“New Mozilla” or “Community 2.0”?

The following blog post was co-written by me and by Ricardo (“Ricmacas”) Maçãs.
Both of us remember dearly when we started contributing to Mozilla. We were part of SUMO’s Livechat (online live one-on-one help sessions for regular users powered by volunteers) and it was easy to voice opinions and to give ideas. We had a strong sense of community and we loved to discuss our ideas with the developers’ team and to help them with feedback whenever needed.
    Ricardo: I think there’s a reason for this: support has always been the bridge between the end user and the developer, it is the area where it becomes clear that these two are in fact two sides of the same coin, so we knew first hand that even the nontechnical user’s opinion was important. Back then, our IRC channel was a very warm and cozy place, always bursting with activity.
     Nowadays, SUMO’s IRC channel is just another Mozilla IRC channel: full of people, mostly empty of words. After the SUMO livechat product ceased to exist, we still gather around in other IRC channels. Some of us have moved to other Mozilla projects, but we all talk to each other like we’re still in the same team. There is certainly something awesome and special that we had in Livechat that stays with us.
    Granted, Mozilla lost some degree of relevance in the past few years. Users demanded Chrome-like performance and features, and our community was not delivering. Our core product, Firefox, was no longer perceived as the innovative product it once was.
    Now, the Corporation and the Foundation are doing its best to revive Mozilla. They’re building hype, they are launching new bold bets in the mobile space. New projects, new ideas, and a coordinated effort to bring Firefox back to the top.
    However, what happens to the community? Is the hype strategy really the best? Does the community want to be preached new products that it didn’t have a say in?
    Ricardo: For example, I feel that most of Mozilla projects’ fate and direction are decided by someone else with an Apple-esque “creative” vision that I can’t reach besides vague responses of “we are considering it/working on it”.
    A community member said a few days ago, “Mozilla, don’t ask us what we can do for you, but ask yourself what you can do for us [the people]”. Active contributors are more and more aware of the slight pressure that’s building up to conform to this new product strategy.
     You’d hope that there is still the willingness and interest of the Corporation to support efforts and side-projects that are governed by the community. Great, big and small products sprung off of these efforts in the past.
    Now? There’s still the possibility to have side projects and interests that differ from the general consensus. However, it doesn’t seem to be pretty much appreciated anymore. Efforts in streamlining (or as Mozilla likes to call it: aligning) this community are undoubtedly taking place and have taken place the last months.
    The following remark in the Summit Strategy is especially important for us [1]:
  • Understand the role of “product” in being a Mozillian
    In our opinion, “Product” has no role in being a Mozillian. Only because the Mozilla Corporation decides to push a product forward, doesn’t mean that we volunteers have to. To us, being a Mozillian means pushing the open web forward. And that can be done in a variety of ways.
    We still stand strongly by Mozilla’s values and manifesto. But whenever we see proposals to streamline the community, we both feel that we are all being conditioned into ideas and vision of a somewhat new Mozilla that knows what the community needs but doesn’t quite know how to make it happen.
    We think that Mozilla should be about community, not products. It’s arguably the only thing that truly aligns us, besides the rather philosophical manifesto. And community consists of people. Without people, Mozilla wouldn’t be what it is today. Mozilla would most likely not have as much marketshare if community hadn’t helped out. But people have their own mind, they have their own reasons for contributing to this project and they have their own special areas of interest.
    Tobbi: The only thing where we probably all agree is: We’re all doing our part in advancing the Mozilla Manifesto. Some of us care more about the community and the people therein than about the products, but does this make them less of a Mozillian? I have been a member of the community for about 5 years.
    Tobbi: And I have learned enough to know that community is diverse. And our power comes from our diversity. The corporation has goals, yes, but the corporation is also under a lot of pressure to maintain its position in the market. Communities can help. However I don’t feel that it is acceptable to encourage communities and their members to do something they don’t completely see eye to eye with.
    We miss the times of Livechat, because we felt we had a voice that mattered. Was it a  huge mess because we all had voice? No, there was a clear vertical management strategy, there were Mozilla employees working there that were our “project leaders”, and the reason I put that in quotes is because these leaders hanged out with us with the humility to listen and consider our ideas, and help us foster them without reservations.
    Tobbi: I personally thrive from the ability to have a say in the general direction a project is going. Unfortunately, Mozilla is under a lot of market pressure, which leads to the influencing of community members, and I, as a contributor, am driven to support a part of the Mozilla project which I don’t quite like to contribute to since I have no means by which I can influence the direction in which it is going.
    What kept us coming back? We always valued diversity. We always embraced our   geeky side when volunteering with Mozilla, and we always enjoyed  talking about everything Mozilla-related. We knew we were improving the web, and Firefox was the browser with the right values, and the right license! That’s why we think the Livechat team is still very alive today.
    Mozilla: We, Tobbi and Ricardo, plead you to listen to the voices in your community and give community members an ear for concern. Even the silent voices, and even those who disagree with your current corporate strategy and would rather align to the manifesto in their own way. Having their own opinion is what makes them human.
Thanks, and comments are appreciated!
Tobias Markus (Tobbi) & Ricardo Maçãs (Ricmacas)

