Drumbeat: what’s next?

September 2, 2010 § 18 Comments

We’re eight months into Drumbeat. We’ve built a bit of a brand. People are interested. They want to get involved. More importantly: new people have shown up. Educators. Filmmakers. Artists. Not Mozilla natives. These new people are doing interesting things. And their peers are noticing.

It’s is a good start. We have some momentum. There is potential. Which begs the question: now what?

One thing is clear: we need to turn interest into action and impact. With 2011 on the horizon, I’m asking: how do we best do this? What does Drumbeat do next?

I want to know what you think about this. As comment fodder, here are three + one things I think we should focus on as Drumbeat moves into 2011:

0. Narrow our focus. Pick grokkable, magnetic topics.

Drumbeat started with a very broad call to action: ‘help keep the open web open‘. This didn’t work as well as we’d hoped. Some people responded. Most just stared back blankly.

Recently (and somewhat by accident), we’ve shifted focus to more specific mashups of Mozilla’s mission and other people’s big ideas. Re-invent cinema using the open web. Use the culture of the web to transform education and learning. And so on.

These mash ups have been much more magnetic. People already excited about the big ideas in question have looked up and said: ah, the web people are interested. Cool. How can I join in?

No matter what else we decide to do, one of our next steps should be to consistently use these ‘somebody’s big idea + open web tech and culture’ combos to focus what we’re doing. On the flip side, we should (dramatically) turn down the volume of the generic ‘help the open web’ angle.

1. Follow through on what we’ve started. Amp up participation and impact.

During the last eight months, we’ve dug our teeth into some awesome and substantial projects — Web Made Movies, Mozilla / P2PU School of Web Craft, Universal Subtitles. And it’s possible we’ll start work on a couple more by year end.

Each of these projects has big dreams. They also have clear goals for the coming year. A web developer education program that is 10,000 learners strong. A bustling open video studio pumping out productions with leading directors from around the world. Grassroots subtitling taking hold on well known, globally important video sites. These are amongst the 2011 goals Drumbeat projects shared in Whistler.

One answer to ‘what’s next for Drumbeat?’ is ‘follow through and help these projects reach these goals’.

There are three primary ways we can do this. Help with the technology side of these projects (e.g. P2PU leveraging Labs’ open social tools). Build fundraising capacity by actually designing and running campaigns with the projects (we’re doing major campaigns this fall and into next year). And, bring more people and profile to the table (e.g. volunteer recruitment in mainstream Mozilla newsletters and more promotion on Mozilla sites).

Helping in these ways will drive participation and impact in the projects we’ve already started. This, for me, is the baseline of what Drumbeat should do next. If that’s all we did in 2011, would it be enough? Personally, I don’t think so.

2. Get get good at open innovation. Find and grow more promising ideas.

We’ve always seen Drumbeat as a way to get many good ideas on the table, and then to back the best. A decent number of people have responded to this aspect of what we’re doing — there are now over 220 projects on drumbeat.org.

We’ve highlighted and helped a handful of these projects in small ways. Promoting them in our newsletter. Setting up peer coaching on our community calls. But, overall, we haven’t yet figured out a good and sustainable way to help these projects evolve, expand and succeed.

What we need is a simple, systematic way to find and grow promising ideas. One approach: combine the Mozilla labs open innovation process with the ‘magnetic topic mashups’ described above. Pick a topic. Run an innovation challenge. Back the best ideas that come out of the challenge.

For example, we might run a challenge around the question: how can the culture and technology drive innovation in the world of journalism? The challenge process would get many ideas on the table, spark collaborations. We’d offer fellowships or grants to the ‘winners’ of the challenge.

If Jetpack for Learning was any indication, this approach is more likely to yield results than the general Drumbeat  ‘propose a project that helps the web’ call to action we’ve been using so far. One of our priorities for 2011 should be to put this open innovation model centre stage, pick some awesome topics and see what we learn.

3. Spark people’s imagination. Make it easy for them to connect. Focus on (big) visibility.

While our existing projects are awesome and important, Drumbeat (and Mozilla as a whole) needs another side to it — a side that is lightweight, easy to engage and, well, sexy.

Why? Because part of our goal with Drumbeat is to spark people’s imaginations — to get millions of people excited about how the open web can liberate, empower and delight them.

