Things I’m thinking about

June 3, 2014 § 3 Comments

I’m in one of those ‘need to get back to blogging’ modes. Thinking about a lot of things. Feeling too busy to blog. Waiting until I have the perfect thing to say. Which is always a bad sign.

So, to get the juices flowing, I just decided to make a list of things I’m thinking about. Here it is:

1. Connecting open mobile <-> local content <-> web literacy — we we need to make progress on all three of these things at once if we want the web to be a serious player for the next few billion internet users. I’m working up a project on this topic with Ben, David and others.

2. Building a web literacy mentor community that scales — I’m excited about Maker Party, but also worried we’ll see post-campaign drop off again this year. We need a more systematic mentor program that grows, gets better and keeps people engaged 365/days a year. I’m helping Michelle and Brett think about this.

3. Figuring out the connection between an open internet and a fair internet. This a tricky. We assume an open internet will unlock opportunity for the billions of people coming online over the next few years. But it could just as easily lead to digital sweatshops. My new friends Chris and Brooke got me thinking about this in April. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

4. Finding the right balance between clear goals, working across teams and distributed leadership. If I’m honest, we’ve struggled with these things at MoFo for the last 18 months or so. Our recent all hands in San Francisco felt like a breakthrough: focused, problem-solvey, fast moving. I’m thinking alot about how to keep this feeling. Working with Gunner and a bunch of other people on this.

5. Pushing on the Hive Lab concept. Some of the best Webmaker ideas — and much of our new Webmaker ‘textbook’ — come from the educators, designers and programmers we work with in Hives. However, we haven’t really figured out a way to systematically support and invest in this ‘lab’ side of Hive. I’ve been working with Claw and others to see how we can do more here.

6. Raising money. I’m always thinking about this, so it’s on my list. Right now, I’m thinking about major gifts, which is an area we’ve never cracked. IMHO, breaking through in this area is critical if we want to build Mozilla into a 100 year org that withstand the ups and downs of the market. I’m starting to talk to Geoff about this. Also, looking for outside people to help.

7. Linking Maker Party and net neutrality. Alot of the issues that Mozilla cares about are hard for people to get their heads around — net neutrality, DRM, etc. We should be able to use our web literacy work to help with this. I’ve been talking to Dave, Amira and others about building a ‘net neutrality teach-in’ campaign into Maker Party as an experiment in making this web literacy <-> big-hairy-internet-issue link.

8. Talking about LEGO some more. Specifically: how the LEGO Movie has a bunch of corny-but-useful metaphors for how screwed the Internet is right now. And how we can’t rely on a single here (e.g. Mozilla) to save the day. Spoiler: I’m going to use some LEGO Movie clips in my Knight Civic Media Conference talk later this month.

Random. I know. But these are places my brain is right now. A little scattered. But all feels juicy, good, important. Will write in more depth on some of these things soon.

Happy birthday world wide web. I love you. And want to keep you free.

March 12, 2014 § 10 Comments

As my business card says, I have an affection for the world wide the web. And, as the web turns 25 this week, I thought it only proper to say to the web ‘I love you’ and ‘I want to keep you free’.

Web heart pic

From its beginning, the web has been a force for innovation and education, reshaping the way we interact with the world around us. Interestingly, the original logo and tag line for the web was ‘let’s share what we know! — which is what billions of us have now done.

As we have gone online to connect and share, the web has revolutionized how we work, live and love: it has brought friends and families closer even when they are far away; it has decentralized once closed and top-down industries; it has empowered citizens to pursue democracy and freedom. It has become a central building block for all that we do.

Yet, on its 25 birthday, the web is at an inflection point.

Despite its positive impact, too many of us don’t understand its basic mechanics, let alone its culture or what it means to be a citizen of the web. Mobile, the platform through which the next billion users will join the web, is increasingly closed, not allowing the kind of innovation and sharing that has made the world wide web such a revolutionary force in in the first place. And, in many parts of the world, the situation is made worse by governments who censor the web or use the web surveil people at a massive scale, undermining the promise of the web as an open and trusted resource for all of humanity.

Out of crisis comes opportunity. As the Web turns 25, let us all say to the web: ‘I love you’ and ‘I want to keep you free’. Let’s take the time to reflect not just on the web we have, but on the web we want.

Mozilla believes the web needs to be both open and trusted. We believe that users should be able to control how their private information is used. And we believe that the web is not a one-way platform — it should give as all a chance makers, not just consumers. Making this web means we all need access to an open network, we all need software that is open and puts us in control and we all need to be literate in the technology and culture of the web. The Mozilla community around the world stands for all these things.