35 Responses to ““New Mozilla” or “Community 2.0”?”

  1. 1 gervmarkham August 27, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    “We think that Mozilla should be about community, not products. It’s arguably the only thing that truly aligns us, besides the rather philosophical manifesto.”

    I think that the choice between community and products is a false choice. But I also think that if anything aligns us, it’s definitely not ‘community’. As you note, we are a very diverse group of people, who might well not choose to spend time together if we didn’t have a shared mission. I would say the mission unites us into a community despite our diversity. I’d expect you could find Mozillians who would disagree on pretty much everything apart from the mission. (As is sometimes clear when our community decides to discuss other things 🙂

    Building a community, on its own, is not going to do anything to advance the mission. Given the way Mozilla has decided to work, it’s an essential part, without which we can do nothing, but it’s also nothing /by itself/. What advances the mission most effectively is getting that community to build great products that people *who aren’t like us* want to use, which gain market share and therefore allow us to affect the course of events in a Mozilla-y direction. Market share gives us voice. Without community, we wouldn’t succeed in making the products, but without products loved by millions of people, we wouldn’t succeed in changing things for the better. Mozilla has always made an impact by building and doing, not by talking. (Although we do some talking as well, to complement this strategy.)

    The community is all of us who work towards the Mozilla goals, and that includes the people who are employed by the vehicles we have created to further those goals. In fact, most senior community members, who get to set the direction of the organization, happen to be employees. That’s not particularly surprising – if you love something and are good at it, you’ll try and arrange to be paid to do it. So that means that when Mozilla does something new and puts effort behind it, it’ll almost certainly be the idea of an employee, and it’ll be supported by other employees. That is not, in itself, a bad thing.

    This is not to say that our community doesn’t have relational and governance issues which need working on. But having, focussing on and driving successful products is, I would suggest, not one of them.

    • 2 Daniel Veditz August 29, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      > Building a community, on its own, is not going to do anything to
      > advance the mission. […] it’s an essential part, without which we
      > can do nothing, but it’s also nothing /by itself/.

      A collection of people who work separately toward a common goal is not a “community”. Communities can form naturally and spontaneously, but a healthy one requires intentional effort. “Build it and they will come” is not a good strategy.

  2. 4 Kensie Connor August 27, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Gerv, the problem you are ignoring is that senior employees who are not senior community members also get to set direction, and it’s much easier for them to do so than it is for senior community members who are NOT employees.

    Tobbi and Ricardo: Mozilla has always been about a product. The product existed first. The product is key as a practical example of how open source can work. However, I agree the the product wasn’t the point, the point is HOW the product is made. If we’re not careful all of a sudden Mozilla is going to be the example of how open *doesn’t* work, that’s the community aspect. Product can’t come *first* though it is integral. If we keep making a product, but change how we make it, then we no longer forward the mission.

    I also think that while Gerv’s model of forwarding the mission by showing it can be done has been working, if we don’t move to a “now let’s help you do it, too” then we’re not really forwarding the mission at all. The point of the mission is to create an environment around the internet that *everyone* practices, not a single outlier. So I agree with you guys that community comes first.

    • 5 gervmarkham August 27, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      I don’t think I’m ignoring that problem; I think that a revitalization of community governance would go a long way towards dealing with it, and that’s something I’m pushing for. But it needs the right plan with the right people on board and with time to pursue it, and we don’t have that yet. 😐

      “I agree the the product wasn’t the point, the point is HOW the product is made.”

