilliger: [00:02:46] Yeah, same.
Jess Klein: [00:02:48] Well, Alice in Wonderland is one of those books that changes with you as you get older. And so I think when I was younger, I used to watch that. I watched the movie like my parents had many different versions of the movie and we read the books. Um, and I really, you know, loved that. She was like this independent girl trying to navigate through life and meeting all these interesting characters and of course loved all the puns because I love puns. Um, and then I think now as I’ve gotten older and I’ve become, you know, um, a mom, I appreciate the fact that the story was written almost for, for a group of girls that the author had befriended. And I think that’s very endearing. And I imagine how difficult it might have been to tell a story to somebody else and how to kind of create the story and tell the story as I’m often trying to fumble my way through bedtime stories with my son.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:47] Oh, okay.
Doug Belshaw: [00:03:49] Yeah, Definitely hear you about bedtime stories there. Interesting. Um. Okay. So we mentioned that, you know, you’ve known Lauren for a while. Um, you’ve had an interesting as we have had interesting career paths. You have had a particularly interesting career path as well. So we’ve mentioned that you’re a principal designer at the Wikimedia Foundation. There are two others get there by just like going in a straight line, because when we first met, you were running a workshop and. You weren’t working for like you weren’t doing design stuff directly. Like, what were you doing at that time? What are you doing now and how did you get there?
Jess Klein: [00:04:27] It’s a good question. I think we met at a workshop at Parsons. Um, that I don’t remember what I was running it on, to be honest, but it probably was.
Doug Belshaw: [00:04:40] At like a conference.
Jess Klein: [00:04:41] Yes.
Doug Belshaw: [00:04:42] Yeah. Is Parsons New School shows, how much I know.
Jess Klein: [00:04:45] It is. It is.
Jess Klein: [00:04:46] Parsons The New School for Design.
Laura Hilliger: [00:04:49] Is that where you went to school Jess?
Jess Klein: [00:04:50] Yeah, that’s what I went to graduate school. I went to undergrad at Mount Holyoke, and I studied art history, um, and loved it. And I worked in museums actually for a really long time before kind of making the leap over to, to technology proper. Yeah, I worked in many different museums. In fact, I was such a museum dork that like when I was in high school, I worked as like an intern at the Brooklyn Museum and I kind of stayed working there throughout college and then my first job. Technically was supposed to be at the Brooklyn Museum, but September 11th happened and all funding for the arts were cut off. And so I in many ways am grateful that I was put in a I was working in the prints, drawings and photography department at the Brooklyn Museum originally throughout high school and college and. When I applied for new jobs. It’s kind of challenging to find like exactly a perfect fit. And so I went and worked at the Museum of Arts and Design, which is formally the American Craft Museum. But I did really love and kind of hopped around for the first few years, few years after college, working at, you know, different, different museums that had just, you know, open positions for like curatorial assistants or researchers or something like that and be. Um, you know, something that’s kind of interesting to me in some form and see was probably in New York because that’s where I wanted to stay at the time. And so, yeah, so I went to work at the I was working at the Museum of Arts and Design, and then I worked at the Rubin Museum of Art, which is which was almost like a Start-Up at the time because it opened while I was there, and it’s a Himalayan art. And that was very interesting to me. And they were very kind of creative and exploratory. And it was interesting to me when I was there was just that we were showing the art of people from Tibet, from Nepal, from many regions where people aren’t actually able to see their art in person for political reasons. And so the art. Was for one reason or another, moved to this museum setting. And remember, the first time I sort of dabbled with technology was when I was thinking about how to contextualise the art. And I was thinking, Now this sounds really old school, but I was thinking of trying to put them into 3D situations so that people could see cave tonka’s in caves. And so I was working on taking photography and kind of collaging it at the time and think that was like my first time dipping my toes into into technology and really like the ability to use technology to kind of. Cross the boundaries between. You know, just because it gives you the access to the knowledge that you never had before, but within a click. So it just seemed like there was so much more accessibility of these very. You know, foreign topics are very complicated. Topics like going to Tibet, going to Nepal, understanding what a cave is, understanding what a tanka is, understanding what all the art is. It’s like you can link them all in this wonderful web of mystery. And so after that, I eventually became more and more interested and did lots and lots of side projects. And then. I went to grad school at Parsons where eventually we held that conference but don’t know if I was in graduate school at the time or if it was after graduate school when we met Doug.
