Join Mozilla beta. Help us test and refine.

March 12, 2011 § 12 Comments

Building on months of planning and discussion, we released a beta version of the Join Mozilla supporter’s program today. This will give us a chance to test the program and gather feedback in English and German before launching the full program in Q2 2011.

Join Mozilla is for enthusiastic Firefox users: people who want to support Mozilla’s mission in a simple way. The program will help these people keep up to date on what’s happening at Mozilla and learn about our big picture vision for the web. It also includes a $5 donation component: this will help Mozilla make more grants to innovative web projects like the ones emerging through Mozilla Drumbeat.

This beta release includes only the core elements of the program: a call to action page; a t-shirt that lets people show their support for Mozilla; a thank you page with the ability to share with your social network; and a follow-up email to new supporters. In addition to testing out these elements during the beta, the Join Mozilla team is also working on a monthly newsletter, a meet up series and additional engagement elements for the program. Spanish and Portuguese localizations are also in the works. This period of program testing and build out will last for 6-8 weeks.

During this beta period, we plan to gather feedback and increase community involvement in rolling out Join Mozilla. We need help refining the concept to work in different countries, creating web content that will be interesting to our new supporters and developing a ground game of meet ups and outreach. We’ve improved the Join Mozilla project wiki and set up a forum for community members who want to get involved. Thanks to the many of you who are already involved.

As I wrote a few weeks back, I’m personally committed to growing the Mozilla community and increasing the number and diversity of active contributors. We also need a way for millions of enthusiastic Firefox users to simply express their support for our work. While I expect it will go through many iterations, I am hopeful that Join Mozilla will provide this.

The Next Million Mozillians (redux)

February 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

A little over two years ago, I did a bunch of posts about the idea of recruiting ‘the next million Mozillians’. My thinking at the time: we need to grow our community dramatically. We need to build even more creativity, reach and resilience into who we are. This is how we build a 100 year organization for the open web.

I still believe we need to do this. However, it turns out, finding a million more Mozillians (or whatever number we need) requires more than good intentions and a snap of the fingers. It requires a crisp understanding who we want to recruit and why they’d want to get involved. Getting to this takes time, experimentation and conversation.

The good news: I think we are closer than ever to having broad and solid strategy to dramatically grow the Mozilla community. As I look across Mozilla, I see three common goals emerging:

  1. Grow and strengthen our existing community of contributors
  2. Expand our scope: invent new ways for people to contribute
  3. Build a massive base of supporters who contribute in small ways

This list is not a top down set of marching orders. Just the opposite. It’s a pattern I see in experiments and initiatives from all across Mozilla. Experiments and initiatives with serious people and resources behind them. This gives me a great deal of hope.

There are conversations going on about bits of this strategy all across Mozilla: Contributor Engagement, Drumbeat, Join Mozilla, MDN. I figured it might be useful to share the overall pattern I’m seeing to feed into these more specific conversations. So, here’s my take …

1. Grow and strengthen our existing community

Depending on who you talk to, we have between 25,000 and 50,000 active Mozillians: people who contribute time and passion to making, improving, testing, localizing and promoting Mozilla software.

This is an awesome number. But it’s also a number that is hard to grow (or even sustain). Finding your way into this core community is often hard. And some community members feel they don’t get the support they need.

Of course, Mozilla has always focused on keeping this community strong. Summits. MozCamps. Community calls. Yet, there is increasing recognition we need to do more. Recognition is solidly turning into action.

Mary Colvig has formed a contributor engagement team with this exact goal: doing more. Mike Shaver is looking at ways to optimize how we make software, including a strong community component. David Boswell is trying to improve our Get Involved page. Gerv Markham is working on a community directory for all Mozillians. People like Alina Meirlus and FuzzyFox are investigating ways to make it easier for people to find their way into the Mozilla community.

These are only the initiatives that I know about. I am sure there are more. However, just looking at these I am convinced that people in Mozilla are broadly embracing the goal of growing and strengthening our contributor community.

2. Expand our scope: new ways to contribute

If we think about keeping the web open for the long haul, then Mozilla needs to get good at more than just building Firefox. And probably at more than just building software.

This is an easy thing to say in the abstract. But what exactly might we do beyond Firefox? What are the threats and opportunities on the web? What do we want to build? Who would want to contribute? Why?

Over the last few years, three new groups have formed to address these questions: Mozilla Drumbeat; Mozilla Labs; and Developer Engagement. All have a mandate to innovate and venture into new territory — and to bring new kinds of people into the Mozilla community.

