March 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
What’s happening at the Mozilla Foundation? This post contains the presentation slides from our recent Board Meeting, plus an audio interview that Matt Thompson did with me last week. It provides highlights from 2014, a brief summary of Mozilla’s 2015 plan and a progress report on what we’ve achieved over the past three months.
I’ve also written a brief summary of notes from the slides and interview below if you want a quick scan. These are also posted on the Webmaker blog.
What we did in 2014
- Grew contributors and ground game. (10,077 active contributors total.)
- Prototyped new Webmaker mobile product
- Expanded community programs by 3x
Mozilla’s 2015 Plan
Mozilla-wide goals: grow long-term relationships that help people and promote the open web. By building product and empowering people. Webmaker+ goal: Expand participation in Webmaker through new software and on the ground clubs.
Building Mozilla Learning
By 2017, we’ve built Mozilla Learning: a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web. Part community, part academy, people come to Mozilla Learning to unlock the power of the web for themselves, their organizations and the world.
2015 Mozilla Foundation goals
- Deepen learning networks (500 cities)
- B uild mass appeal learning product (250k Monthly Active Users)
- Craft ambitious Mozilla Learning and community strategy
Q1 Mozilla Foundation highlights
- Major victory in US net neutrality, with Mozilla getting 330k people to sign a petition.
- Launched Webmaker app at Mobile World Congress. Strong interest from partners, possible link to Orange FirefoxOS launch in Africa and Middle East.
March 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
The mobile Web is experiencing a watershed moment: over the next few years, billions of first-time users will come online exclusively through their smartphones. Mozilla believes it’s critically important these users find a mobile Web that’s open and invites creativity.
This was our rallying cry last week at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, where mobile technology leaders from around the globe discussed the industry’s future. It was encouraging to hear our rallying cry echoed by others: the GSMA, for example, dedicated significant time and floor space to promoting digital inclusivity.
As a first-timer to MWC, I was really proud of how Mozilla showed up. We unveiled a partnership with French mobile provider Orange, which can equip millions of users across 13 African countries with a Firefox OS smartphone and six months of data and voice service — for just $40. We announced a simple smartphone for first-time users that we’ll release with Verizon in the U.S. next year. And we debuted the beta Webmaker app, a free, open source publishing tool that makes creating local content simple.
Personally, I participated in two panels: One on digital inclusion and one on the power of connected citizens in crisis situations. These sessions gave us a chance to double down on our stance that access alone isn’t the answer — it’s only the first step.
While I disagree with many of their tactics, I was happy to see people like internet.org throwing out a vision for connecting everyone on the planet. But they are really missing the boat on literacy, skills and creativity. Most people will get connected at some point over the next 10 years; the real risk is people not getting the know-how they need to truly unlock the potential of the internet and make their lives better. We were able to effectively get that message across at MWC.
One of the highlights from the panel discussions was meeting Kartik Sheth from Airtel of India. He talked about Airtel’s onboarding program, which introduces people to the internet by focusing on specific content they really want (a Bollywood music video, for example). Then, they educate users about what services the internet offers and what data costs through that process (e.g. introducing people to YouTube and helping them understand that watching a music video doesn’t cost that much in data). This may sound simple, but it’s actually the kind of “ambient web literacy” that we really need to be thinking about. It has the potential not only to give people very basic internet knowledge, but also to help us avoid what I’m starting to call “the Facebook Effect.”
Of course, Mozilla is committed to web literacy at a much deeper level than just basic onboarding. We spent a good deal of time talking with people at MWC about our growing Learning Networks and Clubs. Our Clubs feature curricula that can be remixed and reimagined, and are held in diverse languages and venues. We met with a ton of people ranging from phone carriers to international agencies aimed at empowering women. And these people expressed interest in helping Mozilla both grow these networks and distribute the Webmaker app.
I left MWC energized by these sort of conversations. Feels like more momentum than ever. If you want to be a part of it, it’s worth checking out Webmaker.org/LocalWeb. This site includes a bunch of the research and partnership opportunities we talked to people about in Barcelona, as well as a link to the Webmaker app beta.
February 15, 2015 § 3 Comments
Don’t wait for permission. If you have an idea that excites you, a thing you want to prototype, a skill you proudly want to share, an annoying bug you want to fix, a conversation you want to convene: don’t wait for someone else to say yes. Just do it!
This is useful (and common) advice for pretty much any endeavor. But, for Mozilla and Mozillians, it’s critical. Especially right now.