Doug Belshaw: [00:08:43] We were definitly talking about Mozilla at that.
Jess Klein: [00:08:46] Right.
Doug Belshaw: [00:08:47] So, yeah, yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:08:48] So maybe I was working at Mozilla at the time, but my when I got to graduate school, I did my thesis on New York, which is my other true love. And we, I was really focussed on New York being a waterfront community, but a lot of people not being aware of that and how people every summer or maybe a little bit after the summer like this time of year fall in New York, people would have tragedies at the beaches because they wouldn’t know any basic rules about water safety. And so I created this toolkit for Families, which included an interactive bike tour and had monsters that were involved, and it had QR codes which were totally not used at the time. But I was really into back in, you know, over ten years ago.
Laura Hilliger: [00:09:42] I think we all had a QR phase. I also designed a QR code, local based game years, a decade ago.
Jess Klein: [00:09:51] And isn’t it amazing that there are now it took a pandemic to make QR codes the popular thing that they are? Yeah. It’s like they’ve lived up to their potential through the pandemic. I’m very excited by it.
Jess Klein: [00:10:04] Not by the pandemic.
Doug Belshaw: [00:10:05] Was a teacher who had QR codes at the bottom of their worksheets and it would link to videos of them explaining stuff to do with the worksheets and whatever. And it’s like all these really kind of almost kind of boring uses of QR codes. That’s exactly what they’re there for. But it takes so long for this stuff to become normalised. Yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:10:25] Definitely. I love the I love the QR codes are great for things like being out at a park, seeing a weird sculpture, and then someone put a QR code that links back to maybe the Wikipedia page or something like that. And so you like have this extra layer of context that the it adds something to the experience that you are already in rather than it being just something boring, I hope. But like I like it for that additional extra layer aspect of it. It’s not just the. It’s not just like linking you to a website, which is what my son calls it now. He actually told his pre-K class that QR codes, you take a picture with your phone and it takes you to a website. It’s kind of like a proud moment for me, but at the same time, I think that. There are so many creative uses for QR codes that now that at least in America, we are starting to use it for real and integrating it into our daily experiences, like going for coffee. And you can have to take a picture of the menu on the table outside on the QR code to take a picture of the QR code to get your menu. You know, it’s just like I think people are going to find more and more creative uses for it and we want to.
Doug Belshaw: [00:11:47] Get back to your career thing. But just on the QR codes, right? I did see this really scary story about so, you know, like when you hire electric e-scooters, um, so electric scooters used, you scan the QR code on the app, on your phone, whatever. There was this really elaborate scam which was taking small amounts of money from people’s scooter accounts, and this person was raking in all this cash by like changing the QR codes because there’s no security on QR codes, right? Like, you don’t know really where it’s going to go. So yeah, that’s depressing.
Jess Klein: [00:12:23] I mean, that’s the piece about all technology is that you have to. At first there’s like this gimmick factor where you’re playing with it and you’re like, It’s like Wild West and you can do anything you want and it’s amazing. And then as things get more and more popular, you realise it’s amazing not just to me, but also to people who are really not the greatest actors in the world. And so you have to figure out how to you have to really take into into consideration all of those privacy concerns, all of the safety security concerns that you really didn’t start out thinking about when you were in the Wild West. But. Well, that’s the technology now, right?
Laura Hilliger: [00:13:00] Yeah, but isn’t this where ethical design comes in? Because you mentioned when we were prepping for our conversation live on the air that you might be interested in talking a little bit about ethical design. And we have organically come there and I would love to know just from your perspective, like how do you ensure that what you’re designing is ethical? How do you think about those things and how do you see it in the field? Like do you do you feel like in the last few years ethical design has become something that is really front and foremost in in the industry, in the tech industry or I mean, kind of I’m kind of biased on the answer there, but I’d love to hear your perspective.
