Thanks again to Matt and FredB for the translation !
When I told you June was active in terms of events in the new Mozilla office in Paris, I was not joking… With the opening week hardly over, a new event was taking place: the Pre Summit.
Next October, Mozilla is holding a « Summit »: a gathering of Mozillians from all over the world. The previous Summit took place in Canada in 2010. Since then there have been no Summits, but instead « Mozcamps » on separate continents. The reason for this is simple: the exponential growth of the Community has continued non-stop in recent years.
But Mozilla really wants an opportunity for its contributors and employees to meet, with all the continents intermingled. Thus the organization of a new Summit! Except, since the Community has become too large for the places that might accommodate it, the October 2013 Summit will be distributed over three cities: Brussels, Toronto, and San Francisco. A lottery allows contributors to choose locations that are not necessarily the closest to where they live.
This is why Mozilla organized a « Pre Summit » on 15 and 16 of June, in Mozilla Office in Paris. I was glad to be invited, with David Scravaglieri (Firefox OS manager for Europe) and Laurent Jouanneau (long-time contributor and founder of Xul.fr) to represent France. Alongside contributors from all over the world, and many employees. We were a total of about a hundred people.
This weekend was englightening and rewarding!
Themes had to be defined, what would be the orientation of this future Summit. What would it be useful for. It has to be more than a mere gathering of Mozillians: Mozilla is an association, and cannot afford to spend money mindlessly. It also has to make sure that the event will be rewarding for every attendee.
We were all there, happy to meet again or for the first time. Glad to see that Mitchell and Debbie Cohen, among many others, were present. And soon enough we understood that this weekend was the one Mozilla wanted to hear us, and I would say, to listen and understand us.
So here are in a few points without a specific order, what are my take-aways from this weekend, that will remain very important for my future engagement in the community:
- Melek, Gloria (from Columbia), Arturo (from Venezuela) and I used this weekend as an opportunity to report our dismay about the fact that Webmaker cannot be localized. I don’t hide the fact that several people were surprised about this fact. Which is an obvious fact about Mozilla’s quick growth: it’s impossible to know everything about it. And we were right in our roles as Reps by mentioning this issue. And the expectations about Webmaker are high for good reasons! This project is so thrilling! But how can you efficiently teach what is the Internet to children who do not know a word in English, while the tools we offer are in English?
In France, the Ministère de la Culture is interested in a kind of partnership around Webmaker. But we can only tell them no as of now: young French children under ten (and of more than ten too) would not be able to use it.
The language barrier is a reality for many of us.
- This is also an issue we raised: as Reps, we are listening to our communities, and mentioned that Mozilla is too much « North-America-centered », and that different cultures have difficulties finding their place.
All the Reps were complaining. And in the coming days and months, we will be there to make sure our cultures are taken into account. BUT there is that one thing that was important to me: the fact that we could have talked. And that we felt listened-to.
Who other than Mozilla would be able to gather employees including executives and volunteers in the same room? We were able to exchange with all the attending directors: Debbie Cohen, Mitchel Baker and many others. We were able to explain our griefs. I found that is fantastic!
Mozilla has about 800 employees and thousands of contributors. It offers tools used by millions of people, and still cares enough to listen and creates moments when we can say it all. It is unique and deeply moving!
There were strong moments, English-speakers showing how much they were able to make efforts: each time they spoke too fast, non-native speakers only had to raise a hand for the flow to slow down. And it worked! It was a simple and efficient way to raise awareness.
- More generally-speaking, a major topic quickly covered by contributors (which group I belong to) was our feeling of being abandoned by employees becoming stronger and stronger. The impression that our work did not get attention nor recognition and to lack help. These few months, as Reps we heard so many complaints coming from contributors, so many of them mentioning the possibility of leaving… That is why this weekend was much needed. On my side, it boosted my motivation, reminded me why I contribute to the Mozilla project, and why we can be proud of being part of the Mozilla community.
Even though several people tried to calm the tensions down around the employee/contributor divide that we, as Reps, mentioned, by reminding us we are all « Mozillians ».
It’s true! We are all Mozillians. But it’s impossible not to distinguish between employees and volunteers. As volunteers, we give our time OUTSIDE of our work. For that reason I really think that volunteer contributions should be honored more. And it’s true that we need recognition and help from the employees. Because for all of us, they are our point of entry, the ones who know the nitty-gritty and can guide us through it.
I also listened to what the employees had to say. They were affected and distressed by what we had said, since they felt they were doing their best and making all the resources they could available to us — and they are not wrong, in my opinion!
So yes, as contributors, we are not there to let our behavior be dictated to us, we are not just a « workforce » available to do whatever the employees don’t have time for.
And yes, we are all concious of the differences between employes and volunteers. But we have employees who are dedicated, and by organizing the Summit, Mozilla shows that it wants its employees to meet us and learn from us.
And that is extraordinary!
As to the fact that we sometimes feel neglected by the employees:
Firstly, do not generalize! Don’t forget all the employees who engage with us, all those who constantly answer our questions on IRC, email, etc. There are many of them.
A new system has been created, the Mozilla Reps system. And I never stop marvelling at the availability of William, Pierros, Konstantina, and Brian. They understand the Community, and they are wonderful connectors. This Reps system also proves the importance Mozilla places in its Community: a worldwide system, tuned to our needs, that puts so many resources at our disposal!
Finally, let’s ask ourselves: what is more important? That employees come to our events, or that they produce the best possible tools that benefit all of us? In the case of Firefox OS, Vivien (Tech Lead for Gaia) always tells me, and I think he is right, that what he’s working on is the biggest contribution he will ever make, his greatest gift to the community. And I agree with him!
We must accept that the employees can’t be at our disposal all the time. They are not in our service; well, a few are but not all. As employees they work under constraints that are different from those of volunteer contributors (in terms of efficiency, productivity, etc.). So naturally they don’t always respond instantly. It’s our role to be patient, and to nag them. :) And don’t forget that the Reps are also there to help you, and to act as an interface.
After all, we all agree that it can be difficult to know whom to contact, where to get information, etc. Mozilla has become so huge! And this is just the beginning!
That’s why we spent time this weekend thinking about the best tools to let all of us interact better, and know each other better. Better tools, and fewer. Because it’s becoming really difficult to follow everything Mozilla offers! (Of course I gave my usual rant against Bugzilla, the arch-nemesis of Joe and Jane User.)
I’d really like to thank all the employees for their patience. I know that this weekend, especially Saturday, spent listening to our complaints must have been painful at times. But that did not last!
- Because this is the magic of Mozilla! On Sunday, when the time had come to propose constructive solutions for working together productively, everyone worked hand-in-hand. Forgotten were the tensions of the previous day! We were united by a common goal: making the Summit a success, a time of joy for all the attendees, and the starting point for a new era.
Together we proposed themes and workshops. In particular regarding ways to welcome new contributors, to help them feel comfortable, and also to keep the existing community member engaged. We all worked in the same direction, around an oh-so-important theme: the future of Mozilla. We all started debating it, and then building it. And we will continue during the Summit itself. A Summit that will probably be very different than we’ve seen in the past: fewer lectures, and more interactions and interest groups.
Anyway, that’s what we began over the course of the weekend: we racked our brains and exchanged ideas. And we saw just how incredibly productive this mix of experiences and cultures could be. We all left with smiling faces, and a feeling of accomplishment.
Which was a beautiful thing on Sunday! And it will be beautiful at the Summit!
P.S. Big thanks to Kate, Mardi, and Luciana for their organization. Perfect! We are truly lucky to have them.
And thank you to Dino for his infectious energy!