If you look at this from a ‘what’s next?’ perspective, this is partly a matter of linking what we’re doing already to things people care about. Making Web Made Movies with well loved producers and artists. Connecting Universal Subtitles to widely known content brands. Showcasing robots, lasers and other shiny open tech toys at Drumbeat events. The good news: we’re working on all these things.

However, ‘sparking imaginations’ need not — and probably cannot — be completely tied up in the idea of Drumbeat projects and events. We should embrace anything we can dream up that delights and engages, and the connects people to Mozilla outside of their day to day experience of using our products.

Google showed how you can do this with it’s recent HTML5 Arcade Fire video. It was a lightweight, fun, internet-scale way to demo what HTML5 video can be. And people loved it.

We hope to do something similar with our upcoming Firefox 4 parks campaign with the World Wildlife Fund — using sexy demos to make the link between the forests of the amazon and the web ecosystem that Firefox helps sustain. We’ve got other ideas up our sleeves as well (including some involving cats!)

But, the fact of the matter is, Mozilla isn’t naturally good at this. We’re more often than not too earnest about the web. We need to develop or lighter sexier side. Especially if we want millions of people across the web to join and support our cause. In terms of Drumbeat next steps, this is a major area we need to work on.

These are early thoughts that need much shaping and refinement. I’m interested to know: Which sound right? Which sound exciting? Which sound unachievable? You’ve been watching Drumbeat unfold. Where do you think it should go next?

I’ve posted an etherpad version of this content for people to hack on. And you can also make comments below. I’ll feed whatever people post into a Mozilla board discussion mid-September. And, if there is alot of interesting changes, I’ll repost the full etherpad version here.

PS. I know this post is too long. Sorry about that. I really want to see how people react to the whole set of ideas here — so my attempts at chopping it into a bunch of smaller posts didn’t work.

§ 18 Responses to Drumbeat: what’s next?

  • Ross Gardler says:

    For me your are on the right lines with the open innovation goal. If you get good at that you’ll find the other discussion topics, and much more, will just start happening around you.

    Of course there is no such thing as “build it and they will come.” there is much more to it than that – someone needs to both kick-start (that’s where pushing existing projects comes in) and coordinate the discussion. That someone needs to be trusted by all potential collaborators.

    Mozilla is in an almost unique position. It does not have a for-profit motive, this makes it an ideal place for safe collaboration between third parties who may be competing on other projects in the for-profit space (and this includes the research and education sector). It also makes it a more comfortable space for people engaging for other reasons, such as personal education or as a hobby.

    The are, in my opinion, three very difficult tasks here: one is ensuring people understand what open innovation is (it’s not invention for example), another is helping people understand how it helps them as individuals, finally we need people to understand how it is done.

    Given that open innovation is a very new concept, less than 15 years on Internet scales, there is no template for how to do this. So, for me it’s about understanding open innovation, through focussed experimentation, followed by an effort to educate and support other open innovation newbies.

  • Geoffrey MacDougall says:

    I like this direction a lot.

    – The mash-ups provide an access point from something someone cares about to the open web;

    – The open innovation challenges trigger creativity and vision about what’s possible; and

    – The lightweight sexiness ‘spins the wheel’ repeatedly by showcasing what’s possible and bringing more people to it.

    A growing vortex of open web goodness.


  • Dharmishta says:

    I’m with Geoffrey — I like it a lot too! I’m fascinated by the fact that people weren’t catching on to the “open web” for open web’s sake movement and getting behind it, or at least not the same way as a “save the whales” or “go green” campaign. It makes sense, if someone started a “clean drinking water” campaign in a place where the tap water was drinkable, who would join?

    I do think, however, that we can focus on examples of open web — privacy rights, net neutrality, broadband access in the supported Drumbeat projects as these have clear tangible outputs, or at least a more tangible ethos than “open web.”

    Excited to watch this unfold.

  • msurman says:

    One thing to clarify based on some back channel reactions: we’re happy with and committed to the original vision of Drumbeat.

    “Drive awareness, action and new ideas that create a better internet.”

    What we’re looking for now are ways to refine and learn, and to figure out bigger and better ways to deploy resources next year.

  • Two (really quick) cents:

    Don’t lose focus on the **local**. Connecting people offline at a local, or regional, scale — like the Drumbeat events — would seem like a critical piece in achieving tangible, practical, outcomes.

