Mozilla cultural revolution: from ‘radical participation’ to ‘radical user-centric’

This post has been written about the Mozilla Foundation (MoFo) 2020 strategy.

The ideas developed in this post are in different levels: some are global, some focus on particular points of the proposed draft. But in my point of view, they all carry a transversal meaning: articulation (as piece connected to a structure allowing movement) with others and consistency with our mission.


On the way to radical participation, Mozilla should be radical 1 user-centric. Mozilla should not go against the social understanding of the (tech and whole society) situation because it’s what is massively shared and what polarizes the prism of understanding of the society. We should built solutions for it and transform (develop and change) it on the way. Our responsibility is to build inclusivity (inclusion strengths) everywhere, to gather for multiplying our impact. We must build (progressive) victories instead of battles (of static positions and postures).
If we don’t do it, we go against users self-perceived need: use. We value our differences more than our commonalities and consider ethic more as an absolute objective than a concrete process: we divide, separate, compete. Our solutions get irrelevant, we get rejected and marginalized, we reject compromises that improve the current situation for the ideal, we loose influence and therefore impact on the definition of the present and future. We already done it for the good and the bad in the past (H.264+Daala, pocket integration, Hello login, no Firefox for iOS, Google fishing vs Disconnect, FxOS Notes app which sync is evernote only, …).
To get a consistent and impactful ability to integrate and transform the social understanding, there are four domains where we can take and articulate (connected structure allowing movement) action:

  • People: identity is the key to grow consciousness, understanding, skills, voice, representation and to articulate global/local, personal/common. [Activate]
  • Technology: universality is key for a platform (for resilience) with interfaces (for modularity) where services, features and front-ends can plug-in and communicate to provide (inter)active support ; Decouple conditions of fulfillment with execution (content/appearance/policy ; material/immaterial) to support remix (policy continuity, consistency thought providers, …). [Unlock]
  • Product: persona and (current and emerging) use via user-agents are the keys. Be on all major platforms depending on use, ethical alignment and opportunities, emerging newness to provide continuity (task, device) to users and leading on new practices. Features should be about products parity and opening new possibilities carrying our values to the action at a massive scale. [Build]
  • Organizations/institutions: sociological innovation for participation is the key. Research on historical (evolution) and sociological (human organizations, social institutions and social behaviors) analysis based on social networks (link as social interactions), in the perspective of producing commons. [Drive]

Our front has two sides: propose and protect. But each of them are connected and can have different strategic expressions, if our actions generate improving (progressive) curves:

  • For the action taking: consciousness, understanding, symbolic actions, behavior change, behavior advocacy (evangelism)
  • For the action mode: promotion (spreading the idea), incitement (giving a competitive advantage to people involved), collaboration (open interactions to make a win-win exchange; process-centric), contractualization (formalize domains where a win-win exchange is made; object-centric), coercion (giving a competitive disadvantage to people not involved).

Social history is a history of social values. The way we understand and tell the problem determine the solution we can create: we need, all the way long, a shared understanding. Tools and technologies are not tied, bound forever to their social value, which depends on people’s social representations that evolve over time.