What has me most excited is the fact that our once vague aspiration for new ways to participate in Mozilla started to become more concrete. The path to becoming a Mozilla / P2PU School of Webcraft course leader is clear (but clunky). The idea of Mozillian as news hacker is coming into focus. The chance to pitch in on Mozilla innovation thinking through a Labs Design Challenge is well established.

Also worth noting: many of these ‘beyond Firefox’ initiatives have started to become Mozilla community software projects. The Popcorn and Butter hypervideo tools. The processing.js toolset developed by Seneca and others. The Batucada open social platform we’ve developed for Drumbeat. All small scale, but notable as software projects aimed at the challenges and opportunities we face today on the web.

While all of these initiatives are interesting in their own right, the bigger story is about community. As they scale, these initiatives will allow many more people to contribute and become Mozillians. This is critical for growth. Ultimately, it’s the difference between being able to support 50,000 contributors and 500,000 contributors. Growing our community means expanding the number of things they can work on. Slowly, this is starting to happen.

3. Build a massive base to contribute in small ways

Personally, I believe that we need a third strategy for growing our community: a way for large numbers of people to simply stand up and support Mozilla. To simply show their affinity.

The main reason: this is the best and fastest way to spread our message, to explain to the world that we are more than just a browser. We know from other movements that ‘joining’ turns supporters into informal evangelists. They wear tshirts. They feel pride. They talk to their friends over dinner about why.

The other reason is that simple ‘support us’ programs are almost always the best way to scale a community of active volunteers and contributors. We saw this in the Obama campaign. And in online environmental organizations like 350.org. First people make a small pledge of money or affinity, then the most active are invited and supported in doing much more. Traditional campaigners call this a ladder of engagement.

Mozilla is trying to build this kind of supporter base through ‘Join Mozilla, newsletters and a number of other user engagement programs. The strategy is simple: we want people with a strong affinity for Firefox to understand that we are about something more, and then to express their support for our cause.

Of course, we can do much more once people have joined. We can activate supporters as informal evangelists. We can invite them to local meet-ups or parties. And we can encourage the keenest amongst them to become active Mozillians. And, if we look at other campaigns and movements, it’s clear that the starting point needs to be very simple. And, its still fantastic for the cause that the broad majority of people will be happy to do no more than just show their support.

Mitchell has talked informally about 2011 being ‘the year of community’ for Mozilla. I agree. When I look at the rough community strategy that is emerging across Mozilla, I think the opportunity for major growth is real — it’s an opportunity we can’t miss. I believe the Whistler goal of 1000x-ing the size of our community can actually be achieved.

The caveat: we need to dive in and take some risks now to make this happen. We need Mozillians from around the world to take a leap of faith — that we can scale our already awesome global community into a community that’s even more diverse, powerful and world changing.

Practically, this means moving quickly on everything from a community directory to innovation challenges to Drumbeat projects to the new Join Mozilla program. It means trying things and then trying them again, even if we don’t get them right the first time. As I say, I’m pretty hopeful about this. It’s exactly what the Mozilla community is good at.

Members as advocates for the web?

January 14, 2011 § 9 Comments

Earlier today, Bogo did two posts on membership. He said a number of important things including:

We need active members that could be contributors one day, or at least open web advocates.

I agree with this at the highest level: we want people to be active and engaged. Some obvious questions flow from this: What’s roles could members play? Will they want to play these roles? What would we need to do to support them?

Big questions. We’ll all need to put our thinking and experimenting caps on to find good answers. I posted this comment on Bogo’s blog with my gut level thinking (edited a bit):

Thanks for this Bogo. Helpful. I agree that we want members who will become active advocates (soon) and active contributors (over time). It’s also important to remember that anyone who Joins Mozilla has already acknowledged their commitment and that in itself is advocacy.

One thesis I have is that huge numbers of people are willing to sign up for the role of spreading the word about Mozilla and the web. It’s something that is fun and that people will be excited to do. Also, I think we can get people to this advocate role quite quickly if we are well organized.

My guess is that the group of people who give time will always be smaller, and it takes a longer time for people to get involved at this level. We need to get good at always providing step by step pathways for people to get involved if they want to go further. And even better at managing and organizing across many small projects within Mozilla. That said, I think we can grow our contributor community massively over time as a second order effect from membership and advocacy work.

