Community Meetup in Stockholm, June 2nd

A belated thanks to everyone who made it to the Mozilla community meetup in Stockholm last Tuesday (50 or so souls, by my counting), and a special thanks to our speakers, to Tim at bwin, and a shout out to Andreas Nilsson, who made the trek all the over from Göteborg: we appreciate it!  David has a nice write-up here.

William surprising his audience at Stomozcom

William surprising his audience at Stomozcom

All I would add to that would be to encourage anyone who wants to be informed of future meetups to sign up to the Mozilla Sweden mailing list by sending a mail with “Subscribe” in the subject to mozilla-sv-request [at] mozilla.se.  Indeed, if you have Sweden-related Mozilla news, please do post it to the alias.

And thanks to those people who provided feedback on the programme.  We spread our net quite far and wide on this occasion, covering support, QA, add-ons and marketing.  This meant that there was something for everyone, but probably also that not everything was for anyone.  Might we want to focus on a specific topic in the agenda next time?  Get in touch and share your thoughts.

Mozilla i Sverige: Det blir kul!

I am very excited to announce that we will hold a Mozilla get-together on the evening of June 2nd, starting at 6pm at the delightful offices of bwin games in Stockholm.  You can register here.

Speakers

We will have four talks on different aspects of the project:

David Tenser will discuss SUMO, community-based support for Mozilla;
Carsten Book (Tomcat) will talk about QA of an open source project;

Casten Book and David Tenser.  Credit for image: David Tenser

Casten Book and David Tenser. Credit for image: David Tenser

William Quiviger will talk about volunteer marketing and advocacy;

William Quiviger

William Quiviger

and Robert Nyman will give his acclaimed (by me at least) talk on Developing add-ons for Firefox.

Robert Nyman

Robert Nyman

And, even more importantly, we will have pizza and beer and a chance to get to know eachother.   All details are on the event wiki.

Attending

Everyone with an interest in the above topics, Mozilla, software freedom or the open web is most welcome to attend.  You don’t need to speak Swedish or English to attend, but speaking at least one will be a definite advantage.  But you do need to register, as we can only manage with so many people.

Getting there

We will be at the offices of bwin games, Klarabergsviadukten 82, Stockholm.

We are very grateful to our hosts, bwin, for their help.  During the daytime the facility is home to the 400 employees of bwin Games, the leading developer of next generaton online poker games and digital entertainment.  The office is a high-rise tower with a great view of Stockholm, and is just next to Stockholm central station (literally, just over the road).

It is really easy to get to if you are in the Stockholm area.  For those who are not, please get in touch with me as I’d like to know where you would like to meet next time.

As far as I know, it has been a while since there was a meeting of the Mozilla community in Sweden.  I am really looking forward to meeting up.  Vi ses!

(Förresten, jag kan lite svenska men eftersom jag bara bott här i två år är jag fortfarande ingen expert. Om du vill får du gärna skriva till mig på svenska, men jag kanske svarar på engelska!)

Accelerators for Firefox

In all the reviews I have read of IE8 (and I read a lot of them), the feature that most IE8 testers seem to like are “Accelerators”, (i.e. context menus for web services).   Indeed, the estimable Jack Schofield seemed to like the feature, describing IE8 as helping “get stuff done” and having innovative features “not found elsewhere”.

Of course, that most fertile of jungles the Mozilla Add-ons community has an answer for Accelerators, or indeed, three of them: IE8 Activities for Firefox, Kallout, and Select-n-Go.  So far, I have tried Kallout, and mighty fine it was too.  Just as I suspect that Accelerators are a way for Microsoft to make its own (and other) web services more accessible, there is a conceivable opportunity for Add-On developers to offer any number of online services a customisation to make their service more accessible to the (burgeoning) Firefox user base.

One more observation: at least one other Mozilla employee in Eskilstuna remarked upon my own use of context menus for shortcuts as “epic” (and not in a good way).  But he might be right about my right clicking.  It does imply a huge bottleneck in the interface, one that Ubiquity seems ideally positioned to fix.  Anyone that likes Accelerators really ought to give that a spin.