Jess Klein: [00:13:41] I think that my answer is we say we are in tech. And people are currently really figuring out how to do it and really trying. And I think that it’s definitely become more and more of a hot topic. There was this great book that I read. It’s called Like Algorithms of We’re Technically Wrong. It’s by Sarah Wachter Böttcher. I apologise if I botched your name. But, you know, it’s called about like sexist apps, biased algorithms and other threats of toxic tech and. I think when I read that book, it was the first time that. Someone was really articulating. How I felt about technology in moments. Where? Where? You know, just like bad things had happened, you know? I had. Always had this experience with Amazon just as an example where. I was I mean, this is a little bit TMI, but I had previously lost a child when I was trying to get pregnant. And like every I would say, like many excited women who when they’re pregnant, they look up and they search for, you know, baby things and things that they’re going to need on Amazon. And Amazon deducted that I was going to be that I was looking for a child and that the child was a certain age and blah, blah, blah, blah. And after the child, you know, was no longer in my life, it stayed with me. Like, I still get emails to this day about a child and about their age being like, Oh, you’re six year old is entering their first year of school, blah, blah, blah. Maybe you should consider this. And they’re all very well and meaningful, but it’s really hard to get out of that loop, right? Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:15:49] So yeah, the terrible and it happens on so many of the corporate platforms. Like, you know, I had a friend who years ago committed suicide and every year on her birthday LinkedIn lets me know and it’s like, Hey, you know what? And you can’t I don’t know what you can do about it really, because like, you tried to notify, you know, the algorithm that it’s giving you information about a trauma that maybe you don’t really want or need and nothing happens. It just continues to to serve that. And you as like in my situation, I contacted LinkedIn and was like, Hey, this person is no longer alive. And they’re like, okay, well submit a death certificate. And I’m like, It’s a friend of mine. I don’t have access to that. And I sure as shit am not going to bother their family to tell them that I don’t like LinkedIn reminding me every year, you know, it’s terrible. What are. Sorry.
Doug Belshaw: [00:16:47] I feel like there’s misaligned incentives as well. So for example, at the start of this episode, I feel like we should put some kind of trigger warning because people might have gone through this kind of stuff and don’t want to be reminded about it in a podcast. They weren’t expecting to be about this. That’s the first thing on like the Fediverse on Mastodon and that kind of stuff. You can put a content warning, a CW, Um, and therefore people don’t see it unless they click into it. But other social networks don’t do this, even though it’d be really easy for them to do that. And I think that’s interesting. And I saw last week it was in The Guardian and elsewhere in the UK that, um, there was this internal report of Facebook which has come to light that said, like Facebook was aware that Instagram had this harmful effect on teenage girl girls mental health, but they didn’t do anything about it because it was it was good for their financials or engagement or whatever as well. Um.
Laura Hilliger: [00:17:41] Yeah, people find all kinds of reasons to rationalise harming other people, particularly when it’s at scale. And you know, because like big corporations like this, they, you know, it’s very easy to say, oh, well, it’s such a small percentage of our users that are going to be affected by this, so why should we invest time and energy? But you know, like a the Facebook, Instagram, Facebook, just in general, their evilness is not a small number. Like we’ve heard this for years and years and years. The way that Facebook has impacted the world in not good ways. Um, and didn’t actually have a B for this. I just said A.
Doug Belshaw: [00:18:22] That’s even worse than my my three point list where I forget the third one.
