Why contribute to MDN?

Janet Swisher

A few weeks ago, I posted a some questions on the discussion group for Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) contributors (which is called dev-mdc for historical reasons).

  • If you contribute to MDN, why do you contribute? What do you get out of it? How can we help you get more of whatever you’re getting out of it?
  • If you subscribe to this list, but you don’t contribute to MDN, that’s OK too. I’d like to understand, why don’t you contribute to MDN? Why do you subscribe to the list even so? What make this list worth the effort of reading it (or ignoring it) rather than unsubscribing?

These questions seem pretty self-explanatory to me — I wanted to understand what motivates MDN contributors, so the MDN staff can support them better, and encourage more people to participate. Quite a few members responded, and the conversation was quite informative about the MDN community, and ways that Mozilla can support and enhance it.


A common theme in the motivations that contributors reported is the quality and reach that MDN already has.

[MDN] already has an audience (and has been working quite hard over the last few years on SEO and search to improve both the findability and UX), so I know the content I write will be read by an audience much larger than I could have on my blog for instance.
— David Bruant

Several people mentioned the ability to translate into one’s own language.

Translating pages corresponding to public expectations is a great motivation (“I’m useful here :)” ) [and] a great way to advertize Mozilla and say, “hey you can check this out, it’s now translated on MDN!” (Side effect: reducing the language barrier for beginners)
— Sphinx

The open license was mentioned a few times.

It’s CC-licenced, so the content is reusable in other contexts. (Dochub.io is a fantastic example of the sort of possible content reuse).
— David Bruant

Others noted that contributing to MDN is pretty easy, especially compared to some other ways to contribute to Mozilla.

I also feel that it has a fairly low barrier for “casual” contribution although I am not sure how common knowledge that is. There are no build or source management rituals and several relatively quick tasks seem like time well spent.
— Scott Michaud


The benefits that people get from contributing to MDN are mostly intangible. Several mentioned learning in the process of contributing.

When localizing the articles, I personally also am being benefited as I have to go through a lot of articles and understand them, so I’m learning everyday.
— Shafiul Azam

Some mentioned the community around MDN, and the people who comprise it.

It has been a way to meet interesting people. I heard [that] Jimmy Wales said about the Wikipedia Community, “The type of people who were drawn to writing an encyclopedia for fun tend to be pretty smart people.” I think this can also be said for MDN contributors.
— Thierry Regagnon

And finally, there are the positive feelings (pride, satisfaction of back giving to others) from contributing.

Even making small corrections or additions in a page gives me satisfaction and seeing my name listed in “Contributors to this page” gives me immense pride.
— Saurabh Nair

Why not contribute?

In the few responses from people who do not currently contribute to MDN, to biggest common factor was lack of time.

I want to support this project with sweat equity, so I keep an eye on the mailing list as a way to remind myself to dig in once I have the opportunity again.
— Dan Scott

Requests and suggestions

People who responded to my query had a number of requests and suggestions for ways to better support contributors.

  • Support for events to promote MDN and draw in new contributors
  • Better support for remote participation in meetings
  • Better localization tools, and information about which pages most need translation into a given locale
  • Reputation points or some other system system to give recognition to contributors
  • Mentorship for new contributors
  • Better communication and collaboration with engineering teams whose features are being documented

Some of these ideas require changes to the MDN platform and others are human changes. Either way, some changes can be made very quickly, and others will take some time. For example, to give recognition to contributors, the MDN development team has implemented support for Open Badges. The harder part is defining what badges to give, to ensure that they are significant and motivating to contributors. Improved localization tools is one of the most-desired features for MDN. We’ll be sending out a survey very soon to find out more details about localizers’ needs and preferences.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this discussion (even if I wasn’t able to include your words here). It was tremendously valuable to the MDN staff in understanding our community and planning ways to support it.

Intro to Systems and Data Working Group



Community builders need data to measure growth, track volunteer contributions and measure success. The systems track will focus on how Mozilla can retool and instrument our efforts to provide efficient onboarding, management and reward systems as we aim for exponential community growth over the next decade.


