For the punchline first, go check out what just went live at feeds.mozilla.com. The rest of this entry is the back-story.
You see, behind Firefox is Mozilla, and behind Mozilla is a community. And the Mozilla community acts a lot like an ecosystem, which can be visualized as a kind of living tree—not to confused with the mozilla-central tree. Oh yeah, and Mozilla is the name of both a Foundation and a Corporation.
Confused yet? If not, then we should talk so you can explain it, because it all looks pretty tangly and intertwingled to me. Nonetheless, it seems to work, and produces a good chunk of my favorite software and technologies.
There are many efforts to track what’s going on—including planets and newsletters and bugzillas and wikis and repositories and tinderboxen. Some of these resources report on, or are driven by, the activity occurring in the others. Some are automated, and others are carefully stitched together by hand. None offer a full picture of what’s going on in the Mozilla galaxy in a way that’s casually comprehensible by a sane human being.
Of course, that’s not a slight against any of these sites or the people maintaining them—extracting an overview from such an organic phenomenon is neither easy nor straightforward. But, it might be fun to try.
As an infovore and avid practitioner of continuous partial attention, my first impulse is to reach for a firehose and stick my head into the stream. Relax, defocus, and try to let my pattern recognizers do their thing—sometimes those pattern recognizers are in my head, and sometimes they’re written in Python.
But, for Mozilla, I couldn’t find a stream of sufficient volume or completeness to satisfy me or my robots. Happily, though, my feeding urge found itself aligned with a project to discover the patterns of contribution in the Mozilla community and to find a way to thank the contributors responsible.
The LizardFeeder pulls together and archives activity streams from a wide variety of Mozilla community sources. Beyond the usual human-readable pages produced by a blog-gathering Planet, the LizardFeeder accumulates statistical and historical data meant for consumption and analysis by robots.
At present, the only robot navigating the LizardFeeder archives is an AJAX-ified user interface that animates the firehose as a near real-time or time-lapsed stream of events scrolling by.
This is just meant as a conversation starter, though. I’m hoping to gather feedback and find more sources, as well as to entice creative community members to come up with more sophisticated visualizations of this data.
So, take a look, check it out, and let us know what you think!