  • The social behavior is a first key. It is the narrative, and therefore its inclusion in the social history that we make, which converges the product with the values that it stands for. Here is the articulation of product with people and technology, of product with leadership network and advocacy engine (it could be less persistent and inclusive: marketing).
  • The social organization is a second key. It is about how the process, the tools, the architecture, the governance and the opportunities/constraints have changed for Mozilla (org) and Mozillians (people). Here comes the question of being open. It is not enough because it is about availability (passive) and not inclusivity (active). The high level of automation coming is a challenge. We should level-up the meaning to differentiate from others: Mozilla should activate and unlock societal progress to build fair technical progress. Mozilla need to identify its resilient backbone (not only a technology, the web, but something that articulate people, technology and products) and make it more universal (through people and products). But our goals can’t be absolutely achieved because they have to be considered in a dynamic context. However, the brand engagement is persistent, if it’s included in the product, visible, and centered on easing the user’s action.
    Linked to the ‘being open’ question, the advocacy engine could be a thing to unlock societal progress. People are satisfied of narrow hills of choice until they understand it’s not socially neutral. It’s the case with technology: they accept things about technology to be build top-down. A successful advocacy, even one about technology, is always built bottom-up, as its function is to give back the voice to the people, to get them involved, not to make them fulfill our predefined aims. The top-down method is too organization centric and administrative content centric: it can’t massively drive people that are not already committed to the org. It’s usually named advertisement or propaganda. If we want to have an impact, we should listen to people needs, not tell them to listen to ours. People want (first) to be empowered, not to empower an org. We need to have content and user centric (not org and it’s process) tools/platform for advocates and leaders: let’s build the technology advocacy plan together. Yes it’s slower, but much more massive, inclusive and persistent. The impact will be higher because it will carry a meaning for people and it wont be too org centric. So it will be qualitatively better: not just an amount, accumulation is not our goal, but impact, that comes from articulation. Likewise we should be careful to not use best practice as absolute solutions, but as solutions in a context, if we want to transpose them massively: when we unify we should avoid to homogenize. On the narrative side, our preoccupation should be about building short, medium and long term narrative to get action.
  • The social institutions are the third key. Here is the articulation of the leadership network with the advocacy engine.  Leaders build new solutions (products) and Advocates new voices (rallying), they are both about personal development and empower commons.  Leadership=learn+create and advocacy=teach+spread commons. Leaders are projects/orgs leaders, the ones that traduce DNA (values) in products (concrete ability and availability). Advocates are values advocates, the ones that traduce DNA (values) in actions (behavior). As they are both targeting commons, they both produce the same social organization (collaboration instead of competition). They are both involved in creating (different) representations (institutions) and organizations (foundation/firms) but with a different DNA (values) processing: from public good to personal benefit or from personal interest to public benefit. If Mozilla cares about public good resilience, the articulation of their domains of values is critical. So, on the social organization side, their articulation’s expression and the revision process must be said and clear: from hierarchy or contract or different autonomy levels (internal incubation and external advocacy), or … to criteria to start a revision. About the narrative, and hence about the social behavior side, leaders carry a lot of legitimacy and avoid the stay-experimental or non-massive (unique) thoughts. And we need legitimacy to get impact. But this legitimacy is already present if we make clear that our actions are about commons. We should name them creators (compositors or managers) to make it clear that the creative process is a collaboration, made by a team and that the public good do not have the same role in the process and outcome. Full circle.
  • The social networks are the keystone. Let’s shortly take an example based on social networks (link as social interactions) with the perspective of producing people, technological and product commons. We need better tools for collaboration and participation: tools that merge discussion channels, capitalize on the discussion and preview the results to build a plan. From evolving the wiki discussion page to feature document production into peer-to-peer discussion.

An analysis of the creation process is another way to the articulation of product with people and technology.
Platforms move closer to strict ‘walled garden’ ecosystems. We need bridges from lab to home that carry different mix of customization and reliability to support the emancipation curve. We need to build pathways thought audiences and thought IT layers (content, software, hardware, distant service). We should find a convergence between customization (dev code patch to users add-ons) and reliability (self made to mass product), between first time experience, support and add-ons thought all our users’ persona by building bridges, pathways. Mozilla should find ways to integrate learning in its products, in-content, as we have code comment on code: on-boarding levels, progression from simple to high level techniques, reproducible/universal next task/skill building.

Detailed discussion content

Here are the developed ideas, with more reference to our allies and detractors’ products.

People, the sociological side

From focused to systemic action

First of all, I think the strategy move Mozilla is doing is the right one as it embraces more our real life. People are not defined by one characteristic, we are complex: ex. we can be pedestrian, car driver, biker, Public Transport user… we think and do simultaneously. So why Mozilla should restrict its strategy by targeting people on skills, through education, thought better material only (the Mozilla Academy program). Education, even popular education, can’t do everything for the people to build change. We need a plan that balance intellectual and practical (abstraction/action, think/do) integrating progressive paths to massively scale so we get an impact: build change.

Real life: Social history, individuals and institutions as an articulation founding the action.

