July 16, 2014 § 5 Comments
We want millions of people learning about the web everyday with Mozilla. The ‘why’ is simple: web literacy is quickly becoming just as important as reading, writing and math. By 2024, there will be more than 5 billion people on the web. And, by then, the web will shape our everyday lives even more than it does today. Understanding how it works, how to build it and how to make it your own will be essential for nearly everyone.
The tougher question is ‘how’ — how do we teach the web with both the depth *and* scale that’s needed? Most people who tackle a big learning challenge pick one path of the other. For example, the educators in our Hive Learning Networks are focused on depth of learning. Everything the do is high touch, hands-on and focused on innovating so learning happens in a deep way. On the flip side, MOOCs have quickly shown what scale looks like, but they almost universally have high drop out rates and limited learning impact for all but the most motivated learners. We rarely see depth and scale go together. Yet, as the web grows, we need both. Urgently.
I’m actually quite hopeful. I’m hopeful because the Mozilla community is deeply focused on tackling this challenge head on, with people rolling up their sleeves to help people learn by making and organizing themselves in new ways that could massively grow the number of people teaching the web. We’re seeing the seeds of both depth and scale emerge.
This snapped into focus for me at MozFest East Africa in Kampala a few days ago. Borrowing from the MozFest London model, the event showcased a variety of open tech efforts by Mozilla and others: FirefoxOS app development; open data tools from a local org called Mountabatten; Mozilla localization; Firefox Desktop engineering; the work of the Ugandan National Information Technology Agency. It also included a huge Maker Party, with 200 young Ugandans showing up to learn and hack with Webmaker tools.
The Maker Party itself was impressive — pulled off well despite rain and limited connectivity. But what was more impressive was seeing how the Mozilla community is stepping up to plant the seeds of teaching the web at depth and scale, which I’d call out as:
Mentors: IMHO, a key to depth is humans connecting face to face to learn. We’ve set up a Webmaker Mentors program in the last year to encourage this kind of learning. The question has been: will people step up to do this kind of teaching and mentoring, and do it well? MozFest EA was promising start: 30 motivated mentors showed up prepared, enthusiastic and ready to help the 200 young people at the event learn the web.
Curriculum: one of the hard parts of scaling a volunteer-based mentor program is getting people to focus their teaching on the most important web literacy skills. We released a new collection of open source web literacy curriculum over the past couple of months designed to solve this problem. We weren’t sure how things would work out, I’d say MozFestEA is early evidence that curriculum can do a good job of helping people quickly understand what and how to teach. Here, each of the mentors was confidently and articulately teaching a piece of the web literacy framework using Webmaker tools.
Making as learning: another challenge is getting people to teach / learn deeply based on written curriculum. Mozilla focuses on ‘making by learning’ as a way past this — putting hands-on, project based learning at the heart of most of our Webmaker teaching kits. For example, the basic remix teaching kit gets learners quickly hacking and personalizing their favourite big brand web site, which almost always gets people excited and curious. More importantly: this ‘making as learning’ approach lets mentors adapt the experience to a learner’s interests and local context in real time. It was exciting to see the Ugandan mentors having students work on web pages focused on local school tasks and local music stars, which worked well in making the standard teaching kits come to life.
Clubs: mentors + curriculum + making can likely get us to our 2014 goal of 10,000 people around the world teaching web literacy with Mozilla. But the bigger question is how do we keep the depth while scaling to a much bigger level? One answer is to create more ’nodes’ in the Webmaker network and get them teaching all year round. At MozFest EA, there was a session on Webmaker Clubs — after school web literacy clubs run by students and teachers. This is an idea that floated up from the Mozilla community in Uganda and Canada. In Uganda, the clubs are starting to form. For me, this is exciting. Right now we have 30 contributors working on Webmaker in Uganda. If we opened up clubs in schools, we could imagine 100s or even 1000s. I think clubs like this is a key next step towards scale.
