A truly global drumbeat

January 26, 2010 § 3 Comments

At it’s simplest, Mozilla Drumbeat is about everyday internet users using technology to make and do things that will keep the web open for the long haul. Diversity will be a critical to this. Drumbeat needs to engage the huge diversity of people who use the web in their work and play. Teachers. Artists. Lawyers. Filmmakers. Children. Everyone. It also needs to reflect — and be shaped by — the diversity of cultures that make up the web. Drumbeat needs to be truly global right from the start.

Text: "A truly global drumbeat" Pic: globe w/ dino head on it

Building this kind of global diversity into Drumbeat is something I’ve been thinking about a great deal. Personally, I believe seeking out and supporting community leaders from as many parts of the world as possible is one of the most important things we can do during Drumbeat’s first year. While I’ve got a few thoughts on how to do this, ideas and participation from across the Mozilla community will be essential if we’re going to succeed. The aim of this post is to outline some ideas on making sure Drumbeat is truly global — and to ask for your help.

First, a few principles

A good place to start is with guiding principles. There are at least three very obvious things that we should be thinking about during these early days of Drumbeat.

  • Build diverse leadership at the edges early on. Drumbeat will be defined by the community leaders who step forward to start projects and organize events. We need to actively seek out these people on the edges of our networks, and not just where we already know people.
  • Make sure Drumbeat is relevant where the internet is growing most. The number of Internet users is growing rapidly in places like Asia, South America and the Middle East. These are good places for Drumbeat because new citizens of the web are coming online every day — and that is the perfect time to engage people around ideas like participation and openness. When the web is still a fresh experience.
  • Work in many languages. This will be critical. Right now, Drumbeat is happening mainly in English. Getting discussions — and then web infrastructure — happening in more languages is a big priority. We need your help with this (see below).

Of course, this is just a jumping off point. I suspect others who have done this before can suggest additional guiding principles to consider (please post comments). Still, if we can live up to these three principles, we’ll be headed in the right direction.

Some ideas on getting started

In order to get started, we need to make it as easy as we can for anyone anywhere to get involved. We also need to take most of Drumbeat’s important first steps outside of North America. We’re actively working on both of these things. A few early examples:

  • Make it easy for people to organize local events. My belief is that many of the first Drumbeat community leaders will come from small local events. We’re currently developing an event template to make it easy for people to run these events. We’re also going to offer training sessions for would be event organizers in various regional hub cities. The first of these events and trainings will likely happen in Brasil in March, with Europe following quickly in April. We also did some pilot events in Singapore and India late last year.
  • Hire diverse staff, and spreading them around. We’ve already committed to putting new Mozilla Foundation staff in Paris. And, we’re considering contractors and project leaders in Singapore, Brasil and India. Eventually, we can put people wherever there is real leadership and talent — just as Mozilla does w/ Firefox and Thunderbird development. Also, we’re giving a strong preference to people who are multilingual in all of our hiring.
  • Work with the existing Mozilla community. Mozilla already knows how to build diverse, global communities — that’s what Mozilla is. Many long time Mozillians have already pitched in with advice, project ideas, web site help and (probably most important) introductions to people outside the community who have something to contribute to Drumbeat. We’re hoping more community members can help us get rolling, even if simply by promoting Drumbeat and encouraging their friends to get involved.

The location of the first annual Drumbeat Festival will also be an important decision in all of this. We’ve already decided that it *will not* be in North America. Europe or the Middle East are likely. Amsterdam and Istanbul have been suggested as good options, althought we’re open to others and haven’t decided yet.

Drumbeat needs your help

As I said above, making sure Drumbeat is truly global isn’t something any one person — or even all the existing Drumbeat community members — can do alone. We need your help. Here are a few simple things that you can do right now to pitch in if you’re interested:

  • Blog about and discuss Drumbeat in your own language. A simple blog posting explaining Drumbeat in your language would be a huge help. Starting a newsgroup or some other kind of online discussion would help even more. Obviously, one benefit of this is that we get the word out in many languages. The even more important benefit is that your writing can help us test how we’re thinking about Drumbeat in many cultures. This is critical to evolving the ideas behind Drumbeat. If you write something, please post a link below or in the Drumbeat newsgroup.
  • Organize an event. Organizing a small, informal Drumbeat event in your city sometime during 2010 is probably the best way you can stir up community energy — especially if you can invite non-techie people like teachers, artists, lawyers and so on. We’ll be posting an event template for feedback within the next week. If you think you want to organize an event, send me mail or comment below. I’ll make sure to get in touch when the template is up online.
  • Propose a project. Right now, the majority of the project ideas proposed for Drumbeat come from people in North America. This is something we urgently need to change. If you have a good Drumbeat idea — something that revolves around everyday web users *making* or *doing* something to make the web more open — then you should propose it. Soon, you’ll be able to post project ideas on the alpha Drumbeat web site. For now, you can use this wiki page. Post your project idea in whatever language you want to run the project in.

Eventually, we’ll also need help with localization — both developing a plan and doing the translation. We need to get the Drumbeat alpha site up, tested and improved first. But localization is clearly an area where community participation will be needed.

A final thought

One of the things that has always impressed about the Mozilla community is its ability to simultaneously focus on a strong, global idea and embrace the fact that every part of the world is different. You see this in Firefox, and in how people talk about Mozilla’s values. It’s exactly this type of balance that we need to strike with Drumbeat. The core idea of people using technology to make and do things that create a better, more open web can hopefully resonate everywhere — but only because projects and communities emerge around the world that are grounded in local ideas about what the open web is and why it matters.

§ 3 Responses to A truly global drumbeat

  • Tony Yet says:

    Hi Mark,

    It is amazing to see that people are working in a community to build, or to use your word, steward an open web. This is a truly fascinating project that deserves more exposure.

    I wrote a blog post about it in Chinese: http://tonyyet.com/?p=100. Hope there would be more voices from the non-English world.

    BTW, there is the EFF and there is the Creativecommons project. What would distinguish Drumbeat from these projects?

  • John Britton says:

    I’m definitely up for organizing a Drumbeat event, as I’m sure you’re already aware. Once we’ve had a chance to come up with a format and frame the discussions I’m ready to get started.

  • Sara says:

    Great post, Mark. It will also be exciting to see how Drumbeat project leaders can collaborate with each other. Perhaps MoFo can serve more as this connector.

    Thanks for the brain food.

    Sara Yap

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