May 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
One of MoFo’s main goals for 2015 is to come up with an ambitious learning and community strategy. The codename for this is ‘Mozilla Academy’. As a way to get the process rolling, I wrote a long post in March outlining what we might include in that strategy. Since then, I’ve been putting together a team to dig into the strategy work formally.
This post is an update on that process in FAQ form. More substance and meat is coming in future posts. Also, there is lots of info on the wiki.
Q1. What are we trying to do?
Our main goal is alignment: to get everyone working on Mozilla’s learning and leadership development programs pointed in the same direction. The three main places we need to align are:
- Purpose: help people learn and hone the ability to read | write | participate.
- Process: people learn and improve by making things (in a community of like-minded peers).
- Poetry: tie back to ‘web = public resource’ narrative. Strong Mozilla brand.
At the end of the year, we will have a unified strategy that connects Mozilla’s learning and leadership development offerings (Webmaker, Hive, Open News, etc.). Right now, we do good work in these areas, but they’re a bit fragmented. We need to fix that by creating a coherent story and common approaches that will increase the impact these programs can have on the world.
Q2. What is ‘Mozilla Academy’?
That’s what we’re trying to figure out. At the very least, Mozilla Academy will be a clearly packaged and branded harmonization of Mozilla’s learning and leadership programs. People will be able to clearly understand what we’re doing and which parts are for them. Mozilla Academy may also include a common set of web literacy skills, curriculum format and learning approaches that we use across programs. We are also reviewing the possibility of a shared set of credentials or roles for people participating in Mozilla Academy.
Q3. Who is ‘Mozilla Academy’ for?
Over the past few weeks, we’ve started to look at who we’re trying to serve with our existing programs (blog post on this soon). Using the ‘scale vs depth’ graph in the Mozilla Learning plan as a framework, we see three main audiences:
- 1.4 billion Facebook users. Or, whatever metric you use to count active people on the internet. We can reach some percentage of these people with software or marketing that invite people to ‘read | write | participate’. We probably won’t get them to want to ‘learn’ in an explicit way. They will learn by doing. Which is fine. Webmaker and SmartOn currently focus on this group.
- People who actively want to grow their web literacy and skills. These are people interested enough in skills or technology or Mozilla that they will choose to participate in an explicit learning activity. They include everyone from young people in afterschool programs to web developers who might be interested in taking a course with Mozilla. Mozilla Clubs, Hive and MDN’s nascent learning program currently focus on this group.
- People who want to hone their skills *and* have an impact on the world. These are people who already understand the web and technology at some level, but want to get better. They are also interested in doing something good for the web, the world or both. They include everyone from an educator wanting to create digital curriculum to a developer who wants to make the world of news or science better. Hive, ReMo and our community-based fellowships currently serve these people.
A big part of the strategy process is getting clear on these audiences. From there we can start to ask questions like: who can Mozilla best serve?; where can we have the most impact?; can people in one group serve or support people in another? Once we have the answers to these questions we can decide where to place our biggest bets (we need to do this!). And we can start raising more money to support our ambitious plans.
Q4. What is a ‘strategy’ useful for?
We want to accomplish a few things as a result of this process. A. A way to clearly communicate the ‘what and why’ of Mozilla’s learning and leadership efforts. B. A framework for designing new programs, adjusting program designs and fundraising for program growth. C. Common approaches and platforms we can use across programs. These things are important if we want Mozilla to stay in learning and leadership for the long haul, which we do.
Q5. What do you mean by ‘common approaches’?
There are a number of places where we do similar work in different ways. For example, Mozilla Clubs, Hive, Mozilla Developer Network, Open News and Mozilla Science Lab are all working on curriculum but do not yet have a shared curriculum model or repository. Similarly, Mozilla runs four fellowship programs but does not have a shared definition of a ‘Mozilla Fellow’. Common approaches could help here.
Q6. Are you developing a new program for Mozilla?