Jess Klein: [00:18:26] But it’s always important to have that third, third one, right? Always liked how Barack Obama, when he spoke, he was like, and here are the three things we’re going to do about it. Um, but I think that, like, the thing is that my experience with Amazon was not like trying to go out there and hurt my feelings or, you know, didn’t realise they were going to put me in the situation where I was triggered every single time I opened my email or went to the website or maybe now, you know, I have ad placements and stuff like that. They didn’t realise that. I think my voice keeps cracking every time I talk about this. It’s amazing. Um, but. I think that like, it’s become, it’s the responsibility now of. Product developers to take that extra extra step while they are creating work and do. Do the hard work of figuring out what could go wrong. Like right now, Wikipedia. I’m working on a project. It’s a very simple product, but it’s just notifications on for conversations that people are having on Wikipedia about writing articles and we’re making them automatic. And so that could potentially be something. That is really annoying for, say, long term contributors. They’re like getting like a thousand emails. How do I opt out of it or something for new contributors where they’re like, Where are my notifications even going? I know I’m getting notifications, I just can’t find them and what do I do about them when I get them? And so there’s there’s so many different scenarios like that. And so what we’re doing one, you know, a very basic activity that you can do as a product team is that you can do a pre-mortem where you identify all of the possible things that could go wrong and you have a plan of action of how you are going to address them, and it’s a full team activity. Like every person on the team from the engineer, the designer, product manager, analyst, like, you know, data analyst, every single person on the design on the team tries to contribute. And it’s a horrible activity because it’s like, let’s think about doomsday. Like think about what’s the worst possible situation that could happen. And we go into every single scenario and we do write them as users, like use cases like scenarios, the same way you would write a user story for when you’re creating a product like, I’m doing this thing, I hope that this person will do this and this is what they will achieve afterwards. You know what? It’s they’re really start with somebody’s goals and then end up with what happens at the end. But think just doing those sort of simple activities of kind of identifying. Possible moments of failure or pain in the experience is crucial because. For sure. We all hope that everyone is creating products and receiving joy from the products that I create, but you have to face the reality that there is going to be moments where I create something that just is a really painful experience for somebody and I want to be there and prepared so that I can fix that for them.
Doug Belshaw: [00:21:36] It’s really interesting because we we talked about a pre-mortem with one of our clients yesterday, and it’s something we’ve done. In fact, it’s on our tools page, isn’t it? Laura at the Yeah. Learn with OpenCV forward slash tools it might be slightly different from the way you do. It just would be interesting to compare notes.
Jess Klein: [00:21:53] Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:21:53] Yeah. And we’ve, I mean, we’ve, we’ve done this exercise. I mean, we do it all the time. We do it internally when we’re thinking about, you know, different stuff that we want to do. I think we did one for the podcast actually at some point. Um, and yeah, I’m thinking of a specific example of a pre-mortem that we did that really had a very big risk factor in terms of harming people. And I can’t talk specifically about the project because of NDA, but it was really about there was a psychological, a psychological component to a particular training program that we were designing. And that psychological component really had to do with stress and helping people learn how they experience stress and how their stress causes other people to experience a particular situation. So like, I mean, when you are very stressed, other people pick up on that, they read into it. And you know, depending on how aware you are of your own stress and you know, you might might not intending to, but you might have the impact of creating stress for somebody else. And doing a pre-mortem around a theme like that can really reveal some quite critical holes in the plan. And and I think it’s a really good way to say, oh, didn’t actually even think about what would happen if, you know, X, Y, Z. We should figure out how are we going to mitigate that. And so when we do the pre-mortem, we always, you know, we do preventative actions and mitigating risks. And, you know, this is I think this is a really great exercise. And particularly when we’re talking about designing products or projects or programs or whatever, you know, that that are experiential, like really thinking carefully around how experience might impact a particular person is very important in in learning design.
Doug Belshaw: [00:23:54] One of the interesting things I’d love your kind of views on this as well, Jess. So my wife has moved jobs from being a teacher into like a user researcher for the NHS. One of the things which I know she’s talked about finding difficult and I find difficult as like a white middle class, middle aged person is like your lived experience is, is quite narrow compared to the very diverse range of experiences that people would have, especially on a platform like Wikipedia. So just if there’s people listening who wouldn’t know how to even bring in those different kinds of views and stuff, and I would probably hold my hand up as one of those people as well. How do you how do you kind of mitigate that, that risk that you’re not kind of speaking to people who live different lives to to us.
Jess Klein: [00:24:47] I think the biggest risk is speaking to that. The biggest like activity that you need to do is speak to them or work with them. Tested them. Um. There’s a lot of lot of people in design right now don’t like to use the word user because, well, first of all, because of its all of its associations with the drug industry and all these terrible things. But. It’s good to understand, like, what they’re doing. So like, you have Wikipedia, you have people who are reading, you have people who are editing, you have people who are, you know, contributing in different types of forums. Um, and taking the time to understand what their stories are, understanding why they’re coming to the how, what they’re doing before they come to the product and when they’re at the on your website or whatever project, you know. Um. And then what they’re going to do afterwards. And so like having that understanding of their journey coming, um. Coming to it and.