Let’s start by some definitions based on my understanding of some Wikipedia articles. Sociology is the study of the evolution of societies: human organizations and social institutions. It is about the impact of the social dimension on humans representations (ways of thinking) and behaviors (ways of acting). It allows to study the conceptions of social relations according to fundamental criteria (structuralism, functionalism, conventionalism, etc.) and the hooks to reality (interactionism, institutionalism, regulationisme, actionism, etc.), to think and shape the modernity. Currently (and this is key for Mozilla’s positioning), the combination of models replace the models’ unity, which aims to assume the multidimensionality. There are three major sociological paradigms, including one emerging:

  • The holistic paradigm: Society is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, it exists before the individual and individuals are governed by it. In this context, the Society includes the individual and the individual consciousness is seen only as a fragment of the collective consciousness. The emphasis is on the social fact, whose cause must be sought in earlier social facts. The social fact is part of a system of interlocking institutions that govern individuals. It is external to the individual and constraint it. Sociology is then the science of institutional invariants in which are the observable phenomenas.
  • The atomistic paradigm: each individual is a social atom. The atoms act according to self motives, interests, emotions and are linked to other atoms. A system of constant interaction between atoms produces and reproduces Society. The emphasis is on the cause of social actions and the meaning given by individuals to their actions. A horizon of meanings serve as reference instead of the arrangements of institutions. The institution is there but it serves the motives and interests of agents. Sociology is then the study of the social action.
  • The recent emergence of a sociological analysis based on social networks (which are a collection of individuals or organizations connected by regular social interactions) suggest lines of research beyond the opposition between the holistic and the atomistic approaches. The theory of social networks conceives social relationships in terms of nodes and links. The nodes are usually social actors in the network but can also represent institutions, and links are the relationships between these nodes. There may be several kinds of links between nodes and their analysis determines social capital of the social actors.

Consequently, Mozilla should build its strategy on historical (evolution) and sociological (human organizations, social institutions and social behaviors) analysis based on social networks (links as social interactions), in the perspective of producing commons. That is to say as an engine of transition from a model of value on its last leg (rarity capitalism) to the emerging one (new articulation of the individual and the collective: commons).
It is important and strategic to propose a sociological articulation supporting our mission and its purpose (commons) since the sociological concept (the paradigm) reveals an ideological characteristic: because it participates in societal movements made in the Society, it serves an ideal. The societal domain, what’s making society, a political object, should be a stake for Mozilla.

Build on a basement: current tech challenge articulated with current social meaning/perception

We should articulate ‘our real life’ with the nowadays tech challenge: how to get back control over our data at the time of IoT, cloud, big data, convergence (multi-devices/form factor)? From a user point of view, we have devices and want them convenient, easy and nice. The big moves in the tech industry (IoT, cloud, big data, convergence) free us for somethings and lock us for others. The lock key is that our devices don’t compute anymore our data that are in silos. From a developer point of view, the innovation is going very fast and it’s hard to have a complete open source toolbox that we can share, mostly because we don’t lead: Open has turn to be more open-releasing.
We should articulate our new strategy with the tech industry moves: for example, as a user, how can I get (email) encryption on all my devices? Should I follow (fragmented) different kind of howtos/tools/apps to achieve that? How do I know these are consistent together? How can I be sure it won’t brake my continuous workflow? (app silo? social silo? level of trust and reliability?)
Mozilla have the skills to answer this as we already faced and solved some of these issues on particular points: like how to ease the installation of Firefox for Android for Firefox desktop users, open and discoverable choice of search engines, synchronization across devices, …
Mozilla’s challenge is to not be marginalized by the change of practices. Having an impact is embracing the new practice and give it an alternative. Mozilla already made that move by saying « Firefox will go where users are« , by trying to balance the advertisement practice between adds companies and users, by integrating H.264 and developing Daala. But Mozilla never stated that clearly as a strategy.

