Tag Archives: sumo

The web just got safer with Firefox

Running the latest version of Firefox with outdated plugins is like having a modern burglar alarm while leaving the balcony door wide open. In order to be safe on the web, your plugins must be updated too.

As an example of the real threats of using outdated plugins, consider the popular Flash plugin created by Adobe Systems. It is used to play videos on YouTube and many other sites, and has a history of serious security issues. What this means is that if you haven’t upgraded to the latest version of Flash, it doesn’t matter if you’re using the latest and most secure version of Firefox because plugins are independent pieces of programs running inside the web browser, which Mozilla doesn’t control (and didn’t create). Of course, this is true for every web browser out there, including Internet Explorer.

In other words, no matter how safe your web browser is, you’re still vulnerable to security exploits if your plugins are not up to date, because they open up security holes beyond the web browser’s control.

So how do you ensure that your plugins are up to date? Mozilla’s new Plugin Check page comes to the rescue! The page went live today on mozilla.com after a few weeks of testing and is a very important step in making the web safer. To see if you’re running any outdated and insecure plugins, just visit the Plugin Check page and update any plugins marked as out of date.

Plugin check

For Firefox Support and the SUMO community, this is an important milestone since 30% of the reported crashes are caused by plugins. By increasing the number of users running updated plugins, the number of reported problems on SUMO should drop significantly. Also, giving users access to a page that allows them to take control of their security is a good example of how important web safety is for Mozilla.

This Plugin Check page is just the first step in making it easier to keep your plugins safe. Future versions of Firefox will have this functionality built in, eventually making the experience as seamless as keeping Firefox itself up to date. In the meantime, we’ll make sure to link to the Plugin Check page wherever it makes sense to do so on SUMO.

Laura Thomson presenting at OSCON about SUMO

If you’re at OSCON, be sure to not miss senior software engineer, PHP guru, and SUMO lead developer Laura‘s presentation titled Scaling Firefox Support with PHP. From the presentation summary:

SUMO – support.mozilla.com – was launched as the official in-product help for Firefox 3. SUMO is built on top of TikiWiki (an open source wiki built with PHP and MySQL) which had never been used on such a large scale website before. In this case study we’ll cover the steps used to get SUMO up for Download Day and keep it up since. We’ll cover:

  • Systems approach and diagnosis
  • Profiling
  • Database architecture, replication, and full text search
  • Making caching work (in so many ways)
  • Tricks, hacks, and workarounds
  • Load testing: the architecture of our test cluster and tools and how we use them

The presentation starts at 1:45 pm in meeting room J2. Be there, or be sqrt()!

Improved SUMO start page coming soon

In the last 10 days, we’ve been running our second A/B test on SUMO to try a slight redesign of the in-product start page (the page you get to if you select Help from the menu of Firefox itself). This test is part of a bigger goal to reduce the number of people that leave the Firefox Support website immediately after visiting the start page — the so-called “bounce rate” of the page.

There can be many different reasons why people leave a website without interacting with it. When it comes to a support website, one of those reasons can be that the website isn’t helpful enough, or doesn’t provide sufficient instructions on how it should be used. This is something we are trying to minimize on SUMO so the support platform becomes as easy to understand as possible.

In order to improve the current start page, our first step was to figure out how people are using it today and identify areas where we could improve it. chofmann dug up a lot of the initial research about common web design mistakes which our start page was suffering from, and proposed some ideas on how we could use those insights when redesigning the page. chofmann and I then sat down and brainstormed about how we could improve the page, after which I created a simple mockup of our ideas.

Before we could actually test our ideas, we needed to turn the mockup into a polished web page that we would feel comfortable showing to our users, so we turned to Mozilla’s master of design and creativity, John Slater, who connected us with web designer Naz Hamid. The result of our collaboration can be seen below:

New SUMO start page

The new start page. Click on the image to see a version of it with notes explaining the differences between the current start page.

The test turned out to be successful. With the new start page:

  • More people used the search box (+1.3%), which is the best way to use SUMO to find the solution to your problem.
  • Fewer people left the site immediately without interacting with it (-0.5%), which means that more people are able to get their problem solved.

For the full report and many interesting insights about how people interact with this new page versus the current page, read the original blog post based on the full analysis of the A/B test by Ken Kovash and Mozilla intern Eric Hergenrader: Improving a User’s Experience with Firefox Support (part II).

Our effort to improve the support experience for our users will of course not end with this test. It’s an ongoing process and a continued focus of the SUMO team to make our support platform as easy to understand and use for as many users as possible.