Doug Belshaw: [00:25:49] Sorry to drop, but if you’re not calling the collective noun is not users anymore, are you just subdividing them into editors and readers and whatever, or do you have a collective noun which is more acceptable than than users?
Jess Klein: [00:26:03] I am not familiar with what everyone else in the industry is using, but I know personally I’m making an attempt to just get down to. To speak. First of all, from a goal oriented perspective and less than a, you know, like not naming some like not necessarily having a name for the thing, but understanding like the verbs that are associated with what they are trying to achieve in the moments on their site. So like on Wikipedia, obviously you have people who are coming to get information or having people who are coming to read. You’re having people who are doing that on their mobile device. They’re having people on their they’re hearing it from Alexa. They’re hearing it.
Doug Belshaw: [00:26:47] So instead of it being that’s really interesting, the nouns and verbs thing. So instead of it being and my job is this or as a disabled person, like it’s more like I want to be able to access this information and therefore that information needs to be accessible in the most inclusive way possible. Or yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:27:06] I think like that’s what I was talking like the way you framed it just now, not to put you on the spot is like the way I wouldn’t do it because I think that because I think that when you do it that way, it’s almost like lip service. You’re like, Oh, I hope that this person, you know, is doing it and it’s accessible. Like saying accessible. Like, what does that even mean? Right? And think like when you want to do is unpack it and be like, this is what this person’s goal is, is, you know, like their goal is to. Access Wikipedia on their cell phone while they’re on a bus. One hand. That’s their scenario. To use it. To use it because the other hand is holding on to like the pull of the bus. And they are trying to communicate with other editors and explain that there are some sort of mistake on the page or something needs to be added to that particular article. Right. So there’s a few things there. You have to be able to access the buttons. You have to be able to see the words in a screen that is mobile. You have to be able to do everything you’re doing with one hand. There’s so many things there. And so what you do in that moment is then identify what the obstacles are. So probably the obstacle is like the buttons are too small and keep highlighting things instead of actually clicking on buttons. And so you start to go backwards from there and then think about how can I directly work with that, work towards that person’s problem, You know, like how can I address really basic, really basic problems in a very simple way? But, you know, that’s accessibility. The way what I just talked about is about accessibility. It’s about different kinds of viewpoints and tools. Um, but then there’s also like a cultural lens of like how you are coming into this. And so Wikipedia obviously is one of these products that is almost ubiquitous on the web, and people are there’s many different wikipedias that people are coming to. You know, you might have English, Wikipedia or German Wikipedia, for example, or there’s like the Hebrew with a British.
Laura Hilliger: [00:29:21] British, English, Wikipedia.
Jess Klein: [00:29:23] Yes, absolutely. Just a note on that.
Doug Belshaw: [00:29:25] Wikipedia for me. Yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:29:27] I learned one of the like the fun facts that I learned when I joined Wikipedia was that when you’re writing an article. That you should use If you’re debating whether to use American English or British English, you should defer to like the subject matter. And then that’s what it should be. And I’m trying to think of an example of that. I do not know.
Doug Belshaw: [00:29:53] You see, we just refer to where the co-op is founded, which is in the UK, and so we just go with British English and I and I correct Laura z S’s, although I have to say Laura is very good at context switching.
Laura Hilliger: [00:30:06] So I have over the years gotten a lot better at using British English. I’ve sort of trained myself and I do every once in a while, swap some letters. Like if people read my newsletter, they’re going to see use in places sometimes and other times not so yeah.
Doug Belshaw: [00:30:27] I want to ask you Jess, like before the pandemic, did you see a lot like when you’re out and about in New York do you see are you like spotting people over They’re using Wikipedia or they’re editing Wikipedia. Like, do you do you see that out and about and like, use that to inform stuff or not so much.