Community leadership: the thing that most impressed me at MozFestEA was the leadership from the community. San Emmanuel James and Lawrence Kisuuki have grown the Mozilla community in Uganda in a major way over the last couple of years. More importantly, they have invested in building more community leaders. As one example, they organized a Webmaker train the trainer event a few weeks before MozFestEA. The result was what I described above: confident mentors showing up ready to teach, including people other than San and Lawrence taking leadership within the Maker Party side of the event. I was impressed.This is key to both depth and scale: building more and better Mozilla community leaders around the world.
Of course, MozFestEA was just one event for one weekend. But, as I said, it gave me hope: it made be feel that the Mozilla community is taking the core building blocks of Webmaker shaping them into something that could have a big impact.
With Maker Party kicking off this week, I suspect we’ll see more of this in coming months. We’ll see more people rolling up their sleeves to help people learn by making. And more people organizing themselves in new ways that could massively grow the number of people teaching the web. If we can make happen this summer, much bigger things lay on the path ahead.
July 14, 2014 § 1 Comment
Do you remember how hard digital photography used to be? I do. When my first son was born, I was still shooting film, scanning things in and manually creating web pages to show off a few choice pictures. By the time my second son was walking I had my first good digital camera. Things were better, but I still had to drag pictures onto a hard drive, bring them into Photoshop, painstakingly process them and then upload to Flickr. And then, seemingly overnight, we took a leap. Phones got good cameras. Photo processing right on the camera got dead simple. And Instagram happened. We rarely think about it, but: digital photography went from hard and expensive to cheap and ubiquitous in a very short period of time.
I want to make the same thing happen with mobile apps. Today: making a mobile app — or a complex interactive web page — is slow, hard and only for the brave and talented few. I want to make making a mobile app as easy as posting to Instagram.
At Mozilla, we’ve been talking about this for while now. At Mobile World Congress 2013 we floated the idea of making easy to make apps. And we’ve been prototyping a tool for making mobile apps in a desktop browser since last fall. We’ve built some momentum, but we have yet to solve two key problems: crafting a vision of app making that’s valuable to everyday people and making app making easy on a phone.
We came one step closer to solving these problems last week win London. In partnership with the GSMA, we organized a design workshop that asked: What if anyone could make a mobile app? What would this unlock for people? And, more interestingly, what kind of opportunity and imagination would is create in places where large numbers (billions) of people are coming online for the first time using affordable smartphones? These are the right questions to be asking if we want to create an Instagram Effect for apps.
The London design workshop created some interesting case studies of why and how people would create and remix their own apps on their phones. A DJ in Rio who wanted to gain fans and distribute her music. A dabbawalla in Mumbai who wants to grow and manage the list of customers he delivers food to. A teacher in Durban who wants to use her Google doc full on student records to recruit parents to combat truancy. All of these case studies pointed to problems that non-technical people could more easily solve for themselves if they could easily make their own mobile apps.
Over the next few months, Mozilla will start building on-device authoring for mobile phones and interactive web pages. The case studies we developed in London — and others we’ll be pulling together over the coming weeks — will go a long way towards helping us figure out what features and app templates to build first. As we get to some first prototypes, we’re going get the Mozilla community around the world to test out our thinking via Maker Parties and other events.
At the same time, we’re going to be working on a broader piece of research on the role of locally generated content in creating opportunity for people in places whee smartphones are just starting to take at off. At the London workshop, we dug into this question with people from organizations like Equity Bank, Telefonica, USAID, EcoNet Wireless, Caribou Digital, Orange, Dalberg, Vodaphone. Working with GSMA, we plan to research this local content question and field test easy app making with partners like these over next six months. I’ll post more soon about this partnership.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
February 13, 2013 § 3 Comments
‘Making is learning’ is a big theme for Mozilla this year. It’s at the heart of Mozilla Webmaker. More importantly, it’s the north star idea guiding the grassroots mentor community we’re building around the world. We want millions more people to get their hands dirty with the web. And we expect they’ll learn something as they do.
I realized today that we need to add two concepts into this theme: tinkering and social. This thought came from a good discussion on the Webmaker mailing list that starts with the question ‘is making learning?’ Rafi Santo both asked and began to answer this question:
The short answer: yes, but it’s complicated. The longer answer is that the best maker-driven learning is never just about the making. It’s about all the things that happen around the making. That initial spark of curiosity, the investigation and early tinkering, the planning and research that follow, the inspirations and appropriations from other projects, the prototypes, the failures, the feedback, and, perhaps most importantly, the iterations upon iterations towards a better make.
