The six-week pilot version of the Mozilla Tech Speakers program wrapped up at the end of May. We learned a lot, made new friends on several continents, and collected valuable practical feedback on how to empower and support volunteer Mozillians who are already serving their regional communities as technical evangelists and educators. We’ve also gathered some good ideas for how to scale a speaker program that’s relevant and accessible to technical Mozillians in communities all over the world. Now we’re seeking your input and ideas as well.
During the second half of 2015, we’ll keep working with the individuals in our pilot group (our pilot pilots) to create technical workshops and presentations that increase developer awareness and adoption of Firefox, Mozilla, and the Open Web platform. We’ll keep in touch as they submit talk proposals and develop Content Kits during the second half of the year, work with them to identify relevant conferences and events, fund speaker travel as appropriate, make sure speakers have access to the latest information (and the latest swag to distribute), and offer them support and coaching to deliver and represent!
Why we did it
Our aim is to create a strong community-driven technical speaker development program in close collaboration with Mozilla Reps and the teams at Mozilla who focus on community education and participation. From the beginning we benefited from the wisdom of Rosana Ardila, Emma Irwin, Soumya Deb, and other Mozillian friends. We decided to stand up a “minimum viable” program with trusted, invited participants—Mozillians who are active technical speakers and are already contributing to Mozilla by writing about and presenting Mozilla technology at events around the world. We were inspired by the ongoing work of the Participation Team and Speaker Evangelism program that came before us, thanks to the efforts of @codepo8, Shezmeen Prasad, and many others.
We want this program to scale and stay sustainable, as individuals come and go, and product and platform priorities evolve. We will incorporate the feedback and learnings from the current pilot into all future iterations of the Mozilla Tech Speaker program.
What we did
Participants met together weekly on a video call to practice presentation skills and impromptu storytelling, contributed to the MDN Content Kit project for sharing presentation assets, and tried out some new tools for building informative and inspiring tech talks.
Each participant received one session of personalized one-to-one speaker coaching, using “techniques from applied improvisation and acting methods” delivered by People Rocket’s team of coaching professionals. For many participants, this was a peak experience, a chance to step out of their comfort zone, stretch their presentation skills, build their confidence, and practice new techniques.
In our weekly meetings, we worked with the StoryCraft technique, and hacked it a little to make it more geek- and tech speaker-friendly. We also worked with ThoughtBox, a presentation building tool to “organize your thoughts while developing your presentation materials, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the content.” Dietrich took ThoughtBox from printable PDF to printable web-based form, but we came to the conclusion it would be infinitely more usable if it were redesigned as an interactive web app. (Interested in building this? Talk to us on IRC. You’ll find me in #techspeakers or #devrel, with new channels for questions and communication coming soon.)
We have the idea that an intuitive portable tool like ThoughtBox could be useful for any group of Mozillians anywhere in the world who want to work together on practicing speaking and presentation skills, especially on topics of interest to developers. We’d love to see regional communities taking the idea of speaker training and designing the kind of programs and tools that work locally. Let’s talk more about this.
What we learned
The pilot was ambitious, and combined several components—speaker training, content development, creating a presentation, proposing a talk—into an aggressive six-week ‘curriculum.’ The team, which included participants in eight timezones, spanning twelve+ hours, met once a week on a video call. We kicked off the program with an introduction by People Rocket and met regularly for the next six weeks.
Between scheduled meetings, participants hung out in Telegram, a secure cross-platform messaging app, sharing knowledge, swapping stickers (the virtual kind) and becoming friends. Our original ambitious plan might have been feasible if our pilots were not also university students, working developers, and involved in multiple projects and activities. But six weeks turned out to be not quite long enough to get it all done, so we focused on speaking skills—and, as it turned out, on building a global posse of talented tech speakers.
We’re still figuring this out. We collected feedback from all participants and discovered that there’s a great appetite to keep this going. We are still fine-tuning some of the ideas around Content Kits, and the first kits are becoming available for use and re-use. We continue to support Tech Speakers to present at conferences organize workshops and trainings in their communities. And create their own Mozilla Tech Speakers groups with local flavor and focus.
Stay tuned: we’ll be opening a Discourse category shortly, to expand the conversation and share new ideas.
And now for some thank yous…
I’d like to quickly introduce you to the Mozilla Tech Speakers pilot pilots. You’ll be hearing from them directly in the days, weeks, months ahead, but for today, huge thanks and hugs all around, for the breadth and depth of their contributions, their passion, and the friendships we’ve formed.
Andre Garzia, @soapdog, Mozilla Rep from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, web developer, app developer and app reviewer, who will be speaking about Web Components at Expotec at the end of this month. Also, ask him about the Webmaker team LAN Houses program just getting started now in Rio.
Andrzej Mazur, @end3r, HTML5 game developer, active Hacks blog and MDN contributor, creator of a content kit on HTML5 Game Development for Beginners, active Firefox app developer, Captain Rogers creator, and frequent tech speaker, from Warsaw, Poland.
István “Flaki” Szmozsánszky, @slsoftworks, Mozillian and Mozilla Rep, web and mobile developer from Budapest, Hungary. Passionate about Rust, Firefox OS, the web of things. If you ask him anything “mildly related to Firefox OS, be prepared with canned food and sleeping bags, because the answer might sometimes get a bit out of hand.”
Kaustav Das Modak, @kaustavdm, Mozilla Rep from Bengalaru, India; web and app developer; open source evangelist; co-founder of Applait. Ask him about Grouphone. Or, catch his upcoming talk at the JSChannel conference in Bangalore in July.
Michaela R. Brown, @michaelarbrown, self-described “feisty little scrapper,” Internet freedom fighter, and Mozillian from Michigan. Michaela will share skills in San Francisco next week at the Library Freedom Project: Digital Rights in Libraries event.
Rabimba Karanjai, @rabimba, a “full-time graduate researcher, part-time hacker and FOSS enthusiast,” and 24/7 Mozillian. Before the month is out, Rabimba will speak about Firefox OS at OpenSourceBridge in Portland and at the Hong Kong Open Source conference.
Gracias. شكرا. धन्यवाद. Köszönöm. Obrigada. Dziękuję. Thank you. #FoxYeah.