Jess Klein: [00:30:42] I do see people since I started Wikipedia, the biggest thing I’m noticing is that it’s like I’ll be watching an episode of some program on television, like I’m watching something on television, and they’ll be like, Oh, actually, I was watching this show. It’s called Never Have I Ever. So they had the geeky character who was the girl, one of the best friends who, of course, I totally relate to. She’s like robotics club and is amazing and awesome. And she. Referenced at one point saying something like, you know, I edit Wikipedia articles for fun and then like she moves on and it’s just like a quick moment and I’m just like, oh my gosh, like. It’s mainstream. Holy cow. Like I’m working on a product that is really me. It’s so mainstream that it’s like a punch line on a TV show. But so take into account those sort of things and think it’s great because it helps to secure like the success of the product, which the project which I am so passionate about the mission of and want people to continue to like talk about it and reference it and use it so that it lives on, but then also see things like, well, of course there’s my dad who is like a senior citizen who sends me Wikipedia articles every single day and thinks.
Laura Hilliger: [00:32:05] Oh, look what’s on Wikipedia. Yeah. Have you seen this one? Did you have anything to do with this article?
Jess Klein: [00:32:11] Anything that says it’s not even it doesn’t have to say Wikipedia.
Jess Klein: [00:32:13] It just has to say wiki in some form. Like Wikileaks. He’s like, look, look at here in the news, Jess. And have to be like, No, no, no, I’m not. Please don’t associate me with that.
Laura Hilliger: [00:32:25] To be fair, whenever I see anything about Wikipedia, I think of you. Yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:32:30] Thank you.
Doug Belshaw: [00:32:31] Can you remember when we were at Mozilla and I think Chris Beard took over and he told the story about how his dad phoned him up and said he’d bought stocks in Mozilla and he’d actually bought stocks in like a mozzarella company.
Jess Klein: [00:32:45] And no.
Doug Belshaw: [00:32:48] That story stuck with me for quite a while.
Jess Klein: [00:32:50] I could see why. That’s an amazing story.
Laura Hilliger: [00:32:52] I just remember Ben Moskowitz teaching me how to say Mozilla. And not much Motzilla when I when I first got involved, Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:33:04] And he he pulled me aside, I think it was at the drumbeat festival and he pulled me aside and he was like, I really want to help you learn this. It’s not mozzarella. I was like, thanks, Ben.
Doug Belshaw: [00:33:17] Well, we, we kind of left our audience on a bit of a cliff-hanger with your career Jess. So we got 2010
Jess Klein: [00:33:24] We got to clearly we mentioned that Mozilla.
Jess Klein: [00:33:28] I’ll just speed speed through the next year. So like I went to grad school, did this project that then got acquired, you know, by the Parks Department for one form or another. And then I was sharing my project and it kind of I met this amazing researcher, Ingrid Erickson, who was working at the time for the Social Science Research Council, and they were working on a project called. The New York City Learning Network. New York City Learning Network. Yeah, and there was one in New York and there was one in Chicago. There were two learning networks. And basically, like. Meeting her got so excited by her work and basically like made a portfolio just to apply to the position. I skipped my graduation ceremony to, to go to the interview because I was just so like in it and I loved it. And eventually that is the project that became the Hive Learning Network. And.
Laura Hilliger: [00:34:33] For our listeners. Yeah, I was just going to say, the Hive Learning Network was part of mozzarella. I’m sorry Mozilla.
Jess Klein: [00:34:39] It became it has a sticky history in terms of its naming, was trying to make a pun there but it didn’t really work but yeah Mazza mozzarella.
Jess Klein: [00:34:53] New York City learning network and The Hive. Before they were the Hive they were really just these experiments in in New York and Chicago where people were just really trying out how to get people to collaborate with, to collaborate on projects with technology in places where they typically were competing for funding. So, for example, like three different museums, how would they how would they apply for a grant on that allowed them to use some sort of new technology like the mysterious QR code?
Doug Belshaw: [00:35:29] Oh, that’s really interesting.
Doug Belshaw: [00:35:29] I didn’t know that was the the origin. Cool.
Jess Klein: [00:35:32] Yeah, it was really it was a great project. And of course, I was so interested in museums, so interested in learning and bringing learning to life that it felt like a perfect fit for me. And I was like really, really into it and I loved it. And that project. I forgot exactly. I wasn’t actually supposed to go to drumbeat, but somebody, another designer who was really working on the project, who was very good for one reason or another, couldn’t go and was like the fallback.