      I think that’s another false choice. The mission is the point, which makes the product the point and the ‘how’ also the point – because the mission is to make particular products (see the Mozilla Foundation Manifesto Pledge) in particular ways (see manifesto principles 7 and 8).

      • 6 Tobias Markus August 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm


        the manifesto talks about “products”, not about “Firefox”, “Firefox OS” etc.

        Thus, I fail to see the link between the products Mozilla is pushing forward and it being the “only right way” to do so.

        Instead of letting community members focus on “products the Mozilla Corporation has created”, it should instead focus on “creating products and licensing it under an open source license, preferably the MPL” to further the manifesto and to keep interoperability by open protocols.

        In my opinion, it’s not “See, what we have created!”, it’s “See, what we have created, you can do that too, now go ahead!”

      • 7 gervmarkham August 27, 2013 at 6:43 pm

        Tobias: what products is Mozilla not building that you think would advance the mission more than the ones it is building?

        We can’t “focus” on seventeen or thirty-three products and make them all succeed. (This was one of the issues with Thunderbird – it was taking up the time of key smart people within Mozilla, and it wasn’t making much of an impact. So Mozilla’s leadership adjusted their investment of time and resources in it to better match the impact it was actually having.) We need to do one or two things very well in order to compete with companies with the size and weight of Google, Apple and Microsoft. At the moment, it’s a desktop browser, a mobile browser, a complete mobile OS, a marketplace, sync, and an identity solution. That’s quite a few products already. What would you kill to make room for the thing you want us to focus on?

        Also: Webmaker, Addons, and Firefox OS apps are all ways where Mozilla says: “See, what we have created, you can do that too, now go ahead!”

      • 8 Ricmacas August 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm

        “I think that’s another false choice.”
        I can certainly see the case where it is possible to forget the importance of community input in order to further push the product blindly, granted, this most likely results in not moving the product forward at all, which is what concerns me.

        Even in the best case scenario of assuming that all Mozilla employees are Mozilla’s “best” community members, that still excludes an enormous amount of contributors and important feedback.

        As we expand into new products, it’s impossible for every contributor to support them all, since they all have various different characteristics and even perspectives. That’s nice, however, these new products are being pushed forward so fast that community input can’t cope. I believe that an effort to listen to the community must match the new found speed of product development.

        “I think that a revitalization of community governance would go a long way towards dealing with it, and that’s something I’m pushing for. But it needs the right plan with the right people on board and with time to pursue it, and we don’t have that yet.”
        I believe that we have our best shot now, before the Summit, and we wanted to bring this as something that, we believe, deserves discussion.

  3. 9 Andrew (feer56) August 27, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I agree that we may live chat created community, fun and a diverse work place. As live chat went away, we went our own ways. I myself walked away from contributing for a few months because once live chat was gone and as I tried other methods of contributing, I felt I was being held back in a such a way that I had to follow the direction Mozilla was going. That being said, I came back because I was fed up with my own browser hanging, crashing and taking 45 minutes to start up. When I came back, for some reason I felt warm and cozy. I knew what I was doing but since the main area I only contribute to is SUMO. I didn’t have a voice in what was being developed, I looked for other areas and I really couldn’t find anything because what was expected was too much of me. Right now, I still contribute to SUMO because I’m a people person and I want to help the user, but at the same time if Mozilla isn’t going into a direction that the user wants, Mozilla doesn’t care because the product is already out there and all they can do is then fix minor issues with it. Now that Mozilla is going forward with a mobile operating system, that makes me happy but is it a step in the right direction by focusing more on a new product than making improvements to an old product loved by millions?

  4. 10 Tobias Markus August 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm


    at this point I’m not talking about specific products that should need focusing. I am talking about NOT making community focus on something they’d not want. The corporation can do whatever they want with their employees. Employees are bound to be following the direction of the corporation (and they get salary as compensation). It’s different with community members though. Giving any direction to community members and *implying* that they should follow it is NOT the way to deal with community and could be very fatal. Community does not exist to serve Mozilla as some kind of voluntary slaves. That’s something to keep in mind. Competing is not the issue of community. It is just not community’s war to fight.

    But there’s still a lot of potential out there in the community, for people who are highly creative and build their own things and would rather not the corporation to lay a path for them / be influenced etc. Mozilla should appreciate that instead of making people do something they don’t want, since they’d probably do very badly at them.