A backbone to make our mission resilient in it expressions

If we think about the Facebook’s strategy, they first built a network of people whiling to share (no matter what they share) and then use this transversal backbone to power vertical business segments (search, donation, local market selling, …). Google with its search engine and its open source policy have a similar (in a way) strategy. The difference here is that the backbone is people’s data and control over digital formats. In both cases, the level of use (of the social network, search engine, mobile OS, …) is the key (with fast innovation) to have an impact. And that’s a major obstacle to build successful alternatives.
The proposed Mozilla’s strategy is built in the opposite way, and that’s questioning. We try to build people network depending on some shared matters. Then, is our strategy able to scale enough to compete against GAFAM, or are we trying to build a third way ?
For the products, the Mozilla’s strategy is still (and has always been) inclusive: everybody can use the product and then benefit of its open web values. A good product that answer people needs, plus giving people back/new power (allow new use) build a big community. For the network, should we build our global force of people based on concentric circles (of shared matters) or based on a (Mozilla own) transversal backbone (matter agnostic)? It seems to me the actual presentation of the strategy do not answer clearly enough this big question: which inclusivity (inclusion strengths) mechanism in the strategy?
And that call back to our product strategy: build a community that shares values, that is used to spread outcomes (product) OR build a community that shares a product, that is used to spread values. This is not a question on what matters more (product VS values) but on the strategy to get to a point, an objective (many web citizens). Shouldn’t we use our product to built a people network backbone ? Back to GAFAM: what can we learn from the Google try with Google+?
If our core is not enough transversal (the backbone), more new web/tech market there will be, more we will be marginalized, because focused on our circles center not taking in account that the war front (the context) have changed. Mozilla have to be resilient: mutability of the means, stability in the objectives.
The document is the MoFo strategy, and so it doesn’t say anything about ‘build Firefox’ (aka the product strategy) and so don’t articulate our main product (Firefox) with our main people network building effort and values sharing engine. We should do it: at a strategic scale and a particular scale (articulating the agenda-setting with main product features).

Brand engagement, a psychological backbone on the user side ?

It seems that our GAFAM challengers get big and have impact by not educating (that much) people, and that’s what makes them not involved in the web citizenship. Or only when they are pushed by their customers. At the opposite, making people aware about web citizenship at first, makes it hard to have that much people involved and so to have impact. However, there is an other prism that drive people: the brand perceived values. Google is seen as a tech pioneer innovator and doing the good because of its open policy, free model, fast innovation… Facebook is seen as really cool firm trying to help people by connecting them…
Is the increase of marketing of Mozilla doing good enough to gains back users ? Is this resilient compared to the next-tech-thing coming ?
Most of the time when I meet Goggle Chrome users and ask then why they use it and don’t switch to Firefox, they answer about use allowed (sync thought devices, apps everywhere that run only on GC, …). Sometimes, they argue that they make effort on other areas, and that they want to keep they digital life simple. They experience is not centered in a product/brand, but more on the person: on that Google Chrome with its Person (with one click ‘auto-login’ to all Google services) is far superior than Firefox.

User-agent or products ?

A user-agent is an intermediary acting on behalf of a supplier. As a representative, it is the contact point with customers; It’s role is to manage, to administer the affairs; it is entrusted with a mission by one or more persons; it both acts and produce an effect.
So, the user-agent can be describe with three criteria. It is: an intermediate (user/technology) ; a tool (used to manage and administrate depending on the user’s skills) ; a representative (mission bearer, values vector, for a group of people). It exceeds partly the contradiction between being active and passive.
A user-agent articulate personal-identity with technology-identity and give informations about available skills over these domains. It’s much more universal than a product that is about featuring a user-agent. If we target resilience, user-agent should be the target.

Social history, marketing: how we understand things to make choices

History of the social value

The way we look at the past and current facts shape our understanding and determine if we open new ways to solve the issues identified. That’s the way to understand the challenges that come on the way and to agree on an adaptation of the strategy instead of splitting things. The way we understand and tell the problem determine the solution we can create: we need, all the way long, a shared understanding.
Tools and technologies are not necessarily tied to their social value, which depends on social representations. The social value can be built upstream and evolve downstream. It also depends on the perspective in which we look at it, on the understanding of the action and therefore on past or current history. Example: the social value of a weapon can be a potential danger or defense, creative (liberating) or destructive. The nuclear bomb is a weapon of mass destruction (negative), whose social value was (ingeniously built as) freedom (positive).

