A reading list for webmakers

September 6, 2012 § 6 Comments

People often ask: Where did Mozilla Webmaker come from? And, how does it fit into the big picture of Mozilla’s mission? There are loads of materials online that answer these questions. I figured I should create a ‘reading’ list for would be web makers that pulls together some of the main threads. Here it is.

1. The Story of Mozilla

This video is a great place to start. In 3 minutes, you get primer on how Mozilla used Firefox to keep the web alive and on where we are headed next with mobile and web literacy. The main take away: Mozilla is a global community of people creates compelling products and experiences that build openness into the internet. This is an important foundational idea to get. It’s how Mozilla thinks about itself.

2. The Mozilla Manifesto

While it could use an update, the Manifesto is still a solid foundation answering the question: what should Mozilla be working on right now? The Webmaker initiative has it’s roots in the principle that “… individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.” This almost is impossible unless individuals have some basic literacy in how the web works and how to program it. That’s why Mozilla is making such a big bet on web literacy. The Manifesto also says that Mozilla should “build and deliver great consumer products that support [these] principles.” This is why we’re working so hard on Thimble, Popcorn and high quality remixable content: we believe compelling online creativity apps are powerful way to promote web literacy.

3. Creating a web literate planet

In September 2011, I started a series of blog postings outlining the basic web maker concept and asking for feedback. These posts argued that “… Mozilla has an opportunity to build the next generation of web makers.” They also set out the basic idea that we need both teach and build tools that encourage creativity, tinkering and invention on the web. These posts formed the touchstone for what we’re actually building in 2012. You can read them in order as a set or go back to ‘#nextbeat’ tag in my blog. While the #nextbeat version is confusing (you have to read from the bottom up as they are in reverse order), it’s also more interesting as it includes all the original comments and public discussion about the webmaker concept.

4. Mozilla Webmaker 2012 plans

By the end of 2012, we’d agreed to put significant resources toward what is now called Mozilla Webmaker. Our top level goal was to “… roll Mozilla’s best software and learning resources into a simple ‘kit’ for web makers.” Practically, this meant building Hackasaurus, Popcorn, Hive, Open News and many other efforts we’d started under the Mozilla Drumbeat banner into a cohesive offering and brand. I posted an overview of our plans to do this in February 2012, including links to team-specific plans. There is also a wiki page with the top level Webmaker goals and objectives approved by the Mozilla Foundation board in December 2011. As I thought experiment, I recently did a July MoFo Goals Review. While we’ve still go work to do, we’re tracking well.

5. Campus Party talk on the web and creativity

Now that we’re almost a year into the Webmaker conversation, I’ve been turning my mind back to the question: what’s the big picture strategy we need to keep the web open and vibrant? At the broadest level, I think the answer is a mix of products, literacy and public policy that bake the values of the Mozilla Manifesto into the web and into our expectations of how the web works. Mozilla’s three big projects right now — Firefox, Firefox OS and Webmaker — cover the product and literacy bases. We also need to find a way to shape policy, at least in cases where it threatens the web. I did a talk recently at Campus Party Europe that looks these things through a big picture lens. It’s rough and a bit long, but this talk is worth watching if you want to situate Mozilla Webmaker within the context of keeping the web open for the very long haul.

Of course, these five posts are just a primer. There are thousands of posts and reflections that people have written about the webmaker concept. And there is even more out there on the broader topic of web literacy. I’d be interested in hearing what other reading you find helpful or inspirational on this topic. If something comes to mind, please post a link as a comment below.

Michelle + I explain web making

February 20, 2012 § 6 Comments

Want to know what we mean by web making? Or why you (and Mozilla) should care? Michelle Levesque and I did this 20 minute talk at last month’s Learning Without Frontiers conference to answer these questions:

One thing that’s worth pulling out of our slides is the definition of ‘web maker’:

a web maker is anyone who makes things using the open ethos and building blocks 
of the web

I’ve been using this definition for many months now, but it often seems to fly past people. I want to underline it here as this web maker audience is central for all the learning programs Mozilla is developing this year.

If you want more info — or if wonder what I mean by the ‘open ethos and building blocks of the web’ — there are lots of old posts by Mitchell, myself and others that unpack this general topic. Here are a few:

You see the pattern in these posts: a) open ethos = transparency, decentralization, participation, remix + b) building blocks = HTML, CSS, Javascript, open source tools and libraries. In my books, anyone who uses this ethos and these tools to make things on the web is a web maker.

PS. here is a PDF of the slides from the talk Michelle and I did. Can also send Keynote to anyone who wants to use these.

Branding at Mozilla community events

February 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

The Mozilla Japan team did a great job at branding at the recent Hive Tokyo Pop-up. In particular, they a) made a typical cafe look like a Mozilla space while also b) giving community projects a good way to explain themselves with hackable signs. It impressed me enough that I wanted to share.

