January 26, 2015 § 18 Comments
Mozilla needs a more creative and radical approach to participation in order to succeed. That is clear. And, I think, pretty widely agreed upon across Mozilla at this stage. What’s less clear: what practical steps do we take to supercharge participation at Mozilla? And what does this more creative and radical approach to participation look like in the everyday work and lives of people involved Mozilla?
This post outlines what we’ve done to begin answering these questions and, importantly, it’s a call to action for your involvement. So read on.
Over the past two months, we’ve written a first draft Mozilla Participation Plan. This plan is focused on increasing the impact of participation efforts already underway across Mozilla and on building new methods for involving people in Mozilla’s mission. It also calls for the creation of new infrastructure and ways of working that will help Mozilla scale its participation efforts. Importantly, this plan is meant to amplify, accelerate and complement the many great community-driven initiatives that already exist at Mozilla (e.g. SuMo, MDN, Webmaker, community marketing, etc.) — it’s not a replacement for any of these efforts.
At the core of the plan is the assumption that we need to build a virtuous circle between 1) participation that helps our products and programs succeed and 2) people getting value from participating in Mozilla. Something like this:
This is a key point for me: we have to simultaneously pay attention to the value participation brings to our core work and to the value that participating provides to our community. Over the last couple of years, many of our efforts have looked at just one side or the other of this circle. We can only succeed if we’re constantly looking in both directions.
With this in mind, the first steps we will take in 2015 include: 1) investing in the ReMo platform and the success of our regional communities and 2) better connecting our volunteer communities to the goals and needs of product teams. At the same time, we will: 3) start a Task Force, with broad involvement from the community, to identify and test new approaches to participation for Mozilla.
The belief is that these activities will inject the energy needed to strengthen the virtuous circle reasonably quickly. We’ll know we’re succeeding if a) participation activities are helping teams across Mozilla measurably advance product and program goals and b) volunteers are getting more value out of their participation out of Mozilla. These are key metrics we’re looking at for 2015.
Over the longer run, there are bigger ambitions: an approach to participation that is at once massive and diverse, local and global. There will be many more people working effectively and creatively on Mozilla activities than we can imagine today, without the need for centralized control. This will result in a different and better, more diverse and resilient Mozilla — an organization that can consistently have massive positive impact on the web and on people’s lives over the long haul.
Making this happen means involvement and creativity from people across Mozilla and our community. However, a core team is needed to drive this work. In order to get things rolling, we are creating a small set of dedicated Participation Teams:
- A newly formed Community Development Team that will focus on strengthening ReMo and tying regional communities into the work of product and program groups.
- A participation ‘task force’ that will drive a broad conversation and set of experiments on what new approaches could look like.
- And, eventually, a Participation Systems Team will build out new infrastructure and business processes that support these new approaches across the organization.
For the time being, these teams will report to Mitchell and me. We will likely create an executive level position later in the year to lead these teams.
As you’ll see in the plan itself, we’re taking very practical and action oriented steps, while also focusing on and experimenting with longer-term questions. The Community Development Team is working on initiatives that are concrete and can have impact soon. But overall we’re just at the beginning of figuring out ‘radical participation’.
This means there is still a great deal of scope for you to get involved — the plans are still evolving and your insights will improve our process and the plan. We’ll come out with information soon on more structured ways to engage with what we’re calling the ‘task force’. In the meantime, we strongly encourage your ideas right away on ways the participation teams could be working with products and programs. Just comment here on this post or reach out to Mitchell or me.
PS. I promised a follow up on my What is radical participation? post, drawing on comments people made. This is not that. Follow up post on that topic still coming.
March 24, 2014 § 1 Comment
I’m excited that Brendan Eich is Mozilla’s CEO. Brendan knows what’s important right now: building the values of the web into mobile and into the cloud at a massive scale. This vision is key to our success. But Brendan also offers something else: a real example of how we can each roll up our sleeves to tackle the hard, messy problems that we need to solve if we want to make this vision into a reality.
When I first came to Mozilla, I was a little starstruck. Here was an organization that had rallied a global community to build Firefox and beat Microsoft. An organization that had made open source — and many of the ideas behind it — mainstream. An organization filled with internet rock stars like Brendan. People who have changed the world, for real.
