Want feedback: PDF movement talk

June 5, 2012 § 6 Comments

Next week am talking at Personal Democracy Forum in New York. My goal is to get people thinking about the big picture of the open internet movement: where product, policy and teaching the world to code connect. Also, I want people to start imagining the long game. I’m excited.

The talk is now at the point that I’d like some feedback, so I’ve posted my outline below. It’ll go through at least 2 – 3 more iterations as I make the slides and refine the narrative. Comments on notes like this always help a ton.

Movement Making:  What punk rock, Scouting and the Royal Society can teach us about  movement building. Plus: quick, practical thoughts on keeping the open ethos and technology of the web alive for the next 350 years.

[blank slide]

At 15, I found my first cause. A cause that sticks with me to this very day.

[mark as a teenage skinhead]

At the time, I called it punk rock. It was about creativity, experimentation, edginess, laughter, freedom, comradarie, surprises. It was magnetic, and it was fun

[add ‘creativity + freedom’ to the same slide]

Over time, two things truly stood out for me about this cause: creativity + freedom.

Ultimately, that’s what the punk DIY ethic is about: the idea that anyone should be able to do or make anything they can imagine without asking permission from others.

As I soaked happily in this creativity and freedom, I started to look for ways to bake this ethos into the world around me. This is when I first started paying attention to technology.

[slides of punk + tech]
[ad for a four track tascam recorder + punk concert]
[photocopier + maximum rock n roll cover]
[sony portapak + still from a protest video]
[2400 baud modem]

I suspect that this quest to bake creativity and freedom into the world — and to bend technology to this end — is something that almost everyone in this room has embarked upon in one way or another. It is at the core of our cause. It is essential.

[picture of a network + words ‘freedom + creativity]

This quest is more important today than it ever has been, because it ties back to the internet and what it becomes.

Creativity + freedom are core to the design of the internet and fused into the internet culture that we have built. But there are many people who do not share our love for creativity + freedom, who have a different vision of the internet. One based on prescription + control.

This matters to more than just the internet itself. The internet is now so central to all aspects of our lives, that, as goes the internet, goes humanity.

[text slide: as goes the internet, goes humanity]

The internet we end up with in 100 years will very much shape everything that is possible and everything that is. If you care about:

  • Privacy
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Commerce
  • Friendship
  • Love

… then you should care about how the internet turns out, because it will impact all these things.

With this in mind, I want to explore how we succeed at our quest, how we explain our vision of creativity and freedom, and how we bake it into society for a very long time.

[mark’s business cards w/ i <3 open web on them]

These days, much of my time is spent thinking about how to explain this ethos of creativity + freedom to 100s of millions of people.

As you may have noticed, we haven’t cracked that yet. We’ve talked about an open web. We’ve talked about innovation, and openness, and choice. All of it seems so abstract and far away.

[picture of lego blocks]

The closest I’ve come is using the metaphor of lego. I open with a line like: The world (wide web) is made of lego. And I want to keep it that way. And then I use my 10 year old son Ethan to explain what I mean.

[picture of ethan holding a lego]

My pitch goes something like this:

[text on screen with ethan for most of this]

This is my son Ethan.
He loves to make things with lego.
He also loves the web, a lot.

[screencap of rebecca black / fridays]
[screencap of chad vader / fridays]
[back to ethan and lego]

Ethan’s world is a mashup.
It’s a mashup by design.
Tim Berners Lee wanted the web to work like lego.

[screencap of chad vader / fridays]
[screencap of chad vader, view source]
[back to ethan pic]

The web was designed the be like lego.
I want Ethan to know this.
And I want him to expect it.

[back to just the lego]

There are two critical things here:

[big text = explanation]

1. The explanation: we need a metaphor or a word for everyone everywhere to understand what’s good about the web. Lego has it’s downsides, especially the fact that it’s proprietary. But it does help people understand that the power of the web is that you can take it apart and put it back together, and that you can easily see how something is built. Lego helps people get this.