    Keep an eye on market failures: Thinking back to the origins of Firefox, there’s clearly an ongoing role for Mozilla to think about the places where the market is failing to fulfil the promise of an open, interoperable, and competitive Internet. Every day there seems to be a new “App store” or social network popping up, each seeking to create their own walled garden or mediated experience. Although the challenges are a great way to find the “outlier” ideas, in some cases there just needs to be a hard push on the core ideas (of openness) to address these market failures and encroachments.

    Hope that helps a bit. 🙂


  • beniz says:

    A few thoughts on the challenges for innovation (2.). As a past researcher, I’d say innovation challenges and selection of winners are killing academic research.

    This is because asking the wrong question in this context very much likely produces only useless answers.

    IMO it is much more powerful to let the base of users propose ideas, and to use a platform like Drumbeat to get together those that seem to be holding pieces of the same puzzle.

    In this model, the puzzle comes together at the end.

  • Loic Dachary says:

    I’ve been watching drumbeat from a distance, because of my interest for http://www.seeks-project.info/site/ . It took me a few minutes and at least two failed attempts to vote for the project. My 2ct is simply this : make sure users can easily and quickly vote.

  • Sean Bonner says:

    I think the zero point is the most important thing here because even as someone who has been loosely involved, at least in the sidelines, since this was announced, I’ve had a difficult time explaining *exactly* what this is to other people. I think we naturally want to cover a lot of bases but being too vague and broad stroked at this point might be working against it, so focusing in on a few specific things is exactly what needs to happen. This doesn’t mean everything else gets ignored, or pushed out, but “Dumbeat” can be explained as a few main projects, and a collection of others. As the main ones develop and take on lives of their own the “collection” ones can be bumped up to get more focus on their own.

    I think it would serve everyone very well if, of everything Drumbeat has it’s hands in, 3-4 of those things were picked as the main focus points for 2011. This would definitely help people find their own calls to action.

  • paulbooker says:

    Great post from Mark and particularly like the responses from Dharmistha & Phillip

    With regards to sparking people imaginations around the open web i would like to see Mozilla become more vocal about the issues of the day like the Google / Verizon proposal to close the open web and to get more behind the federated social web promoting standards like OStatus and drumbeat projects like Appleseed.

  • paulbooker says:

    Perhaps along with a lightweight side to Drumbeat we could also have a more radical wing. It would be interesting to hear what measures Greenpeace would take to protect the open web. I imagine more radical measures may be required in the coming months if were going to have an open web in 100 *weeks* from now.

  • “Perhaps along with a lightweight side to Drumbeat we could also have a more radical wing.”

    Sign me up.😉

  • Brett Gaylor says:

    My feeling is that rather than positioning Drumbeat as a builder/protector of the “open web”, we should be celebrating what is best about The Web, period.

    Those not already in the fold have trouble understanding the difference between The Web and The Open Web. I believe that they already feel that “The Web” is “Open” and has the characteristics we love. We should focus on explaining why that is threatened, and supporting the kinds of projects that help people FEEL why the web is too important to loose.

    To use Paul’s example, I don’t think Greenpeace focuses on protecting the “Clear Environment”. They just protect the environment.


  • To use Paul’s example, I don’t think Greenpeace focuses on protecting the “Clear Environment”. They just protect the environment.


  • Ross Gardler says:

    I just made some comments in the etherpad version and am looking forward to more thoughts both here and in etherpad.

  • Paul Booker says:

    Something for the near future could be a mash up with the movement “the war on global warming” ..

    Best, Paul

  • Pippa says:

    One thing that’s come up in discussions with friends is that it’s not clear to outsiders what Drumbeat is _not_ (and why). I think that some of the technical aspects of this might be better clarified once we develop a more cohesive charter for the School of Webcraft.

    I also like that there’s been an educational and journalism focus over the last year. Maybe one way to move forward into 2011 is to have focus on different areas? The Crisis Camp success encourages me to think that IT for Development might be an interesting topic to explore more deeply. Public health? The Internet of Things?

  • […] webdev? Come to Barcelona!Glen Moriarty on Experiment: badges, identity and youPippa on Drumbeat: what’s next?Paul Booker on Drumbeat: […]

  • […] There has been good conversation on this topic over the last few weeks — first on my blog and in the Drumbeat newsgroup (thanks to everyone who commented!) and then in a recent MozFdn board […]

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