Tag Archives: future

My vision of the future of Mozilla local communities (part 2)

In my previous blog post, I summarized the transition through which Mozilla project went and how it applies on how local Mozilla communities. I explicitly mentioned enormous growth of Mozilla ecosystem, diversification of products & projects, and differentiation of project development patterns which results in different requirements for marketing, QA, support, localization etc.

Now, I’d like to expand on how I believe our local communities now operate.

On Local Community Workload

from: http://www.edc.ncl.ac.uk/highlight/rhnovember2006g01.php/

The result of this growth of Mozilla ecosystem is a rise in a workload that our local communities experience.  With this work comes the challenge to communicate to locales the richness of Mozilla on a local ground.  It seems that localizer workload is mounting high and local communities are trying to find ways to adapt, because:

First, it is not scalable to manage all Mozilla localizations by the team of a size that fit the needs 5 years ago.

Second, localizers are not the only type of people that exist in a local community. There are various tasks which require different skills and different people may find different sorts of motivation to work on different aspects of Mozilla.

It’s pretty easy to get out of balance and try to take more than you can handle when there’s so much going on and you feel in charge of your locale. Some communities are more successful finding their way, some are struggling.

I believe we have to adjust our approach to this new reality.

My opinion on the role of l10n-drivers

Traditionally, a lot of the local engagement work has fallen on the plate of localizers.  The L10n-drivers team then becomes very important in helping local communities manage their workload.  Having participated as an l10n-driver for over one year now, I see how the team became crucial in supporting communities in several ways. It:

  • It makes sure that when we call out for localizations, what you localize will be used for a long time to improve maximum work/value balance.
  • Builds tools that reduce the entry barrier and time spent by localizers on localization and local management tasks around
  • Provides information on projects, their roadmaps, goals and results (metrics) to help localizers make informative decisions on what to localize and when.
  • Supports localizers in solving localization blockers like hardcoded strings, or untranslatable strings to make the results of their work worth the time their spent and that if they want, they can fully localize the product and make it look awesome and natural in their language. (read: one untranslatable string ruins hard work and is a great way to demotivate anyone)
  • Helps adjust roadmaps of projects to minimize the overlap between relases to spread the workload in time.

But, the role of local communities has expanded far beyond just localization.  Our team’s work will not be enough and I think that we have to revise assumptions we all make about what is localization process, and what are our goals.

My opinion of the changing role of Localizers

Localization of Mozilla today is not a single, homogeneous task like it used to be. There are different tasks to take and different people who want to contribute. Some tasks require short spikes of attention once per year (around release), other require bi-weekly contribution, other have no release schedules and just take any contribution. It all requires different amount of energy, focus, attention and time.

And the core goal of localization – to bring the product closer to your local ground – is suddenly becoming a complex toolset. With so many projects to choose from, local communities should stop thinking about them as a single bundle. Instead we should all start recognizing that this diversification allows us to pick what we need.
You, local community members, are the best positioned to make the right decision on which projects are needed in your region. We cannot assume that each region needs the same amount of Mozilla ingredients.

By that I mean not only ability to pick up projects to localize for your region, but also deciding, together with the project leaders, how much of the project should be translated, and what kind of adjustments are required for your culture. It’s extremely important to understand, that sometimes you cannot localize everything, although we all know how much satisfaction we have from “collecting it all“. Sometimes “top10” articles gives better result than “try to figure out how to translate it all“. And sometimes you need to go beyond translation. The “top10” SUMO articles in English may be different than “top10” in your locale, and maybe some aspects of marketing campaign could resonate better in your country if you adjust it to your culture and reality.

Armed with this power, local communities can pick the projects that best resonate with what is needed to promote Mozilla vision in their region and put more effort in those. It’s a great power, and a great responsibility, and we have to trust local communities that they know better than any centralized decision making system can ever know, what is important. And we, owners and peers of the projects have to help local communities make the right choices, and fine tune the ingredients they picked. You, local communities, are in charge here.

Local community

With so many tasks, evangelism, marketing, PR, QA, development, support, localization, that are represented in Mozilla, it may be very challenging to fulfill them all by localization team. Many local communities are working on various aspects of Mozilla project, and what’s common to them, is their regional identity and proximity which allows them to support one another, share resources and find new contributors. I believe it’s crucial to preserve the local identity and that there is a great value for each contributor from around the world to peer with other contributors working on other aspects of Mozilla in their region, but localization is not the only task out there.

