Enter the LizardFeeder

The Mozilla Tree

The Mozilla Tree

(Be sure to check out
the large version.)

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.

Firefox Victory Robot

Firefox Victory!

(Yes, I just wanted
to put a robot here.)

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.

So, while we’re still working on the thank-you angle, allow me to introduce you to the Lizardfeeder. The LizardFeeder is a feed aggregator, whose source code is built atop Sam Ruby’s Planet Venus.

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!

5 responses

  1. paul b. wrote on :

    Great project!

    Just a slight prpblem: When I load feeds.mozilla.com it starts to display all the entries from “about an hour ago” and not from right now. That way it takes quite a long time until the stream ist “up to date”. Is this intended?

  2. Kurt (supernova_00) wrote on :

    I much rather it load newest to oldest downward. Makes me sick looking at all the stuff loading and I know I can adjust the speed but I want to look at the newest stuff right away not 5 minutes later (even at 300x)

  3. gandalf wrote on :

    Thank you. Finally.

    I recently installed RSS reader to be able to spend less time working and more time reading news from Mozilla world, but that was just a peanut.
    Here, I literally can spend 24h hours looking at the activism of the community and feeding myself.
    For Mozillian its worse than looking at Recent Changes at Wikipedia. It may have bigger impact of efficiency than World of Warcraft! Damn you 🙂

  4. Mark Caudill wrote on :

    Could the links be made to open in _blank? If I casually go through and click (without command/middle click), it loads in the same tab and then if I go back I have to wait for it to populate again.

    This is a great tool though, and has some really interesting facts about Mozilla in the subsequent entries.

  5. zarxo wrote on :

    It hurts me to read your “writing,” so I had to post a response. Backstory is one word–and if used it correctly in the proper sense–I don’t know. I don’t care to research that. In addition, the transiton words of “but” and “so” are just too juevenile for me to handle.

    Do you read literature? I mean a novel that requires you to pick up a dictionary to check out its meaning, usage, and connotation?

    I hope this was not a “review.”

    “I was happier when I was ignorant, I think.”