When looking at the results of our test, it should be noted that the bounce rate is still very high (86%). As I mentioned earlier, there could be many other reasons why people quickly leave the website. One reason, that I suspect plays an important role here, is the fact that you can reach Firefox Support simply by pressing F1 on your keyboard. My theory is that many people accidentally do this when typing on a web page, leading to many unwanted visits to Firefox Support.

F1 key

The most common SUMO bookmark?

That is one of our next things to test on SUMO: among the people that visit Firefox Support by pressing F1 on the keyboard, how many people close the website right away? Are the people that visit the site by selecting the Help option in the menu more interactive?

We will have the answers to these questions soon.

Firefox Manual’s (not so) distant Italian relative

A few days ago, the SUMO community got together to polish the Firefox 3 Manual created by the amazing FLOSS Manuals community and make it ready for publishing. It was a very successful effort and we now have a manual for Firefox 3 that we can be very proud of!


What many people (outside of Italy, at least) might not know is that our new Firefox 3 Manual isn’t the first manual for Firefox produced. In fact, back in 2006, Underpass, tittoproject, and miki64 from the Mozilla Italia community wrote a Firefox manual entirely written in Italian, based on their strong experiences supporting users in their local forum. Nothing similar existed at the time, and the purpose of this manual was to provide solutions to some of the most common issues for Firefox users so fewer people had to visit the forum — just like SUMO works today!

The Italian Firefox manual is called FireFAQ and is available for download in pdf format. It was downloaded by over 30,000 people in the first 10 days and received very good reviews! Later, Mozilla Italia also wrote ThunderFAQ. The content of both manuals are released under the CC license, just like the Knowledge Base articles on SUMO.

Simone Lando (yes, that’s Underpass, one of the authors of the Italian Firefox manual!) wrote to tell me that when they had the opportunity to translate the SUMO KB contents, they decided not to update their manual anymore and instead focus entirely on SUMO. However, the experiences they gained by writing the FireFAQ manual proved to be very important for their excellent team work on SUMO today, which I think is fantastic to hear.

I am very excited that Mozilla Italia will attend to the EU Inter-Community Meetup in Geneva this weekend, where they will share more about their experiences with Firefox support and SUMO. Definitely expect a blog post about the inter-community meetup soon. :)

Minutes of SUMO meeting 2009-06-08


  • Weekly metrics
    • A lot of article updates (adding “Firefox 3.5″ category to most en-US articles, and many Italian)
    • We need a way to mass-change categories. Cww to file a bug and write a simple SQL script that will be tested on staging.
  • Last week’s weekly support issues
    • Nothing really common.
  • SUMO Q3 goals planning
    • Proposed goals, based on 2009 roadmap and new requirements:
      • Productize SUMO – Make SUMO a support solution that can be deployed for other software projects
      • Launch Fennec Support website based on SUMO
      • Implement contributor karma system to show recognition and encourage participation in the SUMO community
      • Implement WYSIWYG Knowledge Base editor
      • Implement Web based Live Chat client
      • Forum UX (streamline process of submitting and receiving answer to forum question)?
      • Upgrade TikiWiki to 3.0 and get upstreaming process in place
    • Other features?
      • Ability to PM other contributors (cilias). Feels more like a separate bug and not a milestone/goal.
    • In order to make an informed decision about time and resource requirements, we need PRDs for all of these proposed goals. By next week’s sumodev meeting, we should be able to decide which of these goals will happen in Q3.
      • cilias to work on WYSIWYG PRD
      • zzxc to finalize work on already existing Live Chat PRD
      • djst & Cww to co-work on forum enhancements (draft PRD)
      • Everyone to work together on karma discussion and future PRD.
      • laura has already written a PRD for Fennec Support

Knowledge Base

  • KB audit for 3.5 is almost done. [1]
    • Going to start thread(s) in contributors forum about remaining articles.
    • Again, big thanks to Bo for helping out.
    • This raised an issue of having to edit an article just to add it to a category.
  • Translation table of home page is having issues, so if fallback does not work for a specific locale, tell us. [2]
  • Lots of article requests last week. [3]
  • How do we take search terms, and figure out what users are most likely searching for?
    • cww says nkoth might know more about this and how the new search engine works. cilias to ask nkoth.


  • Do we force users to have a valid e-mail? [4]
    • Shouldn’t be mandatory; if it is, cww will file a bug

Live Chat


  • SFD definitely June 18th.
  • Next about:sumo just before SFD? Or after?
    • After. We have too much going on at the same time, plus, having it after the SFD will allow us to encourage participants of SFD to sign up for the newsletter.