    • 11 gervmarkham August 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

      It seems to me that the way you think about community and Corporation, there’s a much larger divide in terms of goals and mission than there should be.

      “Giving any direction to community members and *implying* that they should follow it is NOT the way to deal with community”

      I’m afraid I don’t agree at all. While no-one can be forced to do anything, the Mozilla organization moves forward by the leadership setting goals which further the mission, and encouraging everyone in the community to collaborate on reaching them. Some people would perhaps leave Mozilla employment if they aren’t interested in working towards those goals, but of course if you aren’t employed, that can’t happen. But that doesn’t invalidate the idea of having shared and well-communicated goals.

      “Community does not exist to serve Mozilla as some kind of voluntary slaves.”

      There’s no such thing as a voluntary slave – the point of slavery is that it’s involuntary. If you work for someone voluntarily, it’s usually called either employment or volunteering, depending on whether you get paid or not.

      If you go and offer to volunteer for, say, Oxfam, and they say “we have a slot for a worker in our shop from 10am to 3pm on Tuesdays – can you do that?”, you can either say “yes”, or “no – do you have anything else that needs doing?” You don’t say “actually, my idea for famine relief is to fill a big shipping container with food and send it to Sudan. If I get the food together, can you hire the shipping container and pay for it to be shipped?”

      Now, as people volunteer with Oxfam for longer, they may well take on senior roles, and start to be involved in setting direction. (Although if they get that into it, it’s quite likely they’d get hired.) And that’s fine – and if that’s not happening for us, that needs fixing. But once they are in a position of setting direction, then the expectation is that the organization does actually move, and ask its volunteers to move, in that direction.

      “But there’s still a lot of potential out there in the community, for people who are highly creative and build their own things”

      No-one is stopping anyone from building their own things. I think what you are really saying is that the Mozilla organization should put time and resources into supporting whatever things anyone in the Mozilla community wants to build. Is that correct?

      • 12 Ricmacas August 28, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        You don’t say “actually, my idea for famine relief is to fill a big shipping container with food and send it to Sudan. If I get the food together, can you hire the shipping container and pay for it to be shipped?”

        You could however write a letter to the Oxfam leaders and tell them your idea, and offer them your support in case they want to pursue it, given how enthusiastic you are about it.

        Something you didn’t get from the blog post, apparently, is that the point is not to have everyone directly set the Mozilla goals, but to have their opinion heard. We clearly mentioned the vertical management strategy, but that this strategy can coexist with better communication and community input.

        Of course, in the long term, in case the feedback and projects are deemed worthy by the community and the leaders, it would make sense for Mozilla to support that effort.

        I do agree that the coauthor’s choice of words might have been poor in the last response, but you need to realize that when there is work being done which is not recognized and suggestions that are not even remotely considered, and in a foundation where the main goal is to help build several free products (as in liberty), there’s a possibility that volunteers feel unappreciated even though they still believe in the core principles of that same foundation and thus choose to continue helping.
        Think about it, some volunteers might not be giving all that they’ve got because of that, and the hype and preaching that we pointed out might not be the best option for a community that thankfully, is mostly composed of intellectual people with probably different perspectives on almost everything.

        Mozilla isn’t about giving food or money, or giving anything else for that matter, it’s about building something.
        When you take for granted that community input isn’t as important, is the community really building something, or is it just “giving time and work” to help others build it? And yes, building something does include suggestions.

      • 13 gervmarkham August 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm

        I hope you believe that I am really trying to understand your concerns. (And I hope you have noticed that I’ve agreed with some of them.)

        Are you saying that there is no way for non-employees (or even low-level employees) to propose an idea to the project leadership and get a response about it? If so, then you need to be aware that recently a Q&A session was added to the weekly Project Meeting. Anyone can submit a question (such as “Why isn’t Mozilla doing something about problem X?” or “What about a project to do Y?”), and get an answer. This is a great improvement, and I’m really glad it’s happened. This is where you would say “Hey, why don’t we fill a shipping container with food and send it to Sudan?”

        I don’t want anyone to feel under-appreciated. And I want us to be all building things together. But I also think that the right way for the organization to set its own direction is to have leaders who set it. (And that leaders who don’t listen are not good leaders.)

