2010 goals: engaging a broader public about the open web

October 20, 2008 § 9 Comments

Ever since my first post about Mozilla, there has been a constant theme around getting more people to participate in efforts to make the open web stronger. I’m passionate about this, to be sure. But it’s not just me. Most people I talk to — inside and outside the Mozilla community — believe this is something we should focus on.

Given this, I have a strong feeling that there should be a Mozilla 2010 goal related to engaging and activating people around the open web. I think Mozilla Foundation should take point on this goal. What I am not sure at all about is how to frame it. It could be something like:

Develop simple, practical ways for more Internet users to actively contribute to making the open web stronger.

This goal makes sense at a high level. It’s the kind of thing people say when I get into conversations about ‘engaging a broader public’. But, when you dig deeper, the phrasing doesn’t do a good enough job articulating what we want to engage people around and why they would even care. The goal we set needs to do this.

Brian Behlendorf and I got talking about this engagement challenge the other day. As we wandered around it, we came up with a thought experiment where we’d ask people:

If you had space on a high profile site like CNN or BBC, what would you tell people about the open web? What conversation would you start?

Jay Patel and I recently had a similar line of conversation about the Mozilla Campus Reps program:

If Mozilla Campus Reps ran 1000 BarCamp-like events about the open web, what would the topic specific topic be? Who would show up and why?

I’m increasingly convinced that we need to dig into a couple of thought experiments like these before we define our goals for engaging a broader public about the open web. Here is my proposal on how to do this:

  1. Ask the two questions above to as many people as you can over the next week. I am going to ask people at FSOSS and MozCamp Europe, and rope in a bunch of friends.
  2. When you ask, encourage people to be both practical (what actually makes the open web stronger?) and realistic (what would attract people to get involved?) with their answers.
  3. Forward this post to anyone else who you think would be willing to ask the questions above to people they know.
  4. Use your own blog, post comments here or send me a mail with what you find.

I will post a summary of whatever people have written next Friday (Oct 31). I will also take a shot at one or more goals related to getting more people to participate in making the open web stronger. Make sense? If so, let’s jump in.

PS. Of course, I’ve got some ideas on the questions above. I think mobile offers a good entry point for broad public conversation about the open-web-we-have vs. the siloed-web-we-may-end-up-with. And, I think there is events about content creation, open content licenses and open standards might make sense for groups like university students. But my ideas aren’t the point. The point is to very widely brainstorm how we might engage people, and then go from there.

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