So on the web’s 25 birthday, we are joining with the Web at 25 campaign and the Web We Want campaign to enable and amplify the voice of the Internet community. We encourage you to visit www.webat25.org to sign a birthday card for the web and visit our interactive quilt to share your vision for the type of web you want.

Happy Birthday to the web — and to all of us who are on and in it!

–Mark

ps: Also, check out these birthday wishes for the web from Mozilla’s Mitchell Baker and Brendan Eich.

pps: Here’s the quilt: the web I want enables everyone around the world to be a maker. Add yourself.

 

MoFo 2014 plans

January 14, 2014 § 1 Comment

I’m excited about 2014 at Mozilla. Building on last fall’s Mozilla Summit, it feels like people across the project are re-energized by Mitchell’s reminder that we are a global community with a common cause. Right now, this community is sharply focused on making sure the web wins on mobile and on teaching the world how the web works. I’m optimistic that we’re going to make some breakthroughs in these areas in the year ahead.

Last month, I sat down with our board to talk about where we want to focus the Mozilla Foundation’s education and community program efforts in 2014. We agreed that two things should be our main priorities this year: 1. getting more people to use our learning tools and 2. growing our community of contributors. I’ve posted the board slides (pdf) and a screencast for people who want a detailed overview of our plans. Here is the screencast:

If you are just looking for a quick overview, here are some of the main points from the slides:

  • Over the past 5 years, MoFo has successfully built Webmaker, Open Badges and other community programs to compliment our work on Firefox, FirefoxOS and other products.
  • In 2013, MoFo generated $13M in revenue and gathered thousands of community members and contributors around these programs.
  • In 2014, MoFo’s goal is to improve and scale our education and community initiatives by:
  • a. Growing the number of contributors working on Mozilla initiatives like Webmaker, Open Badges, Open News, etc. to at least 10,000.
  • b. Driving adoption of Webmaker and Open Badges, with a particular focus on getting our tools into the hands of many more teachers and evangelists.
  • Our key strategy for doing these things is to identify and work with ‘lead users’ across all our programs in 2014. Lead users are people who are already enthusiastic about what we’re doing.
  • I talked alot about lead users for Webmaker in this post back in September. These people play a key role in testing, building and promoting our education and community programs alongside us.
  • In 2013, MoFo aims to generate at least $17M in revenue to support this work. We are projecting expenses of approximately $18M, over $1M of which are covered by grant revenue we received in 2013.

In addition to these slides, you can also find detailed workplans for Webmaker, Open Badges, Open News and other MoFo initiatives on the Mozilla Wiki.

At the Mozilla Summit, we imagined a bold future 10 years from now: one where the values of the web are built into all aspects of our connected lives and where the broad majority of people are literate in the ways of the web. In this world, Mozilla is a strong global movement with over a million active contributors.

We move towards this world by building real things: a widely used mobile operating system based on the web; new ways to store and protect personal information online; content and tools for teaching web literacy. I’m excited working on the education and community sides of all this in 2014 — I think we can make some breakthroughs.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our plans and the year ahead, either as comments here or by email.

Who wants to teach the web?

September 19, 2013 § 16 Comments

People who teach others about the web are key to the future of Webmaker — and maybe even the future of Mozilla. I’m not talking only about teachers in classrooms getting their kids into HTML. Although that’s part of it. I’m talking about anyone who a) is excited about the culture and technology of the web and b) wants to help others get more out of the web they create and communicate on everyday online. We’ve been calling these people ‘mentors’. But, more simply, they are people who love the web want to share their passion.

Maker Party Surabaya

In my recent post on Maker Party, I asked ‘how do we build a global community of mentors?’ One of the first steps is meeting these people, figuring out who they are and what they really want. We’ve been doing that all summer with Maker Party. And I did a bit personally as I traveled around over the earlier this month. Here are a few of the mentors I met.

Rafael, curious.

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Rafael is an IT consultant who used to be a teacher. He knows the web and a little programming. He came to our Manila Maker party just to find out what was up. He ended up winning the ‘best make’ contest with a Thimble comic strip remix. At the end he said: I want to show this to some of the teacher friends. We pointed him to Webmaker.org/teach and told him local MozReps would be in touch. Rafael is the guy with a tshirt over his face.

Joe, learner turned mentor.

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Joe is an high school student in the UK. He first got turned onto Webmaker at MozFest 2011. He liked the idea of teaching his less geeky friends about web programming, so he organized a Summer Code Party in 2012. This year he was helping as a Webmaker mentor at Campus Party in London. Joe is also active with DeCoded, an other London tech education group. Joe is the guy in the foreground with the white mentor shirt on.