  5. 14 Edmund August 28, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    I’m a relative newcomer to the Mozilla community (fourth year, so far) and I have certainly noticed a definite change in the environment. When I came to the community (starting to dev for the community project, SeaMonkey), I saw a vibrant community on irc (my only avenue of communicating with the rest of the community).
    However, over the few years, I’ve noticed the community changing. While I do understand that irc isn’t the best indication of community spirit, it’s the only avenue I have. Every channel I’m on have gotten a lot quieter. But I guess it’s a fact of life that as people come and go, the general environment changes. The
    chemistry has changed. The vibrancy isn’t there anymore. Just rooms full of non-talking people, as I paraphrase Tobbi’s comment.

    As for gerv’s comments, I don’t think it’s necessary a ‘way’ for non-employees or (low-level employees) to voice what project should be
    done or how to propose a project to the leadership. There’s always a way for somethings to be heard. It’s the feeling that
    the general environment has changed such that Mozilla might have gone past that ‘stage of listening/hearing’ what the community would like,
    in the sense that even if anything was proposed, it’d be a little too late for things to happen. I fault no one here. I think
    as time goes on, projects/companies change to adapt to the market/environment. And what was once important, isn’t anymore. Case in point, LiveChat.

    Of course, I don’t speak for the community(not even close to even whispering for the community). I suppose it depends on which
    part of the community you are in. In planet.mozilla.org, I definitely see things are certainly happening. People are making things happen, and this isn’t to rain on their parade. Definitely something to celebrate.

    I just feel that the community has become two sets of communities. One that is working at what’s new and the other part is doing what it’s been doing for years but seeing things aren’t as important.

    Just my $0.02. No offense to anyone.

    • 15 Ricmacas August 28, 2013 at 5:33 pm

      We’ve all definitely felt the difference in the atmosphere somehow, but most of us struggle to understand what is happening and why it is happening. And yes, that is precisely what I meant by silent IRC channels when I co-wrote the post.

      This blog post is certainly an attempt to explain it, we put a great deal of effort and thought in it by considering the recent loss of Firefox marketshare and the new found pace of Mozilla in new products as major factors of contributor uncertainty: the old product, Firefox, is yet to recover completely, and the new products, while young, are now being wildly released to the public.

      We consider that this creates a clear lack of community consensus about every single product Mozilla is offering, and discussion is urgently needed! Contributor input to these products seems to be the right answer, and it is the one that we appeal for, because while it currently exists, it can’t cope with the new speed of development. With effort, we believe that community input can be achieved at the pace we now require for development.

      It has come to my attention that some people believe this post mourns LiveChat’s death, however, let me be clear that Livechat was a very intense experience that created high contributor burnout, so in some ways, we miss the spirit of the community we had there (and that we wished to have in all of Mozilla) but not the work itself, which was very demanding and required a great deal of patience. So, in fact, it’s just a great and personal story to tell and it always adds some concrete situations to an otherwise “general” post about the community.

  6. 16 Andrew (feer56) August 28, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I understand that this isn’t just about live chat but as to community. Community at Mozilla is now hardly heard of even though it still exists. At lot of discussions still go on in channels on IRC within the employees but most contributors don’t understand what is going on because they aren’t part of the building process, feedback process or possibly any process. I do remember a year or 2 ago IRC being packed and very outgoing and interactive. I came back because I thought that the atmosphere would be the same. There are some employees that do care about the community but they don’t have the power to do enough.. From my standpoint, I see that localization contributors are cared for more than normal en-US contributors because they play a more important role. Mozilla does probably put things out for contributors to do but sometimes we may not have the time or what is expected of us is too much. Yes, we volunteer and yes we are not paid and yes we are not an employee. We can yes or no to things but when we say no, we are basically left out of the process for everything. We can’t jump in, in the middle of the project because even though we may be following everything but do anything we are considered useless. We don’t say “here is my idea, now take it as I’m going to work on it and I don’t care what you say”. No, we ask/ propose it as Ricmacas said, and if we are turned down then we try again later but when we try to propose it again, the idea is basically knocked out. We are sometimes left feeling lost and have nowhere to go. I know Mozilla doesn’t want us to feel that way but we are.

    • 17 Ricmacas August 29, 2013 at 1:00 am

      We always are glad to hear that we aren’t the only ones feeling this way – one might think that we’re being delusional if it was a problem only the both of us recognized.

      About the l10n tasks, I’m going to tell you my story as a locale leader (because I’ve done that too 😀 ).

