A wave of new contributors have been asking how they can help Firefox without (necessarily) having strong coding skills, and just at the right time. I’m writing this because Firefox engineering needs exactly that kind of help, right now.
There are a lot of ways you can help Firefox and the Mozilla project, and most of them don’t involve writing code at all. Living in our nightly builds of Firefox is a big deal, and using the Beta release of Firefox on Android, if you happen to be an Android user, helps improve the mobile experience as well.
There’s a lot that needs doing. But one thing we’re really looking for – that Firefox engineering could use your help with today – is bug triage and component ownership.
Developing Firefox in the open with a user base of our size means we get a lot of bug reports. A lot. Hundreds every day, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are clear, tightly-scoped reports that come with clear steps to reproduce, and those are great. Others are a vaguely-described, hard-to-interpret mess. Most of them are somewhere in between, real problems that are difficult to act on.
Whatever condition these bugs arrive in there’s always a passionate Firefox user behind them with a real problem they care about solving. We know that Bugzilla is not an easy mountain to climb; to respect those users’ efforts we want to give all our incoming bugs enough care and attention to get them from “a user has a problem with our product” to “an engineer has the information they need to make the right decision.”
This is where you come in.
We know what makes a bug a capital-G, capital-B Good Bug from an engineering standpoint – It’s assigned to the right component, it’s steps to reproduce or a regression range if it needs them, and its clear what the next steps are and who needs to take them. For the most part getting bugs from “new” to “good” doesn’t mean writing code – it’s all about organization, asking questions, following up and making sure things don’t get lost.
This kind of work – de-duplicating, cleaning up and clarifying where these bugs are and what’s next for them – is incredibly valuable. We’ve had a handful of people take up this work in the past, often growing into critical leadership roles at Mozilla in the process, and its hard to overstate how much their work has mattered to Mozilla and driven forward the Open Web.
We need people – we need you – to help us keep an eye on the bugs coming to different components, sort them out and ask the right questions to get them into actionable shape. This may seem like a big job, but it’s mostly about organization and persistence.
In the beginning just setting the right flags and ask some questions will help. As you gain experience you’ll learn how to turn unclear, ambiguous bug reports into something an engineer will be excited fix. In the long term someone who really knows their component, who can flag high-priority issues, clean them up and get them to the right engineers, will have an dramatic impact on the product, helping Mozilla make Firefox and the Web better for hundreds of millions of users.
You don’t need much more than a bugzilla.mozilla.org account and a computer than can run Firefox Nightly to get started. If you’ve got that, and you’re interested in taking this up, please email me so that we can match you up to one of the components that needs your help.
Thank you; I’m looking forward to hearing from you.