“Ich bin ein Berliner! If you can’t be on the scene, get it on the screen!” – Don King

You can follow Don’s advice by visiting the Mozilla Add-On Workshop mashup page, and hopefully videos of all presentations will be available before long.

Yup, I’m back from the Mozilla Add-On Workshop (MAOW) in Berlin, and recovered from my 11 hour journey home. A special mention must go to the baggage handlers at Stockholm Arlanda airport whose heroic efforts allowed me to savour an unexpected 3 hour addition to my journey: my luggage’s progress from plane to collection belt vividly evoking, as it did, the great glacial movements that helped to sculpt this fine peninsula.

My own contribution to the MAOW was probably summed up by this sympathetic portrait of community legend KaiRo, attempting to get his presentation to work:

kairo

The one talk where I would like to have contributed more was probably Daniel Glazman‘s on making money with add-ons. Without rehashing all the talk, Daniel was essentially proposing that addons.mozilla.org (AMO) needs a system for micro-payments (he was proposing around $1 / download I recall), so that add-on developers can charge for their works.  I should make it absolutely clear that I am not part of the AMO organisation, and I should also make it clear that Rey Bango, who is, is totally committed to enabling whatever makes sense for add-on developers.

But still, my personal opinion is that such a micro-payment system is not a recipe for success for developers, users, or Mozilla as a whole. Firstly, today there is no truly widespread payment system that users will easy use for 1-click purchasing on a new install of Firefox. Requiring registration to a payment service before a user can fully use AMO seems an uncomfortable arrangement to me.

Secondly, how would you price such software? Daniel was suggesting a figure of $1 for a good add-on. I would estimate that even in the affluent west, that is already enough to make many users search further to find something of approximate functionality, and that pricing would need to be much, much lower to ensure clicks (if such a system even existed). Moreover, for the many Firefox users in the developing world, $1 is not a micro payment.  And there is a great wealth of add-ons today (over 4,000, soon to hit 5,000). As Daniel pointed out, if you area not near to the top of a search, you might be invisible. However, if you are successful in achieving visibility for your add-on, pay-for-play immediately incentivises the user to search further if their first results.

Thirdly, how are you going to compete? If you are producing open source add-ons, any add-on which achieved traction would be subject to forking. We would probably need to be talking about closed-source add-ons. And this would inevitable need some license key mechanism, as Daniel indicated. Again, uncomfortable.

Fourth, what kind of license would you be selling? How committed would a developer have to be to forward compatibility to sell and add-on?

Now, all these questions can all be answered to a greater or lesser state of satisfaction, but the likelihood of gouging a successful business out of such an arrangement seems pretty thin to me. Let us consider two perspectives.

One, every business today which relies upon charging for access to something which has no marginal (or opportunity) cost of unit production (software, music, information in general) is facing a challenge in the face of the network – rightly or wrongly, long established businesses which are charging for access are in difficulty. The App Store on the iPhone may buck this trend, but it does not invalidate it. The Internet is eroding all of these business models, even the ability of television networks to command exclusive audiences for sporting events (to Don King’s dismay, one presumes).

Two: software is not intrinsically valuable, not in monetary terms. Anyone who has attempted to rate the value of software using the COCOMO methodology realises this. Software’s value is a function of its usage. If one placed market values on Windows, UNIX, Linux and Mac OS X, their relative values would not have a direct relationship to the quality of code, but to the profile of their usage.

So, how do we make money with software? Well, we should consider what you can monetise software against, and a good rule of thumb is to monetise against something that does have an (implicit) cost of unit production. If you want to make money with software, charging the user for a copy implies either a heavily locked-down system (as Daniel suggested in his talk), an entrenched market position (such as the ability to have software bundled), or both.

But there are other ways to make money from software. In most cases, I would suggest we might think of a way to offer access to a service via an add-on. Allowing users the benefit of particular running infrastructure over time clearly has an associated cost that they may be inclined to pay for. Many free services (Gmail, Twitter) even allow such access for free, and make money by displaying adverts to users (in the case of Gmail) or by raising capital by the sheer promise offered by millions upon millions of users (in the case of Twitter). Twitter does not yet have a clear business model, after all, but you can bet that Jack Dorsey has done alright. In these straightened times, VC opportunites may be fewer and further between – but there certainly are many other online commercial opportunities that do exist and could capture more market share with add-ons.  Considering an add-on like CoolIris, I can imagine being certified compatible with the add-on would be worth money to those sites whose value is based on offering up image-content.