We’ve committed to building a more radical approach to participation over the next three years. And, more specifically, we ultimately want to get to a place where we have more Mozilla activities happening than the centralized parts of the org can track, let alone control.
How do we do this? One big step is reinvigorating Mozilla’s overall architecture of participation: the ways we help people connect, collaborate and get shit done. This is both important and urgent. However, as we work on this, there is something even more urgent: keeping up the momentum that comes from simply taking action and building great stuff. We need to maintain momentum and reinvigorate our architecture of participation in tandem in order to succeed. And I worry a little that recent discussions of participation have focused a little too heavily on the architecture part so far.
The good news: Mozillians have a deep history of having a good idea and just running with it. With the best ideas, others start to pitch in time and resources. And momentum builds.
A famous example of this is the Firefox 1.0 New York times ad in 2004. A group of volunteers and supporters had the idea of celebrating the launch of Firefox in a big way. They came up with a concept and started running with it. As a momentum built, Mozilla Foundation staff came in to help. The result was the the first high profile crowd-funded product launch in history — and a people-powered kickoff to Firefox’s dramatic rise in popularity.
This kind of thing still happens all the time today. A modest example from the last few weeks: the Mozilla Bangladesh community’s participation at BASIS. Mozilla volunteers arranged to get a booth and a four hour time slot for free at this huge local tech event, something other companies paid $10,000 to get. They then organized an ambitious program that covered everything from Firefox OS demos to contributing to SuMo to teaching web literacy to getting involved in MDN, QA and web app development — they covered a broad swatch of top priority Mozilla topics and goals. Mozilla staff helped and encouraged remotely. But this really was driven locally and from the ground up.
Separated by 10 years and operating at very different scale, these two examples have a number of things in common: the ideas and activities were independently initiated but still tied back to core Mozilla priorities; initial resources needed to get the idea moving were gathered by the people who would make it happen (i.e. initial donations or free space at a conference); staff from the central Mozilla organization came in later in the process and played a supporting role. In each case, decentralized action led to activities and outcomes that drove things forward on Mozilla’s overall goals of the time (e.g. Firefox adoption, Webmaker growth, SuMo volunteer recruitment).
This same pattern has happened thousands of times over, with bug fixes, documentation, original ideas that make it into core products and, of course, with ads and events. While there are many other ways that people participate, independent and decentralized action where people ‘just do something’ is an important and real part of how Mozilla works.
As we figure out how to move forward with our 2015+ participation plan, I want to highlight this ‘don’t wait for permission’ aspect of Mozilla. Two things seem particularly important to focus on right now:
First: strengthening decentralized leadership at Mozilla. For me, this is critical if we’re serious about radical participation. It’s so core to who we are and how we win. To make progress here, we need to admit that we’re not as good at decentralized leadership today as we want or need to be. And then we need to have an an honest discussion about the goals that Mozilla has in the current era and how to build up decentralized leadership in a way helps move those goals forward. This is a key piece of ‘reinvigorating Mozilla’s architecture of participation’.
A second, and more urgent, topic: maintaining momentum across the Mozilla community. It’s critical that Mozillians continue act on their ideas and take initiative even as we work through these broader questions of participation. I’ve had a couple of conversations recently that went something like ‘it feels like we need to wait on a ‘final plan’ re: participation before going ahead with an idea we have’. I’m not sure if I was reading those conversations right or if this is a widespread feeling. If it is, we’re in deep trouble. We won’t get to more radical participation simply by bringing in new ideas from other orgs and redesigning how we work. In fact, the more important ingredient is people taking action at the grassroots — running with an idea, prototyping something, sharing a skill, fixing an annoying bug, convening a conversation. It’s this sort of action that fuels momentum both in our community and with our products.
For me, focusing on both of these themes simultaneously — keeping momentum and reinvigorating our architecture of participation — is critical. If we focus only on momentum, we may get incrementally better at participation, but we won’t have the breakthroughs we need. If we just focus on new approaches and architectures for participation, we risk stalling or losing the faith or getting distracted. However, if we can do both at once, we have the chance to unlock something really powerful over the next three years — a new era of radical participation at Mozilla.
The draft participation plan we’ve developed for the next three years is designed with this in mind. It includes a new Community Development Team to help us keep momentum, with a particular focus on supporting Mozilla community members around the world who are taking action right now. And we are setting up a Participation Task Force (we need a better name for this!) to get new ideas and systems in place that help us improve the overall architecture of participation at Mozilla. These efforts are just a few weeks old. As they build steam and people get involved, I believe they have the potential to take us where we want to go.
