Tag Archives: mozilla

Firefox for Android getting started tutorial

The new Firefox for Android has all the functionality of the XUL implementation with tons more speed and support for Flash. In addition, the UI has been redesigned to streamline the menus and put them all in one place. On gingerbread, you’ll find them in the hardware menu key. This tutorial shows the app on ice cream sandwich, with the menu in the upper-right.

This tutorial was created with androidscreencast.jnlp, so the jerk and gradients are due to the frame-rate of the screencast. Get the awesomely smooth experience on your Android 2.2 device when it hits the Google Play store later this month.

SUMO in Berlin

While we serve millions of Firefox users every week with our support website, it’s sometimes a good change to speak with users face to face about their Firefox questions and our community. I have the chance this week, so this post is being written from the LinuxTag in Berlin. The LinuxTag is one of Europe’s biggest OpenSource events and brings together users and contributors of OpenSource software.

We already had some very interesting questions about Mozilla, how it is different from the competition, Firefox 4 and Firefox Sync in particular.

If you are in Berlin today, please come by and speak with us directly in Hall 7. We can offer you Firefox buttons and Mozilla contributors interested in listening to you. :)

Image: Thanks to Brian King for his awesome photo skills!

Welcome to the SUMO team, Kadir!

We’re very excited to announce that Kadir Topal of German Mozilla community fame is joining the SUMO team today full time as our Support Community Manager. His primary responsibility will be to energize, strengthen, and grow Mozilla’s support community so we can reach out to even more users in need of help on the web.

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Kadir, he has been around in the community since 2002, when he started the German localization of Phoenix just a few weeks after milestone 0.1 was released. Since then, he has lead and helped grow the German Firefox community, organized community events, as well as managed the German community website, support forums, and wiki.

Kadir has been studying political science and computational linguistics and is just about to finish his master thesis in applied linguistics. The subject couldn’t be more relevant to his new job on SUMO: Informal Communication in Virtual Teams. For more interesting facts about Kadir, read his own 7 Things about Me.

If you want to get in touch with Kadir (or just say hi!), he is topal on irc.mozilla.org and atopal on Twitter.

Welcome, Kadir!

Update: Kadir just wrote about this on his own blog:

The bright future of the SUMO platform

When the SUMO project started back in 2007, one of the first big questions was what web platform to use as a foundation for the upcoming Firefox support website. The Mozilla web development team started by doing a thorough analysis of the available content management systems (CMS) currently available in order to reach a conclusion. The outcome of that analysis was that TikiWiki was most suitable for our needs. Among other reasons, Tiki was best because of its many bundled features, strong multilingual features and powerful wiki and forum integration.

What followed was some rapid development to get Tiki deployed on our server and adapted to our needs. We received great help from the Tiki community, ensuring that the initial launch of Firefox Support was smooth and successful. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have a plan for how to ensure we remain synchronized with the continuous development of the Tiki platform upstream, so we just kept developing on our local codebase.

Because Firefox is such a popular web browser, we get a lot of visitors on the Firefox Support website. And when we say a lot of visitors, we mean a lot: over 16 million page views per week! www.mozilla.com is in the top 150 sites in the world, and SUMO naturally gets a good portion of the traffic.

As a result, a significant part of our development focus has been on increasing performance. About two years after the site officially launched, September 2009, we had reached a point where we would be forced to rewrite parts of the underlying infrastructure of Tiki in order to keep up with the increasing traffic to the site.

We had reached a crossroad when we had to decide on what do with the SUMO platform:

  • Should we upgrade to the latest version of Tiki? Remember, we had over two years of local development that hadn’t been upstreamed.
  • Should we continue to patch the Tiki platform locally, i.e. continue with what was essentially a fork of Tiki?
  • Or should we switch to another platform that was better suited to our particular needs?

Abort, Retry, Fail?

Interestingly, in our second analysis of the available platforms in 2009, Tiki still came out as the winner! There simply is no existing CMS that is more suitable for us.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that Tiki is not entirely optimized for our needs. In order to change this, we would have to invest a huge amount of time to rewrite structures and code in Tiki relevant to SUMO, and we would have to take great care to not mess up with all the thousands of other Tiki-powered websites out there.

This led us to the realization that the right path for SUMO is neither of the above options, but to instead do a clean break and work together with the AMO team to develop something new that is optimized exactly for our specific needs: an excellent open source support platform that can handle over 350 million Firefox users.

TikiWiki really is a fantastic CMS — the fact that it still is the best fit for Mozilla among the options available is amazing.

Now our challenge is to build the next generation of the SUMO platform: SUMO 2.0, codenamed Kitsune. More on that soon!

The SUMO community keeps getting bigger!

Here’s one of those things that make me feel good about being a part of SUMO and Mozilla.

In late 2008, the SUMO team started to collect feedback from the community about what we should focus on in order to make the platform and Firefox Support website a more exciting place to collaborate on. We also added our own ideas about how to improve the experience for both Firefox users visiting the site and contributors helping out. The result of this work is something I called the Vision for SUMO followed by the SUMO 2009 roadmap.

Since then, we’ve worked to make the vision a reality. We’ve improved the quality of our support. We’ve improved our ability to provide user insights and track user trends. We’ve managed to implement many cool and useful features (with lots of help from the amazing web development team at Mozilla) which really made it easier and more fun to contribute on SUMO as well as improved the experience on the website for users. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve had a good time.

All these amazing achievements aside, this is what makes me the most proud:

Growth of SUMO community since October 2008

Growth of SUMO community since October 2008

In a little less than a year, we’ve managed to double the number of active locales, doubled the number of translated articles, and most importantly, more than doubled the number of active SUMO contributors!

As a side note, the survey that was sent out after MozCamp 09 in Prague showed that 30% of the attendees were involved with user support. That’s an amazingly large proportion of our European community actively involved with helping our users having a great experience on the web!

30% of Ludovic Hirlimann's photo, used under CC-BY-NC license

30% of Ludovic Hirlimann's photo of the European community, used under CC-BY-NC license

Even though it’s just October, I’m already blown away by the achievements by everyone in the SUMO community in 2009. And by the way, I’m glad it’s just October: it’s time to start thinking about where to take SUMO in 2010! More on that tomorrow very 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!

bild-33

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. :)

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.