The core asset was a poster-sized glossy foam core board with Mozilla branding around the edge and a big whiteboard space in the middle:

For people who don’t do events, this may seem like no big deal. But it’s huge. At something like a Mozilla Festival Science Fair, these posters let presenters tell their own story while still using a single brand to pull together the whole event. Here are a couple of signs from the event:

In addition to these poster boards, Mozilla Japan also did a good job of general signage and small elements that pulled the space together in a cohesive way. They even had small event signs to cover over the cafe’s own signage (didn’t get photo). A nice touch!

We should emulate some of this stuff for our community event spaces at Mozilla offices. I’m going to investigate building up a set of materials like this for the Toronto office at the start using generic Mozilla branding. We should also investigate for community events we do in cities around the world. We’ll probably also do some stuff like this for the Mozilla Science Fair at MacArthur’s DML conference in San Francisco.

Drumbeat in 3 bullets

October 31, 2010 § 5 Comments

Melissa Shapiro recently ran our team through a media training. She pushed us hard to come up with the three bullet Drumbeat elevator pitch. Here is what we came up with:

  1. Mozilla exists to make sure the internet stays open and awesome.
  2. With Drumbeat, we’re moving beyond Firefox to build more things that make the web better — not just software.
  3. We’re doing this by reaching out new kinds of people — teachers, filmmakers, lawyers, journalists. These people will play a key role in shaping the future of the web.

This is similar to what I presented at the Mozilla Summit in the summer, but much simpler and easier to repeat. So, I figured I should share it.

Open web definition for drumbeat.org

June 1, 2010 § 26 Comments

A common Drumbeat questions is ‘what do you mean by open web?‘ Having a solid answer is especially critical as reach out to teachers, lawyers, filmmakers and other people new to Mozilla.

two people talking about the open web

Of course, there are many good answers. Nonetheless, we need a single, simple list of ‘open web ingredients’ to explain what we mean to people interested in Drumbeat. Here is what we thinking about using:

The open web is made up of four primary ingredients:

  • Freedom: built with technology and content that anyone can study, use or improve.
  • Participation: anyone can participate or innovate without asking permission from others.
  • Decentralization: the architecture is distributed and control is shared by many parties.
  • Generativity: we can make new ideas from old ones. As we use, we also hack and innovate.

Or, for short:

  • Open web = freedom, participation, decentralization and generativity.

This definition is inspired in part by Mitchell Baker’s ‘better internet’ talk from about a year ago. It was also shaped by responses to Mozilla’s what is the open web? contest from earlier this year and by other attempts to define the open web.

One issue we bounced around on was whether to talk about transparency (we had that in earlier edits) or freedom (the ‘study’ element of software freedom covers ‘transparency’). The current version uses freedom both because of its breadth and because free software and content are clearly core building blocks of the open web. Could be too arcane for the Drumbeat audience?

Keep in mind: our goal is a working open web definition for drumbeat.org, not something canonical. It should speak to people who aren’t necessarily technical and suggest how they can shape the web. At the same time, it needs to be sound, encompassing the primary ingredients we believe make up the open web.

The plan is to put an expanded (and likely evolved) version of this definition up on drumbeat.org later this week. If people like it, maybe we can use it more broadly in other venues. Who knows.

Comments and suggested improvements welcome, as always.

MozFdn May 2010 status update

May 26, 2010 Comments Off on MozFdn May 2010 status update

Almost five months into 2010, key Drumbeat projects and the Drumbeat local event series are picking up speed. Web Made Movies, Universal Subtitles and P2PU Open Web Career Track have all released new material and gotten more people involved. And additional events have taken place in Toronto, Berlin, Sao Carlos and Florianapolis. We’re also making progress on our overall fundraising and engagement efforts — albeit slower than hoped.

One things that has been particularly good to see: our first efforts to push community support and donations to a Drumbeat project have started to show (modest) results. By actively promoting Universal Subtitles in late April, Drumbeat helped to surface 600 beta testers as well as other offers of support. We generated over 100 comments like this one:

“Hi, I don’t have any talent in computer. I’m just a common people who can speak Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Malay, and little Japanese. And maybe very little Spanish. Is there anything 
I can do to help?”

Of course, support like this isn’t an end itself — the real goal is to make sure Universal Subtitles succeeds in bringing open video translation to the web. But it’s still good to see that the Drumbeat concept of bringing new people to participate in projects that improve the web has at least some early traction.

As we go into the summer, we’ll need to make some decisions about where to push hardest on Drumbeat for the rest of the year. The current plan is to focus on a few key projects build up strong participation and impact — the ones mentioned above plus a few more based in Europe or Brasil. We also want to pick a handful of cities to really invest in where we can get a vibrant community going. Sao Paulo is one of these. Berlin may be another. Finally, we need to pick a theme for the 2010 Drumbeat Festival. The current thinking is something around education (‘learning, freedom and the web’).