      The challenges of being a localizer are different, because when there is a very small community of helpers in your area, and when said helpers come spontaneously over the course of months or years, it can become quite frustrating to try to work on l10n, and it sometimes means that the big share of the work will be almost conducted exclusively by the locale leader.

      When making decisions for your own local community, it helps to actually /have/ one, which many times is not the case. I translated thousands of strings in Verbatim and spent several days translating support articles (which are now so outdated that they aren’t even shown as translated, so that work I did has, in fact, “expired”) to a non-existent community.

      So you see that some extra care might be directed to these contributors, primarily for two reasons:
      1) Mozilla is a reasonably English-centric foundation and community, thus if issues aren’t raised by the locale leaders, it’s like they /don’t exist/, because most will not notice them. So, they locale leaders deserve some attention.
      2) Localizers end up following Mozilla’s en-US guidelines as closely as possible, so their feedback is usually not product-oriented and thus does not concern us in this discussion. This also means that localizers interact with Mozilla just as much and they too have a perception of our community.

      However, to be fair, I don’t feel like I was given any special treatment at all, but I do understand that the en-US community is directly addressed by the Corporation and the Foundation and any issues with this particular segment are probably handled directly by them. Locale leaders do have some degree of freedom, but we usually stick to the plan since translating it all is already enough work.

      In conclusion, I feel that the problem is definitely not any kind of special preference given to localizers, which was what you might have induced people to think in your post.

      Rather, the general need of community input consideration might be the problem, and you are right to point it out if you feel that it happens, as me and Tobbi have.

      Also, I can tell you that this is as noticeable to localizers as it is to en-US volunteers since, as I’ve mentioned before, the community is reasonably English-centric, thus, in every other area but l10n, language generally does not matter at all (which is great!), especially in product-related suggestions, where unfortunately we all stand equal. Let me finish by pointing out than neither me nor Tobbi are en-US volunteers.

      • 18 Andrew (feer56) August 29, 2013 at 4:07 am

        I know that neither of you are en-US volunteers but from what I’ve seen is that sometimes we all aren’t treated equally. I’m not saying that you got any special treatment but at the same time I see l10n a higher priority for sure for the admins. I don’t expect any special treatment but a response to my question/ issue which I never get.

  7. 19 Lawrence Mandel August 29, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    MoCo is and should be considered a large contributor to the broader Mozilla community. However, MoCo is not the only contributor. Mozillians frequently tout the community as one of our key competitive advantages. If this is true, we all need to work and play together in the advancement of the mission. This doesn’t mean that MoCo gets to tell non MoCo employees what to do. It does mean that we are all aligned on the best path forward for advancing our collective mission.

    To me, the upcoming Summit is about addressing the issues raised in this post. Thank you for posting. I hope that you’re both attending the Summit so that we can pickup this conversation in person.

    • 20 Ricmacas August 29, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      Will you be in Brussels?

      • 21 Lawrence Mandel August 29, 2013 at 6:25 pm

        I’ll be in Toronto. I am helping to coordinate the content of the people aspect of the Summit and am happy to talk beforehand to ensure that we have the right space for this discussion. If you’d like, we can talk on a mailing list or privately, whatever you prefer. Perhaps we should have more time to get these issues out in the open before the Summit via additional blog posts, a lightening talk during the project meeting, a separate brownbag presentation, or some other way. (I’m open to suggestions.)

  8. 22 Robert Kaiser August 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Don’t make a “problem” out of L10n just because “the community” actually works there – actually, we should look at what works there and see how much of that we can actually apply to other areas. 🙂

    That said, the inflow of a lot of people into paid staff that weren’t in the community before (and that has mostly happened within the last 2 years) has surely changed a number of things. Also, making a huge bet on mobile, trying to beef up the web as an open ecosystem to combat the closed market leaders, and by extension investing tons of time, people and money into Firefox OS without knowing if it can work out, that surely changed a lot of things as well. (From the community POV, it surely can look like we didn’t care about the desktop any more, but I think we are slowly but surely showing that we still do – if I got a wrong impression, please tell me.)

    When it comes to employees who don’t understand the community well because they only started to become a member of it by the way of a Mozilla paycheck, I think it’s our “job” as long-term community members, those on staff as well as volunteers, to bring them into the fold, explain to them how things work in this environment – but also give them time to grow into this. We have the great chance to show good people how working in the open frees up your perspectives and can nurture something much bigger than a product inside corporate walls, and we have a great chance to bring really intelligent people into our community as integral members. Let’s use that chance and make the community better through it.

