Mozilla Work Week, Orlando, December 2015



Last December I was one of the 95 contributors that attended the “Mozlando” work week. Having witnessed the “radio silence” that seems to take place after a big Mozilla event, I can only apologise for the delay in reporting back to the UK community - this delay was in part due to Christmas, but also in part due to my desire to report back on the completion of a task from the work week.

To be invited to such an event is a huge privilege, and having confirmed that the invite was genuine (!), I was very keen to contribute to the SUMO team’s (of which I am part) work. As with all events that I have been part of or been a volunteer at (for example Mozfest) I have found that the more you put in, the more you get out. I was also aware that this could be a unique opportunity to liaise directly with people working on Mozilla software, a great opportunity for someone on a team that teams with users issues.

I am going to spare you a day by day account of the week, but thought I would share some key points:

Make the schedule your friend:-

Whether it be Mozfest, the Olympics & Paralympics or your local carnival, make the schedule your best friend in the days and weeks leading up to the event. Before flying to Orlando, I made sure I was aware (in this order) of;

  1. Mandatory “all hands” sessions to which everyone has to go
  2. Sessions for the SUMO team and those to which all contributors are requested to attend
  3. Sessions I would like to attend / meetings I want to have for projects
  4. Extras - sessions that I can afford to miss, but would be nice to attend

It is almost impossible to do everything, and there were things I missed (in the "extras"
category), but by structuring my week in this way, I made sure that every day had a plan.

It is not really a week:-

Despite being a week, the reality is that you have a far shorter time to get things done.
Monday is arrivals day with people flying in from all over the world (some arriving quite late, some having got there a day early subject to flight times and role) with an evening drinks reception. Of the four days left, Tuesday morning and Friday afternoon are filled with the two all-hands meetings. Within the three remaining days, you have your own teams meetings and everything else you have to day. This does not leave a huge amount of time.

Plan in advance:-

Mindful of the point above about the real time you have on site, plan in advance. There are over one thousand people on site that are all trying to get work done (see point below) as well as attend sessions. If you want to meet with someone, make your life and their life much easier by trying to arranging something in advance. If one or the other of you are in a particular space that has a name - use that as your location. Failing that, pick a landmark such as a hotel lobby or an outside fountain. If you just work on the principle of “I hope to see you sometime” you reduce the chance of meeting, or if you do, it will be inconvenient for both parties. Planning in advance helps both parties block out time in their schedules for the week.

This is a “work” week:-

Being one of 95 contributors in an event population of over one thousand, you become aware very quickly that this is a not a mainly contributor focussed event. This is Mozilla Corporation coming together to hear shared messages and work together. This is a lot of people coming to do the job that they are paid to do, and is something that they take very
seriously. However…

They are Mozillians just like us. They care about what they do and want to make the web
a better place. All too often in Mozilla, people go out of there way to say how wonderful contributors are, how great we are and showcase the amazing things we are doing with Mozilla software, but in doing so, people sometimes forget that there are a small core of people that actually make the software in the first place.

I think it was on the Thursday morning that it really began to hit me how great these the staff are. Outside of the amazing staff that run SUMO, I had meetings with people from a couple of the Dev teams for a couple of products. Whilst people may have been / were aware that I did not speak code and was not staff, at no time was I made to feel inferior, not wanted or not welcome. In fact, at no time during the entire week was I made to feel any less of a Mozillian because I was a contributor. It was and still is really humbling to have been welcomed in and to be having conversations with people as a equal. I would ask that the next time you think you have done something special for Mozilla as a contributor, you remember that there are people that are doing some really special things day in, day out that give us the tools and knowledge to do what we do.

Name Badge:-

I do not have the artistic talent to make mine a masterpiece, but I do recommend adding a
team or function name. It is easy to do, a bit of fun and helps people understand what you do and your perspective on things.

Get up, stand up:-

Contribute, take part, be the voice in the room instead of being the voice in your head. If someone wants a volunteer, put your hand up. If you have to do a presentation, offer to speak. You might be rubbish, (I usually am) but this is your moment to take part and bring what you think to meeting.

Meet your heroes:-

People generally say not to do this, but I think this was written in respect of football players that may seem to be amazing on the pitch, but spend the rest of the time falling out of nightclubs. Whilst I strongly recommend against going up to a Dev and asking for an autograph on a body part, if you have the opportunity to work with, or attend a group meeting with someone at Mozilla that you really look up to, take it.

So what did I achieve at “Mozlando”?

  • As a contributor to the SUMO team, I attended the SUMO meetings relevant to the Support Forum that I contribute to. We looked at how we can make the experience better for both users and contributors and fed back ideas for improvements (this will be carrying on online with the wider SUMO community).

  • The SUMO team met with the Sync team to build a better understanding of each others
    perspective on the Sync product and how we can help each other help users better. The output from that meeting was a series of actions that are almost (!) complete and should help SUMO answer user queries better, but the improved relationship between our two teams should also help in the future if the product evolves and changes.

  • I met with the head of the Firefox for Android team and we discussed the approach that
    should be taken to install Firefox for Android on an Amazon Kindle device further to user issues that I had been witnessing in SUMO. The conversations led to emails that led to a Knowledge Base article being written. (I will put more details in a separate post under different cover).

  • I attended the contributor all-hands meeting, where we discussed the ways in which
    participation can be increased through open recruitment methods that can remove bias and make the participation process more open.

  • IRC is a good way to get people involved, as it anonymous and removes all gender and age bias. it also can reduce location and language barriers.

  • When “advertising” a participation opportunity, state what is involved and what is required of people. Not only can this reduce “mission creep” with people taking on more and more in the same task, but it also gives the new participant a clear idea of what they will be doing so that they know whether it is suitable for them.

  • Remove Barriers - think about broad skill sets, not about narrow skills that only a few people may have.

  • I contributed to a session on how the Mozilla spaces could be made more “developer

  • Myself and a couple of my fellow SUMO contributors sat in the back of the Firefox team
    meeting. A lot of confidential content, but the best way to explain it was like having a spectator seat at a Jedi council meeting. Lots of clever and wise Dev gods talking about how a fox can be made more fiery.

On top of this are the conversations that I had with Mozillians that I met in meetings or in corridors that who made the week memorable with snatched conversations, shared humour and common ideals as well as the SUMO team - a great group of people that span continents, time zones and languages that work together to rock the helpful web.

I might never get the opportunity to be part of such an event again, it may have been a one
off, but if you get invited to a Mozilla Work Week, I hope that my feedback will be of use.

(Mozilla Rep, UK Community, MozFest Privacy & Security Wrangler) #2