Let’s publish a Firefox Manual!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Firefox manual that could be read as a physical book or directly on the screen? Well, guess what: it already exists and even better, it’s completely free!

The FLOSS Manuals Project is changing the way book publishing works by bringing open source concepts to the process. They are engaged in building a platform and community designed to get interesting books published and do it on faster cycles. These people are the reason why we have a Firefox 3.0 Firefox Manual today. Read more about how this manual was created on Chris Hofmann’s blog post FLOSS Manuals: Changing the Publishing World One Book at a Time.

How is this relevant to SUMO? Tomorrow, we are doing a short and focused one-day sprint to do the last but very important steps of cleaning the manual up and make it ready for publishing, and we need your help! Contributing to FLOSS Manuals is as simple as contributing to SUMO and doesn’t require any technical skills.


Tomorrow! Thursday, May 28 at 10 AM Pacific time, 1 PM Eastern time, or 19:00 Central European time. If you’re in Europe or Asia and want to start earlier, you are of course more than welcome to! I’m based in Sweden and will be going through the manual throughout the day.

Where and how?

  1. Register to get an account at the FLOSS Manual site.
  2. Go to the Write section of the Firefox Manual.
  3. Pick a chapter that you want to read, click the “edit” link, and start improving it!

It’s really that simple.

On the right side of the website is a chat window where you will be able to chat with other participants (including me and the SUMO community members Matthew Middleton, Cheng Wang, and Chris Ilias).

What is the goal of tomorrow’s sprint?

We hope to achieve the following things:

  • Clean up the language and remove typos, etc.
  • Remove inconsistencies
  • Verify and make sure all information is correct
  • Flag chapters that will need updating for Firefox 3.5, which is quickly getting ready for a release

The last item is important, and we will probably do another one-day sprint shortly to actually update the information to Firefox 3.5 once it is released.

By just getting an account and spending 15 minutes proof-reading one chapter, you will make a huge difference to the quality of the manual, and your name will forever be included in the Credits section of both the online and paperback version.

Hope to see you tomorrow!

Minutes of SUMO meeting 2009-02-02

Attendees: djst, cilias, cww, zzxc


  • Brainstorm on how to improve pages like How to Contribute and Contributor Home Page to help grow our community
    • zzxc noticed that people tended to read everything before following instructions.
    • Make the instructions less disruptive – for example, the step by step instructions on Helping with Live Chat links to separate pages without properly linking back to the instructions again (zzxc)
    • New introduction to page describing how to contribute to the forum, and create sticky thread in support forum linking to it (cww)
    • Identify ways to help users filing better forum threads (cww)
    • zzxc posted drafts of new How to Contribute documents — great improvements! team to review and formalize plan
    • cilias suggests adding more screenshots/screencasts
      • For the Installing Spark article, we should have a screencast right now (zzxc)
      • Add more descriptions to Contributor Home Page and move some of the less actionable stuff to the sidebar
  • Decide on SFD theme
    • Firefox 3.1 best new features (leveraging press around 3.1) and how to support them and get started using them.
      • Pros: will get lots of people
      • Cons: requires getting input and speaking from 3.1 devs which may be a little hectic.
    • Keeping you and your computer safe online (addressing Firefox 3/3.1 security features, what the different kinds of security certificate mean and why it’s important that we warn users about all the possible problems, also malware, what it is and what to do about it)
      • Pros: really important thing that we cover this for our users and the videos can be great tools later.
      • Cons: It’d be a publicity conflict with 3.1 since it comes out at roughly the same time so I expect fewer participants.
    • Decision: Firefox 3.1!
  • Weekly metrics
    • New data: active Live Chat contributors
  • Last week’s weekly support issues
    • Bunch of new documentation written. cww to check if it’s searchable in the KB and remove it from Specific issues list.

Knowledge Base

  • 3.1 category is up.
  • 12 translations of the Options window split text received. I’ve implemented 2, and plan on devoting this week to implementing as much of the rest as I can. [1]
  • New help-topic link: about:privatebrowsing is going to have a link to our Private Browsing article. bug 475551
  • Firefox 2 EOL text is on support.planning [2]
  • 2 new articles:
  • Looking for McAfee users to investigate how to prevent it from disabling the Firefox pop-up blocker (w/intructions and screenshots)


  • Now consistently more contributor replies than new threads so we’ve hit critical mass. Yay!! Big thanks to co-rel and Quarantine for their great help.