Of course, the teams behind our participation plan are a just a small part of the story: they are a support for staff and volunteers across Mozilla who want to get better at participation. The actual fuel of participation will come from all of us running with our ideas and taking action. This is the core point of my post: moving towards a more radical approach to participation is something each of us must play a role in. Playing that role doesn’t flow from plans or instructions from our participation support teams. It flows from rolling up our sleeves to passionately pursue good ideas with the people around us. That’s something all of us need to do right now if we believe that radical participation is an important part of Mozilla’s future.
February 2, 2015 § Leave a comment
I’ve talked lots about our Mozilla Learning plan for the next three years. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a new summary of the overall plan here: https://blog.webmaker.org/2015_plan. I also did a talk in Portland with an overview:
Of course, three years is a long time. And the the scope of the Mozilla Learning plan is very broad: everything from basic web literacy to more advanced web development to growing the next generation of Mozilla leaders.
In this post I want to zoom in to lay out more detail about the Webmaker parts of this plan. What are we working on over the next 60 days? What will the Webmaker world look like April 1? How will it take our first step towards the overall plan? And what does success look like for 2015?
At a high level, the Webmaker side of our 2015 plans is focused on two things: relationships and reach. We want to build and deepen relationships with more people — Webmaker users, mentors, and future leaders. And we want to extend those relationships into more places. Our specific goals are to reach 250,000 active Webmaker users by the end of the year and to be active in 500 cities with ongoing learning network.
In the immediate term, we’re focused on testing out the theories we have about how we meet these goals. This includes testing out our thinking on Webmaker clubs and finding ways to get users more engaged with the online side of Webmaker.
- For Learning Networks, our Q1 goals are:
- Test new Webmaker Clubs model in 20 cities
- Retain volunteer mentors recruited last year. Make sure they stay engaged (goal: 4K).
- Increase the number of Hive cities to 10.
- For Learning Products, our Q1 goals are:
- Increase Webmaker for desktop and mobile monthly active users to 5% of monthly unique visitors (current = 2.07%)
- Signal our emphasis on mobile, with the Webmaker app beta launches at Mobile World Congress (Mar 2 – 5)
- Start exploring early ways we might include webmaking directly into Firefox by prototyping 5 Firefox for Making concepts
Of course, these are just our top six priorities. There is alot more going on. Which raises the question: what are you working on and what do you think is important? I’m interested in hearing more from you. Please post your reflections using #webmaker on Twitter, to the Planet Webmaker aggregated blog or get in touch.
February 1, 2015 § 1 Comment
What is radical participation? I asked this question early last month. Since then I’ve collected comments from my blog and from dozens of conversations. The result was more — and better – questions. Like:
- Do we need radical new approaches, or a return to our roots? (Axel, Greg)
- Can we use ‘the promise of impact’ to draw in the best contributors? (Ian)
- How do people do *new* things under the Mozilla banner? (Ian + others)
- Can we make participation in core product work easier? (Lawrence, Gregory)
- Does staff vs. volunteer binary limit us? Other models to consider? (Mark)
- What’s the best way to get new contributors aligned and effective? (Elio)
- Is there ow hanging fruit we can fix (e.g. contribute.mozilla.org)? (Martin)
Responses have been positive: the consensus is that Mozilla needs to double down on participation. However, the meatier part of my interactions with people have been around more specific questions like the ones above.
These questions feel like a good place to dig in. I’m going to tackle a few of them in follow up posts over the next couple of weeks. If there is a question that interests you, I encourage you to dig in on your own blog.
January 26, 2015 § 13 Comments
Mozilla needs a more creative and radical approach to participation in order to succeed. That is clear. And, I think, pretty widely agreed upon across Mozilla at this stage. What’s less clear: what practical steps do we take to supercharge participation at Mozilla? And what does this more creative and radical approach to participation look like in the everyday work and lives of people involved Mozilla?
This post outlines what we’ve done to begin answering these questions and, importantly, it’s a call to action for your involvement. So read on.
Over the past two months, we’ve written a first draft Mozilla Participation Plan. This plan is focused on increasing the impact of participation efforts already underway across Mozilla and on building new methods for involving people in Mozilla’s mission. It also calls for the creation of new infrastructure and ways of working that will help Mozilla scale its participation efforts. Importantly, this plan is meant to amplify, accelerate and complement the many great community-driven initiatives that already exist at Mozilla (e.g. SuMo, MDN, Webmaker, community marketing, etc.) — it’s not a replacement for any of these efforts.
