Monthly Archives: July 2012

Building community around Webmaker tools

How do we grow a community of contributors and architecture of participation around Mozilla Webmaker tools?

This post is a synthesis of ideas collectively brainstormed by the Webmaker community in Tuesday’s call. It’s part two of a discussion Mark Surman began with his “Tools for Webmakers” post. The ideas here aren’t mine — they’re everybody’s. :)

Contribution is the goal

We’ve said we want to make contribution the metric that defines all our work. That includes building Webmaker tools like Popcorn, Thimble and the X-Ray Goggles. Popcorn already has a growing community of developers contributing code. OpenNews is creating and sharing great code as well. And Thimble is, of course, just out of the gate, with a question around when and how best to build an architecture of participation.

So as we think about our plan for the rest of year and into 2012, where do we go from here?

Four keys to involving contributors:

  • On-ramps.
  • Tasks. Calls to action.
  • Documentation. Training
  • Celebration. Kudos.

What kinds of contribution are we seeking?  

What kinds of contributors do we want to work with and get to know better, over the next 6 – 12 months? We want to grow a community of contributors around building Webmaker tools in particular. And of course also plant seeds and build a community around webmaking in general, with Webmaker as a big tent for lots of different people and groups.

Where do we need to build better on-ramps for participation?

  • Code. We know there’s a small group that want to contribute to the “core” library — of a similar order of magnitude as people who submit patches to Firefox, for example.
    • Make it easier to submit. Build systems that let contributors submit this type of code without our review or evaluation. Via plug-ins, for example? or something comparable to
    • Avoid bottlenecks. We can easily become a bottleneck to our developer contributors. For example, if they need to conform to our style guide, or review a patch while we’re in the midst of an important release. More and better “remix / fork this project” options?
  • Templates.  Easy ways for people to create and share their own Thimble template, Popcorn template, or project. Without less of us getting in the way or be in the middle.
    • One idea: provide easier ways to turn your Popcorn or Thimble project into a template. Like a “save as template” option in the Popcorn and Thimble apps. That way, you could use the Popcorn “Newscast” template, for example, to turn it into a “Call to Action” video for your campaign — then save it as a “Call to Action” template other people could use the same way.
  • Localization. Translation and localization. Lots of requests for this. Many instructors are already doing it, and building curriculum around our tools. Hackasaurus has already been translated into several languages. How do we build on that for new tools and projects?
  • Mentors and guides. Getting others involved. On-boarding. Lightweight mentoring and recommendations for interactions, people to get to know, etc.
    • Work with ReMo here. Build and borrow from what Mozilla is already doing here and here.
  • Instructors. Educators and instructors contributing projects, ideas, and great stuff we haven’t thought of yet.
  • Stuff we haven’t thought of yet…  Anyone working to build a more web literate planet and plant seeds for webmaking.

Things we need:

  • Better documentation and HOW TOs. “Cook books.” Easy step by step instructions on how to contribute. Better FAQs. We have lots of rough and ready etherpads and raw notes — we need more polished HOW TOs for contribution.
  • Great examples. Project galleries, etc.
  • Better on-boarding. Clarifying where to go, what channels to use. Setting expectations. Friendly humans with time to help.

Avoiding the “busyness trap”

“We’re too busy to help!” This was a commonly acknowledged problem. When we’re heads down and focused on shipping and meeting the next deadline, it’s easy to feel like you’re “too busy” to be able to bring community members into the fold.  We need people to feel like we have time for them.  And that they’re  actually a priority.

“Should  we create ‘20% time’ to focus just on creating systems and  documentation for more and better community contribution?”

Get involved: how do we make our current documentation better?

One place to start might be to look at our current contributor documentation for Webmaker tools. Then have you suggest ways it can be improved. Or volunteer to work on it yourself.  All of this is going to see dramatic improvements over the coming weeks and months. But let’s start by listing what we’ve got — specifically for contributing to Mozilla Webmaker tools and software.

(This list is incomplete — please help flesh it out in the comments to this post and I’ll update.)

Making Webmaker: what’s next?