He then went on to say:
I’m willing to say that someone is always learning something when they’re making, but they learn best when it entails the sort of process, community and well configured structures of participation.
In part, the discussion around Rafi’s post is a debate about tag lines. Should we rally people under a ‘making is learning’ banner? Or should we be more subtle like ‘making as learning’ or ‘make to learn’? We’ll probably do the later.
However, there are also two important substantive points worth pulling out from the conversation: a) it’s the process of making that drives learning and b) the best learning happens when the making is social. Both of these points are critical to the success of Webmaker.
The process point may be obvious. It’s not just what I made, it’s the journey of the making. But it’s worth calling it out explicitly. Mozilla Rep Emma Irwin writes in response to Rafi’s post:
This spoke to my own learning in programming. I think I learned (and got confidence) more from debugging and being stuck than simply making. The sense of accomplishment of overcoming things that seemed really hard at first have motivated me more than anything. I think those experiences are why I am crazy enough to think I can ‘teach’ now.
Designing tinkering and iteration into Webmaker is critical. A first step is creating content built from the ground up for remix. And, then to support that with tools that let you tinker and play with that content, and share it again with your friends. The idea is to use remix as an onramp to tinkering with the web.
You see an early example in Jacob’s awesome Valentine’s video project on Webmaker.org. The thing about this video: it is designed to be forked. It wants you to add your own photos and change the text. It’s an invitation to tinker. It’s an early invitation, to be sure: we clearly have a lot to learn about how to do this well. But it’s clear to me that this kind of design for tinkering is ‘thing #1′ of key things Webmaker needs to pull in from this conversation.
Rafi’s other big point is about social: we learn best when we make together. Making together can mean a lot of things. At events. In school. With friends at home. In IRC. On Facebook. Etc. What all of these things have in common is that I can see what you are making and you can see me. We can critique each other. We can help each other. We can fail together. We can iterate together. And we can laugh together. Which makes learning funner, faster and deeper.
Making it easy to ‘make things together’ is ‘thing #2′ that Webmaker should pull from this conversation. Making it easy to riff on content on Webmaker.org and in places like Facebook will be a part of this. But, as Rafi hints in his post, the most important factor here won’t be tools and web sites: it will be people. This is why the building a global mentor community is such a huge priority. Everyone needs a place where they can just show up to make and learn. A place filled with people. And a place you can find in 100s of cities around the world. Building on Hive and ReMo, I think Mozilla can create this place. It’s what we want our mentor community to be.
Anyways: thanks Rafi, Emma and others for getting this conversation started. It’s the kind of leadership this nascent Webmaker community needs. And it’s a great way to dig into what do we really want to build together with Webmaker.
September 25, 2012 § 8 Comments
We’ve been honing our description of Webmaker recently. Partly, this is so we can explain Webmaker to the world. But it’s mostly aimed to clarifying what we’re building and who we’re building it for as we move into the next phase of development.
At a recent meeting in Toronto, Erin Knight led a set of discussions on this topic. I came out of these discussions with four big takeaways:
1. Webmaker is a peer to Firefox and FirefoxOS.
Mozilla has big priorities right now: the web on the desktop; the web in the mobile environment; and web literacy. We need to start positioning Webmaker in this context, showing how Mozilla’s three big bets / priorities all tie back the same mission.
Also, we need to make the link between the value of a phone you can re-program because it’s made from the web (FirefoxOS) and the value of knowing how the web works (Webmaker). Getting web phones into the hands of millions of skilled and creative people is the key to a next wave of innovation on the web.
2. We should describe Webmaker by simply explaining what you can make.
We need to describe Webmaker more simply and concretely. We’ve been able to say ‘Mozilla wants to create a generation of people who know how the web works and can reprogram it.’ But describing what we’re building to make this happen has been difficult. We took a shot at fixing this in Toronto:
Mozilla Webmaker: a quick way to make, remix or tweak a webpage or video while learning how the web works.