[big text = expectation]

2. The expectation: if we create the expectation that the world — and the web — are made of lego that all of us can understand and reconfigure, then it will be much more likely that this aspect of the web survives. If future politicians, architects, filmmakers and so on grow up in a digital world made of lego, that will shape they laws they write, the buildings they build and the movies they make. Consciously or not, they will be closer to the cause of creativity and freedom.

[text fades away, just the lego blocks now]

I think we’ll crack the explaining part. Even if lego is not quite right, it gives us all something to riff on.

I’m much more worried about how grow the expectation that the world and the web are made of lego. That we make this feeling mainstream, nearly universal.

[floppy disk picture?]

Eben Moglen recently said: ‘We made the web easy to read, but we did not make it easy to write.’ This is not literally true: it’s easy to write the web, to treat it as lego, to make an app. If you’re a programmer. The problem is that programming remains arcane and in accessible to most people.

Which leads me to the question: how do you take something arcane and inaccessible and make it mainstream?

[picture of a scouting jamboree]

At this juncture, I often point to the scouting movement. And I ask: what was the major social innovation of the scouting movement? One that has been wildly successful to the point that it is a major part of our lives?

[pic from wikipedia of civilian camping in ontario, or scout camping]

The answer: civilian camping.

105 years ago when scouting first began, camping was primarily the domain of land settlers, prospectors and the military. It was an arcane activity done primarily by professionals and the highly adventurous.

Baden Powell used this arcane technique and technology of camping as part of scouting’s efforts to connect urban young people to nature. The result: he helped bring camping into the mainstream of recreation, family life and the economy. And, in doing so, he also helped build the *expectation* that we would have parks, rivers and mountains that are protected for our enjoyment.

[add some stats on camping?]

Imagine if 105 years from now we could say the same for coding: that coding is something that huge numbers of people do for fun and self expression.

If we did that, we would certainly have made great progress towards building the *expectation* of lego-ness into the internet. And, in turn, we would have done a great deal for the cause of creativity + freedom.

[smiling kids in brasil w/ smartphones in hand]

I love the long game. It’s so important here. But let’s set the long game aside for a moment and talk about where we are right at this moment.

As I said earlier, the stakes with the internet today are very very high. The internet has become so central to all aspects of our lives, and quickly the lives of billions more people, that, as goes the internet, goes humanity.

[text slide: as goes the internet, goes humanity]

We are at a juncture where the design decisions we make in the next decades will influence:

  • Privacy
  • Creativity
  • Innovation
  • Commerce
  • Friendship
  • Love

… likely for centuries to come. And many of these decisions are tied directly to our vision of the internet.

[mosaic view source vs. ipad app store human]

We are currently faced with two visions of where the internet should go.

The app store vision: where creativity, innovation and commerce happen on the terms of a handful of technology companies, and where privacy exists or doesn’t at their whim.

The view source vision: where the digital world is made and expanded using lego blocks we can all understand and use, and where privacy is a choice that all of use have at our fingertips.

[ipad disappears on the next slide, ‘creativity + freedom’ comes on screen]

It should be obvious to you which vision I support. The view source vision. The vision that is about creativity and freedom. This is the vision of the internet that I have. This is the vision of society that I have. My guess is that many of you share this vision.


The practical question: what do we need to do right now to ensure that our vision wins, to bake creativity and freedom into the internet and the world? Also, what time horizon should we focus on?

[text: 352 years]

The answer to the time horizon questions is simple: 352 years. But let me get back to that. The question of immediate tactics is harder, but I know we can crack it.

[b2g + meemo + soundcloud pic]

The first thing we need to do is run like hell to build creativity + freedom into to core of internet products that everyone uses every day.

When Moglen said: “We made the web easy to read, but we did not make it easy to write,” he went on to point out that Facebook, Apple and others have taken advantage of this, serving up creativity on their terms.

We need to make the raw lego blocks of the web just as easy to create with as Facebook or iMovie. And, importantly, we need to make them both more powerful and more fun.

[sopa girl pic]

The second thing we need to do is defend ourselves. On so many fronts, we are winning. The web is winning. Creativity + freedom are winning.

The predictable result: those who believe they have something to loose if creativity + freedom win have gone on the attack. They attack with SOPA and ACTA. With national firewalls. With arcane yet nasty copyright laws. With quite clear intent, these people want to break the internet. Or, at least, to ensure that our vision of the internet does not survive.