    I believe we need to get back to valuing the module ownership structure over job manager structures in many areas, we need to open up more things that historically or recently have been closed, and we need to more heavily encourage people doing unforeseen things with our technology and data as that’s where innovation and knowledge-generation happens.

    As a high-ranking Mozilla employee once said: “We’re different. We’re Mozilla. We’re open until it hurts, and then we’re even more open.”

    This openness does for sure mean including volunteers into happenings and work as much as possible. We are doing a lot of that, but during our employee expansion and the huge and risky bet on breaking the mobile silos, we acquired a lot of influences that are or have not been playing well with those principles. All sides of the community need to work together to improve that situation.

    If you are a volunteer and see areas where we need to improve, please let us know, be constructive and help us find a solution. The worst thing that could happen is to stop the conversations, to give up or to even be destructive. We are what we are because we all value the Mozilla mission and Manifesto and we want to make the Internet, the web, a better, more open and innovative place of opportunities for everyone. Let’s make sure our large community reflects exactly that spirit. Thanks for taking part in the conversation.

    (From what I hear, a lot of those topics will be present on the Summit, and we really should care that it’s a community event, where the distinctions between staff and volunteers are as small as possible, and to discuss how we can make that be the case in general in our project. And if you’re not there, let’s keep the conversation alive and keep taking part in it – we know that 2000 people are by far not our whole community!)

  9. 23 Andrew (feer56) August 29, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I’m not putting l10n in the spotlight. I work on support on sumo and that’s my area and that’s the issue I am identifying in my area. There may be other issues in other areas of Mozilla but the only way to fix them is when contributors come out of their comfort zone and speak out about it. It is great to hear that we will have a discussion about this at the summit – I hope there won’t be any arguments though. I am going to Toronto for the summit. When a contributor sees improvement in one area, then they propose it but when other contributors jump and agree and disagree a final decision can’t be made and that thread is left to disappear over time.

  10. 24 David Boswell August 29, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Tobbi and Ricardo, thanks for starting this discussion.

    I feel very strongly about making sure Mozilla is a place where anyone who cares about the web can get involved and make a difference and I’m happy to help resolve the concerns you’ve raised.

    From my point of view, Mozilla has gotten so large that it has become much harder to learn from other members of the community and to easily distribute best practices.

    I think there are many places in the project where a new volunteer can show up and make a difference right away. There’s a great experience I had earlier this year helping a new contributor who wanted to generate metrics that would let us thank new contributors to Firefox at the time of each release. It only took him a couple weeks from idea to launch and he was supported by several employees. More about that is at


    One of the things I’m working on is taking examples like this and packaging them up in a way that is easy to share with other teams so they can learn more about being effective in an open culture. There are some workshops we’re working on and you’re certainly welcome to help us make these more useful.


    The audience for these workshops is mainly for employees without prior Mozilla experience, but I think it could also be useful to have more training opportunities for volunteers that can help people be more effective. There is a training opportunity going on right now that is open to both employees and volunteers called TRIBE and you can learn more about that at


    I don’t think training alone will be the whole solution, but it could be part of one. Making sure that the goals that are being set inside of Mozilla also strike the right balance between supporting products and supporting communities also seems very important here.

    Happy to talk about this more.


  11. 25 ideato September 1, 2013 at 10:45 am


    definitely, as Ricardo said,…. support has always been the bridge between the end user and the developer

    if the bridge cut off, then maybe takes a lot time to rebuild it again

    Tobbi said : …..The corporation has goals, yes, but the corporation is also under a lot of pressure to maintain its position in the market. Communities can help. However I don’t feel that it is acceptable to encourage communities and their members to do something they don’t completely see eye to eye with.

    sumo is basically volunteers, to volunteer means love and passion from what you do, without to expect monetary or other rewards, and i think YES, give community members an ear for concern.

    for me (only helps in AAQ forum and translate/update articles for about 2 – 3 years), helps the open web to move forward is the correct option, web nowadays seems more and more controlled, and will be more as time goes on, let everyone do the best we can.

    also i can’t understand the ….the role of “product” in being a Mozillian

    people are not products in no way, but the most devastating is a person to changed after years in what the others believed that they are.

    thank you

  12. 26 Mitchell Baker September 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    At this point I’m pretty sure I agree with some of what Tobbi and Ricardo say, and also probably disagree in some ways.