What I realized quickly: Mozillians are just everyday people. What makes them special is their particular ideas about how to make things happen in the world. Ideas like: build your vision and values into products that lots of people will want to use. And, find leverage, create standards and nurture relationships that help these products shape whole industries. And, do these things by empowering people and inviting them to help you out. Mozilla has won in the past because its people had been smart, tenacious and committed to this particular brand of poetry and pragmatism.
In my opinion, this way of working is something we need more of at Mozilla right now. See the big picture. Roll up our sleeves. Pick the right battles. Make the right compromises. Figure out all the different kinds of things we need to do to win. And help each other out to get these things done.
I truly think Brendan can help us all do more of this right now. He’s already started with Firefox OS, not only leading us to build a compelling product in a few short years but also playing an active role in helping carriers and device manufacturers become partners contributing to Mozilla’s cause. Like always, Brendan has helped us build not just a product but also platforms and relationships that have the potential to shift the whole playing field. As we tackle everything from cloud services to building up new revenue lines to teaching 100s millions of people about the web, I believe Brendan can help each be smart, tenacious, practical and open as we work on solving our particular piece of the open web puzzle.
I’m feeling hopeful and inspired today. I’m looking forward to working closely with Brendan as Mozilla’s new CEO. And to rolling up my sleeves even further to build the web we’re dreaming of. I hope you want to do the same.
July 23, 2009 § 5 Comments
Earlier today at OSCON, Tim O’Reilly announced the creation of Open Source for America — a loose, non-partisan coalition of organizations that will raise awareness about the huge potential for open source in government. The press release frames the big picture opportunity this way:
Open source software may not be a cure-all, but it could save billions of dollars, help foster innovation and empower our government to work smarter.
Concretely, the idea is to connect people who know and care about open source with people inside the US government, to help them understand open source and to contribute back. It feels like that can only be a good thing. And, as a Canadian, it’s something I’d like to see happen in other countries also.
A few days before the launch, Mozilla signed on as a founding member of Open Source for America. While Mozilla is global in scope, it seemed important to lend our name to this new initiative. The next question is: how can Mozilla best be involved and contribute? I’d be interested in people’s thoughts.
PS. Sorry not to announce this earlier. There was an embargo on the announcement until today.
February 11, 2009 § 1 Comment
Over the past few months, Pascal Chevrel has been introducing Gregorio Robles to the world of Mozilla. Gregorio is part of Libresoft.es — a unit of the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid that offers a masters degree in free and open source software development. After some discussions and small add ons workshop, Gregorio and Pascal have agreed to develop a Mozilla development course that will run this coming summer.
As a part of my interview series on Mozilla Education, I asked Gregorio to share his thoughts while he was at FOSDEM:
For the non-video-inclined, here is a quick summary of Gregorio’s comments:
- Mozilla is important for education. This is the first time in history where students can learn by working on real live code in an open project. But education is also important for Mozilla. Projects like Mozilla need people who know our technologies, and universities can help solve this problem.
- We already have a masters program on free and open source software, but it is mostly on general topics and technologies. We want to add courses on specific technologies so students can get involved with the community around that technology. Mozilla is a good place to start.
- Our specific plans for Mozilla are to have a face to face week in the summer followed by a longer online component. Students will take on projects where they get to really touch the code and know the Mozilla community.
- In terms of Mozilla’s broader educational effort, the priority should be to get materials done and then to re-use them. I am sure there will be lots of people wanting to use these materials. This will make life easier and make it easier to become a Mozilla contributor.
February 11, 2009 Comments Off on Brussels EduCamp debrief
Last week in Europe was a wonderful whirlwind. One of the highlights was EduCamp — a small, pre-FOSDEM unconference about the link between open source and higher education. It was a bunch of people I knew (eg. Greg DeKoenigsberg from Red Hat, Leslie Hawthorne from Summer of Code), and a bunch I hadn’t met yet (eg. Ross Gardler from Oxford and Gregorio Robles from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos). Plus a bunch of Mozilla people working on education. All great, and all passionate about the learning potential inherent in the open source development process.
Much of the day was spent sharing info about the projects that people are working on or developing. Some things that struck me as interesting:
- Folks at Oxford are planning to develop simple training for open source contributors to help them become more effective student mentors. The ideas is to help people know what they’re getting into, and what to expect in return, when they take on a student.