My May Mozilla Foundation status update provides a detailed overview on all of this, with a special focus on where and how we should focus our resources for the rest of the year. Here it is:

You can also view this in open video (ogg theora) or download the slide deck (PDF).

This slidecast offers slightly shorter version of info presented at our most recent board meeting. I’ll continue to provide these updates every two months, following the board meeting schedule. Comments welcomed here on my blog or by email.

Crisper Drumbeat messaging. Feedback?

May 18, 2010 § 12 Comments

A few weeks back, I posted an updated Drumbeat description. People said it was good, but not good enough. We’ve pushed hard to come up with something better and crisper. These result is a simple set of key messages that explain Drumbeat and why it matters. We’ll use these to write site copy, update our slide decks and drive our upcoming social media campaign.

I’ve pulled the current version from the wiki and pasted below. It’s very close to final — we’re turning it into new web site copy as we speak. Feedback and tweaks welcome. As always, we’ll iterate.

Drumbeat is about keeping the web open.

  • We’re building a movement. We want to keep the web open for the next 100 years.
  • Where to start? Everyday web users making and doing things that help the open web.
  • Drumbeat’s role: host projects and events that gather smart, creative people around big ideas.

We all benefit from the open web.

  • It’s the most powerful communication tool in the history of humanity.
  • The nervous system of trade, education, governance, activism, and play.
  • Lets a single idea achieve global impact.
  • All without needing someone else’s approval or permission.
  • Open = ( Participatory +Transparent + Decentralized + Generative)

But we can’t take the freedom of the web for granted.

  • There are many who would neuter or control the web we have built.
  • Imagine an internet filled with devices you can’t tinker with and walled gardens.
  • What’s at risk? Privacy. Access. The freedom to create and innovate.

We need to protect it. Improve it. Grow it.

  • We helped keep the web open when 20,000 of us built Firefox.
  • And we’ve been continuing that work ever since.
  • It’s what we do. It’s all we do. And we’re known to do it well.

Drumbeat = your chance to keep the web open and free.

  • A chance for the rest of us to get involved.
  • A global community of smart, creative, everyday people who actually make and do things that attack problems, power big ideas, and build the open web.
  • Who? Teachers. Lawyers. Artists. Bankers. Plumbers. Anyone who uses and loves the internet.

You can get involved online or face-to-face.

  • We’ve planted a flag. A place to gather and collaborate.
  • Start a project, or join one that’s already rolling.
  • If your project gets traction, we’ll shout from the top of the mountain about it. We may even fund it.
  • Go to an event in your city. Work on a project with neighbors, or just paint a picture of what you want the web to look like in 100 years.
  • It’s all about lending your skills and creativity to the cause of the open web.

For those who are interested: the text above was very much fueled by community input. Major sources of input included comments my Drumbeat messaging post from a few weeks back plus a key messages thread in the Drumbeat newsgroup. Kudos go to Dharmishta Rood and Geoff MacDougall for pulling all these ideas together.

One Mozilla story, we’ve come a long way

November 3, 2009 § 8 Comments

One of my obsessions has been telling the Mozilla story better. The most important elements of this story centre around topics like: ‘why we exist’ and ‘what we’re building’. Yet, we sometimes get caught up in ‘how we’re structured’ — which tends to confuse more than clarify.

We’ve come a long way on this front: we’re getting better at telling the world a simpler, more unified story about Mozilla. All around I hear people talking confidently about ‘Mozilla’ — the project and the community with a mission to create a better internet. And I see fewer public references to all the different pieces that make up Mozilla. This is important.

One core element of this is simply leading with the word ‘Mozilla’ rather than focusing on structure. It’s worth pausing to call out a few specific examples. You might not even have noticed them.

1. The marketing team came up with new ‘About Mozilla’ boilerplate text for the Firefox 3.5 launch:

Mozilla is a global community of people creating a better Internet. We build public benefit into the Internet by creating free, open source products and technologies that improve the online experience for people everywhere. We work in the open under the umbrella of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Everything we create is a public asset available for others to use, adapt and improve.

This tells the big picture Mozilla and mission story well, and is a useful tool for any org, team or community within Mozilla. It doesn’t focus on which entity is doing the talking, which the old one did.

2. We’re now using the same business card logo and design across all parts of Mozilla. This may seem small — but it’s critical to remember that all of our small decisions add up to tell a bigger story. They’re important.

3. The main page of Mozilla.com no longer highlights Mozilla Corporation. It simply talks about our products (the main idea) and about ‘Mozilla’.