And so I do not agree with the advice that add-on developers should attempt to build something cool or, in the parlance of our times, “shiny”, and then try to make money by selling access, at least, not if they want to earn a good living. The result may be the coolest piece of software that no one has ever heard of. And let us not forget the power and influence of those that scratch their own itch, or even those great souls who enjoy scratching the itches of others. Freely available software will always command a consumer’s preference in an open system.

I hope we can have a good debate about what developers need from AMO, and those who wish to build, or augment a business using AMO, can get their points across and feel their needs are met, just as those who wish to build free / gratis software hopefully will. A big thanks to Daniel for raising the topic and addressing it so squarely.

I mulled all this over on the way home, until I managed to find somewhere selling English newspapers at which point I needed to switch my attention to controlling the pedantic rage that burns inside with the intensity of a thousand suns. Sadly, I failed. And so I offer this picture. I am sure that Mr Gough’s own writing is most illuminating, but, copy editors note, it is hard to take recommendations from an author seriously when they include incorrect spellings of pronouns.

gough2

Mixed Feelings

I see that the CyberMentors programme made this news on Tuesday.

Talking with my friends at BeatBulliyng about the launch of the CyberMentors programme gives me pause for thought.   They are clearly pretty busy.  But more to the point, they are busy because the CyberMentors programme is fulfilling an important need.  And I can also hear it in their voices that they have heard some pretty tragic and difficult stories.  As Sarah at BeatBullying told me, it cuts two ways.  The more successful, relevant and important the project seems to be, the more there is to be sad about.

At the moment, BeatBullying is trying to recruit members in South East England, because that is where they are able to train CyberMentors.  But I understand that they hope to hold trainings further afield, and maybe make the programme international.  Well, when I say international, it actually already is.  I hear that the CyberMentors site is receiving requests from young victims of bullying from all over Europe, and as far as the Middle East.  It makes you think that many of these youngsters may have had no one to turn to before the programme.

Mozilla is proud to be a CyberMentors partner.  If you are interested in volunteering as a CyberMentor, Mozilla can help pay for your training and background checks: please contact me for more information.

Mozilla and CyberMentors

Earlier this year, a task force at Harvard University issued a report that reassured parents everywhere: the risk to children from online sexual predators, while it may exist, is not as significant as we may fear.  However, the report also contained the more worrying finding that there is another, less sensational, problem which is not as widely acknowledged.  As Cory Doctorow put it:

The Internet is full of bullies, not paedophiles

As a child of the 80s, I can find it hard to remember life before the Internet.  I can certainly remember what it was like to buy a flight, or to look for a book, or not to waste time laughing at Zero Punctuation.  It is harder for me to remember what it was like not to be able to look up virtually any fact at will, and it is harder still to remember how I kept in touch with friends before my relationship with the network was so intimate.  But I am certainly old enough to remember all these things.   Today’s 14-year old is not not, of course, and may wonder how we maintained friendships at all before Facebook and the SMS.  Not to have access to the network in this way would represent a form of social exclusion for many children in developed and developing nations.

Something else I can remember about my own childhood – like most people – is being bullied on occasion.   Happily, also like most people, I only experienced it a little, but I was also aware of children who were subjected to it systematically and over long periods of time.

If asked to name one characteristic of the bully, many people would identify cowardice.  I am not sure that is true, but I am sure that bullies are people with problems.  I am also sure that bullies prefer not to have to face the consequences of their actions.  And thinking about it, it is little surprise that the Internet lends itself to bullying: it offers opportunities for cruelty, but also hiding places and anonymity.  It is high time we thought about responses to bullying on the Internet.

Today, the UK charity BeatBullying launches their CyberMentors programme.  And I am very pleased to say that Mozilla is a CyberMentors partner. The CyberMentors programme is a cyber version of one of BeatBullying’s proven methodologies.  CyberMentors themselves help each other and the victims of cyberbullying and report instances of it, and help monitor social networks and other sites to identify hateful or bullying content.

