People are the hook

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.


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.


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.


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?

9 thoughts on “People are the hook

  1. When I think about the reasons I’ve stuck around the Mozilla project for so long it comes down to learning. I am always learning new things in this community. I’ve often taken it upon myself to suss out things I’ve wanted to learn, and through my contributions little by little found new learning experiences.

    I think there’s great potential in formalizing learning programs. I think teaching contributors not only how to contribute but how to have agency, how to use their contributions as a springboard in their personal lives and how to be citizens in the open source world is how we retain people.

    We’re beginning to do this, through the #TeachTheWeb at Webmaker, through the Grow Program, through Ascend, through TRIBE, through individual team initiatives designed to educate people on open source ethos. We have to keep finding ways to offer these experiences not only to new, potential contributors, but to people who are already here. We need to spend the money, time and effort to help people grow as individuals through the Mozilla project.

    In my view, it all comes down to education. We need to work together to make them truly robust, multifaceted and interesting so that every one who looks at Mozilla can easily find a way to level up in their own lives.

    1. Laura, this is a great insight. I think it would definitely help us address this retention issue if we can help connect people to learning opportunities that are relevant to them.

  2. The idea that people are the hook confirms what I’ve heard several Mozillians say. Anecdotally, people stay involved because they enjoy what they do, the cause it supports and the people they interact with.

    Great insights in the ‘Joined vs Left’ chart. I’m curious – what is the time period on the x-axis of that chart?

  3. I think the reason there is so much churn is because there are a lot of low quality and short term opportunities for contribution and not enough high quality or long term opportunities.

    If you think about our community we put a lot of emphasis on one off contributions. Think QA’s new “One and Done” and think “Bugs Ahoy”.

    So cool we have these entry points but they don’t hook people in for the long term… They are literally one and done most of the time.

    1. I agree. The focus for the year has been the first parts of the contribution pathway and there hasn’t been as much attention on building out those pathways for deeper contribution opportunities on teams.

  4. Also, there were some events with Mozilla overall that made people angry and gave them reason to leave, you need to correlate esp. the “leaving” piece of the chart with those.

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