Impact in our strategy: a missing root

To engage the public, before to « Focus on creative campaigns that use media + software to engage the public. » we need to step back, in our speeding world, for understanding together the big picture and the big movement.
Mozilla want to fuel a movement and propose a strong and consistent strategy. However, I think this plan miss a key point, a root point: build a common (hi)story. This should be an objective, not just an action.
Also, that’s maybe a missing root for the State of the web report: how do we understand what we want to evaluate? But it’s not only a missing root for an (annual?) report (a ‘Reporters without borders’ Press-Freedom like?), it’s a missing root for a new grow of our products’ market share.
For example, I do think that most users don’t know and understand that Mozilla is a foundation, Firefox build by a community as a product to keep the web healthy: they don’t imagine any meaning about technology, because they see it as a neutral tool at its root, so as a tool that should just fit they producing needs.
Firefox, its technologies and its features are not bound for ever. It is the narrative, and therefore their inclusion in the social history that we make, which converges Firefox with the values that it stand for. Stoping or changing the deep narrative means cutting the source of common understanding and making stronger other consistencies captured by other objects, turning as centrifugal forces for Firefox.
Marketing is a way to change what we socially say about things: that’s why Google Chrome marketing campaign (and consistent features maturity) has been the decreasing starting point of Firefox. Our message has been scrambled.

From participation to emancipation: values, people and org relationships

How to emancipate people in the digital world ?

Keeping the open open

Being open is not a thing we can achieve, it’s a constant process. « Mozilla needs to engage on both fronts, tackling the big problems but also fuelling the next wave of open. » Yes, but Mozilla should say too how the next wave of open can stay under people’s control and rally new people. Not only open code, but open participation, open governance, open organization. Being open is not a releasing policy about objects, it’s a mutation to participation process: a metamorphosis. It’s not reached by expanding, but by shifting. It’s not only about an amount, but about values: it’s qualitative.
Maybe open is not enough, because it doesn’t say enough about who control and how, about the governance, and says too much about availability (passive) and not enough about inclusivity (active ; inclusion strengths). It doesn’t say how the power is organized and articulated to the people (ex. think about how closed is the open Android). We may need to change the wording: indie web, the web that fuel autonomy, is a try, but it doesn’t say enough about inclusivity compared to openness & opportunity. Emancipation is the concept. It’s strategic because it says what is aligned to what, especially how to articulate values and uses. It’s important because it tells what are the sufficient conditions of realization to ‘open/indie’. That’s key to get ‘open/indie at small and large scales, from Internet people to Internet institutions, thought all ‘open/indie’ detractors in the always-current situation: a resilient ecosystem.
My intuition is that the leadership network and advocacy engine promoting open will be efficient if we clarify ‘open’ while keeping it universal. We can do it by looking back at the raw material that we have worked for years, our DNA in action. Because after all, we are experts about it and wish others to become experts too. It does not mean to essentialize it (opposing its nature and its culture), but to define its conditions of continuous achievement in our social context.

Starting point: exemplary projects that tell a lot about the evolution of our DNA in action

Clarifying the idea of ‘open’ is strategic to our action because it outlines the constitution of ‘open’, its high ‘rules’, like with laws in political regimes. It clarifies for all, if you are part of it or not, and it tells you what to change to get in. It can reinforce the brand by differentiating from the big players that are the GAFAM: it’s a way to drive, not to be driven by others lowering the meaning to catch the social impact. We should say that ‘open’ at Mozilla means more than ‘open’ at GAFAM. I wish Mozilla to speak about its openness, not as an ‘equal in opportunity’ but as an ‘equal in participation’, because it fits openness not only for a moment (on boarding) or for a person, but during the whole process of people’s interaction.
Rust and Servo or Firefox OS (since the Mozilla’s shift to radical participation) seem to be very good examples of projects with participation & impact centric rules, tools, process (RFC, new team and owners, …). Think about how Rust and Dart emerged and are evolving. Think about how stronger has been the locked-open Android with partnership than the open-locked FxOS. We should tell those stories, not as recipes that can be reproduced, but as process based on a Constitution (inclusive rules) that make a political regime (open) and define a mode of government (participation). That’s key to social understanding and therefore to transpose and advocate for it.
As projects compared to ‘original Mozilla’, Rust, Servo and FxOS could say a lot about how different they implemented learning/interaction/participation at the roots of the project. How the process, the tools, the architecture, the governance and the opportunities/constraints have changed for Mozilla and participants. This could definitely help to setup our curriculum resources, database and workshop at a personal (e.g., “How to teach / facilitate / organize / lead in the open like Mozilla.”) and orgs levels, with personal and orgs policies.