CyberMentors Logo

How can we get involved?

Mozilla will be doing a few activities with BeatBullying throughout the year. The first is to sponsor 10 members of the Mozilla community (UK only, for now), to become CyberMentors.  Anyone can become a Cybermentor, and there is no need for previous experience of working with children: the only pre-requisite is understand and empathy for those who are experiencing bullying.

What is expected of me, as a CyberMentor?

In order to join the programme, there is a training course and a CRB check (mandatory for anyone over 18) – Mozilla will pay for these.   The induction training day is about 5 hours.  As the training is in London, we will hope to find SE England-based community members first – and over time, the programme will roll out to the rest of the country.   Once you are a qualified CyberMentor, it is expected that you will give at least 2 hours of your time each week over a period of 4 months.

If you are under 25, you will be trained as a senior Cyermentor.  If you are over 25, you will be trained to help “mentor the mentors”, and be a senior coach.

I think that those of us in the Mozilla community have a lot to offer the CyberMentors programme.  We tend to spend a lot of time online, and are probably more experienced that the average person in interacting with others in a virtual community.  What’s more, we care about the Internet, and the place it is.  So, if you are interested to be a CyberMentor and would like to learn more, please contact myself or William Quiviger.  Places are limited – bullies are not.

A Guide To Mozilla Community Marketing

Regular readers of this blog (me, mostly), will recall that last November I came over all George W, with the post Wanted: A Guide To Community Marketing At Mozilla (the dead or alive was implicit).  Three months, roughly 50 litres of coffee, one baby and another apparently failed Liverpool Premier League title attempt later*, we have such a beast: the Mozilla Community Marketing Guide.

The genesis of this idea came from Jane.  When we first met up, she was keen to make it easier for people to get involved with everything we’re doing.  Sure, there is a very vibrant community at SpreadFirefox, the exciting appearance of SpreadThunderbird, (and seriously, spread Thunderbird – I cannot believe the mail clients that some members of my family have been persuaded to use), but if you are passionate about, say, Firefox, and want to get involved, it can be hard to know where to jump in.

Similarly, many people already have well-formed ideas about something they want to do.  We want it to be as easy as possible to find the resources that were available, and to get in touch with other people to make things happen.

And along the way, it’s been great to meet people like Alina, who confirmed to me something else that we need to do: to make Mozilla marketing as “buildable” as we can, so that she can go and do the things she wants to do, and tell her story.  Above all, that is what Mozilla means to me.

So, I am happy that today we’re launching our Community Marketing Guide: a big thanks to everyone who has contributed text, pictures, ideas and, yes, corrected spelling mistakes.  The guide is an attempt to catalogue all of the marketing resources we have, and as such is bound to be incomplete.  But over time we will add to it, and identify what is missing.  Indeed, it should also help us to identify those things that we do not have today but that we want (presentation templates, anyone?).  Please visit the site, and let us know what you think.

*p.s. Don’t give up, it’s only February

The Lazarus of Mozilla Marketing

(First, thanks to everyone for their kind wishes on the birth of our second daughter, Hannah.  I will post pictures on here…eventually.)

In the meantime, for those that missed it, my kind and helpful colleagues Alix and Jay have picked up the venerable Mozilla.org marketing mailing list.  They dusted the old boy down, gave him a shave, and put him back on his feet again, and he’s as good as new.  Well, in fairness, there were many people who had been using this list for a while, but in my opinion, it hadn’t been receiving – and there’s no other way to put this – the love it deserved from myself and others.

And so, for anyone with an interest in promoting the Mozilla mission, or Thunderbird, Firefox, SeaMonkey, and who is generally well disposed to reading and writing emails on the topic, point your browser here:

https://lists.mozilla.org/listinfo/marketing

or if you are a Google Groups kind of person, here:

http://groups.google.com/group/mozilla.marketing/topics.

-see you on the Internet.

