Scaffolding + support + investment = MoFo?
June 26, 2008 § 6 Comments
The Next Million Mozillians post has sparked some interesting ideas: browser plug-ins that make the whole of the web equally about consumption and contribution; simpler community-powered translation for open content and collaboration; helping people like educators who can weave open knowledge into the core of their work. It has also generated some good questions. What do we mean by the open web? And which bits of it is Mozilla Foundation best situated to drive? I’ll loop back with an in-depth synthesis of all the comments and posts (keep ’em coming) in a couple of weeks when I am back from Italy.
In the mean time, I want to riff off Frank Hecker‘s question about how to engage and brainstorm with the Next Million Mozillians. Frank asked:
Why not send the (FF3 Download) pledgees a message and ask them what they’d like to see Mozilla do (if anything) other than shipping Firefox and other products? [snip] If even 1-2% of people responded to such an appeal with useful suggestions, that would still amount to thousands of people providing their personal thoughts, and possibly hundreds of people who were willing to contribute their time in some form as volunteers.
While sending an e-mail to all the Firefox 3 downloaders may not be the right way to engage (I recall a promise not to send follow up mail), it feels like Frank is headed in the right direction.Mozilla has touch points with millions of people on a regular basis.When it makes contact, I could embed simple, discreet opportunities for these people to contribute either opinions or time.
Of course, if it did this, Mozilla could end up with a new problem: too many ideas on the table plus the expectation that it will do something with them all. Getting around this problem — or, better, turning this problem into an opportunity — seems like one of the key design challenges for a more broadly focused Mozilla Foundation. How do you enable and encourage large numbers of open web ideas but only dig deep on the ones that fit with the Mozilla DNA?
The answer may be some combo of scaffolding + support + investment that comes in at different stages in the evolution of an idea. Possibly something like this (click here for PDF):
The specific ideas, tools and nomenclature (prizes, wikis, etc) don’t matter as much as the levels (scaffolding, support, investment). Scaffolding lets 1000s of people with 1000s of ideas play with ways to improve the open web, but with little or no direct involvement from Mozilla. Mentoring, publicity, travel funds, matching grants and other kinds of in-direct support help the good ideas grow, but with Mozilla only playing a minor role, lending its advice, connections and tiny pots of highly leveraged resources (e.g. travel funds for project meetings). More significant investment and hands on follow through happens only where there are ideas that fit well with Mozilla’s DNA, help grow the open web and have the potential to scale wildly.
On the product side, Mozilla already plays across a spectrum like this.Firefox represents a huge investment of time, energy and committment.It is built on large scale community processes that require rigour and hard work. However, Mozilla is also a key player in a bigger ecosystem made up of thousands of people and organizations building tools for the open web that come in all shapes, sizes and levels of ambition. Mozilla — amongs others — is a part of the scaffolding that makes this ecosystem possible.
A practical question: could and should Mozilla apply this combo of rigourous, large scale open source thinking plus catalytic ecosystem scaffolding to it moves more broadly into ‘ideas that drive the open web’ — open software, videos, data, science, business models, whatever? While my gut says ‘yes’, I don’t quite know what the boundaries are (anything that meets the’Mozilla DNA test’?) or how it would work exactly (e.g. prizes or grants or something else?).
Which is of course why I wanted to post before taking off for two weeks. I want to know what other people think. Is this a useful way for the Mozilla Foundation to think about its engagement with the Next Million Mozillians? If so, what questions need to be answered first? Are there some places (emerging market countries?) or topics (participation? education? politics 2.0?) that offer better places to start than others?Could the Mozilla Manifesto, further articulated and evolved, provide some of the conceptual scaffolding needed to spark and focus people? I wonder.