That’s not our goal. We like most of the work we’re doing now. As outlined in the 2015 Mozilla Learning Plan, our aim is to keep building on the strongest elements of our work and then connect these elements where it makes sense. We may modify, add or cut program elements in the future, but that’s not our main focus.
Q7. Are you set on the ‘Mozilla Academy’ name?
It’s pretty unlikely that we will use that name. Many people hate it. However, we needed a moniker to use during the strategy process. For better or for worse, that’s the one we chose.
Q8. What’s the timing for all of this?
We will have a basic alignment framework around ‘purpose, process and poetry’ by the end of June. We’ll work with the team at the Mozilla All Hands in Whistler. We will develop specific program designs, engage in a broad conversation and run experiments. By October, we will have an updated version of the Mozilla Learning plan, which will lay out our work for 2016+.
If you have additional questions, ask them here. I’ll respond to the comments and also add my answers to the wiki.
April 10, 2015 § 2 Comments
I asked two questions about participation back in January: 1. what is radical participation? and 2. what practical steps can we take right now to bring more of it to Mozilla?. It’s been great to see people across Mozilla digging into these questions. I’m writing to offer an update on what I’ve seen happening.
First, we set ourselves a high bar when we started talking about radical participation at Mozilla late last year. I still believe it is the right bar. The Mozilla community needs more scale and impact than it has today if we want to confront the goliaths who would take the internet down a path of monopoly and control.
However, I don’t think we can invent ‘radical’ in the abstract, even if I sometimes say things that make it sound like I do :). We need to build it as we go, checking along the way to see if we’re getting better at aligning with core Mozilla principles like transparency, distributed leadership, interoperability and generativity. In particular, we need to be building new foundations and systems and ways of thinking that make more radical participation possible. Mitchell has laid out how we are thinking about this exploration in three areas.
When I look back at this past quarter, that’s what I see that we’ve done.
As context: we laid out a 2015 plan that included a number of first steps toward more radical participation at Mozilla. The immediate objectives in this plan were to a) invest more deeply in ReMo and our regional communities and b) better connect our volunteer communities to the work of product teams. At the same time, we committed to a longer term objective: c) create a Participation Lab (originally called a task force…more on that name change below) charged with looking for and testing new models of participation.
Progress on our first two objectives
As a way to move the first part of this plan forward, the ReMo Council met in Paris a month or so back. There was a big theme on how to unleash the leadership potential of the Reps program in order to move Mozilla’s core goals forward in ways that take advantage of our community presence around the world. For example, combining the meteoric smartphone growth in India with the local insights of our Indian community to come up with fresh ideas on how to move Firefox for Android towards its growth goal.
We haven’t been as good as we need to be in recent years in encouraging and then actually integrating this sort of ‘well aligned and ambitious thinking from the edge’. Based on reports I’ve heard back, the Paris meeting set us up for more of this kind of thinking. Rosana Ardila and the Council, along with William Quiviger and Brian King, are working on a “ReMo2.0” plan that builds on this kind of approach, that seeks a deeper integration between our ReMo and Regional Community strategies, and that also adds a strong leadership development element to ReMo.
On the second part of our plan, the Participation Team has talked to over 100 people in Mozilla product and functional groups in the past few months. The purpose of these conversations was to find immediate term initiatives that create the sort of ‘help us meet product goals’ and ’empower people to learn and do’ virtuous circle that we’ve been talking about in these discussions about radical participation.
Over 40 possible experiments came out of these conversations. They included everything from leveraging Firefox Hello to provide a new kind of support and mentoring; to taking a holistic, Mozilla-wide approach to community building in our African Firefox OS launch markets; to turning Mozilla.org into a hub that lets millions of people play small but active roles in moving our mission forward. I’m interested in these experiments, and how they will feed into our work over the coming quarters—many of them have real potential IMHO.
I’m even more excited about the fact that these conversations have started around very practical ideas about how volunteers and product teams can work more closely together again. It’s just a start, but I think the right questions are being asked by the right people.
