How are you? Times are hard for everyone right now, but I hope that you and your family are okay. It has been a while, but I thought that I would write with an update on what I have been doing as a contributor to Mozilla. As always, it is not so much a “look at me”, more of a way to close off various things, publish as much as I can openly and hopefully encourage you to get involved.
I finished my last write up looking forwards to the Mozilla Festival, better known as MozFest. For those that do not know it, MozFest is a key event for the Mozilla Foundation and is an opportunity for the various elements of the open web to come together and learn and discuss and make the web a better place.
The tenth anniversary would be the last at Ravensbourne University in London which had been it’s home for nine years and was an event of mixed emotions for those that had been involved in it for so long, including the volunteers like me that help run the event. Over the past five years I have seen so much about the wider work that Mozilla does outside of the products for which it is well known. Science, art, accessibility, security, innovation, youth are just a few of the areas that MozFest has touched on, but at its core it has been about people.
Much of the focus is on the session wranglers and the participants that contribute so much to the event, but the volunteer team is a very special group. At many events the volunteer team is drafted in and is below the subject matter of the event - their job is to stand, lift and move things. MozFest is different. Just about every member of the volunteer team is a hacker, maker or community shaper, not just an event volunteer. MozFest volunteers are happy discussing privacy or code as well as making sure that a session has enough paper and pens and we do it in a way that makes us an awesome team.
Many there would not have noticed that there was a small part of the closing remarks that highlighted a number of people that have been part of the MozFest team. Many of those names would not have been known to many people present, but all of the names have made the event what it is. MozFest at Ravensbourne has brought a very special group of people together and it was good that we were some of the last to leave the venue on the Sunday.
But this is not the end of MozFest, far from it. Attendees were given a book that looks back on the past ten years that follows up on http://www.learningfreedomandtheweb.org/. It is a very special read with lots of very positive emotions - this is an event that people really care about - but there are also lots of ideas and concepts that will help open communities create the forums that enable them to build and create. It will also help communities move forwards with the event to its next home in Amsterdam.
Having recovered from MozFest, I resumed my focus on Mozilla with a renewed sense of understanding of the benefits of working openly. I had become aware of a project that I was sure that the community would want to get involved in so I worked with staff to help launch it. Firefox Voice is truly amazing and provides a voice interface to Firefox. It is not AI and it does not yet use Common Voice data, but it is a new way of using a web browser and one that is very exciting.
As you may have guess from the title of this blog entry, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the Mozilla All Hands in Berlin at the start of this year. These are massive events for Mozilla with people flying in from all over the world. Before going I wrote this little poem that quite a few people enjoyed:
It is now over six months since Mozilla convened last,
and All Hands is now coming up so fast.
From whatever country, nation or state they currently be in,
Many MoCo and MoFo staff, interns and contributors are converging on Berlin.
Twenty Nineteen was a busy year,
Much is going on with Firefox Voice, so I hear.
The new Fenix is closer to release,
the GeckoView team’s efforts will not cease.
MoFo is riding high after an amazing and emotional MozFest,
For advice on how to make the web better, they are the best.
I hope that the gift guide was well-read,
Next up is putting concerns about AI to bed…?
Please don’t forget contributors who are supporting the mission from wide and far,
Writing code, building communities and looking to Mozilla’s north star.
The SUMO team worked very hard during the add-on apocalypse,
And will not stop helping users with useful advice and tips.
At the end of the week we will head to an empty factory,
For a great party where the dress code is not mandatory.
With thanks to all those in IT Finance, Legal, WPR and People without whom Mozilla would not exist,
(At midnight, those from the UK will sadly be marking Brexit.)
I hope that we can all agree that the real heroes of the week are the awesome Brianna and her amazing team,
That bring us together and help us make sure that an open web is more than a dream.
We arrive with joy and leave with sorrow,
But look forward to making the web better for all the tomorrows.
I guess I should end with an attempt at a witty one-liner.
So here it is.
For one week in January 2020,
Mozillianer sind Berliner.