Doug Belshaw: [00:36:04] So this is a festival in Barcelona in 2010, was it?
Jess Klein: [00:36:07] Yeah, it was.
Jess Klein: [00:36:08] The first kind of festival. I had never been really.
Laura Hilliger: [00:36:11] The first Mozilla festival. Yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:36:13] Yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:36:14] Don’t even think I may have been on a plane once before, but this was definitely like my first, like, trip ever and was just like.
Jess Klein: [00:36:22] That’s where I met you for the first time.
Jess Klein: [00:36:25] Yeah, it was amazing.
Jess Klein: [00:36:26] It was really exciting. And so I somehow convinced Ingrid, who became my boss and Diana Rowden, to let me come because it sounded so exciting and they were planning so many things of like, you know, discussion topics and workshops and things that were going to happen at this festival. It was drumbeat. It was called drumbeat and think it was about. Learning. Something in the web, learning and the web.
Doug Belshaw: [00:36:54] So this is this is the one where badges were kind of mooted as a new, a new thing. Yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:37:00] Think it was learning freedom and the web. Freedom.
Jess Klein: [00:37:03] Yeah, that’s it. That’s it. I mean, it makes so much sense now that I say it.
Laura Hilliger: [00:37:06] I turned around because I have the second festival medium media freedom in the web.
Jess Klein: [00:37:12] O t shirt.
Jess Klein: [00:37:14] Oh, that’s a smart use of t shirts. Laura has offered t shirts like collaged like a quilt behind her. And it’s amazing.
Laura Hilliger: [00:37:22] Thank you.
Laura Hilliger: [00:37:22] And I actually talked about the t shirt quilt ten years ago too. I’m pretty sure this is your idea. I just executed on it without sewing.
Jess Klein: [00:37:30] Well, we did make a digital quilt. Remember that? I don’t know if that’s related, but.
Jess Klein: [00:37:37] In Barcelona. Okay, I’m going to stay back on topic and try and pull us. Bring us in here at Barcelona. The what happened was that my project at the time, New York City Learning Network and the and the Chicago City of Learning. Both of those projects were funded by the MacArthur Foundation, and the Mozilla Foundation was like talking with the MacArthur Foundation because Mozilla was interested in learning more about what they can do around education. Specifically, Mark Surman was very interested and she was talking with he was talking with Connie Yow, and they both kind of like Matchmade, me and this other engineer from Mozilla named Atul Varma. They were like, You guys are just going to be friends. You’re going to like like you’re going to just get along.
Laura Hilliger: [00:38:24] You seem like good friends.
Laura Hilliger: [00:38:25] What happened there? Are you still friends with Atul?
Jess Klein: [00:38:28] Yes, and Atul and are now best friends. And we basically we met in Barcelona and haven’t stopped sending each other text messages since. And he’s he’s wonderful.
Laura Hilliger: [00:38:38] And he’s a genius.
Jess Klein: [00:38:40] I really like I, I felt like you know like that moment in a romantic comedy when you meet somebody and they’re like like it’s meant to be. But it was different because it was just like this intellectual partner and creative partner, which is a whole other topic that we probably could do a whole podcast on.
Laura Hilliger: [00:38:58] I was actually thinking that because we’re about to hit the 40 minute mark that maybe we should convince you to come back and do a part two. Jess Klein Because we have other things that we want to talk about, not that I’m ending it right now, but we are slowly running out of time. And there’s a huge topic that I really wanted to talk about around creativity in the pandemic, because you have been doing amazing things over the past couple of years despite the fact that, you know, the pandemic has been causing quite a bit of havoc in the world. And I have been kind of on the opposite side of the cycle and have had a really hard time finding creativity. And I really just want to suck it out of your brain. So maybe we should have a part two.