Mozilla Participation Lab
The third part of our plan was to set up a ‘Task Force’ to help us unlock bold new thinking. The bold thinking part is still the right thing to aim for. However, as we thought about it, the phrase ‘task force’ seemed too talky. What we need is thoughtful and forceful action that gets us towards new models that we can expand. With that in mind we’ve replaced the task force idea with the concept of a Participation Lab. We’ve hired former Engineers Without Borders CEO George Roter to define and lead the Lab over the next six months. In George’s words:
“The lab is Mozilla, and participation is the topic.”
With this ethos in mind, we have just introduced the Lab as both a way to initiate focused experiments to test specific hypotheses about how participation brings value to Mozilla and Mozillians, and to support Mozillians who have already initiated similar experiments. The Lab will be an engine for learning about what works and what will get us leverage, via the experiments and relationships with people outside Mozilla. I believe this approach will move us more quickly towards our bold new plan—and will get more people participating more effectively along the way. You can learn more about this approach by reading George’s blog post.
A new team and a new approach
There is a lot going on. More than I’ve summarized above. And, more importantly, hundreds of people from across the Mozilla community are involved in these efforts: each of them is taking a fresh look at how participation fits into their work. That’s a good sign of progress.
However, there is only a very small Participation Team staff contingent at the heart of these efforts. George has joined David Tenser (50% of his time on loan from User Success for six months) to help lead the team. Rosana Ardila is supporting the transformation of ReMo along with Rubén and Konstantina. Emma Irwin is figuring out how we help volunteers learn the things they need to know to work effectively on Mozilla projects. Pierros Papadeas and a small team of developers (Nikos, Tasos and Nemo) are building pieces of tech under the hood. Brian King along with Gen and Guillermo are supporting our regional communities, while Francisco Picolini is helping develop a new approach to community events. William Quiviger is helping drive some of the experiments and invest across the teams in ensuring our communities are strong. As Mitchell and I worked out a plan to rebuild from the old community teams, these people stepped forward and said ‘yes, I want to help everyone across Mozilla be great at participation’. I’m glad they did.
The progress this Participation Team is making is evident not just in the activities I outlined above, but also in how they are working: they are taking a collaborative and holistic approach to connecting our products with our people.
One concrete example is the work they did over the last few months on Mozilla MarketPulse, an effort to get volunteers gathering information about on-the-street smartphone prices in FirefoxOS markets. The team not only worked closely with FirefoxOS product marketing team to identify what information was needed, they also worked incredibly well together to recruit volunteers, train them up with the info they needed on FirefoxOS, and build an app that they could use to collect data locally. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is: we often fail to do the kind of end to end business process design, education and technology deployment necessary to set volunteers up for success. We need to get better at this if we’re serious about participation as a form of leverage and impact. The new Participation Team is starting to show the way.
Looking at all of this, I’m hoping you’re thinking: this sounds like progress. Or: these things sound useful. I’m also hoping you’re saying: but this doesn’t sound radical yet!!! If you are, I agree. As I said above, I don’t think we can invent ‘radical’ in the abstract; we need to build it as we go.
It’s good to look back at the past quarter with this in mind. We could see the meeting in Paris as just another ReMo Council gathering. Or, we could think of it—and follow up on it—as if it was the first step towards a systematic way for Mozilla to empower people, pursue goals and create leaders on the ground in every part of the world. Similarly, we could look at MarketPulse as basic app for collecting phone prices. Or, we could see it as a first step towards building a community-driven market insights strategy that lets us outsee— and outsmart—our competitors. It all depends how we see what we’re doing and what we do next. I prefer to see this as the development of powerful levers for participation. What we need to do next is press on these levers and see what happens. That’s when we’ll get the chance to find out what ‘radical’ looks like.
PS. I still owe the world (and the people who responded to me) a post synthesizing people’s suggestions on radical participation. It’s still coming, I promise. :/
April 4, 2015 § 3 Comments
Over the next six months, I need to write up an initial design for Mozilla Academy (or whatever we call it). The idea: create a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web, using Mozilla’s existing community and learning programs as a foundation. Ultimately, this is about empowerment — but we also want to build something as impactful as Firefox. So, whatever we need to do needs to really make sense as a large scale philanthropy play, a viable business or both.