Spreading the high meanings in our strategy to consolidate it consistency

Clarifying the constitution of ‘open’ calls to clarify other related wordings.
I’m satisfied to read back (social) ‘movement’ instead of ‘community’, because it means that our goal can’t be achieve forever (is static), but we should protect it by acting. And it seems more inclusive, less ‘folds on itself’ and less ‘build the alternative beside’ than ‘community’: the alternative can be everywhere the actual system is. It can make a system. It can get global, convergent, continuous, … all at the same time. Because it’s roots are decentralized _and_ consistent, collaborating, …

About participation, we should think too (again) about engagement VS contribute VS participate: how much am I engaged ? Free about defining and receiving cost/gains? What is the impact of my actions ? … These different words carry different ideas about how we connect the ‘open’: spread is not enough because it diffuses, _be_ everywhere is more permanent. Applied to Mozilla’s own actions, funding open projects and leaders, is maybe not enough and there should be others areas where we can connect inside products, technology, people and organizations that build emancipation. So that say something about getting control (who, how, …).

IA: a challenge for ‘open’

IA is first developed to help us by improving our interactions. However, this seems to start to shift into taking decisions instead of us. This is problematic because these are indirect and direct ways for us to loose control, to be locked. And that can be as far as computers smarter than humans. The problem is that technical progress is made without any consideration of the societal progress it should made.
That’s an other point, why open is not enough: automation should be build-in with superior humanization. Mozilla should activate and unlock societal progress to build fair technical progress.

Digital integration & democracy

The digital (& virtual) world is gaining control over the physical world in many domains of our society (economy to finance, mail to email, automatic car, voting machine, …). It’s getting more and more integrated to our lives without getting back our (imperfect) democracy integrated into them. Public benefit and public good are turning ‘self benefit’ and ‘own sake’ because citizens don’t have control over private companies. We should build a digital democracy if we don’t want to loose at all the democratic governing of society. We must overcome the poses and postures battles about private and public. We need to build.

‘Leader’ & ‘Leadership’ need a clarification

Why a clarification?

At some level, I’m not the only one to ask this question:

How do CRM requirements for Leadership and Advocacy overlap / differ? What’s our email management / communications platform for Leadership?

Connect leaders to lead what ? How ? To whose benefit ? Do we want to connect leaders or initiatives (people or orgs) ? Will the leaders be emerging ones (building new networks) or established ones (use they influence to rally more people)? Are Leaders leaders of something part of Mozilla (like can be Reps) or outside of Mozilla (leaders of project, companies, newspaper: tech leaders, news leaders, …) ? This is especially important depending on what is the desire for the leaders to become in the future. The MoFo’s document should be more precise about this and go forward than « Mozilla must attract, develop, and support a global network of diverse leaders who use their expertise to collaboratively advance points-of-view, policies and practices that maintain the overall health of the Internet. »
We should do it because the confusion about the leadership impact the advocacy engine: « The shared themes also provide explicit opportunities for our Leadership and Advocacy efforts to work together. » Regarding Mozilla, is the leaders role to be advocacy leaders ? It seems as they share themes and key initiatives (even if not worded the same sometimes). Or in other words, who Drives the Advocacy engine?

Iterations with the actual definition: creators

Here are my iterations on the definition of ‘Leaders’:

  • The Leaders could be the people platform (the community) and the advocacy engine the tool/themes/actions platform (the product).
  • Leaders could build at the end new solutions (products) and Advocates new voices (rallying), that could be translated in a learning area divided like Leadership=learn+create and advocacy=teach+spread.
  • Leadership: personal development to produce (turn into) new commons or add new facets to commons. Advocacy: personal development to protect established/identified commons.

With these definitions, then Leaders are maybe more a Lab, R&D place, incubation tool (if we think about start-up incubators, then it shows a tool-set that we will need to inspire for the future). But if we want to keep the emphasis on people, we could name them ‘creators’ (compositors or managers ; not commoners, because leaders and advocates are commoners ; yes, traditionally creators are craftspersons and intellectual designers). This make sens with the examples given in the MoFo 2020 strategy 0.8 document, where all persona are involved in a building-something-new process.

