Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Radical Participation – Scaling the Human Network

Co-written with Emma Irwin

At Mozilla we’re always thinking about how to improve our products, how to continue a legacy of innovation and quality while shipping often. That said, we can’t talk about Mozilla’s history, or future without acknowledging the critical role of our global volunteer community in our success, and of it’s importance to our future. Software is made by people, and community is made both by and of people.
This year’s learnings around the challenges of contributor growth and retention, come with a recognition that we have two very different tracks of ‘shipping Mozilla’: How we ship product, and how we grow community are distinct, and there is no doubt that the betterment of both lies in the scaling a human network.

Designing for participation is really about designing for people , it’s about building an ecosystem of empowerment. We’re learning that our most successful pathways reflect diversity of community background, skill-set, available time and motivation.



The aha-moment of open source contribution is when someone feels successful in ‘doing a thing’. Be it connecting to a chat room with an IRC tool, or building a local copy of Webmaker.org, it’s that first success that drives the next. These successes need to happen long before a first pull request, even before taking a ‘mentored bug’. We need to get better at helping people reach their first ‘Mozilla moment’, through deliberate and predictable teaching and learning ‘by doing’ opportunities. We’ve already started doing this in person with Open Hatch events and curriculum,  but scaling this means building online opportunities.

We need to provide ongoing, predictable, transparent and inclusive educational opportunities for volunteer community and product teams working with volunteers



Mentoring is core to the success of our community. Staff AND volunteers, go farther when someone is there to encourage their success, to answer their questions and to help strategize for the future. The Mozilla Reps program is a great example of how we can scale participation through thoughtful and ongoing mentorship .

The Mozilla Guides project is proving that by offering a searchable, scale-able, organized resource for brand new Mozillians who need encouragement, coaching, and mentors, to take their first steps and find the projects they want to make an impact on .

Mentoring is done well already in some places at Mozilla. The Reps program has done an incredible job of building a network of mentors, and mentoring is at the core of its success. We need to make mentors and mentoring easily available and usefully structured for all Mozillians at all levels of skill and participation.


Designing Participation Tracks

Designing participation for a college graduate is much different than designing for an experienced C# engineer interested in transitioning strong technical skills to open source ecosystem. Making pathways as simple as possible for the episodic volunteers , is as important as providing long-term opportunities. What other types of participation should we be considering? Is Mozilla contribution accessible for those with disabilities? How do we plug one into the other?

What does it look like to show up as an organized group effort? How do schools and companies interested in lending skills to a project on an single, or ongoing basis get involved?
We suggest that we framing Mozilla contribution as an opportunity for individuals and organized groups. Corporations can lend time and technical talent for skill & team building , while universities across the world can their better help students for the job market through the opportunity that is – contributing to Mozilla. Mozilla in kind, can define on-ramps for organizations (corporations, universities, other open source projects, and more) to be able to easily find opportunities and make an impact – and develop mutual benefit.

A Community Building Community

We’ve been saying that community building is everyone’s job at Mozilla, but what we haven’t explicitly said – is that we’re building a community around ‘community building in Mozilla’. This means, we need to get better at sharing resources across the project. We need improved communication mechanisms to help avoid duplication of efforts. We need to be more deliberate about reaching out with what we’ve learned.

Designing for humans ensures that those who want to go fast (move fast and break things, if you will) – can, and those who want to be more deliberate in their process will get there too. Our collective speed of innovation, development, and impact will increase when we are deliberate about mentorship, teaching and growing a connected community of community designers – as core tenets of participation design, human infrastructure, and volunteer empowerment at Mozilla.

Emma and I would love your feedback on these thoughts around radical participation at Mozilla.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Our web will be inclusive, open, diverse, and free: Tales from the TechWomen/Mozilla/Internet Society/ Peer to Peer Womens Network Mixer

By 6:00 on that Monday night the heat of early October had lessened - the Embarcadero was breezy with a blessed return of traces of fog. A large group of technologists gathered, many of them women,  to share lighting talks and stories - and build relationships. They came together for a TechWomen program mixer hosted by  Mozilla and the SF Bay Internet Society, featuring talks by:
You missed it? Don't be sad, there is a video!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Evolution of a systematic and traceable, robust and scaleable system for onboarding volunteers.

I want to make sure everyone has seen the all new Get Involved page  and to give a huge shout-out to the many, many Mozillians, including many of you, who have been involved in setting this up, along with Guides - our new community forum designed to support brand new Mozillians.