I’m looking for a MBA-ish (or MPA-ish) type person to work closely with me and others across Mozilla as part of this design process. It’s someone who wants to:
- Project manage
- Help clarify our offerings
- Benchmark our offerings
- Size markets
- Understand where the opportunities are
- Figure out revenue and cost models
- Work with our community
- Work with partners
- Coordinate people who have ideas
- Call bullshit on me and others
- Simplify complex ideas with diagrams
- Make slides that are beautiful
- Call bullshit on me and others
The role is: a right hand person to work with me and the Mozilla community to together an initial Mozilla Academy design and business plan. This could be someone early in their career looking to make a mark. Or someone senior in a career transition looking to pitch in on something big. It’s a full time contract roll for approx 6 months.
If we are successful, we will have put the blueprints together for a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the Web, that can scale to tens of millions of people, with a robust business model. This is a project for the ambitious!
If you think you are this person, please send an email to Phia <at> mozillafoundation.org (my assistant). Tell her why you want this role and why you’re the right person to fill it. And, if you know someone who is right for this role, please pass this post on to them. I’m hoping to have someone in place on this work by the end of April, so time is of the essence if you’re interested.
March 31, 2015 § 15 Comments
Last December in Portland, I said that Mozilla needs a more ambitious stance on how we teach the web. My argument: the web is at an open vs. closed crossroads, and helping people build know-how and agency is key if we want to take the open path. I began talking about Mozilla needing to do something in ‘learning’ in ways that can have the scale and impact of Firefox if we want this to happen.
The question is: what does this look like? We’ve begun talking about developing a common approach and brand for all our learning efforts: something like Mozilla University or Mozilla Academy. And we have a Mozilla Learning plan in place this year to advance our work on Webmaker products, Mozilla Clubs (aka Maker Party all year round), and other key building blocks. But we still don’t have a crisp and concrete vision for what all this might add up to. The idea of a global university or academy begins to get us there.
My task this quarter is to take a first cut at this vision — a consolidated approach for Mozilla’s efforts in learning. My plan is to start a set of conversations that get people involved in this process. The first step is to start to document the things we already know. That’s what this post is.
What’s the opportunity?
First off, why are we even having this conversation? Here’s what we said in the Mozilla Learning three-year plan:
Within 10 years there will be five billion citizens of the web. Mozilla wants all of these people to know what the web can do. What’s possible. We want them to have the agency, tools and know-how they need to unlock the full power of the web. We want them to use the web to make their lives better. We want them to be full citizens of the web.
We wrote this paragraph right before Portland. I’d be interested to hear what people think about it a few months on?
What do we want to build?
The thing is even if we agree that we want everyone to know what the web can do, we may not yet agree on how we get there. My first cut at what we need to build is this:
By 2017, we want to build a Mozilla Academy: a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web. Part community, part academy, people come to Mozilla to unlock the power of the web for themselves, their organizations and the world.
This language is more opinionated than what’s in the Mozilla Learning plan: it states we want a global classroom and lab. And it suggests a name.
Andrew Sliwinski has pointed out to me that this presupposes we want to engage primarily with people who want to learn. And, that we might move toward our goals in other ways, including using our product and marketing to help people ‘just figure the right things out’ as they use the web. I’d like to see us debate these two paths (and others) as we try to define what it is we need to build. By the way, we also need to debate the name — Mozilla Academy? Mozilla University? Something else?
What do we want people to know?
We’re fairly solid on this part: we want people to know that the web is a platform that belongs to all of us and that we can all use to do nearly anything.
We’ve spent three years developing Mozilla’s web literacy map to describe exactly what we mean by this. It breaks down ‘what we want people know’ into three broad categories:
- Exploring the web safely and effectively
- Building things on the web that matter to you and others
- Participating on the web as a critical, collaborative human
Helping people gain this know-how is partly about practical skills: understanding enough of the technology and mechanics of the web so they can do what they want to do (see below). But it is also about helping people understand that the web is based on a set of values — like sharing information and human expression — that are worth fighting for.