Worth a thousand words

Echoing William: if you have organised Mozilla events, or if you’re a passionate Firefox advocate, and would like to appear in our forthcoming web-based Mozilla Community Marketing Guide, please do let William know. (NB. link is his email, not mine…)

We’re looking for pictures of Mozilla community members.  There are a couple of constraints: anyone featured needs to sign and return a release form in order for us to use the  photographs in the guide, and we cannot guarantee we will use any picture, but you have to be in it to win it as they say… so if you have a good picture, we would really like to hear from you!

p.s. please contact William, not me, as I will be offline for a little while…

Foxier than The Register?

In November, The Register revealed that 47% of its readership chose Firefox over other browsers.  El Reg seemed rather proud of this aspect of its audience, apparently we exhibit “a certain technical savvy you won’t find in the general population”.  Well, quite.

But are Register readers the savviest demographic out there?  Or can they be bested?  Do you admininster a site with more than 47% (or can you come close)?   We put together a group on SpreadFirefox where you can show off.

A few ground rules:

  • Your site should have its own domain name (you own a .org, .com, .se, .cn etc).
  • You should not have an official association with Mozilla (other than being an affiliate, of course!).
  • You don’t break any laws or violate any rights by sharing this data.
  • We do this for honour and glory, i.e. no cheating and, uh, no prizes.
  • No adult content (if you aren’t sure…send it to me and I will check it out in the privacy of my own office).

Also, I have to give a special mention to Erick Leon Bolinaga, who is a student at the Universidad de las Ciencias Informaticas in Havana (UCI has around 13,000 students).  He has been spreading Firefox at his university, and his blog, “Firefoxmania” gets a whopping  66.8% of Firefox traffic.  Unfortunately, it is only available to members of the unversity, so The Register can breathe easy…for now.

But if you can down The Register’s score, please do visit SpreadFirefox and display your wares!

Wanted: A Guide to Community Marketing at Mozilla

If you clicked on this, it’s quite probable that you want such a thing.  When I joined Mozilla, one of the first items Jane and I discussed was the need to help the community do as much of its own marketing as possible.  One of the most inspiring things about Mozilla is the energy and enthusiasm: it is the antidote to the oft-repeated and jaded view that open source software is only about money: many people want other people to use Firefox because it is good software that is good for them.

Shortly after I joined Mozilla, Alba, who is a good friend of mine, contacted me to tell me she had taken part in the Firefox Download Day world record attempt.  We had never spoken about Firefox before, but I think it’s likely that if Alba is motivated to join that campaign, there are other things should would like to do to spread good software.

Now, in Europe, we are a diverse bunch of people.  Culturally, we tend to consume our own first, American culture second, and other European culture third.  The exception to this is the Russian diaspora in former Eastern Block countries, which partly goes to explain Russia’s impressive showing in the Eurovision Song Contest (with all due respect to the talents of Dima Bilan and Serebro).  But the point is, marketing Mozilla software to these countries requires more than just a translation of talking points.  It requires an understanding the culture.  We held a discussion on this topic at MozillaCamp Europe, and David Ascher made the very strong point that “localising” amounts to far more than translating.

dima-bilan-8

James Surowiecki never watched the Eurovision Song Contest

So for me there are two purposes to creating a guide to Mozilla Community Marketing.  For one thing, Community Marketing is big.  Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is.  We need a Hitch Hikers’ Guide to Mozilla Community Marketing: to all the different sites, information, resources, projects and teams that are out there.

And while the stories of disastrous attempts at cross-cultural marketing are typically urban legends (the Chevy Nova sold just fine in Mexico), we need to give people freedom – as much freedom as possible – to market Mozilla software in their way.  In the way that makes sense for where they live, for what they do.  Naturally, this has to be done responsibly: Mozilla needs to make sure anything “official” is accurate and honest, but that does not mean that Mozilla has to control what the community does in marketing.
So, I have two questions to anyone interested in community marketing in Europe and beyond:

  • What do you need that you don’t have today?
  • What do you have today that is especially effective?

Any thoughts are welcome, as comments here or on email to patrick (at) mozilla.com.

