Mozilla Foundation program ideas for 2009

January 20, 2009 § 13 Comments

Before the holidays, the Mozilla Foundation team spent a bunch of time thinking through the kind of programs we might work on in 2009. The idea was to come up with a short list of of activities that would a) contribute to Mozilla’s overall goals and b) really leverage the skills of our small team.


Drawing on what we’d heard in discussions we’ve had with Mozillians since Whistler, we settled on five areas where the Foundation could focus this year:

  • Teaching open source: Help people learn about Mozilla’s open, participatory and distributed way of working. This could include efforts to leverage and scale the Seneca model, with students participating directly in Mozilla development.
  • Mozilla Research: Solve big open web tech and user problems that no one else will tackle. Mozilla’s main role would be framing the right research questions, providing infrastructure and building networks of researchers.
  • Movement building: Engage millions of people as promoters the open web, providing concrete ways to participate in projects like Mozilla even if they don’t have technical skills.
  • Accessibility: Drive web accessibility for people with disabilities into the mainstream of web development, and continue to support open source accessibility projects that have potential to really scale.
  • Community Support: Provide support for smaller Mozilla, open source and free culture projects, helping them to build community and sustainability.

In some ways, this list is meant as a strawman for programs section of the Mozilla Foundation Vision and Roadmap document we’ll produce later this year. We want to see what people think about these ideas, find out who is interested in working on them and work out the details of what they might look like in action. So, certainly, take this blog posting as a call for your ideas on all these fronts.

The other goal here is to give us some ideas to experiment with — programs we can actually start trying out in the real world as a way to feedback into our roadmap process. After discussion in the team and with the board, we decided that we should lean even more heavily into this side of things. We’re only going to know what belongs in the roadmap once we try some things.

With this in mind, we’ve moved into much more detailed thinking on the most promising and advanced ideas above. Education is first on the list, with both plans and action already emerging. I’ll be posting about this later in the week. We’re also working on the Mozilla Research and ‘consumer movement’ ideas. These will take a bit more time to develop.

Comments and expressions of interest on this stuff encouraged. This is all a work in progress.

§ 13 Responses to Mozilla Foundation program ideas for 2009

  • hecker says:

    Some quick belated comments:

    I think the wording on teaching open source somewhat shortchanges both learning about Mozilla itself (i.e., the idea that our first goal is teaching Mozilla-related subjects) and also learning *by means of* (as opposed to “about”) an open participatory and distributed way of working. I might have said “Help people learn about Mozilla through our open, participatory and distributed way of working, and help promote this open source approach to education.”

    * On research I think Mozilla has another role as well, which is to offer a platform within which good ideas can be experimented with and (for successful experiments) achieve mainstream adoption.

    * On accessibility, I think restricting this to “people with disabilities” tends to restrict the applicability of accessibility initiatives. I like Gregg Vanderheiden’s (?) formulation “people with physical or situational impediments”, which covers things like people walking down a busy street who might find it difficult to look at a screen. Or you could just say “Drive web accessibility into the mainstream of web development…”

  • msurman says:

    Good clarifications. Frank. I agree on all. We can role these into the wording on the wiki and elsewhere as our thinking unfolds.

  • I think Mozilla is in a really good position to get more into research. The stuff that’s coming out of Labs is amazing, and that’s a small beginning. But its shown that Mozilla has (and can attract) some really innovative talent.

  • funtomas says:

    Movement building needs more attention as all computer-savvy users have already chosen a non-IE browser. Now an average-Joe user is the target. Harness his or her ideas and skills and make them join the community. Deki wiki is a step in the right direction, evolving Ubiquity and fusing with address bar and search bar is the next one. Making L10N easier by providing Babelzilla-like service under the MoFo hood would be another one. Let’s bite off a better slice of the market share cake.

  • Håkan W says:

    Your blogs always make me want to get coffee, as you always have those espresso and coffee cups in your photos. 🙂

  • David Bolter says:

    I like this list. I would hope that Mozilla Research have a strong bias toward ‘applied research’ and I think making applied research go smoothly will require the open source teachings, so it makes sense that we’d start there.

    Aside: I like Frank’s point about disability. The ATRC adopts the definition: “A disability is a condition resulting from a mismatch between an individual and his/her environment”.

  • Something that continues to bother me is that I think we should engage in some kind of action against shutting out people from web sites and services via user agent sniffing stuff. Nowadays this rarely affects Firefox due to its increasing popularity, but for smaller browser projects like SeaMonkey, Camino, mobile efforts, etc. it’s a PITA more often than one would imagine. This is something that breaks the openness of the web and something almost nobody dares to tackle. There are research and movement ideas for this floating around, but there’s a shortage of resources to really get something going. I think this could be something MoFo could engage in through either the research or movement focus you’re presenting here. I hope there’s some chance we could get something moving there and reduce discrimination of browsers by their identification strings.

  • dria says:

    This stuff all sounds great. I think there’s enough overlap in the Research and Movement Building areas with stuff that Labs and Evangelism (and Marketing via SpreadFirefox) focus on and talk about that there are probably some very useful and interesting discussions to be had with those teams.

  • […] even be using the phrase 'university teaching'. Alot is changing. January 21, 2009msurman: Posted yesterday on possible Mozilla Fdn programs for 2009.… January 21, 2009msurman: Open Innovation Studio started up in Cape Town. I miss that place. […]

  • One thing I might suggest promoting is “Server Name Indication” (SNI) as part of HTTPS. Firefox supports it, Opera supports it, and I’m pretty sure IE7 supports it, though I’ve been led to believe the latter might only be on Vista. (Maybe someone could give MS a nudge if this is the case!)

    SNI allows for hosting multiple HTTPS sites on a single IP address, rather than the current model, which binds one SSL certificate to an IP address. By using SNI, users wouldn’t have to buy IP addresses from their webhost, and SSL use would likely grow, and perhaps fewer people would squawk about Firefox’s SSL warnings (which I back 100% as is – they keep the browsing experience secure). Right now, it appears that no major hosting sites feature SNI, and someone needs to get the ball rolling – that could be Mozilla!

    I wrote to Dreamhost some time ago about this, and was told that they don’t currently offer it. The other fun issue I’ve found while looking into this matter is that no good test sites exists – they’ve all expired. As such, I can’t even verify my claims of browser support, as I can’t find a test server to use! (That would be a substantially easier thing for Mozilla to do.)

    Background info on SNI:

    (Which incidentally linked to the following: [aebrahim seems to write about things I agree with routinely!])

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