How do we think people learn these things?
Over the last few years, Mozilla and our broader network of partners have been working on what we might call ‘open source learning’ (my term) or ‘creative learning’ (Mitch Resnick’s term, which is probably better :)). The first principles of this approach include::
- Learn by making things
- Make real shit that matters
- Do it with other people (or at least with others nearby)
There is another element though that should be manifested in our approach to learning, which is something like ‘care about good’ or even ‘care about excellence’ — the idea that people have a sense of what to aspire to and feedback loops that help them know if they are getting there. This is important both for motivation and for actually having the impact on ‘what people know’ that we’re aiming for.
My strong feeling is that this approach needs to be at the heart of all Mozilla’s learning work. It is key to what makes us different than most people who want to teach about the web — and will be key to success in terms of impact and scale. Michelle Thorne did a good post on how we embrace these principles today at Mozilla. We still need to have a conversation about how we apply this approach to everything we do as part of our broader learning effort.
How much do we want people to know?
Ever since we started talking about learning five years ago, people have asked: are you saying that everyone on the planet should be a web developer? The answer is clearly ‘no’. Different people need — and want — to understand the web at different levels. I think of it like this:
- Literacy: use the web and create basic things
- Skill: know how that gets you a better job / makes your life better
- Craft: expert knowledge that you hone over a lifetime
There is also a piece that includes ‘leadership’ — a commitment and skill level that has you teaching, helping, guiding or inspiring others. This is a fuzzier piece, but very important and something we will explore more deeply as we develop a Mozilla Academy.
We want a way to engage with people at all of these levels. The good news is that we have the seeds of an approach for each. SmartOn is an experiment by our engagement teams to provide mass scale web literacy in product and using marketing. Mozilla Clubs, Maker Party and our Webmaker Apps offer deeper web literacy and basic skills. MDN and others are think about teaching web developer skills and craft. Our fellowships do the same, although use a lab method rather than teaching. What we need now is a common approach and brand like Mozilla Academy that connects all of these activities and speaks to a variety of audiences.
What do we have?
It’s really worth making this point again: we already have much of what we need to build an ambitious learning offering. Some of the things we have or are building include:
- Basic badges and credentials
- Fellowship programs
- Firefox Student Ambassadors
- MDN website
- Hive Learning Networks
- Mozilla Clubs (formerly Maker Party)
- David Humphrey’s class at Seneca College
- Webmaker app
We also have an increasingly good reputation among people who care about and fund learning, education and empowerment programs. Partners like MacArthur Foundation, UNESCO, the National Writing Project and governments in a bunch of countries. Many of these organizations want to work with us to build — and be a part of — a more ambitious approach teaching people about the web.
What other things are we thinking about?
In addition to the things we have in hand, people across our community are also talking about a whole range of ideas that could fit into something like a Mozilla Academy. Things I’ve heard people talking about include:
- Basic web literacy for mass market (SmartOn)
- Web literacy marketing campaigns with operators
- Making and learning tools in Firefox (MakerFox)
- MDN developer conference
- Curriculum combining MDN + Firefox Dev Edition
- Developer education program based on Seneca model
- A network of Mozilla alumni who mentor and coach
- Ways to help people get jobs based on what they’ve learned
- Ways to help people make money based on what they’ve learned
- Ways for people to make money teaching and mentoring with Mozilla
- People teaching in Mozilla spaces on a regular basis
- Advanced leadership training for our community
- Full set of badges and credentials
Almost all of these ideas are at a nascent stage. And many of them are extensions or versions of the things we’re already doing, but with an open source learning angle. Nonetheless, the very fact that these conversations are actively happening makes me believe that we have the creativity and ambition we need to build something like a Mozilla Academy.
Who is going to do all this?
There is a set of questions that starts with ‘who is the Mozilla Academy?’ Is it all people who are flag waving, t-shirt donning Mozillians? Or is it a broader group of people loosely connected under the Mozilla banner but doing their own thing?