The punk rock kid in me says that policy and politics are a tactic of last resort, possibly futile. But the realist in me knows that we must stand up and fight where people propose to pass laws that will break the internet. And, I can say, Mozilla will stand up against such things even more strongly than it has in the past. We cannot and will not let people destory what we have all built together.

[pic of kids learning to code]

The third thing we need to do now help 100s of millions more people tap the full creativity + freedom, and to pull this into their every day lives.

As a tag line: I believe we need to make coding as mainstream as camping.

This is why I so often point to the scouting movement as an example: it is possible to transform the arcane and the professional into something that huge numbers of people want to learn and do. And, into something that connects people to something deeper.

Practically, this means making it easier and sexier to use code in every day creativity. In fashion. In filmmaking. In school. In journalism. In hip hop. Everywhere.

Which is not about making everyone a coder or engineer, but rather about bringing the power, the freedom and the creativity that coders and engineers experience in the digital world to everyone who has an idea, a dream, something to say.

[text: 352 years]

So those are some practical ideas for how we fuse creativity + freedom into our world:

  1. create internet products that work like lego
  2. defend the internet from people who want to break it
  3. build a generation of people who speak code as fluently as they speak words and numbers

But, what about that time horizon? As I said, I like to take the long view on things like this. Which is one of the reasons 352 feels like a good number.

[picture of the royal society mace]

A couple of months ago I was staring at this mace.

It’s the mace that Charles II gave to the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge when they first set up shop 352 years ago.

I was at the Royal Society to talk about their recent report on computer science education in UK secondary schools. On top of our main conversation, I was struck by the idealism of the people I was meeting with.

These were people who believe deeply in the ideals of science, in the royal society motto of ‘take nobody’s word for it’, and who get up everyday to advance this cause.

[etching of early scientists running an experiment]

What’s amazing is that this is an organization that has stood for this ideal for over 350 years. And, they have been quite successful — along with many others — in spreading the idea we call science. And making it last. And they did so primarily by showing what we possible using the ethos and techniques they believed in.

A big part of the Royal Society’s early history was friends gathering to do experiments together and to observe the results. These were basically meetups for fringe philosophers, radicals. But with these meetups and eventually a cadre of thought leaders called fellows, the ideas spread.

[picture of the royal society building today]

The point here is not to give the royal society all the credit for the success of science. That would be silly. But rather I want to show how planting a few small seeds with friends can build institutions that can keep a cause alive for a very very long time. In this case, 352 years.

[an etching of a network diagram, or something that looks like this]

Which brings me to what I really want to begin — or, more correctly, I think we have already begun — to build today. I build product, and fight bad policy and light up a movement of people who will teach other to code.

But more than anything I want us to create an an ethos of creativity + freedom that people will still treasure and defend 352 years from this day. I think we can do that.

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.

Re: public of the web

February 16, 2012 § 3 Comments

Inspired by Dave Parry, my friend Andrew said: “We are no longer just seeing the power of the public internet. We are now seeing the rise of the internet public.” It was a bit of an ‘aha!’ moment for me.

SOPA protest pic via Clay Williams

It’s been amazing to watch the push back against SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe over the past few months. And, of course, to have witnessed the Arab Spring. The people behind these events didn’t just use the internet to amplify voices: they were the voice of the internet speaking. And, at least with SOPA and ACTA, the message itself was about the internet and what it stands for. This is new. And good.

I’ve always believed the internet is something special. Not just something to use and build on, but also something to stand up for.

As Joi Ito said in the New York Times a couple of months back: “The Internet isn’t really a technology. It’s a belief system, a philosophy about the effectiveness of decentralized, bottom-up innovation.” This vision of the internet has motivated me for a very long time. It’s what brought me to Mozilla.

Until recently, it felt like the group of people who cared about the Internet as philosophy was relatively small. I personally know hundreds of people who spend every day evangelizing the open ethos of the internet. I’m one of them. The thing is: none of us have had much luck getting sizeable numbers of people excited or engaged. We’ve all tried. But the idea of an ‘open web’ or ‘internet ethos’ has always been too abstract get people to prick up their ears.