At the core of the plan is the assumption that we need to build a virtuous circle between 1) participation that helps our products and programs succeed and 2) people getting value from participating in Mozilla. Something like this:
This is a key point for me: we have to simultaneously pay attention to the value participation brings to our core work and to the value that participating provides to our community. Over the last couple of years, many of our efforts have looked at just one side or the other of this circle. We can only succeed if we’re constantly looking in both directions.
With this in mind, the first steps we will take in 2015 include: 1) investing in the ReMo platform and the success of our regional communities and 2) better connecting our volunteer communities to the goals and needs of product teams. At the same time, we will: 3) start a Task Force, with broad involvement from the community, to identify and test new approaches to participation for Mozilla.
The belief is that these activities will inject the energy needed to strengthen the virtuous circle reasonably quickly. We’ll know we’re succeeding if a) participation activities are helping teams across Mozilla measurably advance product and program goals and b) volunteers are getting more value out of their participation out of Mozilla. These are key metrics we’re looking at for 2015.
Over the longer run, there are bigger ambitions: an approach to participation that is at once massive and diverse, local and global. There will be many more people working effectively and creatively on Mozilla activities than we can imagine today, without the need for centralized control. This will result in a different and better, more diverse and resilient Mozilla — an organization that can consistently have massive positive impact on the web and on people’s lives over the long haul.
Making this happen means involvement and creativity from people across Mozilla and our community. However, a core team is needed to drive this work. In order to get things rolling, we are creating a small set of dedicated Participation Teams:
- A newly formed Community Development Team that will focus on strengthening ReMo and tying regional communities into the work of product and program groups.
- A participation ‘task force’ that will drive a broad conversation and set of experiments on what new approaches could look like.
- And, eventually, a Participation Systems Team will build out new infrastructure and business processes that support these new approaches across the organization.
For the time being, these teams will report to Mitchell and me. We will likely create an executive level position later in the year to lead these teams.
As you’ll see in the plan itself, we’re taking very practical and action oriented steps, while also focusing on and experimenting with longer-term questions. The Community Development Team is working on initiatives that are concrete and can have impact soon. But overall we’re just at the beginning of figuring out ‘radical participation’.
This means there is still a great deal of scope for you to get involved — the plans are still evolving and your insights will improve our process and the plan. We’ll come out with information soon on more structured ways to engage with what we’re calling the ‘task force’. In the meantime, we strongly encourage your ideas right away on ways the participation teams could be working with products and programs. Just comment here on this post or reach out to Mitchell or me.
PS. I promised a follow up on my What is radical participation? post, drawing on comments people made. This is not that. Follow up post on that topic still coming.
January 15, 2015 § 3 Comments
The web belongs to all of us — or, at least, it should. Sadly, this is less and less the case. Both the reality — and the possibilities — of the web increasingly belong to a small handful of companies. These companies are becoming the empires of the web.
The Mozilla community is one of the few groups on the planet dedicated to shifting this tide. One way we do this is by building tools that put people in control of their data, their identity and their corner of the web. This is our mission. Also: it is Mozilla’s mission to empower people learn how to powerfully wield the web as a part of their lives.
Why understanding the web matters
Recent research for a new Webmaker app has reminded why the learning side of this equation is so important. As part of this research, we’ve been running focus groups with new smartphone users in Bangladesh and Kenya. This picture is from Kenya.
During these focus groups we usually ask people: “Do you use the Internet on your phone?”
The response is often: “What’s the Internet?”
“Then what do you use you phone for?” we then ask.
The most common response: “Oh, I just use Facebook and WhatsApp!”
We hear this over and over. I do not want the next three billion people to think that the Internet is Facebook and nothing more. I want them to be able to imagine — and wield — everything the Internet can do. I want them to see themselves as citizens of the web.
This is why I want Mozilla to become just as recognized and respected in learning as it is in software. This starts with the work we’re doing with Webmaker, of course. And it builds on our fellowships and leadership programs. But I think we need to think even bigger and broader: we need to imagine Mozilla as a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web.
Good news: we’ve made a great deal of progress
The biggest success we’ve had in learning so far has been our local mentor networks. These networks go by a number of names. Hive. Webmaker. Maker Party. The formula is pretty much the same in all cases: Mozilla volunteers and supporters meeting up locally to teach young people — and each other — to wield the full power of the web.
If you look at Maker Party alone — a campaign just two months long — you can see that we’ve built something powerful: 2500 learning events run by 5000 volunteers in in 450 cities around the world. This is something I am proud of. And it’s something I want us to do more of.
