Mozillians of the world, unite!

Friday, October 17, 2014

When i got involved with Mozilla in 1999, it was clear that something big was going on. The mozilla.org site had a distinctly “Workers of the world, unite!” feel to it. It caught my attention and made me interested to find out more.

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The language on the site had the same revolutionary feel as the design. One of the pages talked about Why Mozilla Matters and it was an impassioned rallying cry for people to get involved with the audacious thing Mozilla was trying to do.

“The mozilla.org project is terribly important for the state of open-source software. [...] And it’s going to be an uphill battle. [...] A successful mozilla.org project could be the lever that moves a dozen previously immobile stones. [...] Maximize the opportunity here or you’ll be kicking yourself for years to come.”

With some minor tweaks, these words are still true today. One change: we call the project just Mozilla now instead of mozilla.org. Our mission today is also broader than creating software, we also educate people about the web, advocate to keep the Internet open and more.

Another change is that our competition has adopted many of the tactics of working in the open that we pioneered. Google, Apple and Microsoft all have their own open source communities today. So how can we compete with companies that are bigger than us and are borrowing our playbook?

We do something radical and audicious. We build a new playbook. We become pioneers for 21st century participation. We tap into the passion, skills and expertise of people around the world better than anyone else. We build the community that will give Mozilla the long-term impact that Mitchell spoke about at the Summit.

mitchell_summit

Mozilla just launched the Open Standard site and one of the first articles posted is “Struggle For An Open Internet Grows“. This shows how the challenges of today are not the same challenges we faced 16 years ago, so we need to do new things in new ways to advance our mission.

If the open Internet is blocked or shut down in places, let’s build communities on the ground that turn it back on. If laws threaten the web, let’s make that a public conversation. If we need to innovate to be relevant in the coming Internet of Things, let’s do that.

Building the community that can do this is work we need to start on. What doesn’t serve our community any more? What do we need to do that we aren’t? What works that needs to get scaled up? Mozillians of the world, unite and help answer these questions.


Investing more in community building

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I’m very excited to see the new version of Mozilla’s Get Involved page go live. Hundreds of people each week come to this page to learn about how they can volunteer. Improvements to this page will lead to more people making more of an impact on Mozilla’s projects.

get_involved_2014

This page has a long history—this page existed on www.mozilla.org when Mozilla launched in 1998 and it has been redesigned a few times before. There is something different about the effort this time though.

We’ve spent far more time researching, prototyping, designing, testing, upgrading and building than ever before. This reflects Mozilla’s focus this year of enabling communities that have impact and that goal has mobilized experts from many teams who have made the experience for new volunteers who use this page much better.

Mozilla’s investment in community in 2014 is showing up in other ways too, including a brand new contribution dashboard, a relaunched contributor newsletter, a pilot onboarding program, the first contributor research effort in three years and much more.

All of these pieces are coming together and will give us a number of options for how we can continue and increase the investment in community in 2015. Look for more thoughts soon on why that is important, what that could look like and how you could help shape it.


Learning more about the Mozilla community

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

We’ve learned a lot this year as we’ve been working on enabling communities that have impact. We discovered there is a high contributor churn rate, scaling the size of the community doesn’t meet the needs of all teams and there is a need to make community building more reliable and predictable.

There are still many more questions than answers right now though and there is much more to learn. A contributor audit was done in 2011 that had useful findings and recommendations, but it has now been 3 years since that research was completed. It is time to do more.

400px-Audit_presentation

Research has provided other community-driven organizations with lessons that help them be more successful. For example, Lego has an active community and research has helped them develop a set of principles that promote successful interactions that provide value for both community members and the Lego organization.

We’ll be kicking off a new research project soon and we’d love to get your help. This will involve creating a survey to send out to Mozillians and will also dive into the contributor data we’ve started collecting. This won’t answer all the questions we have, but this will give us some insight and can provide a starting point for other research projects.

areweamillion_coding

Some specific asks for helping with the survey include thinking about what questions we want to ask and thinking about the audience of people we want to reach out to. For the data analysis part, please comment here or contact me if you’re interested in helping.


Creating community contribution challenges

Monday, September 8, 2014

There is something magical about how anyone anywhere can contribute to Mozilla—people show up and help you with something you’re doing or offer you something completely new and unexpected.

The Code Rush documentary has a great example of this from the time when the Mozilla project first launched. Netscape opened it’s code to the world in the hope that people would contribute, but there was no guarantee that anyone would help.

One of the first signs they had that this was working was when Stuart Parmenter started contributing by rewriting a key part of the code and this accelerated development work by months. (This is about 27 minutes into the documentary.)

code_rush_pavlov_scene

It is hard to plan and schedule around magic though. This year we’ve been building up a participation system that will help make contributions more reliable and predictable, so that teams can plan and schedule around leveraging the Mozilla community.