While this isn’t quite right yet, it opens up an important new direction: we should be explaining what you can make with Mozilla Webmaker. This creates a more tangible picture in people’s minds and helps them understand how they can engage. I’m hoping others can come up with better wording than what we have above, but based on the general approach of saying what you can make.
3. Our audience is people with something to share.
Up to now, we’ve been a bit fuzzy about who we’re targeting with Mozilla Webmaker. In Toronto, we narrowed in on ‘people how have a maker attitude and something to share’ as a core audience.
There are two pieces to this. The first is is about an approach to life: one that involves tinkering, remixing and iteration. The second is about having made something that you are proud and excited about, something that you want to share or show to other people: a picture you took; a video you made; a game you’ve modified; a big idea you’ve dreamed up. We build the needs and desires of this audience into our design process as we work on the next phase of Mozilla Webmaker.
4. Educators are also a key audience.
During the last thee months, almost 700 people organized Mozilla Webmaker Summer Code Party events. Whether they gathered 100 people or simply brought a few friends around a kitchen table, these people have played a critical role in getting Mozilla Webmaker off the ground. And they have done so because they care about inspiring and educating others about the creative potential of the web.
Personally, I hadn’t really thought about this group as one of our key audiences before. But clearly they are. These are the first people to ‘get’ what we’re trying to do with Webmaker and to feed back in to help improve it. Like the early adopters who first installed Firefox on other people’s computers, these grassroots educators and evangelists could be the core of our global community. Over the next couple of months, we need to figure out ways to more actively help them and bring them into what we’re building.
These four insights aren’t particularly radical. They fit with where we’ve been going with Mozilla Webmaker for the past year. However, I do think they make it easier to explain what we’re doing. They also offer increased clarity on what we need to be building and who we need to be building it for over the next six months. Erin is going to do her own post on this aspect of the Toronto discussions, looking at how we practically pull all the pieces of Webmaker into a more cohesive offering.
June 21, 2012 § 12 Comments
Mozilla Webmaker takes its first big step this weekend: asking people to help out. And, just as important, asking how we can help others working for the same cause.
Why? Because getting together with people to make and learn is essential if we want to build a generation of webmakers. It will fuel the community we need to reach our big goals. And, more immediately, getting people together will help Mozilla figure out how to work well with partners and to identify potential community leaders (is this you?).
The good news: many of you have already stepped up to help. There are already 394 Summer Code Party meetups and events in 320 cities and 67 countries scheduled for this summer. And, if all goes well, people will continue to do more and more events over the course of the summer.
Also, we’ve had a great response from partners who share Mozilla’s philosophy and goals: helping people learn how to create cool and powerful things on the web. Tumblr. CoderDojo. The London Zoo. Codecademy. Young Rewired State. Creative Commons. The San Francisco Public Library. NESTA. DoSomething.org. Code for America. Campus Party. And dozens more.
We’re stoked to have these partners are involved, and we also hope we can help them by connecting them to new communities and promoting their work. Helping partners succeed is critical to the success of Mozilla Webmaker overall.
Of course, we’re still just planting our first seeds this weekend. Mozilla’s Webmaker tools are still very basic (I’ll say more about our long term plans soon). And, we’re still in the early days of figuring out how to organize the community around our making and learning goals. But you have to start somewhere. You have to plant seeds.
Which leads me to a second ask: help us grow these seeds. Mozilla Webmaker is premised on the belief that we can build a global community of people who share our goals. We chose Summer Code Party as our first big step because we know we need to start building this community early: to figure out how to organize things; what tools people need; and how we can help others working on similar projects. So, jump in. Push us. Help out. Ask for help. Also, be patient. Growing things takes hard work from alot of people. And it takes time.
June 6, 2012 § 12 Comments
Later this month, we’ll be releasing Mozilla Thimble. Thimble is a simple web page editor combined with a series of ‘projects’ that help you learn the basics of HTML and CSS. The idea is to get people to learn basic web coding by just diving in and making something. Thimble projects make that easier by giving people guidance and a head start.
Thimble will go live just in time for our Summer Code Party campaign that kicks off on June 23. We want people using Thimble at their ‘kitchen table’ events, so I thought I should give people a preview of what’s coming.