Software for the birds and bees

There has been a flurry of criticism for the internet for, er, internet critic Andrew Keen’s essay “Economy to Give Open-Source a Good Thumping“.  Mr Keen predicts (with no little relish) that an economic downturn will see people reassessing the value of their labour, which will in turn lead to an end to what we might term the shared information economy.  He goes to suggest that this economy of sharing will be recorded as

a “mania,” these mid-21st-century historians will explain, like the Dutch Tulip mania of the 1630s

In fact, contemporary thinking is that the “Dutch Tulip Mania”, if such an event transpired at all, was wildly exaggerated: the principle record is a single source, published in Scotland over 200 years after the alleged mania.  But we digress.  Mr Keen’s point appears to be that open source consists of people irrationally “giving away” the fruits of their labour.

There are three points that Mr Keen lacks in his understanding of open source:

  1. Utility (the dismal science’s placeholder for that which is desired) can take forms other than money (otherwise we would all work 24 hours a day);
  2. Not all open source code is written “for free”;
  3. In the software market the cost of unit production is close to zero, and network externalities are extremely powerful in determining the value of software goods and services.

Against this backdrop, we might consider that an economic downturn will be a good thing for open source software.  While Mr Keen evidently sees the rise of open source as a sign of decadence, in fact the emergence of the commercial open source sector coincided with the so-called dotcom bust.  Open source software tends to represent a rationalised method of production, which can reduce the frictional cost of the proprietary software model, which contains a large rump of undifferentiated and duplicative software.

What is more, software is (or can be) an industrial good.  Low-cost software means that economic activity can be stimulated with substantially less investment than in the proprietary model: just what the credit-crunch ordered.

All well and good.  But some of the refutations of Mr Keen are equally wide of the mark.  In particular, CNet’s Matt Asay (a chap never short of an opinion), who responded that open source is

a free market, capitalist phenomenon that depends upon M-O-N-E-Y.

I know others share this view, indeed, I’ve had this very discussion with no less an authority than Ian Murdock.  There is some merit in Mr Asay’s position: open source clearly is a method of market disruption in a competitive (or indeed, uncompetitive) software market.  It has the potential to decrease the value of the market and then to capture a large share of that market quickly; it can also greatly reduce the barriers to entry for suppliers and to exit for consumers.

Open source is hardly inherently anti-capitalist then.  If anything, open source frequently reflects the sharp end of the market, where competition is intensified and profit margins shrink.

So what is the problem with Mr Asay’s piece?  It is two-fold.  For one, Software development and political economy are orthogonal concepts.  For example, if we consider how software development might look in a command economy, some form of a shared codebase under a copyright license from the code owner would seem likely.  Indeed, many of the world’s most leftist governments have policies specifically designed to foster open source developement and consumption.

But lastly, we return to the point that utility is not in all cases pecuniary.  Not all free software is a loss-leader.  Many people derive great satisfaction from others using their software, from others reading their translated documents, from others benefiting from their help, indeed, from changing the world.  It is hard to put a price on such an experience.

Pictures of Chairman MAOW

Three delightful days in Paris spent with colleagues and attending the inaugural Mozilla Add-on Workskop flew by (unlike, ironically, the journey there and back).   I spent a very entertaining time meeting William, Brian, Staś (known as Stats to some) and traveling there and back with the other half of Mozilla Eskilstuna, David.  David took the opportunity of being in Paris to avail himself of the latest and greatest in digital photography equipment.  But if, like me, you’re the kind of chap who always leaves his camera in his hotel room, you’ll find these images of Paris taken with a phone camera more to your taste.

William, demonstrating my favourite feature of the iPhone: its ability (thanks to a predictably poor battery life) to transform itself into the world’s most cumbersome mobile phone.

Detail from a beautiful Parisian art nouveau building, just behind and not to be confused with the Pompidou Centre, a less-than-beautiful Parisian modern art building.  More on this fabulous edifice here.

I agree with the sentiment but couldn’t fathom the irony at 7am.

The moon over the Paris Mairie.  There must be over 100 people immortalised in statues on its walls.  To my regret, I recognised about four of the names, and one of those was the wrong Camus.

A blast from my past: a crescent of virginal OpenSolaris CDs at the MAOW.