If you look at the current collection of people working with Mozilla on learning, it’s both. Last year, we had nearly 10,000 contributors working with us on some aspect of this ‘classroom and lab’ concept. Some of these people are Mozilla Reps, Firefox Student Ambassadors and others heavily identified as Mozillians. Others are teachers, librarians, parents, journalists, scientists, activists and others who are inspired by what we’re doing and want to work alongside us. It’s a big tent.
My sense is that this is the same sort of mix we need if we want to grow: we will want a core set of dedicated Mozilla people and a broader set of people working with us in a common way for a common cause. We’ll need a way to connect (and count) all these people: our tools, skills framework and credentials might help. But we don’t need them all to act or do things in exactly the same way. In fact, diversity is likely key to growing the level of scale and impact we want.
Snapping it all together
As I said at the top of this post, we need to boil all this down and snap it into a crisp vision for what Mozilla — and others — will build in the coming years.
My (emerging) plan is to start this with a series of blog posts and online conversations that delve deeper into the topics above. I’m hoping that it won’t just be me blogging — this will work best if others can also riff on what they think are the key questions and opportunities. We did this process as we were defining Webmaker, and it worked well. You can see my summary of that process here.
In addition, I’m going to convene a number of informal roundtables with people who might want to participate and help us build Mozilla Academy. Some of these will happen opportunistically at events like eLearning Africa in Addis and the Open Education Global conference in Banff that are happening over the next couple of months. Others will happen in Mozilla Spaces or in the offices of partner orgs. I’ll write up a facilitation script so other people can organize their own conversations, as well. This will work best if there is a lot of conversation going on.
In addition to blogging, I plan to report out on progress at the Mozilla All-Hands work week in Whistler this June. By then, my hope is that we have a crisp vision that people can debate and get involved in building out. From there, I expect we can start figuring out how to build some of the pieces we’ll need to pull this whole idea together in 2016. If all goes well, we can use MozFest 2015 as a bit of a barn raising to prototype and share out some of these pieces.
Process-wise, we’ll use the Mozilla Learning wiki to track all this. If you write something or are doing an event, post it there. And, if you post in response to my posts, please put a link to the original post so I see the ping back. Twittering #mozacademy is also a good thing to do, at least until we get a different name.
Join me in building Mozilla Academy. It’s going to be fun. And important.
March 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
What’s happening at the Mozilla Foundation? This post contains the presentation slides from our recent Board Meeting, plus an audio interview that Matt Thompson did with me last week. It provides highlights from 2014, a brief summary of Mozilla’s 2015 plan and a progress report on what we’ve achieved over the past three months.
I’ve also written a brief summary of notes from the slides and interview below if you want a quick scan. These are also posted on the Webmaker blog.
What we did in 2014
- Grew contributors and ground game. (10,077 active contributors total.)
- Prototyped new Webmaker mobile product
- Expanded community programs by 3x
Mozilla’s 2015 Plan
Mozilla-wide goals: grow long-term relationships that help people and promote the open web. By building product and empowering people. Webmaker+ goal: Expand participation in Webmaker through new software and on the ground clubs.
Building Mozilla Learning
By 2017, we’ve built Mozilla Learning: a global classroom and lab for the citizens of the web. Part community, part academy, people come to Mozilla Learning to unlock the power of the web for themselves, their organizations and the world.
2015 Mozilla Foundation goals
- Deepen learning networks (500 cities)
- B uild mass appeal learning product (250k Monthly Active Users)
- Craft ambitious Mozilla Learning and community strategy
Q1 Mozilla Foundation highlights
- Major victory in US net neutrality, with Mozilla getting 330k people to sign a petition.
- Launched Webmaker app at Mobile World Congress. Strong interest from partners, possible link to Orange FirefoxOS launch in Africa and Middle East.
March 16, 2015 § 1 Comment
The mobile Web is experiencing a watershed moment: over the next few years, billions of first-time users will come online exclusively through their smartphones. Mozilla believes it’s critically important these users find a mobile Web that’s open and invites creativity.
