Mozilla Guides Community Call – Nov 4th

Mozilla Guides  was launched recently in coordination with the new (and beautiful) Mozilla Get Involved Page.

Guides is a program to help brand new and potential contributors orient themselves, choose a pathway, and gain confidence in the early days of contribution. Guides themselves play a critical role in helping new contributors overcome both common and personal obstacles, through mentorship. Guides curate content, and resources for their functional area (like coding, testing, writing), but anyone from the community interested in helping new contributors find their way are very welcome.

Guides is currently linked from the email auto-responder,  new contributors  receive after expressing interest in a functional area.  That link takes them directly to the corresponding forum (like Journalism) where they can ask questions.   In the two weeks since we’ve launched we’ve had a trickle of new contributors come in and ask questions, which has been great learning for us .  Behind the scenes, I’ve been having many conversations about Guides,  and so –  disrupted by Mozfest this call community call was packed with information.  Our calls will run every 2 weeks , and  here are the highlights for those who missed, or are want to get involved!

Discourse Best Practices & Things We’re Learning

As we often do with community projects  – we’re learning what works best as we go.   And working to teach new contributors using Discourse is no exception  – here are some of the things we’re learning.

Note: I am currently seeing if there is interest in attending an online Train the Trainer event : ‘Teaching Beginners in Technology‘, if you are a Guide you can express interest HERE.  Otherwise please reach out to me directly.

Think like a beginner

As Guides and experienced contributors, we’re immersed in the language of Mozilla  ie:  ‘grab a bug’, or using ‘Gaia’ instead of FFOS implies a level of knowledge contributors may not(probably won’t have) when they arrive.   Thinking like a beginner means initial instructions for contributing to FFOS *could be:

  • Create Bugzilla Account . Bugzilla is how FFOS tracks tasks.
  • If you don’t already have one , create a Github Account.  Here’s a git tutorial.
  • Checkout the Architecture documentation to understand what’s involved (etc)

To this end, I’ll be chatting with Greg from Software Carpentry soon about helping our community become experts at teaching beginners.  I’m not sure we’re very good at this yet, but I know we can be.  Check out this great post ‘A Joel Test for Grassroots Programming‘.

Ask Questions

Guides & Forum helpers have a lot of experience, but really positioning a contributiong  for success means investing in, and understanding their reasons for getting involved. Do they want to learn? What skills are they most interested in sharing? By asking questions, and not making assumptions we are be better mentors.  It’s also OK to admit you don’t understand, or ask someone else to help you – mentorship is as much about learning as teaching.

Invite Participation & Questions Through Story Telling.

One of the early success stories of Guides is the Journalism Forum.  Jennie Halprin, Journalism Guide has been inviting participation by sharing the work she’s doing each week for the Mozilla Newsletter.  By posting the the stories of her work, people are excited and can literally ‘see’ what opportunities are available.  Jennie is also referencing specific user names of those who have reached out  – which again, just very very engaging.

I’m challenging all Guides to think of what ‘stories’ they can tell about their functional area to invite the same level of conversation.  With the upcoming launch of Firefox 10 – I’m sure there are a few things we can come up with to invite code, testing, writing, security and webmaker contributors in.


On the more technical-fail side of things, many Guides realized they were not getting notices when their forum had questions posted –  and we did a quick walk through of updating participation in Forums as ‘Watching’, with this quick screenshot of what that looks like.  I also recommend ‘watching’ these forums, no matter your role:

Forum Topic Updates

In the initial template for Guide Launch, I asked that each functional area contain:  Guide Introductions, FAQ & Resources.  Here’s how those are shaping up:

  • Guides Introductions :  Title Changed to simply ‘Introductions’ for each area.   People arriving didn’t really grasp what ‘Guides’ where, and really everyone introducing themselves in the same place (Guide or Not) , makes complete sense to me.
  • FAQ :  Removed entirely for now – this as a topic was confusing people, and being empty (something we are building but don’t yet have) gave an inactive feel.  We can figure these out later when we actually have lists compiled
  • Resources:  In effort to avoid the duplication of information that is the Mozilla universe, we are moving away from linking resources in our forum topics, and will be leveraging the Learning Resources Wiki that Christie has been working on.  Guides, functional area stewards and – anyone with resources specific to new contributors can add Learning Resources, and Guides will simply link to a ‘view’ of relevant resources.

Coming Soon & Thinking About

Guides Logo

We’re taking ideas for Guides Logo,  so far we have only two : ‘Compass’   and ‘Dino Guiding Dinos’  Please add your ideas to the meeting etherpad, or in comments to this post.

Contribution Learning Series

After running an Open Hatch & Contribution to Mozilla session recently at the University of Victoria, and through the Guides experience, I realize how important it is to provide some training on the most basic skills needed to get started.  But also how important the ‘human’ and ‘learn by making’ opportunities are as part of that opportunity, and so I’m putting together some ideas for what a regular series of online learning events could look like (Guides Calendar?).    Envisioning everything from a half day ‘Learn Git’ with Open Hatch curriculum  session, to a ‘Setting up your Firefox  or Webmaker Code Environment’, and ‘Open Source Culture’ (norms of asking for help/waiting for help, claiming bugs etc).  All tagged with Web Literacies.

Again appreciating Software Carpentry’s post .

I share this should anyone have feedback, or ideas or want to help visualize.

Kit Herder

Very inspired by the work of Renee Cheung & Yvan Boily with Kitherder – I am evaluating this and hope to chat with them both about how we can (eventually) think about mentorship matches as a part of Guides.  Again, sharing this should anyone want to help with that – or have ideas. & IRCloud

As web-based IRC widgets – people can use to get started asking for help in IRC, without the initial learning curve of working with IRC Clients &  Terminology.  We’re thinking about putting this in Discourse, but still need to test. Also it was (rightly) suggested that we ensure that learning a web-widget isn’t more, or the same work required to just  – learn IRC.   Will test!

Guides Landing Page

The Guides profile will increase soon, as we hope to put the link to forums right on the ‘Thank you Page’ of the Get Involved process.  This means we’ll get busier, and now more than ever is the time to visualize the quality of helping and boarding new contributors.


It was great Michal from Sumo was on the call asking about how to direct contributors between Sumo and Guides, and so this is on my list this week to reach out and agree on where one helping forum ends, and the other begins.


So I left the call with a few asks of Guides & Helpers

  1. Please introduce yourself (if you haven’t already) on the Introductions portion of the Guides Forum
  2. For those areas you know you can help (and this is for anyone, not just Guides), please select ‘Watch’ on the topics  – and you will be properly notified.
  3. Please collecting resources for your area, so we can add them to the Learning Resources Wiki (soon, once we’re ready).
  4. Think of ways you can invite participation through storytelling in your contribution area – again, see Journalism for some ideas on how that’s working for Jennie.

Next Call

We were a small group today, and I realize that is a time zone problem sometimes, so I’ll stagger the times between 7AM PST & 10 AM PST  to hopefully reach a few more people – Calls are listed in the Wiki.   A reminder to Guides you are not able to continue contribution to please let me know – it’s important we cover any gaps to avoid sadness of contributors asking questions without response.

This was a call full of information and I’m so grateful and excited to be working with all of you to help teach and Guide contributors into happy and successful contribution at Mozilla!


Image Credit:  Calsidey Rose