I was conviced by Alex Lakatos to answer to this thread, even if I don’t feel spoken to by these questions (and that is part of the context).
A little bit of context: I’m part of the Rust community team and helped creating Rust Berlin even before Rust 1.0. I was leading the team creating RustFest 2016. Before that, I ran multiple meetups, 4 conferences in the Ruby space (eurucamp) and served as a board member of Ruby Berlin. I love working with a lot of Mozillians and am currently happy in the Tech speakers course. I do hobby community management since 15 years now. Never in that time, though, I have considered myself a Mozillian or want to.
I love working with many Mozillians on a personal basis. With all it’s flaws, I’m amazed of Mozilla Reps effectiveness in regions of the world where other projects can’t even dare to get representation in. Mozilla has goals and values.
But working with Mozilla as an entity is the worst thing that ever happened to me in that time. Worse then any flimsy startup, Oracle and RedHat combined. That has a couple of reasons and some of those express in those questions.
So, let’s start with that: communication with Mozilla always starts with a hefty piece of expectations from Mozilla side that you know about Mozilla and its inner workings. My feelings about the current direction of Mozilla? None, I guess you have your reasons and Mozilla, the software vendor, doesn’t bother me much. I’m grateful for your funding of a project I love and support, but beyond that, I can’t say much. Yes, I loved Firefox OS the concept, but Mozilla Corp be the judge of whether they can make that a viable project. Same with “what can Mozilla do to succeed?”. I’m not into Mozilla enough to give good recommendations there. I don’t know what Mozilla could do.
As someone who doesn’t want to join Mozillas structures in any capacity, this becomes even worse: it’s hard to get in touch. We tried to get Mozilla involved into a large Rust tent (100 peak visitors) on CCCamp 2 years ago. I haven’t found a point of contact. None of the Mozillians I know knew one. Finally, it turned out there was a Mozilla tent there, run by someone else we didn’t get in contact to. At the same time, we stopped collaborating with Mozilla as a host for our Rust meetup, after they turned out to be very unreliable - far less reliable then other free venues in Berlin.
These things continue: we ran RustFest right after ViewSource in Berlin, and - we didn’t know - on the weekend of the European Rep meeting. Turns out: almost no Mozillian knew either. So we had people in the Berlin Office that then figured out that there was European Rust conference happening at that time.
So, gosh, is Mozilla hard to approach and to ask for cooperation, even if your event is basically “we have something here, do you want to slap a Mozilla sticker on?”.
Finally, an extra-aggrevating thing is how everytime when you speak to someone in Mozilla about that thing, there’s a stock answer: “Well, you have to understand that Mozilla is a large company and you know how it is.” The problem is that I know how it is. I prefer to call Oracle, Microsoft and Google for community project support over Mozilla. Why? They have someone to call and they have a process to get to yes or no. I am not alone in this opinion, most organisers of events I know send Mozilla the sponsorship prospectus (if they know someone within Mozilla, because there’s no easily findable point of contact). The extended version of the answer is someone explaining internal structure of Mozilla to you. I couldn’t care less. Mozilla has no grounds on which it can expect me to bother myself with Mozilla internals if I just want to collaborate on a project with them. They don’t care about my orgs internals either. It also isn’t necessary, as most collaborations don’t need that. A big problem here seems to be that many Mozillian employees that don’t do community work all day have issues with communicating to people that have less time to allocate to their community work. (after all, this is my hobby, not my job)
The cherry on top was a representative of the newly formed participation team that promised to put an end to the unresponsiveness - he never replied to any email. Which is quite sad, because one of the goals was to organise a meeting with local FOSS community workers to discuss Mozilla. Just to give you a rough gauge: most people here don’t know Mozilla has an office, much less a community group in Berlin. I think such a meeting would have helped matters here a lot.
Also, hearing that local tech activists wouldn’t be invited to the last time Mozilla higher-ups were in Berlin also showed where the interests lie.
Which brings me to yes/no. No one in Mozilla seems to feel comfortable of deciding about support. Which means you never have a satisfactory time frame in which you can be sure of support (which, if you are a conference organiser trying to find someone to help you with a venue lease, is a major source of insecurity). Another facet of that is that no one knows what’s possible. I asked if it were possible to join the work week in London as a chance to finally meet some Rust community workers and maybe finds some time for planning. The answer I got was no, work week is Mozillians only. Turns out, two weeks before the event, I meet someone who is indeed there as an external person. I speak to another Mozillian and he’s like “yeah, that"s kinda usual”. Sooo, chance over. It’s a death by man paper cuts. Positive experiences with Mozilla is very rare for me. Fully negative, too, but every time I’m like “there’s going to be a catch”.
You know what got all of that a little better? One of our group getting hired at Mozilla. Because suddenly, you have someone that could catch those people on whatever communication channel Mozillians use. You have someone with an @mozilla.org adress. But damn, getting your friends employed at Mozilla just doesn’t scale.
Finally, the involvement of Mozilla in RustFest was very problematic. Details are not really for here, as the matter is discussed with the people involved and brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The core of the issue was, though, that Mozilla agreed on doing things that would have went easier without Mozilla and saying no on things that were completely arbitrary. Also, being very late.
Every couple of months, a Mozillian comes along with another point of contact and asks me to repeat this rant to them. That point of contact then promises to make these things better. They then never reply to emails as simple as “hey, we chatted about this person and you wanted to introduce me to them”. So, here’s another replication of a rant that Participation, DevRel, Mozilla Community Berlin and a couple of others already heard and that changed nothing. But I don’t want to end bitter.
So, to not get only into complaining and to give you my running theory about all this this: Mozilla is open tech community from the past. It has a very well running system that worked when Mozilla was the only player in that space. Most other foundations only care about tech. Mozilla cares about people and tech, with a great focus on people. It shows when participating in Mozilla project: I’m currently in the Tech Speakers program, and damn, do these people know how to keep in touch with people around the globe. But what Mozilla is very bad on and heavily struggeling with is that they are not the only groups bringing people in touch with technology anymore. Many of them are local to cities, like the OpenTechSchool, others are global, like the CoderDojo or the Bridges. Many of those hold Mozilla in high regard, for what they have done, but many wouldn’t want to be involved in Mozilla for that reason. They have their own structures, their own way of working, their own ties, which are probably more effective then Mozillas on their small scale. So, my question here is: is it necessary that everyone working towards Mozillas goals considers themselves a Mozillian? Wouldn’t it be far more effective to find ways how all these projects that are fundamentally aligned to Mozilla and their idea of empowering people to work with and understand open technologies? For example, why does Mozilla run their own conferences? They are literally the only player in the market that can - with good conscience - ask people for free labor. Build circles of trusted friends. Don’t ask them to be Reps if they don’t have time for that. See if you can help them otherwise. Ask them to say a good word about you. See that they don’t have to become Mozilla experts to work with you. Maybe try hiring someone who built up a larger community project.
I don’t know, you make what you want of that.
I’m also on holidays, so I’m not really interested in discussing that further.
Edit: I just read https://discourse.mozilla-community.org/t/changes-in-community-support-in-2017/13206 and gosh… “People are hard, we didn’t quite get it working, let’s do sentiment analysis instead”? Well, if people offer to work with you, and you never reply, no wonder that whole meatspace stuff doesn’t quite work.