This seems to be changing. We are seeing the rise of the internet public: a movement or constituency that is both of the internet and about the internet.

The Facebook signs in Tahrir Square were a first glimpse of this. In some ways, these signs were a small footnote in a bigger political change in the Arab world. But they also point to the fact that the internet is more than just a part of the story — it is itself a story to pay attention to.

The massive public push back on SOPA and ACTA show this more starkly: there is a broad public passion for and connection to the internet. People are saying: ‘the open internet and the way it connects us is a central part of the world we want to build.’ In this story, the internet isn’t only a disruptive tool that helps bring about democracy where it doesn’t exist, it’s also represents a vision of decentralized, bottom up society in it’s own right.

This part that feels new and different. ‘The internet as philosophy’ no longer feels so abstract. As an example of how things have gotten more concrete, the internet public has quickly and dramatically changed the discussion on both SOPA and ACTA. Both seemed destined for quiet approval just a few months ago, now SOPA seems to be dead or ACTA is under extreme public scrutiny.

Importantly, people with real power are listening and internalizing to this conversation. A White House response to SOPA petitions said:

“Across the globe, the openness of the Internet is increasingly central to innovation in business, government, and society and it must be protected.”


“Proposed laws must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of the Domain Name System (DNS), a foundation of Internet security.”

Note what’s happening here: the leaders of a major economic power are espousing the importance of an open internet. They are also calling out the protection of a key technical building block upon which the open platform and philosophy of the internet are built. Similar things have happened in Europe around ACTA. This is both important and unprecedented.

At Mozilla, we’ve been talking about what to do next on SOPA and ACTA. This is important. But I believe there is a bigger question: how can Mozilla fuel, bolster, cheer on and be a part of this rising internet public? The world we’ve imagined may be just around the corner: a world where the ethos of the web is a conscious part of how huge numbers of people approach their lives, their work and their government. This is a the world I want to live in.

I’m going to think and write about all this some more. Partly in the context of SOPA and ACTA. But also in relation to building a more web-literate society — teaching tens of millions more people how the web works and how to code. Any thoughts you’ve got would help.

PS. A tip of the hat to Dave Parry for his ‘It’s not the Public Internet, It is the Internet Public.‘ post. I’ve gone in a slightly different direction, hopefully in a way that’s complimentary .

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.

Happy New Year Mozilla. I’m excited!

January 2, 2012 § 4 Comments

As 2012 begins, I’m excited to be part of Mozilla. I’m excited about our plans to teach and equip millions of webmakers. About the open web apps technology we’re releasing. And about all the renewed energy around Firefox. In fact, I’m more excited about being part of Mozilla than I’ve been in years. And more proud.

When I first got involved Mozilla three years ago, there was already much to be proud of. Here was a global community of people who had not only won hearts of millions with an open source browser, but that had also helped save the web in the process. This was something huge.

However, the web has changed since then. It faces new challenges. The biggest of these challenges snapped into focus for me in 2011: we’re moving from a world where the web is an open and exciting platform where anyone can make anything to a world of elegant consumption shaped by just a few big players.

My excitement is rooted in Mozilla’s plans step up to this challenge in 2012: we’ve got new ideas — and new code — that can stem this tide.

Mozilla’s apps initiative is a good example: we’re building technology designed to open up the app marketplace, making it easier for anyone create, share, use, modify and sell apps using standard web technology. If we succeed, we have a chance to move beyond a world controlled by a few app vendors to one that’s much more like an open bazaar. And, we also get a world of apps based on the same standards and ‘view source ethos’ that the web was built on in the first place. This will be a radical shift.

Possibly just as radical is Mozilla’s webmakers initiative: an effort to move millions of people from using the web to making the web. As a starting point, we’re making software like PopcornMaker and running grassroots learning labs like Hackasaurus, both of which help everyday content creators learn basic web programming skills. Ultimately, we imagine a world where mainstream video and social network sites are built with software that also teaches how the web works, and then invites you to remix it. As the Mozilla Manifesto says, we want a world where everyone is in control of their internet life, where everyone is a webmaker. A big part of Mozilla’s 2012 will focus on build this world.