However, it’s interesting to understand why we choose at first ‘Leaders’. Leaders build new solutions (products) and Advocates new voices (rallying), they are both about personal development and empower commons. Leadership=learn+create and advocacy=teach+spread commons. Leaders are projects/orgs leaders, the ones that traduce DNA (values) in products (concrete ability and availability). Advocates are values advocates, the ones that traduce DNA (values) in actions (behavior). As they are both targeting commons, they both produce the same social organization (collaboration instead of competition). They are both involved to create (different) representation (institutions) and organization (foundation/firms) but with a different DNA (values) processing: from public good to personal interest or the opposite. If Mozilla cares about public good resilience, the articulation of they domains of values is critical. So their articulation’s expression and the revision process must be said and clear: from hierarchy vs contract vs different autonomy levels (internal incubation and external advocacy), vs … to criteria to start a revision.

The network effect

Another argument for the switch from Leader to Creator is that the Leader word it too much tight to a single-person-made innovation. Creator make more clear that the innovation is possible not because of one genius, but because of a team, a group, a collective: personS (where there could also be genius). The value is made by the collaboration of people (especially in an open project, especially in a network).
That’s important because that could impact how well we do the convening part: not self-promoting, not-advertising, but sharing skills and knowledge for people and catalysing projects.
The same for the wording ‘talent’: alone, a talent can do nothing that has an impact. At least, we need two talents, a team (plus some assistants at some point).

The cultural prism

Again, this seems to be an open question:

Define and articulate “leadership.” Hone our story, ethos and definition for what we mean by “leadership development” (including cultural / localization aspects).

In my culture, Leader carry positive (take action) and negative (dominate) meanings. That’s another reason why I prefer another naming.
I understand too that it carries a lot of legitimacy (ex. market leader) in our societies and it avoids the stay-experimental or non-massive (unique) thoughts. And we need legitimacy to get impact.
But the way Mozilla has an impact thought all cultures, its legitimacy, is by creating or expanding a common. To do this, depending on the maturity, Mozilla could follow the market proposing an alternative with superior usability OR opening a new market by adding a vertical segment.

Existing tool-set opportunities

If Leadership is « a year-round MozFest + Lab« , so it’s a social network + an incubation place. Then, we already have a social network for people involved with Mozilla: Which kind of link should have the leadership network with ? What can we learn from this project and other specialized social network projects (linkedin, viadeo, …) to build the leadership network ?

Advocacy engine: make it clear

What it is & how it works

Mozilla is doing a great effort to build its advocacy engine on collaboration (« Develop new partnerships and build on current partnerships« , « begin collaboration« , « build alliances with similar orgs« ) but at the same time affirms that Mozilla should be « Part of a broader movement, be the boldest, loudest and most effective advocates » that could be seen as too centralized, too exclusive.
While this can be consistent (or contradictory), the consistency has to be explained looking at orgs and people, global and local, abstract and real, with a complementarity/competitive grid.
First, the articulation with other orgs has to be explained. What about others orgs doing things global (EFF, FSF, …) and local (Quadrature du net, CCC, …) ? What about the value they give and that Mozilla doesn’t have (juridic expertise for example) ? What about other advocate engines (, Avaaz…) ? That should not be at an administrative level only like « Develop an affiliate policy. Defining what MoFo does / does not offer to effectively govern relationships w. affiliated partners and networks (e.g., for issues like branding, fundraising, incentives, participation guidelines, in-kind resources.) »
Second, this is key for users to understand and articulate the global level of the brand engagement and their local preoccupations and engagement. How the engine will be used for local (non-US) battles ? In the past Mozilla totally involved against PIPA, SOPA by taking action, and hesitate a lot to take position and just published a blog post (and too late to gain traction and get impact) against French spying law for example.
Third, the articulation ‘action(own agenda)/reaction’ should be clarified in the objectives and functioning of the advocacy engine. Especially because other orgs, allies or detractors, try to to setup the social agenda. It’s important because it can change the social perception of our narrative (alternative promotion/issue fighting) and therefore people’s contributions.
People think the technology is socially neutral. People are satisfied of narrow hills of choice (not the meaning, the aim, but only the ability to show your favorite avatar). People don’t want to feel guilty or oppressed, they don’t want new constraints, they are looking for solution only: they want to use, not to do more, they want they things to be done. Part of the problem is about understanding (literacy, education), part of it is about the personal/common duality, part of it is about being hopeless about having an impact, part of it is about expressing change as a positive goal and a new possible way (alternative), not a fight against an issue. About the advocacy engine, I think our preoccupation should be people-centric and the aim to give them a short, medium and long term narrative to get action without being individuals-centric.