All Hands is the time when most staff and a few very lucky contributors spend a week working together to work on projects and plot the future course of their community, team and Mozilla. As a contributor, I am expected to be busy during the week, but to also come back and be busy afterward. I manage this expectation by setting clear goals before I go, do more than that while I am there, and set a “to do” this (which grows!) when I get back. This then forms the core of what I do after All Hands, both immediately and longer-term. From many sessions, presentations, and conversations in that amazing week came many tasks:
I have detoxed my phone. I was at the airport, waiting to check-in for my flight home and I realised that I had so much on my mobile device that I did not need. Apps I do not use, files I do not need. I recommend to everyone to clear out and cut back and mobile devices are a great place to start.
I updated a MozWiki article to help contributors and staff going to their first Mozilla event and forwarded a link to a member of Mozilla staff that was interested in it.
I have provided feedback and continue to support the SUMO community plan. After the challenges of recent times, @giulia_g and @kelimuttu are pressing ahead with a new plan that will help build and support the community on which SUMO relies for hopefully a long time to come.
I have made all my Firefox Themes available on GitHub, and I have built quite a few more. I even had some really great feedback from one of the users of one of my themes, I took that feedback on board and made improvements.
I have fed back into the work to make Kitsune responsive. As someone that answers support questions on a mobile device, it is great to have a platform that is easier to use on a smaller screen.
After several drinks in the hotel bar, I had the inspiration to create an https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/faceblock/. Sure, it is not used by many people, and it is a clone of another well-produced add-on, but I am quite happy with it. I hope to update it soon.
At the end of last year, a report was published by Mozilla about the wider community that is such an important document. It has lots of demographic information but also gives a real insight into the makeup of Mozilla. More importantly for the SUMO community it gives contributors a sense of how important SUMO is for Mozilla.
I have built my own copy of Firefox Preview following instructions here. Sure, I use the Nightly build from the Google Play store as my “daily driver”, but it is good fun to follow the well-written instructions and build your own copy. Likewise, I also build a working and updating copy of desktop Firefox. It is hard work, but it does help to understand the hard work done by developers and the different parts of the browser and the tools that make it.
Using the dev tools in Firefox (with a little GIMP), I made this wallpaper from a rare GitHub error. Normally my desktop backgrounds are less constructed, so it was nice to do something a little different, but still using the amazing dev tools in Firefox to help.
I finally go round the to the GitHub “hello world” demo. I should have done this a long time ago, but I was keen to do it (and may do it again if needed to refresh my training) as part of a change in the way that I use GitHub from being an occasional tool to something that I am using as a core part of my contribution to open source. Examples of this can be seen in the usercontent.css file I uploaded and the work to update CrashFinder and ClearCrash so that they work on default Ubuntu.
I have also got round to a distro hop. There is nothing wrong (and much that is very right) about Xubuntu, but I have been thinking about a distro hop for some time. https://tealinuxos.org/ was an option as was possibly moving to RHEL, but due to the lockdown and having to provide IT support to my parents Linux distro over the phone, I hopped to Ubuntu 18.04. Maybe I should hop again when the lockdown is lifted…!
In support of the work I have been doing to keep SUMO going, my arm was slightly twisted () by @lucyeoh and @couci to think about signing up to be a Mozilla Rep. I hope it gives me the ability to help the SUMO community more, but it is also providing a bit more structure around other activities. for Mozilla. I have voted in my first Reps election and I have also done a small presentation in the weekly ReMo meeting about the new Firefox Preview.
It is the new Firefox Preview (and the existing Mozilla on Android products) that has continued to keep me very busy and is what I spend most of my time at Mozilla doing. The support questions are very different from what you see with regards to supporting Firefox on the desktop. Something that I have learned from contributing to Mozilla is that the nature of the people that make something, shape the way that something is made. That is very much the case with Firefox Preview, with an awesome team of people at the back of it. The product itself is a significant advance on Firefox for Android with an updated UI and a smoother browsing experience. It is fast, well designed, and getting better all the time.
I hope that you have enjoyed this look over the past half-year at my activities as a Mozillian and that it makes you see that contributing to an open-source project such as Mozilla can be interesting, varied experience as well as a great way that you can have an impact on making the web a better place.
Stay home, product the front line, save lives…and make use of the time to help make the world a better place.