Build the systems that support the growth of One Million Mozillians.


Make the business case and gather priorities for the systems to support the 1 Million Mozillians goal. In order to define the scope of the first iteration and deliver it in 2014.

The working group is open to participation to all interested Mozillians working on Systems and Data around Contribution Systems in Mozilla.

The main contact page of the Working Group is our wiki page: wiki.mozilla.org/Contribute/Systems

The main form of communication is the Community Builing Mailing List. We hold regular bi-weekly meetings on Vidyo. Details and specific times and dates are announced on the Community Builing Mailing List. Past meeting notes can be found here. Join us!

Grow Mozilla discussion this Thursday


If you’re interested in helping new people get involved with Mozilla, join us Thursday for an open community building forum.

Firefox 27 New Contributors



With the release of Firefox 27, we are pleased to welcome the 41 developers who contributed their first code change to Firefox in this release, 35 of whom were brand new volunteers! Please join us in thanking each of these diligent and enthusiastic individuals, and take a look at their contributions:

Help us fight for privacy


PrivacyDay_blogImage_125x125_v2Fighting for data privacy — making sure people know who has access to their data, where it goes or could go, and that they have a choice in all of it — is part of Mozilla’s DNA. Privacy is an integral part of building an Internet where people come first.

“Individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet is fundamental and must not be treated as optional.” ~ Mozilla Manifesto (principle #4)”

How you can help – Pathways for privacy contribution

Over the past few months, the Mozilla privacy team has worked closely with the Community Building Team to create a pathway for privacy contribution. With support from tools built by the Mozilla Foundation, participation opportunities now exist for privacy pros and enthusiasts.

Pathway for privacy pros (experts):

Collaborate with the Webmaker community to make to a series of Teaching Kits and activities around privacy and security on the Web. Share your ideas here.

Join a content sprint and help create new content or help add examples, case studies, and photos to existing teaching kits like this one.

Make a Popcorn video tutorial about one of our privacy add-ons like this one made by a Mozilla enthusiast in India (remixed).

Create a teaching kit for a group that handles personal data, such as student organizations, youth sports, Mozilla contributors, and more. Share your ideas here.

Pathway for privacy enthusiasts (non-experts):

Provide feedback on the Webmaker Privacy and Security Teaching Kit.

Suggest a catchy name for our new group of privacy contributors and/or help design a logo. Share your ideas here.

Teach online privacy with Mozilla’s Webmaker Privacy and Security Teaching Kit.

Organize local showings of the documentary “Terms and Conditions May Apply” and help moderate a discussion. Jeff Beatty did this in Utah with wild success. (email stacy at mozilla dot com)

Quick actions for all Mozillians:

Share tweets from our Twitter feed and posts from our Facebook page on January 28th to help spread the word about Privacy Day. (Well have snippet and newsletter content too).

Earn a Privacy Day 2014: Action Taker badge for taking action like downloading or helping others to download Lightbeam, privacy add-ons, or DNT. (More info to come on this!)

Attend one or both of these privacy-related brownbags:

Privacy Training: Starting the Conversation
Tuesday, January 28th, 21:00 UTC (1:00pm PST)
Presenter: Mozilla Engineer, Ally Naaktgeboren
SFO Commons, Air Mozilla
See Air Mozilla for more info.

The Privacy Engineer’s Manifesto: Getting from Policy to Code to QA to Value
Guest speaker: Co-author and privacy expert, Michelle Dennedy
Thursday, January 30, 2014, 23:00 UTC (3:00pm PST)
SFO Commons, MTV 10 Fwd, Air Mozilla
See Air Mozilla for more info.

Download the book “The Privacy Engineer’s Manifesto” once it’s released on Safari Books. Get an account here.

Listen to Alex Fowler talk about our response to President Obama’s speech about government surveillance reform on the radio yesterday.

Privacy is a key component of trust and fundamental to our mission. We fight passionately on it’s behalf at the highest level of government. And, at the end of the day, it is through people acting in small ways, over time, when our values come to life. In addition to the things above, we’d love to know how you bring privacy to life or plan to. Leave us a comment.

