I recently read this article on the about:community blog and it got me thinking.
First of all, I think that it was the right research to do. It is difficult to increase participation without understand the drivers behind the existing contributor population. I also fully agree with the key learns around the increased need for clarity in the volunteering process. Before I volunteer to work a large event, I like to have an understanding of the role and what will be “required” of me in that job. Whereas with employment the onus is put on the employer to decide whether you are suitable for a job, with volunteering the balance tends to be the other way round, and the more information I have the better I am able to decided whether the event or role is suitable for me.
Whilst I appreciate and respect the research that has been done, I have always tended to use the term “volunteer”, whether it be in respect of events or what I do with Mozilla. I guess there are two main drivers behind this. The first is that it makes it much easier when explaining it to people that you work with that this is not additional paid employment. Some the tasks that I do tend to be things that (non-Mozilla) people expect to be done by employed staff, so there is naturally some trepidation that I have taken on second (or third) employment that that this my conflict with the job I am contracted to do.
The second is out of respect to those that are employed by the organisation. Whilst I am in no way suggesting that volunteers care less, Mozilla is not paying for my evening meal or is giving me an annual performance review. I could walk away any time I want. However good I might be at what I do, I am not an employee of Mozilla, and I respect those that are to the extent that I would not want my small efforts not be confused with those of Mozilla staff.
Whether the word is “contributor” or “volunteer” to me is largely irrelevant, but I think that those are the two choices to use. Whichever the choice, I think that it should be used throughout Mozilla for all of the voluntary roles, as far as grammar supports (I am not on Remo, but I think that Reps should stay as Reps). I am not trying to be divisive, but I sometimes feel that there are many, many different job titles. Having worked for a very large multinational, I have had the experience of seeing job titles that are anything but descriptive and lead to confusion about what someone actually does.
What made me first want to comment on the Emma’s blog entry was the idea of a Mozilla-fied name, in fact that one section has been stuck in my head for days. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were a magical, enthralling, amazing event in the history of the UK. Out of economic uncertainly and a national sense of pessimism, London felt like the centre of the world. Even though I was not volunteering, the uplifting sense of being part of a large multi-sport event was amazing. People from all over the world were talking on “the tube”, cheering on countries that were not their own, and did not stop cheering until the last person crossed the line. Any cynicism people may have had for the Games beforehand vanished as Olympians and Paralympians competed.
The “Games Makers” were part of this, people that had given up significant amounts of time to not only work at the Games, but also to attend training sessions before the Games. Some were bringing professional skills, whilst others came to learn new skills - not too different from Mozilla. Whilst their efforts are important, the legacy they have left is more so. Not only has recognition of volunteers improved - events are now better understanding of the need to treat volunteers well so that they volunteer again - but also other events have a similar naming convention. At the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, there were “Clyde-siders” and the RideLondon event now has “Veloteers”. These names not only keep the sense of London 2012 alive but also create a sense of common purpose.
But each of these titles forms part of a wider job title. At RideLondon you might be a “Crossing Marshal” or a “Yellow Flag Marshal”, but collectively you are a Veloteer. At London 2012 you may have been an “Event Services Team Member”, but you were still a Games Maker.
So when it comes to a Mozilla-fied name, I think we already have one. It is a name that joins a community together, a name that indicates common purpose and contribution to a wider group.
This post did not set out to be as lengthy as it is, but I hope that people have found it interesting and thought provoking, without being controversial. Names are important things - this is why parents spend time agonising over them and why Birth Certificates are so important. Whether it be “contributor” or “volunteer” is for others to decide, I would proudly use either, but regardless, we are all Mozillians.