Summit Reflections: Community, Education and More Mozillians

September 3, 2008 § 1 Comment

Meeting 400 passionate and accomplished Mozillians at the Firefox+ Summit this summer deepened my conviction that Mozilla is about much more than just software: it’s a community committed to making sure participation and openness remain baked into the everyday experience of using the internet. The people I met at the Summit have made this big idea a reality. And, as Mitchell posted earlier today, this community has a great deal more to contribute to the open internet. The best is yet to come.

Hopefully, some of this ‘yet to come’ can be sparked by re-focusing and re-energizing the Mozilla Foundation. At the Summit, about 40 people gathered in a Foundation 2.0 session. I’ve finally got around to posting notes on this session on the Mozilla wiki. Typing up the notes reinforced three ‘what the Foundation needs to be doing’ themes that have been spinning around in my mind for the past month:

1. Community health. I am not sure if ‘community health’ is the right term or not, but it’s clear that people are looking to the Foundation to help connect dots and fill gaps amongst the various communities that make up Mozilla. I agree that the Foundation should step up to the plate on this, although I still wonder where we’ll be able to add the most value and make the most difference. David Boswell has a post up on this today, which will hopefully generate a good pool of ideas to draw from.

2. Education. I’ve posted before about open source education. People seem excited about this area, especially efforts that bring energetic students who want to both learn and contribute into the Mozilla community. The challenge is figuring out how to do this well beyond existing experiments like the courses at Seneca. At the Summit, a number of people expressed an interest in digging into this question and helping to find people who might run Mozilla-related courses. Also, MoMo volunteer Gary Kwong actually has gone ahead set up a new course in Singapore. There is momentum and energy here. As as a way to move things along, the Foundation should probably gather potential ‘Mozilla educators’ over the coming months — could be FTF or could be virtual — to hammer out some concrete ideas for action in this area.

3. Reaching out to (a few million) more Mozillians. There was also considerable support at the Summit for deeper engagement with the 200 million people who use Mozilla products. Some people talked about this as movement building. Others talked about outreach. The theme was the same: find ways to encourage people excited about Mozilla products to also get excited about our values … and then give them ways to participate and belong. As with education, the challenge now is one of defining concrete action. There were suggestions related to ‘a user bill of rights for data’ and also around the existing Mozilla Manifesto. It will be important for the Foundation to define a modest and achievable in this area soon, and then just try it out.

When typing up the notes, I was also stumble across a suggestion to dig into Mozilla’s role as a public benefit organization that mashes up non-profit and business strategies:

We should align with other key ‘social enterprises‘ that are synergistic with Mozilla’s values as a way to increase the web of participation, community alignment and consistent voice.

This may not be a major theme, but I do think it’s interesting and important. I had a good chat with John Lilly in Whistler about doing some sort of tech social enterprise summit over the coming year — an event that would bring together people like Mozilla, Participatory Culture Foundation and others using a social enterprise approach to keep the internet open.

While my head is down finishing work for Shuttleworth and others, I have to admit that all the ‘what Mozilla Foundation can do’ questions keep bouncing into my conciousness. I figured I should post just to snapshot my current thinking. I can’t wait to dig into all of this full time at the end of September.

PS. Thanks fot Kev Needham for the great Summit shot under CC license.

§ One Response to Summit Reflections: Community, Education and More Mozillians

  • CircleReader says:

    The idea of an “open-source education” community that could rival public school systems is inspiring!

    If you are heading that way, I’d love to see some conscious outreach to unschoolers & homeschoolers, since they have been doing distributed, community-based, education development for some time, and often see themselves as part of a cultural “movement” towards open, participatory learning.

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