If you have any questions about any of this, please reach out to Stacy Martin (stacy at mozilla dot com), she knows a lot about privacy. Privacy geeks (might be all of us :), there’s lots more here.

Grow Mozilla discussion this Thursday


If you’re interested in helping new people get involved with Mozilla, join us Thursday for an open community building forum.

Grow Mozilla discussion this Thursday


If you’re interested in helping new people get involved with Mozilla, join us Thursday for an open community building forum.

Crafty at the Community Builders Work Week – SF


What happens when you leave out metal stamps, hammers, and assorted tools at the Community Builders Work Week in San Francisco? Community Builders get crafty! And … well nobody took a hammer to their computer (this could be a lie).

The Crafty group brought the tools for making metal tags/necklaces/bracelets. The intention was to be Crafty together; make something, get our hands busy, stretch our brains and bodies in a different direction. People put their favorite bug #’s, irc handles, group names, and/or some other cools thing they thought of on little metal tags. Simple, quick, and very satisfying.

2013-12-12 12.39.09


It is a easy little project that we were able to squeeze into the brake time. The How To is as basic as 1, 2, 3 … then someone starts hammering on their computer, duh-oh!

  1. Decide what you want on your tag. Actually this is the hardest part. Especially because the tool set doesn’t come with a hash tag. It really didn’t take long for people to hack one together though.
  2. Hammer away! You just tap with medium force on the letters, if you have a really steady hand you can try and make them straight, otherwise commit to the crooked, it looks good – promise. And make sure your letters are right-side-up.
  3. Attach your chain and sport your new tag!

2013-12-12 12.39.20



… And this NEVER happened, if you are from IT, just look away.


The numbers have been smudged to protect the innocent(ish)

Do you want to get Crafty? Join Us!



What Motivates a Million?


This post is a follow up to “Getting to know 1,000,000 Mozillians” where we shared that a small group was beginning to shape a research project intended to help us better understand:

  • How potential contributors find us,
  • What they believe their involvement with Mozilla might include and,
  • What Mozilla staff believes their role is in volunteer contributor interactions.

Since then, the team attended the Community Builders work week in San Francisco where we shared our thinking and collected feedback on, and interest in, this project.  Yesterday, the smaller group re-connected to frame both our research methodology and timeline. Here’s how it stands today:

Research methodology proposal:

  • Capture potential interview subjects via the “Get Involved Page” then:
    • Conduct remote, semi-structured interviews AND/OR
    • Provide a chat interview/survey option.
  • Larger survey of prospective contributors that connect with the “Get Involved” page over a two-week period.
  • Potential interviews with people new to contributing to other causes to understand their selection process and commitment.

Research timeline: 

  • Dec 11-13: Community Builders work week
  • Dec 16: Plan confirmation and additions
  • Jan 13-24: Survey and discussion guide prep
    • Present on Grow Mozilla call
  • Jan 27-Feb 10: Data collection
  • Feb 10-23: Data analysis
  • Feb 24-28: Presentation of findings
  • March: Phase 2 preparations

Our plan is to present the full project to the Community Builders group during the first or second Grow Mozilla call in 2014. The core working group is currently Larissa Shapiro, Emily Goligoski, Gemma Petrie, and Mardi Douglass but we know there is greater interest (we have the names of everyone who’s contacted us to date and will invite you personally to the Grow Mozilla call). We’d like to encourage anyone else who might be interested in this or any other project to attend bi-monthly Grow Mozilla calls.

This project’s wiki page is here: https://wiki.mozilla.org/Contribute/Working_Groups#Research for reference.

Community Building in 2014 brown bag


Join us for a brown bag tomorrow about Community Building in 2014 to learn about resources that we’ll be putting in place to help you increase participation on your team.

  • Date: Friday, Dec 13
  • Time: 12:00 noon pacific / 20:00 UTC
  • Location: SF Commons area and Air Mozilla

This will be the last day of the Community Builders work week where both staff and volunteers are planning for 2014 and we want to share what we’re working on and answer any questions you have.