And, of course, there is much to be excited about in relation to Firefox, especially on mobile. I felt this yesterday as I (finally) updated my very old Firefox for Android to a recent nightly build. The tab experience. The search. The speed. It was all awesome. Which, of course, are nice things to say about a piece of software. But there is bigger meaning: for the first time ever I was actually enjoying the experience of using regular web pages on my tablet. Making sure the mainstream of the web is pleasant to use on mobile sounds like a no brainer, but it’s actually a radical yet difficult mission in a world increasingly oriented to apps. Firefox is taking on this mission.

Of course, these are only three of the things that have me excited. David Ascher, Dan Sinker and Glynn Moody have written about other emerging Mozilla initiatives. And there are many more in the works. The main point here is not Firefox + webmakers + apps: it’s that the Mozilla community is stepping up to the challenges faced by the web in 2012 with new and concrete ideas. And, as a community, we’re doing this with more force and enthusiasm than ever. It’s going to be an exciting year.

Creating a web literate planet (summary)

October 5, 2011 § 28 Comments

I want to us create a web literate planet. One where almost everyone — filmmakers, teachers, scientists, artists, bankers — understands what’s going under the hood on the web. Can take things apart. Remix them. Express what they want the web to be. Since starting Mozilla Drumbeat 18 months ago, I have seen that there is a thirst for this.

This thirst shows up partly in ideas: people calling out for web literacy, and in particular for a world where everyone knows at least a little code. Douglas Rushkoff is an example:

When we gained literacy, we learned not just how to read but to write. And as we now moved into an increasingly digital reality, we must learn not just how to use programs but how to make them.

I experience this thirst even more viscerally when I look at the web makers, including my 11 year old son. He posts video game commentaries online everyday. He craves creating things on the web. Yet, increasingly, he bumps up against the black box of YouTube, unable to take it apart, understand it or reconfigure how it works. He is not fully web literate.

As outlined in a number of posts recently, I believe Mozilla can play a leading role in creating a web literate planet. Concretely, I think Mozilla can — and should — build out a major P2P learning initiative that teaches web skills and web literacy to coders and non-coders alike. We should also take an active role building up the whole ecosystem of orgs emerging around web literacy and innovative, web-like learning.

With the aim of focusing (and firing up) a conversation on these ideas, I’ve written a summary of all my posts so far here. My major points have been:

Post #1: Our biggest achievement in the first 18 months of Drumbeat has been carving out a new way for Mozilla to work: teaching and building things with people I call ‘web makers’. The next thing we should do is build on this particular aspect of Drumbeat.

Post #2: The people I am calling web makers are teachers, filmmakers, journalists, artists, scientists, game makers and curious kids who a) want to be part of what Mozilla is doing and b) are making things using the open building blocks that are the web.

Post #3: We need to teach the world to code. Or, more specifically, we need to mentor web makers on a massive scale, giving them new skills to make their corners of the web more creative, participatory and open-ended. We need a big community of mentors to do this.

Post #4: We’ve noticed something: impressive learning happens when people get to make something new and innovative. If we want to drive learning, we also need to build a lab where people are invited to tinker, make and invent future pieces of the web.

Post #5: At the foundation of all this, we need a P2P pedagogy built around friendship and passion for a particular topic or interest (e.g. hip hop). Our mantra might be: people learn at Mozilla by building exciting things on the web with their friends.

Post #6: To make this concrete: we need a clear simple Mozilla learning program that anyone can dive into, no matter their age or skill level. This starts with the best bits of Drumbeat: Hackasaurus, School of Webcraft, MoJo, etc.. And is wrapped in a system of Mozilla badges that recognize the most skilled and generous community members.

What I am proposing is building a global P2P learning institution, tinkering lab and web skills certification system into the core of Mozilla’s work. Which raises the question, doesn’t this already exist? Partly yes, but mostly no.

Lots of people teach about computers. Few people teach about the web. For school age kids, the bulk of the focus remains on basic office apps and watching out for cyberbullies. And, for adults, the most popular out of school tech programs still continue to be things like the MCSE and Cisco Academy. Technical, but not very webbish, and certainly not at all helpful to the web makers.