4. mozilla.org has was relaunched earlier this year with an even stronger focus on our mission and our community, and a clear framing of how our products fit into bigger commitment to building a better internet.

The bottom line in all of these examples: we should use a single, unified Mozilla brand across all of our public communication. While Mozilla is diverse and made up of many pieces, there is still one core story to tell about who we are and what our mission is.

Of course, none of this changes the fact that Mozilla is made up of distinct legal organizations performing distinct functions. This is part of who we are and it’s something we’re transparent about. We obviously need to spell out full organization names like Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation when talking about this aspect of who we are. It’s also necessary for certain functions tied to one org, like taking donations. But we shouldn’t tie communication about our mission and what we do to names that essentially describe our structure. If people want to understand this aspect of Mozilla, the best place to point them is the recently updated ‘organizations’ page on mozilla.org.

One last point: it’s amazing to see so much community creativity offered up to shape and improve how Mozilla’s story gets told. Any time I’ve asked for ideas on this topic, I’ve been deluged in the best possible way. I am truly grateful and astounded. David Boswell has offered to help to develop things like a style guide, slide templates and a sponsorship kit as a way to keep the ball rolling on some of the threads above. He’s also started a ‘list of one mozilla tweaks’. There is an open invitation for you to get involved. We need help make these things happen.

Looping back: describing Mozilla, briefly

July 27, 2009 § 1 Comment

Early last month, I posted a number of blurbs describing Mozilla asking which blurb worked best. The plan was to get as many people as possible involved in improving the standard boilerplate text we use to describe Mozilla in press releases an the like. And, it worked.

The Amazing Melissa Shapiro used the ideas gathered online to update the boilerplate just before the Firefox 3.5 launch. Here’s the text that shipped:

Mozilla is a global community of people creating a better Internet. We build public benefit into the Internet by creating free, open source products and technologies that improve the online experience for people everywhere. We work in the open under the umbrella of the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Everything we create is a public asset available for others to use, adapt and improve.

This feels like a better description of Mozilla today than the old boilerplate. However, it still needs work in terms of a) snappiness and b) communicating the real essence of Mozilla quickly to people who don’t know us. Melissa and I are both committed to working further on this over the coming months.

In the meantime, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who shared their thinking on this. You have helped a ton. We’ll be back for more community thinking on this in future.

PS. Survey results available here if you’re interested. The numbers don’t tell us much, but the open ended comments are very useful.

Mozilla, messaging and innovation. Interview w/ Ascher.

March 25, 2009 § 6 Comments

The penny dropped for me at the end of David Ascher‘s talk at FOSDEM last month: now is a great time to be digging into the messaging side of Mozilla’s mission.


The Internet is abuzz. Tweets. Status updates. 17 flavours of IM. A zillion RSS feeds. Good ol’ email. With each nifty new innovation, we see more messages — and more types of messages.

Mostly this is good and useful. It’s certainly fun. But it’s also a bit of a mess. As our messages cluster on a few big servers using their own formats, we have less and less control over our own information. Our data — and our attention — is fragmented.

David’s point at the end of his FOSDEM talk: this is a big opportunity for Mozilla. As our mission is to promote the open Internet. We’re one of the few players with a compelling reason to innovate and put users back in the driver’s seat. What this might look like is a pretty interesting conversation topic.

At the moment. David’s heads down getting Thunderbird 3 (which I love for its speedy IMAP) out the door. I stole him away from this for a couple of minutes to get a video snapshot of the big picture messaging space and the opportunities for Mozilla:

In case you’re video dis-inclined, or maybe offline on an airplane, here are the highlights from the interview:

  • The Internet has been open since it started. It helps people innovate in a distributed way. Mozilla’s job is to make the Internet more open.
  • The link between the open Internet and the messaging space is a mixed bag right now.
  • Most of the exciting things happening on the Internet right now relate to messaging — Facebook, Twitter, MySpace.
  • There are lots people innovating and creating new things that are interesting from a cultural point of view.
  • At the same time, things are not as open as they could be.
  • Messages are getting centralized with a few players, which in turn means people don’t have as much control over their own information as they used to.
  • We need to figure out how people can get the benefits of all these innovations in messaging, which at the same time getting back more control over their data.
  • An example: it would be great if people could search all of their messages easily without having to log into 50 different sites. but people need all of their data to do this.
  • This is the kind of thing that Mozilla could make happen because of our central place on the Internet, and because giving people access to their own data fits with our mission.

The idea of pushing pushing Mozilla’s mission even further in the messaging space is pretty interesting to me. I wonder what other people think? What does Internet messaging look like from where you sit? What kinds of things could Mozilla do to make Internet messaging more open?

PS. Super thanks to William Quiviger for posting Mozilla FOSDEM photos, including the one used above.

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