This was our rallying cry last week at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, where mobile technology leaders from around the globe discussed the industry’s future. It was encouraging to hear our rallying cry echoed by others: the GSMA, for example, dedicated significant time and floor space to promoting digital inclusivity.
As a first-timer to MWC, I was really proud of how Mozilla showed up. We unveiled a partnership with French mobile provider Orange, which can equip millions of users across 13 African countries with a Firefox OS smartphone and six months of data and voice service — for just $40. We announced a simple smartphone for first-time users that we’ll release with Verizon in the U.S. next year. And we debuted the beta Webmaker app, a free, open source publishing tool that makes creating local content simple.
Personally, I participated in two panels: One on digital inclusion and one on the power of connected citizens in crisis situations. These sessions gave us a chance to double down on our stance that access alone isn’t the answer — it’s only the first step.
While I disagree with many of their tactics, I was happy to see people like internet.org throwing out a vision for connecting everyone on the planet. But they are really missing the boat on literacy, skills and creativity. Most people will get connected at some point over the next 10 years; the real risk is people not getting the know-how they need to truly unlock the potential of the internet and make their lives better. We were able to effectively get that message across at MWC.
One of the highlights from the panel discussions was meeting Kartik Sheth from Airtel of India. He talked about Airtel’s onboarding program, which introduces people to the internet by focusing on specific content they really want (a Bollywood music video, for example). Then, they educate users about what services the internet offers and what data costs through that process (e.g. introducing people to YouTube and helping them understand that watching a music video doesn’t cost that much in data). This may sound simple, but it’s actually the kind of “ambient web literacy” that we really need to be thinking about. It has the potential not only to give people very basic internet knowledge, but also to help us avoid what I’m starting to call “the Facebook Effect.”
Of course, Mozilla is committed to web literacy at a much deeper level than just basic onboarding. We spent a good deal of time talking with people at MWC about our growing Learning Networks and Clubs. Our Clubs feature curricula that can be remixed and reimagined, and are held in diverse languages and venues. We met with a ton of people ranging from phone carriers to international agencies aimed at empowering women. And these people expressed interest in helping Mozilla both grow these networks and distribute the Webmaker app.
I left MWC energized by these sort of conversations. Feels like more momentum than ever. If you want to be a part of it, it’s worth checking out Webmaker.org/LocalWeb. This site includes a bunch of the research and partnership opportunities we talked to people about in Barcelona, as well as a link to the Webmaker app beta.
February 15, 2015 § 4 Comments
Don’t wait for permission. If you have an idea that excites you, a thing you want to prototype, a skill you proudly want to share, an annoying bug you want to fix, a conversation you want to convene: don’t wait for someone else to say yes. Just do it!
This is useful (and common) advice for pretty much any endeavor. But, for Mozilla and Mozillians, it’s critical. Especially right now.
We’ve committed to building a more radical approach to participation over the next three years. And, more specifically, we ultimately want to get to a place where we have more Mozilla activities happening than the centralized parts of the org can track, let alone control.
How do we do this? One big step is reinvigorating Mozilla’s overall architecture of participation: the ways we help people connect, collaborate and get shit done. This is both important and urgent. However, as we work on this, there is something even more urgent: keeping up the momentum that comes from simply taking action and building great stuff. We need to maintain momentum and reinvigorate our architecture of participation in tandem in order to succeed. And I worry a little that recent discussions of participation have focused a little too heavily on the architecture part so far.
The good news: Mozillians have a deep history of having a good idea and just running with it. With the best ideas, others start to pitch in time and resources. And momentum builds.
A famous example of this is the Firefox 1.0 New York times ad in 2004. A group of volunteers and supporters had the idea of celebrating the launch of Firefox in a big way. They came up with a concept and started running with it. As a momentum built, Mozilla Foundation staff came in to help. The result was the the first high profile crowd-funded product launch in history — and a people-powered kickoff to Firefox’s dramatic rise in popularity.