- In addition to planning a Mozilla course as part of it’s current programs, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos is also working with a number of universities to develop a Europe-wide masters program in free and open source software development. This would mean standard accreditation and significant numbers of students across the continent.
- There is a group at the UN University in Maastricht doing research on how learning happens in open source projects, and how best to link university students into the process.
I knew about the people behind all of these efforts and vaguely understood what they were up to. But getting together face-to-face always brings things to life more. I was impressed by the things people are working on.
The last bit of the day was brainstorming simple actions that might keep the energy around teaching open source going. Top ideas from the flip chart included:
- Plant a flag in the ground, and come up with a name for what we’re all working on (‘teaching open source’ and ‘open source education’ don’t really to work).
- Figure out how to tell the story of why open source projects are such great learning environments, and about efforts to make the link to formal education. (Chris Blizzard claims ‘tell the story’ is his answer to everything)
- Develop a simple way to map what people are doing in the open source education space. Maybe this is an online survey?
- Write compelling (and critical) case studies of people teaching open source in colleges and universities. Maybe this is an O’Reilly book?
- Create a blog planet of everyone who attended, and others working on open source and education.
- Develop a monster.com-style site for open source interns.
Truly a brainstorm. But some good ideas here. And some similarities to ideas that came out of the Teaching Open Source track that happened at FSOSS back in October. There is another meeting of people working on open source education happening in Chattanooga next month. It feels like there is momentum building around this whole idea. Hopefully that means some of the ideas above can turned into something real.
February 10, 2009 § 15 Comments
On Saturday, I gave a keynote at FOSDEM called Free. Open. Future? My goal was to encourage people think of free and open as concepts that extend beyond software, and to spark a conversation about the ideas / design frameworks / mental maps we’ll need to make sure complex spaces like mobile and messaging are open in the future. The slides are here:
If you don’t feel like flipping through the slides, the basic line of reasoning goes something like this:
- Free software and open source have been successful in part because there is a clear mental map and values. RMS‘ four freedoms — use, study, modify, copy — and similar ideas make up this map.
- The mental map that guided free software has also contributed to the creation of an open web. Transparency (study) and remixability (modify) are particularly critical to the web feeling and being open, and have started to bleed into more than just the code that makes up web pages but also into how regular users experience the web when they remix content and reconfigure their online tools.
- The challenges we’re about to face in coming years are complex, and it’s clear we will need more than just use / study / modify / copy to chart our future course. If you just look at mobile, we need to figure out what ‘open’ means not only at the hardware and software level, but also in cloud services, carrier pricing, end user rights over their devices. There is a great deal to sort through if we want to get anywhere close to the success we’ve had with free software and the open web.
All of this ends up with a question: what new ideas can we add to our mental maps to make sure we can take free and open even further? Similar to the mobile scenario above, the current state of online shows why this question matters. David Ascher pointed out in his FOSEDM talk that things like Facebook and Twitter now make up a huge percentage our online conversations. Yet they are mostly closed and walled off, much more so than standardized email. If we want messaging to be a part of the open internet we’re building for the future, we need some sort of shared (but probably quite rough) mental map that includes criteria to answer ‘is this approach toonline messaging open?’ Without this, it’s hard to build innovative products will win win in the marketplace, which is critical to ensuring that ‘open’ wins. The same is true for spaces like mobile and cloud computing.
I gave a couple of quickly hacked together ideas on what I think our future maps need to include, and listed them near the end of my slides:
- Strong values, freedom beyond just code
- Great free software, that people love to use
- Users as hackers, anyone can bend anything
These aren’t necessarily the most important ideas, except for maybe the last one about ‘users as hackers’ — that’s critical to the future of open innovation. And there are definitely places like the Mozilla Manifesto that have key elements for the mental map we need. However, my main goal here was really just to spark a conversation.
And, I must say, I failed dismally at that goal. One question from the floor, and it was off topic. Some good comments from Mozilla people afterwars. But the conversation I wanted.