Pathways, tools and education are part of that system. Something else we’re trying is contribution challenges. These will identify unmet needs where scale and asynchronous activities can provide impact in the short-term and where there is strong interest within the volunteer community.

The challenges will also specify the when, where, who and how of the idea, so that we can intentionally design for participation at the beginning and have a prepared way that we’re rallying people to take action.

For next steps, leadership of the Mozilla Reps program is meeting in Berlin from September 12-14 and they’ll be working on this concept as well as on some specific challenge ideas. There will be more to share after that.

RemoCamp-berlin

If you’re interested in helping with this and want to get involved, take a look at the contribution challenges etherpad for more background and a list of challenge ideas. Then join the community building mailing list and share your thoughts, comments and questions.


Quality over Quantity

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I was in Portland last week for a work week and Michelle recommended that I try the donuts at Blue Star. The blueberry donut was really great. The inside of the bakery was interesting too—right inside the doors was a big mural that said ‘Quality over Quantity’.

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That turned out to be an good summary of the work week. We were checking in on progress toward this year’s goal to grow the number of active contributors by 10x and also thinking about how we could increase the impact of our community building work next year.

One clear take-away was that community building can’t be all about growth. Some teams, like Location Service, do need large numbers of new active contributors, but many teams don’t. For instance, localization needs to develop the active contributors already in the project into core contributors that can take on a bigger role.

For me, creating a draft framework that would give us more ways to support teams and communities was the most important thing we did—in addition to taking a great team photo :)

cbt_portland_photo_fun

Growth is part of this framework, but it includes other factors for us to look at to make sure that we’re building healthy functional and regional communities. The health measures we think we should be focusing on next year are:

  • Retention (how many contributors are staying and leaving)
  • Growth (how many new contributors are joining)
  • Development (how many contributors are getting more deeply involved in a project)
  • Sentiment (how do contributors feel about being involved)
  • Capacity (how are teams increasing their ability to build communities)

Having this more nuanced approach to community building will create more value because it aligns better with the needs we’re seeing across Mozilla. The growth work we’ve done has been critical to getting us here and we should continue that along with adding more to what we offer.

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There is a video that Rainer just posted that has a story Chris Hofmann told at last year’s summit about one contributor that had a huge impact on the project. This is a great example of how we should be thinking more broadly about community building.

We should be setting up participation systems that let us help teams build long-lasting relationships with contributors like Scoobidiver as well as helping teams connect with large numbers of people to focus on an issue for a short time when that is what’s needed.

Moral of this story: Eat more donuts—they help you think :)


People are the hook

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

One of Mozilla’s goals for 2014 is to grow the number of active contributors by 10x. As we’ve been working on this, we’ve been learning a lot of interesting things. I’m going to do a series of posts with some of those insights.

The recent launch of the contributor dashboard has provided a lot of interesting information. What stands out to me is the churn — we’re able to connect new people to opportunities, but growth is slower than it could be because many people are leaving at the same time.

areweamillion_coding

To really highlight this part of the data, Pierros made a chart that compares the number of new people who are joining with the number of people leaving. The results are dramatic — more people are joining, but the number of people leaving is significant.

churn_chart

This is understandable — the goal for this year is about connecting new people and we haven’t focused much effort on retention. As the year winds down and we look to next year, I encourage us to think about what a serious retention effort would look like.

I believe that the heart of a retention effort is to make it very easy for contributors to find new contribution opportunities as well as helping them make connections with other community members.

Stories we’ve collected from long time community members almost all share the thread of making a connection with another contributor and getting hooked. We have data from an audit that shows this too — a positive experience in the community keeps people sticking around.

kitherder_demo

There are many ways we could help create those connections. Just one example is the Kitherder mentor matching tool that the Security team is working on. They did a demo of it at the last Grow Mozilla meeting.

I don’t know what the answer is though, so I’d love to hear what other people think. What are some of the ways you would address contributor retention?


Community Building Stories

Monday, July 21, 2014

One of Mozilla’s goals for 2014 is to grow the number of active contributors by 10x. For the first half of the year, the Community Building team has been supporting other teams as they connect more new contributors to their projects.

Everyone on the team recently blogged about their experience supporting projects. The stories below show different stages in the lifecycle of communities and show how we’re helping projects progress through the phases of starting, learning, scaling and then sustaining communities.

We’ve learned a lot from these experiences that will help us complete the goal in the second half of the year. For example, the Geolocation pilot event in Bangalore will be a template for more events that will connect more people to the Location Services project.

Photo courtesy of  Galaxy Kadiyala

Photo courtesy of Galaxy Kadiyala

These are just a few of the stories of community building though. There are many other blog posts to check out and even a video Dia made about how contributors made the Web We Want video available in 29 different languages.

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I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing to connect with more contributors and to hear about what you’ve learned. Feel free to leave links to your stories in the comments below.


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