The first thing you’ll see is a gallery of Thimble projects. The initial projects are designed to grab the interest of 8 – 14 year olds and to invite them to start making. We’ll be rolling out projects for older teens and adults later in the year.
As a part of this ‘interest grabbing’ approach, a number of the projects have been developed by organizations that already work with young people. This one is from the London Zoo. It teaches basic HTML and a bit about endangered species at the same time.
The Thimble interface itself is a simple side-by-side web page editor based on Code Mirror. The left pane is the code, and the right pane is the page preview rendered in real time.
The project pages are a mix of instructional comments and actual page elements. In the London Zoo Awesome Animal Builder project, the aim is to create your own species by combining image files from real endangered species that the Zoo wants you to learn about.
Here I was able to change the background of my species picture by changing the CSS class. As the code comments explain, I can choose between ‘ocean, rainforest or desert.’
If you’re new to HTML and CSS (that’s who this is aimed at), we’ve put in a bunch of features designed to help you if you get stuck with tasks like this. For example, you can click on any tag to get info on what it does.
Also, we’ve included pop-up hints that help you figure out what the right syntax is for a particular element.
After changing my CSS class (above), I then started moving different PNG files from different species into the frame with the question marks at the top of the page. These files are all given to me lower in the page along side info about the real endangered species. All I have to do is cut and paste the image URLs in order to build my animal.
And, voila! After moving a few more image URLS I now have a completed animal. I’ve also learned a) how headline tags work in HTML, b) the idea that CSS can be used to change the look of a major element of a page and c) that images in a web page are just references to a file somewhere on a server.
These may sound like small things to learn — but it’s exactly these small things we want people to start with. There are other projects in the gallery that deal with more advanced HTML and CSS topics. And, in a later release, anyone will be able to submit a project page to teach whatever aspect of web development tickles their fancy. Our hope is that Thimble can become a ‘Wikipedia of webmaking lessons’, which would be an awesome resource for the world to have.
Early next week, we’ll release a preview version of Mozilla Thimble to people who are organizing Summer Code Party events. Most of these events are small and short — just you at your kitchen table or in your living room teaching two or three people a bit about how to code for the web. If you want to organize an event like this (and see the Thimble preview), sign up here on the Mozilla Webmaker events site.
April 30, 2012 § 3 Comments
Small webmaking events that you can run in 10 minutes are a central part of the Summer Code Party concept. We’re calling these ‘kitchen table hackjams‘. But, really, they are just you sitting with two friends (or two kids, or two parents) doing a very tiny starter web project. The idea is to have fun and learning something.
We started beta testing this kitchen hackjam concept a few weeks back. I did one with my two sons (Tristan is 12, Ethan is 10) and a friend (Rowan, 10). We sat down to play with the LoveBomb prototype, a tool that introduces basic HTML by inviting people to edit a greeting card.
A learned some good things and bad things about the process. Three highlights:
- It’s possible to do a quick webmaking session with almost zero preparation or notice. I proposed the event and we were doing it five minutes later.
- You can do alot in 10 or 15 minutes. We’d basically finished the ‘lesson’ in that amount of time. Then two of the kids got bored (my kids) and one of the kids (Rowan) kept tinkering.
- For older kids especially, relevant content is key. Tristan gave the ‘toy’ content in the LoveBomb at ‘WTF is this?’ reaction. He’s a regular YouTube game commentator. If he was going to learn HTML, he wanted to be making something ‘real’.
At least half a dozen people ran and blogged about their own kitchen table beta tests. Here is a list of postings that I know about:
- Family + kitchen table = hack jam, Lainie DeCoursy
- Kitchen Table Beta-Testing, J Dytrych
- Beta Testing Kitchen Tables, Jess Klein
- Our Hackasaurus Kitchen Table, Peter Rawsthore
- Scaffolding / tips for kitchen table jams, Peter Rawsthorne
- Kitchen Table Beta with Adults, Laura Hilliger
- Initial Distill of Kitchen Table Lesson, Laura Hilliger
Update. Matt Thompson posted this awesome ‘Webmaker Recipes 101: How to host your own kitchen table hack jam‘ just after this went up. Worth the read.