On the plane to Munich, I asked a fellow FOSDEMer about this — someone who works in big car company and also attends Chaos Computer Club every year. I figured he’d have a good perspective. His response: “You made some inroads. Ideas like these take time to settle in, and make cracks. But you also need a broader audience. Ask more people.”
Funnily enough, simply throwing my slides online yesterday sparked a few replies. One about the importance of open innovation. And another about the value that comes from ‘acting’ online, simply being a contributor to the openness of the web by posting content. Interesting.
So, taking my flightmate’s advice, this post is another chance for people to answer: what’s on your map? What are the critical ideas that will help us succeed with free and open in the future? If you think these are interesting questions, comment away.
January 23, 2009 § 8 Comments
As I mentioned earlier in the week, education is one of the first program areas where Mozilla Foundation wants to experiment in 2009. I spent some time this afternoon scribbling out an overview the ideas we’re bouncing around. This is what I came up with (bigger version on Flicker):
Frank and I have also updated the Mozilla Education planning wiki with explanations of the ideas in this scribble, and detailed info on each of the activities we’re considering. The high level summary at the top of the wiki page says:
During 2009, we want to experiment with Mozilla Education — helping people learn about Mozilla through an open, participatory and distributed approach to education.
Building on Mozilla’s 2010 goals, our big picture aim is to:
Make openness, participation and distributed decision-making more common experiences in Internet life
We think that education can help us reach this goal by helping more people to:
- Understand and use (Mozilla’s?) open source work methods
- Learn about and build with open web and Mozilla technologies
- Participate in Mozilla and other open source projects
In 2009, we’ll test out a number of small programs aimed at reaching these objectives. They include:
- Seneca Expansion / Virtual Seneca offering Mozilla learning resources and support to students everywhere.
- Madrid Summer Course at URJC, establishing the first formal Mozilla course beyond Seneca and establishing an educational foundation in Europe.
- Online Mozilla Courses that provide learning and engagement opportunities directly to potential Mozilla contributors.
- education.mozilla.org where all Mozilla courseware and learning information can be found.
Over time, we hope these programs will also make a broader contribute to creating a new participatory learning model based around open source contribution … and to work with others who share this vision. However, for now, we want to start with something doable: making a formal link between education, learning and the Mozilla community.
I am posting this in the hope that people will offer initial reactions. While we plan to act quickly on some of this (especially Virtual Seneca), the overall plan is still very much in flux. It’s evolving pretty much daily as we figure out how to put things into action. So, slings, arrows and offers of help very welcome in the form of blog comments (we’ve already got a good list of Mozilla people who want to help). Also, feel free to dig into the wiki. Much more detail there.
Next week, I’ll post more thoughts on why this approach to education is interesting for Mozilla and what sorts of things we might be able to achieve in 2009. This should give people even more to work with and respond to.
September 16, 2008 § 5 Comments
I love meeting practical people working hard to implement big dreams. Noy Shoung is one of those people. He’s trying to infuse open source into how Cambodians enter the computing age. And he’s making some headway.
Noy is the Deputy Secretary General (In Charge of Human Capacity Building and Free/Open Source Software) at National ICT Development Authority (NiDA). Cool title to have. And, one that is hard earned. Noy’s built up a team inside NiDA to localize open source desktop apps into Khmer (a language too small to be interesting to Microsoft), build up open source development skills amongst young people (still early days on this one) and train end users on Linux, Open Office and Firefox (20,000 people and counting). He’s also the major champion behind Khmer OS, a localized OpenSuse distribution.
What’s interesting is that Noy’s headway is built on very practical foundations: most Cambodians don’t speak English, especially outside Phnom Penh. KhmerOS and related applications are the fastest route to computer skills for these people. And, these people want computer skills. So, Noy’s small army of 45 public servants is training people up, with most of the training happening in provinces and smaller cities. He’s also offering training to university students — most of whom show up without ever having used a computer — who can’t afford to go to private computer tutoring schools.
Noy’s next step is to localize Ubuntu and update some of the existing apps (there have been some problems with Suse KhmerOS). He also plans expand the developer and sysadmin tech training that he offers jointly with universities. And, he’s in the midst of updating the government’s FOSS Master Plan. If there are any folks out there reading this who have deep tech skills that they want to share to help with this effort, Noy has put out an open ended invite. It’s a fun and important thing to pitch into.