(Note that localized versions of Get Involved are coming soon! Many people here have been involved in getting the locales up, and that is critically important. Thank you. We can't wait to share that work with the world.)

David blogged about it too, including some history of the page and the importance of this system in what we do as a community here at Mozilla.

This set of improvements will allow us a far more robust tracking and followup system for community as well.  I look forward to growing and learning with all of you. The metrics we will get from this new system will allow us to trace volunteers from signing up for an opportunity through becoming an active member of our community - and all the places people could get lost along the way can be addressed. This is a huge opportunity for improvement.

Thank you to every one of you who made this happen. Especialy big thanks to Jennie Rose Halperin, Emma Irwin, Matthew Zeier, everyone on the mozilla.org team, our Stewards, all the community who helped and were interviewed and reviewed prototypes, and our dedicated localizers.  Building programs and tools like this with all of you is my sincere pleasure and joy.

This is how we will build the internet the world needs - with the power of a scalable way to help people figure out what they want to do - and support them in doing it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Web We Want is Private: Building a global community of Privacy Contributors and Advocates through Mozilla

[This is the first of a series of blog posts related to my new-to-2014 role leading Contributor Development as a Community Builder at Mozilla. Most are also posted on Mozilla’s about:community blog.]

I’ve never actually been that good at keeping things private. I’m a talker. I’m not usually the one to keep your secret. I learned the hard way why one should be careful with passwords and privacy via a few embarrassing linkedin and twitter incidents. Despite having learned my first system administration in college in 1993 or so, I have been pretty hopeless at staying private. But. I’m learning all the time. And, increasingly, I see that privacy is about a lot more than my learning to use Last Pass correctly, or the settings on my facebook (though those are important things).  It’s actually central to all that we do online. And if I can learn the value of privacy, anyone can.

When we started the Community Building Team this year we chose teams to work with as partners, to help them build Mozillian community. One of the teams I chose was Privacy, and I was privileged to be partnered to work with Stacy Martin to grow the project we’ve come to call PriMo - or Privacy Mozillians. Working with the newly established Contribution Lifecycle, we brainstormed projects we’d like Mozillians to do around privacy, and we listened to people around the project’s existing ideas and needs for privacy community.

Stacy: "Larissa has been a great connector for us.  She is aware of what other teams are doing and helps point us in the direction of content and ideas we can leverage.  She suggests ways to include Foundation projects, such as Webmaker and Open Badges."

We started out with a call for privacy advocates to rally around Data Privacy Day and started to collect a few contributors.  Following on his assessment of the needs of community in Utah, Mozilla L10N engineer and Rep Jeff Beatty started a program around TACMA screenings - which has been very successful and will be expanding soon to include screenings in more Mozilla spaces and in communities as far apart as Utah to Zimbabwe. 

Outside organizations also have been reaching out to us for support in privacy - the National Network To End Domestic Violence asked us to develop best practices for browser privacy for survivors, and a community project is evolving. Please check out the NNEDV Browser guidelines project to learn how you can support this effort.

Throughout all our efforts, we're also infusing educational opportunities to learn more about Privacy, and building community of privacy educators - that can be as simple as learning to teach family members how to use lightbeam over the kitchen table on a Saturday afternoon.

The relevance of privacy work becomes more clear all the time. When we released Firefox 28, we did a global campaign to ask our community - the global network of Firefox Users - what kind of Web We Want. Resoundingly and around the world, they responded: the web we want is private. With the development of PriMo, and projects such as the TACMA screenings and NNEDV browser guide among many, we have the power to take that energy and enthusiasm and turn it into action - one privacy advocate at a time.

I ask you to invite your privacy leaning friends and family to become privacy action takers
- whether that means downloading lightbeam (or teaching someone else to),  signing our Net Neutrality petition, taking action to support our work with NNEDV, or attending (or hosting) a TACMA screening when it comes to your town…  there are many actions large and small that can add up to a strong global community of privacy advocates.

The web we want is respectful of each of our autonomy, our privacy, our data, our needs. The web we want is open to innovation and includes diverse voices. Building community for privacy means casting a wide net and calling many kinds of people together - people who have been involved with Mozilla a long time, and people who are just learning what we’re about. It will take many people together to change the culture of the web. What kind of web do you want?