Abdul, teacher.

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Abdul is an IT teacher in a high school in Surabaya, Indonesia. He helped us organize a 100 person all day Maker Party in the school auditorium. He teaches HTML and PHP using notepad already, but wants a way to get kids more excited about those technologies. The two pane Thimble editor plus having his kids hack our animated GIF postcard template seemed like a good start. Now he wants to offer Webmaker activities regularly at his school, although would find it easier if there was content in Bahasa Indonesia.

Youth IT Clubs.

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In Surabaya, I met with a bunch of high school IT clubs: after-school groups led by the the IT teacher. In the case of Abdul, he recruited his club to run our 100 person Webmaker event. And wants to help them learn to be leaders and teachers themselves by involving them in ongoing Webmaker programs. We already have a great example of working with youth in this way as part of our relationship with MOUSE via Hive NYC.

Lewie, youth mentor activator.

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Lewie is in his early twenties. A few years ago, he didn’t know how to code. Now he teaches corporate execs about programming for Freeformers. He also helps find other young people who he can train up and do the same. This is part of Freeformers effort to get young talent creating more young talent, using a 1:1 business model where corporate training funds more training for young people from unlikely backgrounds. The Freeformers have been active users of and contributors to Webmaker. That’s Lewie on the right.

Michelle, partner in crime.

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Michelle runs developer relations for one of the two big mobile operators in the Philippines. She is also a great friend of Mozilla’s. She regularly offers event space for things like Webmaker events. And, at the Maker Party, stepped up in real time to offer a small cash prize for the best make. It’s win / win for sure: her company is positioned as part of our effort to build young web talent at little cost. But, there is more there. Michelle is personally excited about what we’re doing. This offers a great deal of validation and motivation to both the mentors and the learners in the room. That’s Michelle on the right.

Kindred spirits and partners, more broadly.

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A core idea behind Webmaker is being a big tent for anyone who wants to teach the Web. It’s about finding kindred spirits who want to teach alongside us. The three fellows above are from the local robot hacker community in Surabaya. They came to help with our Hive Pop Up. We worked with dozens and dozens of partners like this as part of Maker Party this summer including Code Club, National Writing Project, Technology Will Save Us, Young Rewired State and all of the members of our Hive Networks. I’m going to do a separate post on partners, but they are a key piece of building a mentor network in their own right.

Benny and Yoe One, Super Mentors.

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Benny and Yoe One are dedicated Mozilla volunteers who live in Surabaya. They don’t just work on Webmaker. But they have been incredibly active. They organized the Maker Party and Hive Pop Up in Surabaya. And, more importantly, started to build relationships with dozens of schools and local government to create interest in what we’re doing. They are ‘Super Mentors’ in our parlance: people who have the skills to teach but also want to help us bring in and train more mentors. Obviously, these people are absolutely key to the success of our Webmaker effort. Benny is to the left and Yoe One is to the right of Abdul.

Faye, Webmaker country lead.

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Faye is a university student in Manila and a Mozilla Rep. She is also the official Webmaker Country Lead. The MozReps in the Philippines have created lead positions like this for many Mozilla programs to make sure someone is a driver. Being Webmaker Lead means Faye not only organized the Maker Party I was at in Manila but is also thinking strategically about how to improve Webmaker and how to get it out of Manila into remote regions. She is like a Super Mentor with a more official role within the local reps community. We may want to consider having this kind of ‘lead’ role in other countries or other cities. That is Faye in the Firefox shirt on the right.

Bob, Jun and Viking, the elders.

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In many countries around the world, Mozilla is lucky to have a community of elders. People who have been a part of the Mozilla community since very early on. A number of these people have been critical in getting Webmaker going in their countries, encouraging other community members like Benny, Faye and Yoe One to get involved. These people also could (and should) play a key role in defining where we go next with Webmaker and how it ties into the rest of Mozilla’s work. This is a picture of Viking. Bob and Jun are on the right in the picture below.

The posse.

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Finally, a key part of the picture is what I just call ‘the posse’. These aren’t mentors per say, although they do often pitch in teaching at Maker Parties. They are active Mozilla community members working on a variety of things who are willing to help their peers who are running Webmaker activities. I found them in all three cities I visited. This is the awesome posse holding fort at the registration desk at our recent Manila Maker Party.

As you can see just from my handful of examples, these mentors (sic) are quite diverse. But they do have things in common. They are passionate about the web. They want to teach or share what they know about the web in an active way. They want to be part of what Mozilla’s doing, either on the face of it or because the big tent brings people to their own teaching programs. And, across the board, they are simply generous and enthusiastic people who want to make the world better for the people around them by sharing the web.