And more than ever, we need local communities to cooperate with Mozilla project leaders to find new contributors and grow the communities. Generating new project that attract new contributors is one of the key aspects of a healthy, sustainable ecosystem and it’s true for both, Mozilla project as a whole, and for Mozilla local communities.

In the last part, I’ll try to summarize the state change and give you some ideas to consider.

My vision of the future of Mozilla local communities (part 1)

I know, bold title.

Since I decided to start a blogging week, I see no reason not to start with a major topic I have been working on for a few months now.
  The future of local communities in Mozilla is made of two parts – Social and Technical.

I’ll start with the former, and it’s going to be a long one – you know me.

Notice: This is the way *I* see things.  It is not representative of the l10n-drivers, the SUMO team, the QA team, or the marketing team.

But, it represents the progress of thinking about local communities we’re making right now. It is different from what you saw some time ago, and it may change in the future, it does not represent any kind of consensus, and my peers may disagree with me on some of my points.

A little bit of history

Historically, and by that I mean years 2000-2004, when first strong local communities were constituted, it was centered all around localization.  The localization ecosystem had several characteristics.

  • finite number of projects
  • core of any local community were localizers
  • each product had limited number of strings
  • each product had a release cycle not shorter than 1 year
  • we had limited awareness of localization importance among Mozillaians

Another specific thing about that time was that Mozilla as a community/project started growing faster than Mozilla as an organization.  By this, I mean that people started participating in Mozilla all over the world, sometimes faster than the organization could predict, know about, understand and harness.  It was very independent.  What happened in Poland, was very different from what happened in Italy or U.S. or wherever.  At the days when Mozilla was formally organizing, few people at the “central project” could predict what was happening across the world.  At times, it was very frustrating to them…things were happening so fast, beyond the organization’s control.

As a motivated community, the Internet allowed us all to download the early Mozilla products, and gave us something to gather around.  We did and it was amazing.  People started fan sites, discussion forums, and “news-zines”,  The most determined ones started seeking ways to bring Mozilla to their country.  The most natural way to participate was to localize the product, and by localize I mean various actions that make the product more suited for the local market – translating, changing defaults and adding new features or modifying existing ones.

All this work was usually targeted in two directions – toward local markets, where those early community leaders were building local branches of Mozilla, and toward the Mozilla project to fit the concept of local communities, and the fundamental goal of internationalization of a project into the core of our project culture.

Thanks to that work in those days, today we can say that Mozilla is a global project and we recognize localizability as one of the aspects of Mozilla approach to projects.

But since those days, many things has changed. What was good by that time, may not be enough today.

Growth and Variety

Fast-forward to today:  Mozilla today as a meta-project is producing much richer set of projects/products/technologies than we ever did.

We create many websites of various sizes.  We have blends of websites and extensions (like TestPilot).  We have webtools like Bugzilla, addons.mozilla.org.  We have products likeFirefox, Thunderbird, and Seamonkey. We have a mobile product with higher screen space limits.  We have experiments that are introducing new level of complexity for localization like Ubiquity or Raindrop.  We have more content than ever.

The point is this: local communities represent Mozilla through a diverse set of mature products, early prototypes, innovative experiements, one-time marketing initiatives, and documents like our Manifesto that will live forever.  This means that the work flow has changed dramatically since the early days.  Different projects with different or changing frequencis are becoming the standard for communities to absorb in a new differentiated and highly competitive marketplace.  And, our communities need to evolve to respond to this.

Each product has different characteristics and the local delivery through l10n and marketing means a very different type of commitment.  It now requires different amounts of time and energy, different types of motivation, and different resources.

Additionally, we’re also more diversified in the quest to fulfill our mission. We have regions where modern web browsers constitute vast majority of the market share, where governments, users and media understand the importance of browser choice or privacy and Internet is a place where innovation happens. But, we also have places where it is not the case. Where incumbent browsers are still the majority, where the web will not move forward in the same way it did in the past, where the latest technologies cannot be used, where privacy, and openness sounds artificial.

Recognizing this shift is important factor to allow us to adjust to the new reality where local communities have to expand beyond just localization.  They must become local Mozilla representatives who are experienced in evangelism, marketing, localization, software development, and all other aspects of Mozilla.  We need to get more local and grow beyond the responsibilities of our local communities in the past.

In the next part, I’ll cover some ideas for the future…

We have an important story to tell!