As we move into 2015, that’s exactly what we will do: we will invest in making these networks stronger. In particular, we will focus on getting people to teach year round, not just during our campaigns. We’ll be launching Webmaker Clubs and growing Hive teacher networks in more cities around the world. These local networks represent an incredibly important ground game for Mozilla. They are something we want to nurture and build on.
The second place we have made progress in is in creating tools for learning how to make and shape the web.
The initial tools we created in the years following Barcelona were focused on learning the basics of creating web pages and online videos. Xray Goggles. Thimble. Popcorn. These tools have been great for face to face learning through things like Maker Parties and Hives. However, we realized along the way, that they aren’t mass market and don’t serve learners directly. We had people banging on the door saying: How can I learn with Mozilla? How can I do something with Mozilla if I can’t go to a Maker Party?
Last year, we put together a team to ask: what would we make if we wanted to really engage learners directly? We also put together a team of researchers to ask: what would it look like if the only computer you had was a phone? What kind of web page or app could you create?
Flowing from from these questions, we started putting together a very different version of our Webmaker tools focused on meeting the mass market of learners where they are. These tools will come together over the course of 2015, starting with a low bar for people to begin making and learning with Mozilla. Over the course of the year, we will add a smartphone version, social connections between learners and ways for people to mentor and help each other learn. We will also be looking for ways to integrate these new tools directly into Firefox, Firefox for Android and FirefoxOS channels.
The third place we have made progress is in building leaders: people who will in some way play a role in shaping where the web goes and turning the tide back towards a web that is ours.
Our most significant work on this front has been through a number of community labs. Open News. Mozilla Science Lab. Mozilla Advocacy. All of these programs initially started out with either fellowships or training programs. The idea was that we could bring people who deeply understand and care about the open web to news, science and policy, with the ultimate hope that getting the right people in place would bake the values of the web into these important aspects of society.
While fellowships and training remain an important part of this work, these programs have evolved into virtual watering holes for people a) who are leaders in their field and b) who are figuring out ways to tap into the power of the web in their work. All sorts of tools and ways of organizing have emerged. Shared code repositories. Joint software projects. Conferences and meetups. Hackathons. In many ways, these programs have become like distributed research institutes or grassroots grad schools where the best people in a field learn by solving problems together.
We need more. In 2015, we’ll grow the number of fellows — from 7 last year to 15 this year. Much more importantly, we’re going to look for ways to more systematically tap into this community lab model as a part of Mozilla’s community-driven learning offerings and our participation efforts as a whole.
Thinking bigger: Mozilla as a global classroom and lab
I am proud of what we have accomplished and optimistic about where we are headed next. However, I also believe we need to think much bigger.
This year, I want us to do exactly this: let’s put a stake in the ground that says Mozilla is a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web. I want us to say more loudly: building people’s understanding of the web — and building the leaders of the future of the web — is core to our work. We need to put a stake in the ground and commit to being the best in the world at this.
Given what we’re already doing, being bold doesn’t need to involve huge new investments. In fact, it can start simply with being more clear and assertive the work we already do. Not just with Webmaker, Hive and Maker Party, but also with user education in Firefox, Mozilla Developer Network, ReMo program and our research and fellowships programs. What I’m talking about starts with making these things stronger — and then telling a clear story to ourselves and the world about how they add up to a coherent whole. That’s what I want us to start doing in 2015.
As a first step towards this, a number of us have drafted an initial three year plan for Mozilla’s learning initiatives. This includes, but goes beyond, Webmaker. The plan opens with this text:
Within 10 years there will be five billion citizens of the web. Mozilla wants all of these people to know what the web can do. What’s possible. We want them to have the agency, tools and know-how they need to unlock the full power of the web. We want them to use the web to make their lives better. We want them to know they are citizens of the web
Building on Webmaker, Hive and our fellowship programs, Mozilla Learning is a portfolio of products and programs that help these citizens of the web learn the most important skills of our age: the ability to read, write and participate in the digital world. These programs also help people become mentors and leaders: people committed to teaching others and to shaping the future of the web.
Over the course of the year, I will work with people across — and beyond — Mozilla to flesh out this plan, focusing especially on how we build a sustainable approach to running learning programs that are at once global, distributed and that positions Mozilla as *the* best place to turn if you want to learn about the web.
If you’re interested in being involved — or have comments on the initial plan — I’d love to hear from you, either here or by email. And, if you have thoughts on any aspect of this topic, I strongly encourage you to write about it on your own blog and pingback to this post.