Similarly, many people talk about educational innovation on the web. Few are trying build web-like learning experiences where making, tinkering and collaboration are at the core. You can see this in the myriad of e-learning and open educational resource sites that simply present videotaped classroom lectures. They aren’t even aiming a P2P pedagogy that works like the web.

Luckily, there are pioneers who are pushing forward on both web literacy and p2p pedagogy. Projects like Code Academy, Young Rewired State and CodeNow are teaching people great web coding skills. And people like Howard Rheingold, Cathy Davidson, Philipp Schmidt, Katie Salen, Dave Humphrey and everyone in MacArthur’s broader digital media and learning community are building learning experiences that work like the web. These are Mozilla’s allies, people we can both learn from and support as we build out a broader ecosystem around all of these ideas.

For now, we have a question: should Mozilla go big in learning? And how? The role we can play in teaching web skills and web literacy at a massive scale is clear, at least to me. And there is huge potential to contribute more broadly to learning innovation with things like Open Badges. But, as we deliberate on where to go next with Drumbeat, are these the right places to focus our energy?

PS. If you want to read more detail, I’ve posted all of my posts on this topic on a single page here.

Making Mozilla big in learning

September 30, 2011 § 12 Comments

I’ve talked about Mozilla going big in learning quite a bit recently. Specifically, I’ve talked about making Mozilla the biggest, most innovative technology learning organization on the planet. I’ve also talked about the importance of doing this in a Mozilla-like way, with P2P pedagogy and strong focus on making. The question now is: how?

The first step is fairly easy, or at least obvious: roll the best bits of Drumbeat into a single, coherent program designed to teach web culture and web skills at a global scale. This includes the clearly educational bits like Hackasaurus and School of Webcraft. But it also includes media and innovation programs like Web Made Movies and MoJo that are already helping new kinds of people learn, tinker and make things on the web. And, of course, it includes Open Badges as a basis for offering recognition and credit for what people have learned.

My personal opinion is that it’s time for us to focus in this way. What we’re hearing from you  is that we need to relentlessly focus on the small number of things we can be best in the world at. This is what separates all great organizations from merely good ones.

The harder part is defining what a ‘Mozilla goes big in learning’ program would look not as a loose set of programs, but rather as a cohesive whole. Based on dozens of discussions and comments on my blog, I’ve put together a high level straw man outline. It looks like this:

Mozilla wants to spread web culture and skills at a massive scale
by being the biggest, most innovative tech learning org on the planet.

We’ll drive this through:

  • top quality Mozilla web literacy and web skills content for all ages
  • a community-run lab where learners and inventors make things together
  • a global community of webmakers who learn and mentor with each other
  • Mozilla Badges that recognize skills, achievement and contribution
  • P2P learning and making, building on Mozilla’s collaborative way of working

These last two bits point to something critical: if we want to create a vibrant community of learners and mentors, we need to build a recognition system that rewards the best and most generous people in this community. When I think of the social scaffolding for this community — and for the learning programs I describe above — I imagine something like this:

The idea: give people a clear way to advance through Mozilla learning programs and labs, and then recognize their achievements and contributions through badges. This not only provides a way to incent learning and mentoring, it will also help us build the next generation of Mozilla community leaders.

The good news: we already have a head start. The best bits of Drumbeat give us a set of learning programs, software and community from which to build. Once we strengthen and systematize these things, we can snap them into a bigger learning offering like the one I am describing. We can then build up more content, a mentor network and Mozilla web skills badges system on top of these foundations that we’ve built through Drumbeat.

Of course, we haven’t yet decided if this is what we want to do. There is huge opportunity in learning: Mozilla could help millions of people gain the literacy and skills they need to shape how the web works in their own lives and careers. However, dedicating ourselves to learning at this scale would be a big bet. It would take significant time, resources and patience.

I want to start a broader conversation over the next few weeks to help deliberate and iterate on these ideas. It starts with the simple questions: Should Mozilla go big in learning? and What would that look like? I’ll do a summary post early next week as a way to focus this conversation. However, I’d be happy to hear people’s thoughts a comments on this post in the meantime.

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