Hey @flod (and Giacomo!)! You touched interesting topics in your latest post, and when I started crafting my comment it got so lengthy, I decided to use my platform to deliver it. Blog-to-blog discussion style! :)

I’ll try to respond, but please, bare in mind, that that’s my personal opinion, nothing official.

You started by pointing out a set of efforts that you either find of questionable value or not “leader” style. Things like Fx UI direction, multiprocessing, Jetpack or Personas.

In particular, you focused on two dimensions:

  1. Are those efforts unique? Innovative? Or do we chase others?
  2. Are those efforts valuable elements that fit into Mozilla Manifesto vision

You question both, and I believe you have all the rights on Earth to do so. We may disagree, but we should talk about this, and I find the fact that you express your concerns in public a good sign of the health of our ecosystem.

So, down to some points you raised. I humbly disagree with your notion of “cloning Chrome”. I believe it is a cognitive impairment that we so easily (we – I mean, most Mozillians I know) buy – this concept of “fresh Chrome”. Chrome is great! But it is not “innovative” in a sense many people talk about it. We just so easily take for granted a lot of inventions we brought to the world, and Chrome, yes, they just looked at Firefox and learned from us. That is just awesome, but that’s what they did!

Once again, Google is looking at an open source project and learns from them how to build a web browser. No, wait! Google, Microsoft and Apple are doing it. Now, how awesome it is? Think of all those things that Firefox brought to the browser landscape since its 1.0 version and notice how many of those innovations are now in IE8, Safari and Chrome.

They also have brilliant developers and *just* bringing all the values of Firefox would be a waste of time, so they, among other things, got a free ride of fixing things we struggled with. And now it is our time to fix those, and there’s nothing unhealthy in this. What would be, in my opinion, unhealthy, is to pretend we don’t see them, and defending our approach as “the right one” (remember Bill Gates first comments on Firefox 1.0?).

Ability to go multi-process is important. Majority of perceived performance improvements that Chrome has (and Fx 3.5/3.6 brought) come from two things: tricking user’s eyes – show him UI 200 ms before its usable – and putting expensive elements off the main thread. (I’m sure that performance team will be able to explain that better). The fact that you have to restart your browser when you install extension is a UX bug. No user expects it or wants it. It does not bring any value and the only reason we have it is a technical limitation.

For years we raised the bar of how the web browser should work. We set the standards in many areas. Opera set some, Safari set some, IE set some as well. Now Chrome set some standards and we just have to match them, possibly using extelligence of our brilliant dev team to push it further and innovate (Jetpack team is far from just fixing issues, they aim for bringing extensions to a new level, and they should be aiming for nothing less than that!). No reason to be worried, we make a great web browser better and it would be unwise to ask our users to trade those nice features for ability to use browser with Mozilla values. Why not give them the best of both?

Personas is an interesting project. I remember my initial feelings when I encountered Personas were much of “eee, nothing interesting”. I considered it to be a minor feature. I recognized that I’m not a target audience (neither you are, I think). But on the day of Fx 3.6 launch I got my lesson when I received amazing amount of feedback from my non-geek friends precisely about Personas and how this project resonated with them. It was amazing for me how emotional people got about “missing Real Madrid Persona, but you have Barcelona one!” or “the pink one is soooo cute” or “my browser is so much more personal now, when my you-name-it favorite actor/actress or symbol of my subculture is here”. Look at the amount of Personas created by people in such a short time! It is an amazing project and only now I see how it fits into Mozilla mission and vibe.

UI on the other hand is a much more complex thing, cause it is related to personal taste and fashion (and fashion itself is, from sociologist point of view a bizarre phenomena of human culture). But imo it all boils down to a simple aspect of cyclical changes. Windows 7 brought new UI, IE8 followed. Chrome followed IE8, Opera followed IE8 or Chrome or both, we’re following W7 or IE8 or Chrome or Opera – you call it. People expect browser to match the visual style of their operating system and Windows 7 is going to be the OS of choice for the vast majority of the world which, in result, will set the UI standard for the OS and apps for quite a some time. We can like it or hate it, but that’s going to happen, and Firefox on Windows should imo fit the OS style. What we will do beyond that is the major issue, and I believe our UI team is trying to come out with the value on top of that. Basing on past experience, I’m sure they’ll do a great job and we’ll see others learning from us. That’s how it works here. Would you prefer vendors to ignore each others accomplishments or deny them?