    Where I think we have agreement: I too think that the heart of Mozilla is a global community with a common cause — promoting the traits of openness, interoperability, user control, distributed decision-making that make the Open Internet and the Open Web great. We build products to do this, we build communities, and we encourage people to act. In the era of trying to get FFOS to market the focus tilted very strongly to product, and i know some feel it tilted to a “product-only” focus. So at a core level, I agree that a healthy community (including volunteers, employees and supporters) is key to Mozilla.

    To me the Mozilla “community” is made up of layers. One is the set of people who work together to create products and initiatives with global impact. Firefox, FFOS, web maker, hopefully other initiatives. A second layer is people who do new things to expand the reach of our global products and impact. This is how QA developed, how SUMO developed, how localizations develoed, how some of our marketing develops, how our events and outreach happen. Another layer is the set of people who share the common cause but aren’t involved in our big projects aimed at global impact. I think Tobbi identifies with this third group. I would include a bunch of other people who share our mission and are doing something different with it — maybe the open government folks, for example.

    Where I think I disagree with Tobbi and Ricardo: I want Mozilla to have impact. Global impact, and impact with people who don’t (yet) know of our mission, or our common cause. People whose online life will be different, more open, more opportunities, more ability to get involved in building online life *because* they are touched by a Mozilla initiatives. Right now our products are a huge piece of that impact. We use our products to keep the web as an open platform for all. It’s build by products that instantiate these values. That impact is build by the communities of people who build are initiatives, evangelize them, improve them and get them into peoples’ hands.

    So to me the first layer of mozilla community is the one where the most focus, resources and intentionality goes. We should build as many ways for people to participate and expand participation as possible.

    I agree people in the third layer I agree are Mozillians. I think I disagree pretty strongly that we should focus on helping the people in this group do whatever the want to do. I believe we should focus on where we can have the greatest impact for our mission. Today that’s where community and product unite, where we use the same values to build both, building products makes our communities stronger and more capable, and building communities makes our products better and more successful.

  13. 27 wduyck September 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    In response to this post I’ve written my own, however to avoid fragmenting the discussion I’ve turned my comments off… so respond to this for that… if that makes sense.

    Link: http://blog.wduyck.com/2013/09/response-to-new-community-or-mozilla-community-2-0/

      • 29 gervmarkham September 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

        Andrew: you object to me using the term “non-employees” in my response. Why is that? I don’t want to use the term “contributors” or “community” because everyone should be a contributor and part of the community. It’s wrong to use those terms to refer only to non-employees.

        “Non-employees” is not a value judgement; it’s merely a statement of fact. If it’s particularly the “non” you object to – being defined by what you are not – then I’m open to other suggestions but I don’t want to use a word like “contributor” because _everyone_ is a contributor.

        I hope you will approach the Summit without having come to a pre-judgement that whatever people say won’t have any effect. I think that recent management changes at Mozilla are a good opportunity for us to step back and rethink how we organise ourselves, and the Summit is a great time to do that.

  14. 30 Mitchell Baker September 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    I use the term “volunteers” rather than “non-employees” Or in longer form, volunteer community members.

    It will help us a lot to agree on identifiers and what they mean. that’s one of the sessions i have proposed for the summit.

    • 31 gervmarkham September 12, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Using ‘volunteers’ as a synonym for ‘non-(Mozilla)-employees’ would mean we would end up referring to people paid by other companies (e.g. Telefonica) to work on Mozilla into the category of ‘volunteers’. I guess that’s not an enormous semantic stretch. But it’s worth noting that we’re doing it.

  15. 32 Andrew (feer56) September 12, 2013 at 4:30 am

    Gerv: I will always keep an open mind on everything and especially at the summit 🙂 We can always start fresh to make sure everything is right on track and A-OK. Maybe it could be possible that because we come from different backgrounds that we think of things differently and use different words to associate with what we are trying to say – maybe I just had a misunderstanding.

  1. 1 Identifying The Problem | Hacking for Christ Trackback on September 4, 2013 at 9:16 am
  2. 2 Response to: “New Community” or “Mozilla Community 2.0″? | William Duyck Trackback on September 5, 2013 at 8:14 pm

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