At this stage, these mentors are the most critical audience for Webmaker. This is in part because they are the ones who get it and like it: they are in a great position to help us test, iterate and build it out further with community contributions. But it’s also because they will bring in the next round of web makers. Each mentor who uses Webmaker.org will bring 5 – 50 more users as a part of the teaching they are doing. Summed up: growing our mentor community will both make Webmaker better and grow our user base. IMHO, we should be putting most of our efforts right now on making Webmaker better for — and with — mentors.

Mozilla Maker Party: a global lab

September 11, 2013 § 5 Comments

Over the last three months, Mozilla set up a global lab. It’s called Maker Party. And its goal is to do real world experiments that invite people to teach, play with and test the thinking behind Mozilla Webmaker. This lets us learn and improve as we go. In this post I outline the questions we’re asking. In follow-on posts, a bunch of us will look at what we’re learning.

Diagram of Maker Party as it relates to Webmaker

What are we trying to test? At the broadest level, we want to test the idea that we can teach the culture and technology of the web to large numbers of people by tapping into maker culture and people’s desire to create. More specifically, Maker Party is asking:

1. How broad is (web)making? What do people want to make and learn?

The Webmaker program is a big tent: we support people who are teaching the culture and technology of the web no matter what tools they are using. Maker Party events reflect this, with people teaching everything from HTML to robots to paper prototyping. On the other hand, Webmaker.org is currently focused on Mozilla’s tools. Maker Party helps us ask: What do people most want to make and learn? What’s our relationship to the broader maker movement? Depending on the answers, do we expand the scope of Webmaker.org? How?

2. Does our ‘making as learning’ approach work? Does it draw people in?

We built Webmaker.org with the theory that people will learn how the web works fastest and best if we invite them to make something that delights them and that they are passionate about. The starter makes, new UX and the increased focus on remix that started to appear in Webmaker in June are all based around this theory. Maker Party helps us test this theory, both by seeing which aspects of the tools / content / site people were most drawn to and by asking mentors ‘what do you think people are learning?’.

3 What value can we provide people who want to teach the web?

People who want to teach others about the web are our first target for Webmaker. Spanning everyone from English teachers to web developers to teens who want to show their friends something cool, these are our ‘lead users’ They’re willing to kick the tires to help us improve. And they help us grow by bringing in more users (the people they want to teach). They are key to our early success. The question for Maker Party: What motivates these people? What value can we provide them? What can our tools, content and community offer to them that they can’t find elsewhere?

4. Can we grow our reach by working with partners?

Partnership has always been a core part of our ‘big tent’ approach with Webmaker. For Maker Party, we signed up dozens of partners to help us in the lab (and to run great programs for young people. They include: National Writing Project; Code Club; New York Hall of Science; Black Girls Code; Girl Scouts of America; MIT; California Academy of Science; E-Skills; Pycon Canada. Maker Party helps us ask: What motivates these partners? What value add can we offer to the programs they are already running? Are they helping us grow our reach and impact? Are we helping them do the same?

5. How do we build a global community of mentors?

One of the key goals of Maker Party is to grow and strengthen a lasting community of Webmaker mentors. With this in mind, we designed multi-step process that included: 1) recruiting and teaching mentors (Teach the Web MOOC); 2) offering a Mozilla Mentor badge to create a sense of belonging; 3) supporting mentors as they ran Maker Parties; 4) celebrating the best mentors; and 5) creating an ongoing mentor program for people to join post campaign. The questions for the lab: What parts of this worked? Do people want to stay involved? What does a formal ‘program’ for mentors look like? What content, infrastructure and staff do we need?

With over 1,000 Maker Parties under our belt, it’s time to start answering these questions. We have a great deal of real world experience and feedback to throw against the questions above. We also have a slate of formal user testing feedback on webmaker.org that we’re rolling into the design. And we have a growing network of excellent mentors who can help us both reflect and design next steps.

For my part, I’m going to write up reflections on Maker Parties I attended in the UK, the Philippines and Indonesia over the past week. People from across the Webmaker team will also be doing their own posts. And we may do a survey of Maker Party organizers based on the questions above. This will feed into how we evolve both the Webmaker program overall and webmaker.org.

If you’ve been involved, I encourage you to do your own reflections. Blog. Tweet using the #makerparty hashtag. Post in the Webmaker mailing list. We’ve all got a to playing in making Webmaker better.

Coming out of my (blogging) shell

September 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

I noticed with a titch of horror last week that my last post on this blog was in May. Well, maybe horror is wrong. Embarrassment.