Live Chat

  • Metrics update – participation slightly up:
    • 7 new accounts, 1 new active helper, 2 account approvals (NicHelps, orcadas)
    • Open 18.9 hours last week.
    • 12 total contributors active last week
  • New room monitor: lslutsky — Welcome aboard!

The vision for SUMO – Part 2: Understanding the bigger picture

A critical piece in having a community-powered project run successfully is that all participants understand the bigger picture. In the case of SUMO, there are actually two pictures, and with part two of this blog series I will try to explain both of them.

Picture 1: The truly big picture

Looking at how SUMO relates to the rest of the Mozilla project, this could be called the macro version of the bigger picture. This picture was made for a presentation I gave at FOSSCoach (OSCON 2008, Portland, Oregon) and is intentionally a little busy, and friendly. :) It does highlight some very important things, though:

  • We’re not just helping our users solve their problems with Firefox so they can keep using their favorite browser; we’re here to listen to our users as well. Past readers of this blog series know that part 1 covered exactly this.
  • The data we can gather by looking at stats for the Knowledge Base articles combined with incoming support requests in the Support Forum, Live Chat, letters and e-mails all help painting a better picture of what our top issues in Firefox are.
  • The support and QA teams can work together and combine their findings from channels targeting different types of users and reach a shared understanding of which bugs we should be working on first.
  • Knowing which features and bugs to focus on will be invaluable information for the development team. It will lead to a better product, and a better understanding of what our users want.

That’s the most important way support interacts with other parts of the Mozilla project, but far from the only ones. There are other aspects of the bigger picture, for example that the QA and development teams usually have information about known issues prior to releases gathered from the beta testers. This knowledge should be shared with the SUMO team prior to releases, so we can, among other things, prepare for a better support experience for our users.

In some cases QA might be working hard to track the cause of a known issue down; if the SUMO community is aware of that bug, they can confirm this with the users reporting it and get a unique chance to do some direct QA testing with a user. People from the QA team could even be logged on to the Live Chat component using a Jabber client of their choice, and the SUMO team could invite a QA tester to a chat session whenever a good chance to solve a known issue comes up.

Picture 2: The “support funnel”

This could also be called the micro version of the bigger picture, or the internal picture. As many people are already aware, SUMO is a support project consisting of three major components: the Knowledge Base, the Support Forum, and Live Chat. Many contributors provide support in more than one component. For example, Bo regularly helps out in the Support Forum, but occasionally he also writes Knowledge Base articles for new solutions to Firefox issues. Another example is myles7897, who regularly helps out with Live Chat. Just as Bo, he sometimes writes or edits Knowledge Base articles too.

However, not everyone helping out with SUMO will be aware of how the three components relate to each other, or how the site should work for users. The “support funnel” is a way to describe this:

  1. The Knowledge Base should contain the solutions to our most common problems. Users should start by searching for their problem here. Ideally the vast majority of our users find the solution to their problem here; it’s critical both for performance reasons and for quality of support. Using the funnel metaphor, the user would go straight through the funnel without hitting the sides.
  2. If they can’t find the solution to their problem in the Knowledge Base, the forum should show if others have already reported the problem. (We’re working on making this step simpler — more on that later in this series.)
  3. If neither the Knowledge Base nor the forum contains the answer, the forum or Live Chat should be available to the user. These two components should be viewed as fallbacks when the Knowledge Base fails to solve the user’s problem. Which of the two fallbacks is best for the user depends on the situation. The forum has the benefit that the posted question is public and can be read by many people, thus increasing the chance of getting answered, while Live Chat offers a direct communication with a Firefox expert, if the user is willing to wait for it.
  4. Frequent or serious issues solved in the forum or Live Chat should be documented in the Knowledge Base, to ensure that the support quality and performance remain consistently high, and to allow us to get better data on which issues are the most commonly reported.

It’s important that everyone contributing to SUMO has a clear understanding of how the Knowledge Base, the Support Forum, and Live Chat interact and relate to each other. That way we can ensure that the “support funnel” works.

Finally, the insights we will gain from this collaboration will be shared with the rest of the Mozilla project as well. A better knowledge of what our users want in our product would be incredibly powerful information to the marketing team, which SUMO is proudly a part of. Similarly, getting better information about what security issues are most commonly reported would likely be valuable for the security team. Et cetera, et cetera; I think I made my point. :)

In other words, support is vital to the success of Mozilla, or any open source project for that matter.