Jess Klein: [00:39:46] I’m okay with the part two. You can do the part two. Yeah, but I do want to finish the story so that we finish one thread, which is that I met a tool. A tool worked for Mozilla. I was working at this, this on this project. And then we created, along with New York Public Library, the Chicago Public Library, what became Haxorus, which ended up eventually evolving into one of the projects that became the focus of the foundation. The Mozilla Foundation for a while. And so at a certain point, the Mozilla Foundation helped to not only take on that project, but they also took on what became The Hive.
Doug Belshaw: [00:40:28] Could you just pause and explain what Haxorus is was because it was so revolutionary, is so revolutionary at the time. Um, yeah.
Jess Klein: [00:40:37] Yeah. Now when I talk about it now it does sound a little bit, um, like there’s so many other tools that do this, but at the time there weren’t a ton. There weren’t all of the hacking schools and computer schools and coding camps that there are now. Um, but what was great was that we wanted a way to help kids to learn how to code, but in an environment that they were comfortable in and we didn’t want them to have to buy fancy software, we didn’t want them to go into something like Dreamweaver or some sort of sandbox environment. And so we wanted to create a way for people to just be on the web and to literally feel like they could hack into it. And that’s how they’re learning. So we created we created this tool, which is kind of like, if you’re familiar with the web inspector, kind of like a version of that, but then after you inspect it and change elements on different parts of a web page, you would be able to save that as a new web page. And so it’s the concept of remixing and which is really what I’ve done my entire career is just remix other people’s work as a designer. You know, you take code, you take copy, you remix, do whatever.
Laura Hilliger: [00:41:51] I feel like that’s mainly what I do as well. I feel like I mean, I feel like I remix and recycle and rearrange ideas all the time. And the thing is, is that when you’re remixing, you’re also contextualising something. And so it’s not I don’t know. I also have like this kind of weird relationship with what I do thinking, Oh, but this is already been done. But then when other people see my work, they’re like, Oh, this is, this is new, this is different. It’s like when we.
Doug Belshaw: [00:42:18] Start New Project Low and you’re like, I’ve got 57 aether pads about this, so let me just find this. You do have a lot.
Doug Belshaw: [00:42:23] I feel like we should leave things there for the part two because it’s like the cliff-hanger of like and find out how Jess applied her remix skills to the career and ended up as a principal designer at Wikimedia.
Laura Hilliger: [00:42:36] I think that’s a good idea. Jess, will you come back on our podcast again? Because this was not enough time?
Jess Klein: [00:42:43] Yes, I will. I will. This is what happens when you don’t really have a firm agenda and you just see where it goes with us. But I’m glad. I’m glad that we’re having it. This is what it sounds like when you have three people who have been colleagues and friends for I don’t know, it’s been, what, 15 years?
Doug Belshaw: [00:43:02] It’s yeah, yeah.
Laura Hilliger: [00:43:03] Don’t tell people how old we are.
Laura Hilliger: [00:43:05] Older then 15.
Doug Belshaw: [00:43:07] So we’re going to leave that for next time. But is there any final thing? I remember when I listened to like occasionally like Tim Ferriss podcast, you ask questions like if you could have a billboard anywhere in the world, where would you put it and what would it say? I feel like we need that kind of level of question to finish on, but is there anything that you want to say that people might not know, anything that you like, a proverb or a quotation that kind of springs to mind that you want to leave people with or or something to think about? I realise I’ve just dropped this on you now, so it’s totally unfair. But if you have anything you want. To end on. Now would be the time to say.
Jess Klein: [00:43:49] I feel like I should be saying something super profound right now, but maybe that’s not coming to me and that’s okay.
Jess Klein: [00:43:58] I think what I would say. I would say to be kind to yourself and to be try to be kind to other people in your work, because that’s something I’ve been trying to do a lot more and think that things like the pandemic and, you know, personal trauma has really helped me to. Kind of like if I had one little mission in in my work. That’s what it is to try to infuse it with kindness.
Doug Belshaw: [00:44:20] That’s lovely. Thank you.
Laura Hilliger: [00:44:21] That is lovely. Good.
Laura Hilliger: [00:44:22] Okay, well, we are going to wrap up then. I guess we’ll just say goodbye. And thank you so much, Jess, for hanging out with us today!
Jess Klein: [00:44:33] Thanks for having me!
Doug Belshaw: [00:44:34] Cheers, Jess!