Why embarrassed? Blogging is one of the things I do to work and live out in the open. It’s essential as a way to explain the things I’m working on at Mozilla so others can understand and contribute. Also, if you like collaborating with people, it’s just good form to be transparent and show what you are thinking as you move through life trying to get things done.

Mitigating the embarrassment factor: there was a method to my silent summer madness. I’ve been spending the last few months focused on supporting others on my leadership team and on framework ideas to help us all as we go to the Mozilla Summit. Still, I didn’t expect to go dark for so long.

As of today, I’m back at blogging. My first priority is to look back at the Mozilla Maker Party campaign that the Webmaker team has been running all summer. Will put up a first post on that tomorrow. I also want to start writing about the Summit and some thoughts on where Mozilla might head in the future. Lots of thinking and typing ahead.

 

Mozilla and Badges: where next?

May 20, 2013 § 3 Comments

Open Badges started as a modest experiment: build open source badge issuing software for ourselves and others. As momentum around this experiment has grown, it feels like the opportunity is bigger: we could build openness and user empowerment into how learning — and professional identity — work all across the web. With Open Badges 1.0 out there in the world, now is the right time to ask: where next for Mozilla and badges?

Badges Evolution

When Mozilla and MacArthur Foundation first started work on Open Badges about 18 months ago, the plan was to build a badge interchange standard (like SMTP for skills) and a collection of open source software for issuing and sharing badges (Badge Backpack, Open Badger, etc.). We’ve built all these things. And we’ve put up a reference implementation that Mozilla and others are using. This was really the limit of our original plan: build some basic open tech for badges and put it out there in the world.

The thing is: there has been way more excitement and pick up of badges than we expected. Even though Open Badges only launched officially in March, there are already over 800 unique providers who have issued almost 100,000 badges. We are also starting to see the development of city-wide systems where learners can pick up hundreds of different badges from across dozens of learning orgs and combine them all into a single profile. Chicago is the first city to do this (June 1), but Philadelphia and San Francisco are not far behind. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg: orgs like the Clinton Global Initiative and the National Science Foundation are focusing on badges in a way that is likely to drive even more educators to pick up the Open Badges standard, making their badges interoperable with others.

Of course, the fact that educators and policy makers are interested in badges doesn’t represent a victory in itself. It just shows momentum and buzz. The real opportunity — and the real impact — comes when learners and employers get excited about badges. Mozilla never planned to build offerings for these audiences. Increasingly, it feels like we should.

Badges Audiences

In the Internet era, people learn things online and out of school all the time. Whether you want to make a web page, knit a sweater or get better at calculus, the internet makes it easy to learn on your own or with a group of friends outside of a school setting. However, there is no good way to get credentials or recognition for this kind of learning. And, even if there was, there is no trusted, verifiable way to plug that recognition into Facebook, About.me and other places that make up your online identity. People have no good way to show ‘what they know’ online.

Similarly, employers are increasingly turning to the internet to find talent. They use sites like LinkedIn that let you search online resumes. Or, increasingly, to sites like Gild and TalentBin that use data mining to find potential hires. The problem: these services do not offer granular or variable skills profiles. And, with some of them, there are significant issues around privacy: people are being offered up as potential hires without even knowing that these sites are collecting data about them.

Mozilla could offer a distributed, open source and privacy-friendly solution to problems like these. We could help learners show their skills in all their online profiles and also help employers search for talent reliably. However, to do so, we’d have to build a Firefox-quality offering for learners and employers on top of Open Badges. While this hasn’t been our focus up til now, I’m thinking more and more that this is something we should consider.

Badge product

In some ways, there is a parallel to Gecko and Firefox. Gecko provides the underlying platform for shaping standards around our vision of the web. But we need a popular consumer offering like Firefox if we want this vision to actually become relevant in the market. Right now, with Open Badges, we’re mostly just playing at the underlying standards layer. If we really want to shape how learning and professional identity work on the web, we probably need to build our own offerings directly for the people who most want and need badges.

Now is the time to be looking at where the opportunity is in this space. Momentum and demand is amongst educators is growing. More and more start ups are appearing in the badges, portfolio and skills spaces. And likelihood that badges will be important for learners and employers is growing. We need to be asking ourselves: how can Mozilla — and its values — shape this space?

With this in mind, Erin Knight is leading an effort over the next few months to look at different badges product options. She’ll be providing updates on her blog. And I’ll be summarizing here as well. If you have ideas on where Mozilla should go on all of this, we’d love to have you involved as we think this through. Comments here on this post are a good place to start.

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