With us now reaching the end of 2016, I thought I would jot down some notes about my year as a contributor.
I started the year setting a number of clear targets for myself:
To remain a top 25 contributor to the SUMO Support Forum – Contributing to SUMO is not a “competition”, but I set myself this goal as a way of maintaining contribution. Target met.
To volunteer at MozFest – I am very lucky to live in (relatively) close proximity to where MozFest is held. The weekend was magical, monk filled and educational. Target met.
To learn BMO – I do not claim to be an expert in using BMO (is anyone?!?), but I have successfully been able to use it. Target met.
I also hoped to help build the UK community and to support a new contributor. Difficult to gauge success with these, but I have made efforts in both that I am happy with.
But before I could really get to work on these goals, a big change occurred in my use of IT. I needed a new laptop and used it as an excuse to make a 100% move to GNU/Linux, inspired to do so further to a conversation I had with a fellow volunteer at MozFest 2015. Whilst it did take some research, I am so glad that I made the move. It was not done for ethical or cost reasons, but to try something different and learn something new. I was bored of Windows and needed to broaden my experience and skills. Since moving, I found that I enjoy using my computer more - it just feels nicer and easier to use. I know that some people think that Linux is some kind of “cult”, but having been using it since March, I fully understand why people like it so much.
My experience of being a Mozillian was certainly broadened with my invite to attend the London All Hands. New laptop in hand and incensed by an article that suggest that some contributors view such opportunities as holidays, I was determined to work very hard. It was a very busy week, and I really pushed myself to build the connections I could take away with me and work with on various projects. It was also fun showing the visitors to the UK a little of London in the evenings. But that aside, much work was done and I gained a much deeper understand of Mozilla’s aims and goals. A key take away for me was the need for people to use Nightly and I have now moved to both the desktop and mobile versions of this important stage in the release train. It is not as risky as is rumoured and you get to see new features much earlier as we as provide useful telemetry and bug reports.
Coming back home from a week of intense Moz-ness, I had a large number of tasks to get done. Some were quite small, some larger, all were interesting and useful, but trying to do them all alongside contributing to SUMO and trying to help with the vitally important SUMO migration proved to be doing a little too much. I had heard of “burnout” in open source, but had not expected to be burning out myself. With the help of some amazing Mozilla staff and contributors, I have managed to get things under a bit more control.
Whilst it was not a lot of fun, I am almost glad that I went through the experience so that I could better understand it and be better able to support others in the same situation. The key steps I found that helped were:
Tell someone – Admit that you are struggling. Speak to people. They will either help or at least not give you any more and may give you some useful tips.
Write a list – There are many “to do list” type software out there, but we are Mozillians. We will spend more time looking at the options screen than using it, and we will spend ages (quite rightly) trying out several open source versions to make sure we have the right one. Whilst this is perfectly normal behaviour, in a burnout situation this will make things worse. Keep it simple and use a text file. List all projects, emails to send, people to contact in short one comments under “to do”. With that list fixed, as you do each one, move it to a heading entitled “done”. You now know what to do, and will get a sense of achievement from seeing the “done” list fill up.
Take a (partial) break – Even if you do not want to take a full break from everything Mozilla, take some time to slow down a bit and take a little bit of a step back. Perhaps looks at side tasks you have been putting off such as apply a sticker to your laptop, or tidying up your bookmarks. Nobody will mind if you take a little Moz-holiday and chances are you will come back better for it.
Don’t panic – Yes it is a bit scary. You want to contribute, but you suddenly feel like you are trapped in quicksand. You will not be the first or the last, but in a strange way it is good to know you have a problem - first step towards solving it!
Go outside – Some general wellness stuff should also be included on this list. Get away from the screen for a little bit. Get some fresh air, eat some healthy food, read a book etc etc.
When it comes to general “open source” wellness, the best embodiment I can think of is the Mozilla Festival. On paper it does not make sense, but that belies a sense of structure and creativity that is difficult to describe. I was a volunteer so I was busy making sure that participants and space wranglers had a positive experience, but over the course of the weekend I was once again very impressed by the subjects that were being discussed and the projects being worked on. I managed to attend a session about a very clever looking Linux distro community project from Indonesia and left feeling enlightened and impressed.
MozFest is the core of the UK community but is not everything we do. The UK has been identified as a community that will be getting some focus and this is a golden opportunity to establish:
- How many of us are there?
- Who are we?
- What do we do to contribute to Mozilla?
- What do we want from a “UK Community”?
- Are we a group that is more focussed on MoFo or MoCo type activities?
- How can we support both?
- Do we need to focus on growing the community through outreach, or better supporting ourselves an looking for synergies on internal projects?
When the regional coaches plan was put together, the UK was identified as a country that needs rejuvenating and diversification of activity. I do not think that this is wrong, but outside of MozFest, we possibly resemble the classification of a group where “there are no big formal communities and mozillians are working as individuals or city-level groups. The challenge here is to get everyone together”. Perhaps something to discuss in the new year…?
In conclusion, we are Mozillians because we try. We may not always succeed, but we set out with the best of intentions to do our best for a collective cause. Whilst I have yet to finalise my objectives for 2017, I look forwards for the challenges, and success that the next twelve months will bring.