Reflecting since I posted the comment, I realize I like Bogo’s ‘advocates for the open web’ concept quite a bit. I wondered: will people who Join Mozilla want to be advocates for the open web? What would this look like in practice?

I plan to post more on this in coming weeks. However, I wanted to share this question now to see if people have ideas.

Join Mozilla: support the web, simply

January 12, 2011 § 8 Comments

I think a lot about how to increase the size and impact of the Mozilla community. Both are already impressive: 400 million people using Firefox; 40,000+ Mozillians contributing their time and passion. Awesome.

Thinking about our community in these broad terms, I’ve always imagined another element: a simple way for people to show their support for our work and our cause. Something more than just using Firefox, but not (yet!) giving time and digging into Mozilla. The equivalent of putting up a hand to say: “This matters to me! I want to be a part of it!”

We will launch a ‘Join Mozilla’ initiative in the next month or so with exactly this aim: giving millions of people an easy way to show their support for Mozilla and the web. I’m excited about this. Here is an overview in slidecast form:

In many ways, this is an evolution of user engagement and donations programs we’ve been doing for years. The specifics of what to keep and what to add are still being ironed out. And we will certainly evolve along the way as we try different things. But there is some pretty solid initial thinking already.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, you can read the PDF version of these slides. Or, if you just want the overview, the very quick summary is:

  1. Over 400 million people use Firefox every day. Many of these people want to do more: to show their support and help in our efforts to build a better web.
  2. We need simple, fun ways for these people to connect and engage with Mozilla. Join Mozilla is a first step.
  3. Join Mozilla is clear, simple program where millions of people can easily support and keep abreast of Mozilla and the open web.
  4. This massive new community of supporters will back (and cheer on!) the work of 40,000+ Mozillians who already contribute their time and passion.
  5. Member funds go to grants and projects. They help us create new technologies, spread new ideas, and inspire innovation across the web.

You can track the program and how it’s unfolding on the Join Mozilla wiki page. Or you can get involved by coming to one of Mozilla’s weekly community marketing calls. We’ll be talking about Join Mozilla regularly on that call. Also, there is an FAQ if you want more detail or have questions on the info in the slides.

Our thinking has evolved quite a bit since we began planning for this program, much of it as a result of ideas and comments from community members. I’m hoping you will offer feedback and ideas as well so we can keep improving our thinking. Please comment, tweet or email me with ideas.

Quick clarification on membership

January 10, 2011 § 6 Comments

Last week, I posted MoFo 2011 planning slides on my blog, including info about our proposed membership program.

In the spirit of transparency, I’d hoped to get high level ideas out early and then do a dedicated membership post soon after. I regularly post slides in this way. It generates more feedback faster.

Unfortunately, starting out this high level (and using a bit of sloppy shorthand in the process) left many people with questions. It also led some people to jump to conclusions (some right and some wrong). In some cases, this led to upset, for which I apologise.

I’m working on a more detailed membership post right now. Hopefully this will clear up a lot of questions and set the stage for a deeper discussion about how this program might work.

As a part of this, I’m drafting some bullets to better explain the overall concept. I would love feedback on what I have so far. While I’m sure it will keep changing, here it is:

  1. Over 400 million people use Firefox every day. Many of these people want to do more: to show their support and help in our efforts to build a better web.
  2. We need simple, fun ways for these people to connect and engage with Mozilla. Join Mozilla is a first step.
  3. Join Mozilla is clear, simple program where millions of people can easily support and keep abreast of Mozilla and the open web.
  4. This massive new community of supporters will back (and cheer on!) the work of 40,000+ Mozillians who already contribute their time and passion.
  5. Member funds go to grants and projects. They help us create new technologies, spread new ideas, and inspire innovation across the web.

One thing I learned from feedback so far: we need to be very clear that membership is about inviting more Firefox users to support our work and our cause. This is very different from the existing community of 40k+ Mozillians who already put their time and passion into Mozilla — and who are the heart of what we do.

Also, it is incredibly clear that the word ‘Mozillian’ shouldn’t be used too casually. While this word means many things to many people, it’s clearly a badge of honour to be earned through hard work.  We’re not planning to use the term ‘Mozillians’ to describe our new supporters. Our team had decided not to use that term for Join Mozilla after those slides were written because of the very reasons many of you raised last week. Sorry if that caused upset or confusion.

Finally, it’s important to say: I’m always impressed and energized by how our community jumps onto a topic, critiques and improves. That’s already happened with this membership concept — and it is still very very early days. More on membership in coming days.

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