I disagree with you on your perspective of mobile world. I, for one, wait for Fennec on Android and I know a lot of people who do. I’m excited to think of how we can fit Firefox experience into Windows Mobile 7 and I’m sure it’ll be an exciting journey. Mozilla Messaging is going to generate projects related to forms of communication and I find this topic to be extremely important, so I have no worry about sustainability of it. Our embedding story is nothing to be proud of, but maybe it was a trade-off we had to do in order to achieve what we aimed for. I share your concerns here, and I see many of the platform team people discuss what we can do in order to make it better.

I see Mozilla pretty much self-aware of many of the issues you raised and diversified internally enough to have people raising concerns internally and open enough to have a ground to talk about them – your post is a part of it.

Bottom line

But ultimately I believe your concerns would be all valid if that would be all that is happening in the Mozilla project. If the whole community would work on either Personas, or marketing or UI. But is it? Do you really feel that those elements you describe represent, as you wrote “Mozilla project as a whole“?

I see Mozilla as a meta-project that’s involved in a huge number of projects that touch amazing variety of issues, and it is very hard to nail it down to one or two and call that “representative” for the community.

No matter what you think of Personas, I don’t think you can say that this effort matches what Mozilla is doing with Drumbeat, Bespin, Raindrop or Weave. No matter if you find Jetpack valuable, I hope you did not get lured by press foretelling the end of extensions as we know them. Can you name an example of a project that generated tons of thousands of dependencies and was irresponsibly killed by Mozilla? Have we ever done something like that? Then, do you really think we will do this?

We generate amazing amount of projects of very different kinds. Globally, our community is very diversified and in different points of their journey. Some communities need more marketing, UK, Korea, Sweden? Some, like Italy, Poland, Germany, may have enough internal marketing to consider Mozilla global marketing effort focused on promoting Firefox useless for them or even “too much”. We, Mozillians who live in those countries should act as a membrane which adjusts the signal, and gives feedback to our fellow Mozillians worldwide about what we need, and what we don’t. Poland has 52% of market share, and we need things like developers community or foundation-like efforts to use the potential are trust we generated over years as a platform to bring Mozilla values further, so we work with Mitchell, Mozilla Foundation and from time to time I try to get Paul Rouget’s attention ;) At the same time, PR and marketing wise, we work with Polish PR agency, Barbara and others to balance the amount of press we generate to avoid wasting time to convince the convinced ones. That’s just adjusting. I believe that we should do that much more often in many countries which just are ready for different aspects of Mozilla project to stimulate and energize Mozillians.

Example? Here you are. You think we focus too much on marketing sites? Well, then you focus on other aspects! I believe that the concept of “we have to localize all websites to all languages” is not sustainable anymore. We will generate more websites/webapps, and our local communities will decide which ones to promote locally. We don’t have to have everything localize everywhere and that’s a great power you have to adjust the signal to your locale. Mozilla should make sure all websites/webapps/apps are localizable and let community decide which ones to localize. Focus on the ones that are most important for you!

We have so many projects to pick from! Of different kinds, using different techniques to address different aspects of the common value set expressed in Mozilla Manifesto. They’re also diverse in a way you think about them.

Some of them are truly unique and experimental, and massive – think of our JIT approach (it took a ride from MtV to SF airport for Taras to explain to my what is so different in our JIT approach but now I’m proud of what we’re aiming for), think of L20n, think of Ubiquity,  Bespin, Raindrop or Drumbeat.

Some of them, are application of Mozilla-way onto existing concepts. Weave is not innovative because it allows sharing data. But it brought privacy to the picture. SUMO is not the very first support platform ever, but the way we approach the concept of support is innovative and “Mozillian”. Our Metrics team is not the only metrics team in the world, but they do hell a lot of innovation on making their work public and open to contribution which is pretty unique. We may not be the first project ever to have marketing team, but we approach marketing and PR in a unique and innovative way.

Some of them are just a catch-up game and that’s also not bad. We have 350 million users, if someone brought a good idea to the world of web browsers and we can just make sure that 350 million Internet users may use Internet safer, easier and better then I find it pretty important thing to do and I definitely expect such actions from other vendors. (think: partial upgrades)

Ultimately, many of them are a mix of the ones above and as long as we are able to generate new projects that resonate with what people find important on the Internet, I think Mozilla makes an impact and has a bright future that we, including you and me, have to shape.