This kind of thing still happens all the time today. A modest example from the last few weeks: the Mozilla Bangladesh community’s participation at BASIS. Mozilla volunteers arranged to get a booth and a four hour time slot for free at this huge local tech event, something other companies paid $10,000 to get. They then organized an ambitious program that covered everything from Firefox OS demos to contributing to SuMo to teaching web literacy to getting involved in MDN, QA and web app development — they covered a broad swatch of top priority Mozilla topics and goals. Mozilla staff helped and encouraged remotely. But this really was driven locally and from the ground up.
Separated by 10 years and operating at very different scale, these two examples have a number of things in common: the ideas and activities were independently initiated but still tied back to core Mozilla priorities; initial resources needed to get the idea moving were gathered by the people who would make it happen (i.e. initial donations or free space at a conference); staff from the central Mozilla organization came in later in the process and played a supporting role. In each case, decentralized action led to activities and outcomes that drove things forward on Mozilla’s overall goals of the time (e.g. Firefox adoption, Webmaker growth, SuMo volunteer recruitment).
This same pattern has happened thousands of times over, with bug fixes, documentation, original ideas that make it into core products and, of course, with ads and events. While there are many other ways that people participate, independent and decentralized action where people ‘just do something’ is an important and real part of how Mozilla works.
As we figure out how to move forward with our 2015+ participation plan, I want to highlight this ‘don’t wait for permission’ aspect of Mozilla. Two things seem particularly important to focus on right now:
First: strengthening decentralized leadership at Mozilla. For me, this is critical if we’re serious about radical participation. It’s so core to who we are and how we win. To make progress here, we need to admit that we’re not as good at decentralized leadership today as we want or need to be. And then we need to have an an honest discussion about the goals that Mozilla has in the current era and how to build up decentralized leadership in a way helps move those goals forward. This is a key piece of ‘reinvigorating Mozilla’s architecture of participation’.
A second, and more urgent, topic: maintaining momentum across the Mozilla community. It’s critical that Mozillians continue act on their ideas and take initiative even as we work through these broader questions of participation. I’ve had a couple of conversations recently that went something like ‘it feels like we need to wait on a ‘final plan’ re: participation before going ahead with an idea we have’. I’m not sure if I was reading those conversations right or if this is a widespread feeling. If it is, we’re in deep trouble. We won’t get to more radical participation simply by bringing in new ideas from other orgs and redesigning how we work. In fact, the more important ingredient is people taking action at the grassroots — running with an idea, prototyping something, sharing a skill, fixing an annoying bug, convening a conversation. It’s this sort of action that fuels momentum both in our community and with our products.
For me, focusing on both of these themes simultaneously — keeping momentum and reinvigorating our architecture of participation — is critical. If we focus only on momentum, we may get incrementally better at participation, but we won’t have the breakthroughs we need. If we just focus on new approaches and architectures for participation, we risk stalling or losing the faith or getting distracted. However, if we can do both at once, we have the chance to unlock something really powerful over the next three years — a new era of radical participation at Mozilla.
The draft participation plan we’ve developed for the next three years is designed with this in mind. It includes a new Community Development Team to help us keep momentum, with a particular focus on supporting Mozilla community members around the world who are taking action right now. And we are setting up a Participation Task Force (we need a better name for this!) to get new ideas and systems in place that help us improve the overall architecture of participation at Mozilla. These efforts are just a few weeks old. As they build steam and people get involved, I believe they have the potential to take us where we want to go.
Of course, the teams behind our participation plan are a just a small part of the story: they are a support for staff and volunteers across Mozilla who want to get better at participation. The actual fuel of participation will come from all of us running with our ideas and taking action. This is the core point of my post: moving towards a more radical approach to participation is something each of us must play a role in. Playing that role doesn’t flow from plans or instructions from our participation support teams. It flows from rolling up our sleeves to passionately pursue good ideas with the people around us. That’s something all of us need to do right now if we believe that radical participation is an important part of Mozilla’s future.