This discussion that I started few days ago About gratification for volunteers in Mozilla opened a lot of interesting points but also other discussions privately in the last days.
The first learning that there are volunteers that doesn’t want to join this discussion publicly to avoid any issue in their volunteer life and future in Mozilla. And I will not disclose them of course, the other point is that over 700 people read that so seems a hot topic but is difficult to get engagement, but I cannot investigate further on that because I have another topic to discuss.
I am not worried of myself in Mozilla as volunteer because I am trying to be honest (with these threads, because this is only the second one) and explain the problems to have a discussion that is public and not forgotten after a meeting (also because of my background as mozillian).
A discussion and not a document on Google Drive that will be lost in the various folders but in a public forum, where also people can agree or disagree, but there will be more inclusivity.
What is the meaning of the Volunteer role?
At the time of Firefox OS contribute to Mozilla was amazing.
You got everything you need, phones (also few days before the dead), swag, resources (also books).
Mozilla had a common project to move on, not like now that every team is working on their OKR without any interaction or organization across them. There are teams that are working together of course, but they are like a star in a clean sky. Or a strange universe.
Talking with a lot of volunteers as Reps Council member, a long time Contributor (with a lot of hours spent every week in the past) and someone that you can reach at local events I discovered a lot of different experiences.
The common point is what a volunteer is allowed to do?
My main experience is about contributing with coding and on participation/community management side so for other kind of experiences I leave the thread to you to avoid any misconceptions and confusion.
Mozilla can do all the pages/website about contributing with code and to other area and easily forget after a year (links that are part of my bookmark collection). Without check what people ask on internet (picked few links).
Now to be a volunteer, that is an active contributor, (I don’t want to open a discussion about the meaning of active/inactive, because I hope that Mission Driven Mozillian finally will explain it), you need a huge list of bookmarks.
This kind of one of my tasks in my community, when someone has questions I check if I have a link that help him because it is very difficult to understand the structure, the various teams and how works.
Often new volunteers doesn’t thrust me about the fact that is very complicated and is more than a corporation than a foundation as acting on project management for an open source project(s).
I remember a question in live this year at Fosdem (the biggest European conference about open source) where people asked me how to contribute to Mozilla. Now I have enough experience to say that in this kind of event the people is already skilled to search on internet but looking with their eyes, this is not easy at all.
Also at Fosdem there was a talk about it of 30 minutes, so it isn’t a little topic.
Usually in Mozilla (after Firefox OS) there is no so much time for employees to follow volunteers or contribution. If a volunteer pick a task that is ranked as priority 4, this probably will never be reviewed until is priority 1, if evolve to priority 1 and is not closed in the meantime because there is no interest anymore. At the same time priority 1 are usually taken by employees because there are a lot of stuff to do and in time, so they cannot give the accountability to a volunteer.
So why someone should give hours to work on a ticket/bug/patch/task (or voice to move on the discussion in a big view) if maybe will be reviewed after a year only to discover that to get a review need to be updated, because the code is not aligned with the latest release? And maybe this will be reviewed after many other months when there will be time.
Or in case you know personally one of the employee to ask for a check when they have time. Something that is not scalable, that doesn’t always work and is not so good for inclusivity to new people.
Of course there are tasks perfect for new contributors or for volunteers considered easy or with a mentor that can help but not every team/project works in that way.
This behavior shows that the interest of a volunteer(s) have no meaning for the project, and this happens also on leading new technologies or proposing features/api and so on.
Similar to the Mozilla competitors, so the value that volunteers can bring is ignored but Mozilla is promoted as open source in all of their projects.
That is different to say “we release our project as open source, that follows all the rules (https://opensource.org/osd-annotated) but is not opened easily to open source contributions” like business companies in IT world that do the same.
Again of course this doesn’t happen with all the projects in Mozilla but is a common behavior/management.
So what means for Mozilla be a volunteer? Someone that works with the people in lives (like a rockstar), promoting, localizing, write documentation, supporting and organize events.
But this is only a part, contributors in Open Source projects and Foundations are part of the decisions not only the last step: promoting and talk with the public/users.
Take Firefox OS: organize events, promote it, mentor people because it is something not easy for Mozilla to scale globally (because after all the human part is not so huge like the other competitors).
Take again the various campaigns by Open Innovation team, take the old campaigns (that I remember all of them also if their website doesn’t exist anymore but volunteers keep doing lists).
The feeling is that Mozilla remembers of their volunteers only when they need us for their decisions as priority every year (there are exceptions, take this discussion as my overall experience in the last 6 years).
Can be VR, IoT (with the previous version like Common Devices), Rust, A-Frame, Android, WebMaker, Program closed after 1 year or 2 etc (is a long list) and other abandoned where is not clear to public what is the relationship (Thunderbird).
And the volunteers are the people in the battlefield that are not part of the important things like decide the direction.
Personally I preferred when the Open Innovation team was called Participation (for me this is still the real name) because it was clear what is doing. Work with volunteers to move on things instead be in the middle between Mozilla and volunteers.
Mission Driven Mozillian started with the point that a lot of teams have a Community Manager (or more) that often are not collaborating with other teams members and is a no-sense.
Of course again this doesn’t always happen and every time, this is a long time experience in different years.
Basically for veteran volunteers is easy, they know people to ask things but for new is very difficult. Think this in a region/local/country without a community how much can be painful start to do stuff.
Isolate is not the best thing in an Open Source project and seems that the only role/person across the various team is the volunteer :-/
What Mozilla can do?
Put the volunteers as part of the discussions, not only at all hands (when it is possible to join meetings for a NDA volunteer) but also on big discussions (not the last part of the process) because Mozilla is losing the trustworthy from the community (look on internet discussions if you cannot go on open source events) and losing the fight against other competitors that do better community involvement (also if the volunteers are not part of the discussion).
In my experience my feeling in meetings was “ok I am listening but after all I will not do anything of what you suggested/discussed/promoted” and these is painful for a long time contributor like me and many others. And also for whom contribute/d in a lot of projects outside Mozilla.
Often I am afraid that I go to events not so much for the event but for the friends that are there, in other words the Mozilla manifesto is not a part anymore.
Just a point this is not an attack to a person or a team but an observation of my experience in over 6 years inside the community.
A lot of things are changed/evolved but is not enough for me (as example) because it is blocking me to do new contributions and enjoying doing them (also to lead by example).
The floor is yours, thanks if you had time to read all this big message (maybe can be classified as rant) but I think that I am not the only thinking this.