Mozilla India community members made this by hand on Saturday using beautiful festival colors called "rangoli"

A lot has happened since we launched Webmaker. Since the initial launch announcement on May 22, we’ve seen:

More important than the numbers: we’re building global community. New people are showing up in our community calls. Photos and projects are coming in from around the world. We’re gathering valuable feedback on how to make the new Webmaker tools and projects better.

Who’s participating?

  • People from 68 different countries. People like this.
  • Learners with a broad range of web skills. Erin Knight’s early survey data suggests most users are coming in with more expertise than we originally anticipated — but still report learning new things.

  • Communities of mentors and instructors. As Jacob highlighted in yesterday’s community call, we’re seeing mentors and community instructors grab onto our tools and curriculum (like Popcorn and StoryCamp) and adapting them to their local programs and needs — a key goal for all our work.
  • Partners. Two of the most popular projects on have come from partners: the “Customize your Tumblr theme” project, for example — made possible by our partnership with Tumblr — and the Awesome Animal Builder from the London Zoo. And great partners like Black Girls Code and others are running events under the “Summer Code Party” banner all summer long, deepening relationships with Mozilla and teaching us.
Black Girls Code #MozParty in Oakland, June 30
  • High-profile speakers and mentors. Like Cory Doctorow and OK Go’s Damian Kulash.
  • Lots of new people introducing themselves on the Webmaker newsgroup. New community members have been sharing their background and experience there daily.

What’s new and improved?

Better Summer Code Party search. Users asked for improved ways to search for Summer Code Party events. This week we shipped them. They include:

Great stories and projects on the new Webmaker Tumblr. The Mozilla Webmaker tumblr has become one of the best ways to grok the overall story. And also shows some of the best examples of what people are making using Thimble, Popcorn, the X-Ray Goggles and other tools. Like using your first lines of HTML to tell someone important you love them:

Love hidden in the code. Thimble project from #MozParty

Coming soon:

  • A refresh of the front page. To showcase the new global reach of the project, reflect our community more, and push participants to the right channels for conversation.
  • Easier ways to see and share what people are making. We need to make it easier for people to share and submit great work into the Webmaker Tumblr. And eventually through more automated user-generated galleries.
  • Incorporating user  and community feedback into a larger re-design effort. Chris Appleton will share more on this in Tuesday’s community call. (Here’s a sneak peek.)
Click this image to watch this Summer Code Party Invasion video -- then make your own using Mozilla Popcorn.

What are people making?

Mozilla Webmaker projects and beyond. Some highlights:

  • Robot Invasion videos. The new Popcorn templates make it easy to produce a winning result fast. It feels like people are now intuitively “getting it” and seeing the creative potential for Popcorn in ways that were harder before. (See Jacob’s latest post on the sights and sounds of Popcorn’s StoryCamp, for example.)
  • Customzing Tumblr templates. As a gateway to learning HTML and CSS.
  • Making the web physical. MozParty Dundee, in Scotland, focused on hands-on hacking that blended the digital and the physical. From a physical blue bird that flaps its wings every time someone tweets “#MozParty,” to maneuvering Google Maps street view with a joystick. (This mix of physical and web hacking feels super rich — lots to think about for this year’s Mozilla Festival in November.)
Every time you tweet #MozParty, this bird flaps its wings
  • Making mobile apps. At MozParties in Zurich and Bucharest.

  • Tying in Mozilla’s larger mission and work. The Mozilla India team and ReMo members, for example, have been using the Summer Code Party as a tie-in and jumping off point for Firefox localization work and more.

What do the numbers tell us?

So far we’ve got:

  • Survey feedback on the new Mozilla Thimble projects. Erin Knight’s post tells the story and take-aways from the survey feedback we’re getting.
  • Social media and email growth. We continue to see good growth, plus the addition of Tumblr, with 2000+ followers in our first two weeks. Not bad.
Mozilla Webmaker social media channel growth
  • Early web metrics. Ross shared some early metrics from in yesterday’s community call. But we have lots of work to do on improving how we collect this data and make it actionable.

What’s next?

Roadmapping. Mark Surman has outlined some thinking, questions and next steps around the roadmap for Webmaker tools. In Tuesday’s community call, we’ll dive into this in more depth.

The Popcorn, Thimble and teams have been doing roadmap work as well. More on that in the coming weeks.

Get involved