How we build it ?

How to build a social movement ? How it has been built in the past ? Is it the same today ? Can it be transposed to the digital domain from others social domains ? How strong are the cultural differences between nations? These are the main questions we should answer, and our pivot era gives us many examples in diverse domains (climate change advocates, Syriza & Podemos, NSA & surveillance services in Europe, empowered syndicates in Venezuela, Valve corp. internal organization…) to set a search terrain. However, I will go strait to my intuitive understanding below.
I’m kind of worried that it’s imagined to build the advocacy engine themes by a top-down method. I think a successful advocacy is always built bottom-up, as its function is to give back the voice to the people, to get them involved, not to make them fulfill our predefined aims. The top-down method is too organization centric: it can’t massively drive people that are not already committed to the org. It’s usually named advertisement or propaganda. If we want to have impact, we should listen to people needs, not tell them to listen to ours. People want (first) to be empowered, not to empower an org. So let’s organize the infrastructure, set the agenda and draw the horizon (strategic understanding) participative: make people fill them with content of their experience. It seems to me it is the only way, the only successful method, if we want to build a movement, and not just a shifting moment (that could be built by the top, with a good press campaign locally relayed for example ; that’s what happen in old style politics: the aim is short term, to cleave).
Isn’t the advocacy engine a new Drumbeat ? We shifted from Drumbeat to Webmaker+web literacy to Mozilla Academy and now to Leadership plus advocacy: it could be good to tell that story now that we are shifting again and learn from it.
Mozilla should support, behave as a platform, not define, not focus. Letting the people set the agenda makes them more involved and is a good way to build a network of shared aims with other orgs, that is not invasive or alienating, but a support relationship in a win-win move. The strength comes from the all agendas sewed. So at an org level, let’s on-board allies organizations as soon as plan building-time (now), to build it together. Yes it’s slower, but much more massive, inclusive and persistent.

How we evaluate it: cultural bias & qualitative analysis

First, about the agenda-setting KPI for 2016, should these KPI be an evaluation of the inclusion and rank in others strategic agendas, governance systems and productions (outcome/products) ? Others org could be from different domains: political, social, economy orgs.
Then, as a wide size audience KPI, Mozilla wants « celebration of our campaigns with ‘headline KPIs’ including number of actions, and number of advocates.« . While doing this could be the right thing to do for some cultures, it could be the worst for others. I think that these KPI don’t carry a meaning for people and are too org centric. In a way, they are to generic: it’s just an amount. Accumulation is not our goal: we want impact that is the grow of articulated actions made by diverse people toward the same aim. We need our massive KPI to be more qualitative, or at least find a way to present them in a more qualitative way: interactive map ? a global to local prism that engages people for the next step ?

Best practices & massive impact

Selecting best practices are an appealing method when we want to have a fast and strong impact in a wide area. However, when we unify we should avoid to homogenize. The gain in area by scaling-up is always at the cost of loosing local impact because it is not corresponding to local specificities, hence to local expectations. Federating instead of scaling-up is a way to solve this challenge. So we should be careful to not use best practice as absolute solutions, but as solutions in a context if we want to transpose them massively.

Tools & platform balanced between user-centric and org-centric outcomes

It’s good to hear that we will build a advocacy platform. As we ‘had’ bugzilla+svn then mercurial (hg)+… and are going to the integrated, pluggable and content-centric (but non-free; admin tools are closed source) github (targeting more coder than users, but with a lower entry price for users still), we need to be able to have the same kind of tool for advocates and leaders. Something inspired maybe at some levels by the remixing tools we built in Webmakers for web users.

From experiment to production: support (self made to mass product) + modularity (dev code patch to users add-ons).

We need pathways from lab to home that carry different mix of customization and reliability to support the emancipation curve.
Users want things to work, because they want to use it. Geeks want to be able to modify a lot and accept to put their hands in the engine to build growing reliability. Advanced users want to customize their experience and keep control and understanding on working status. They want to be able to fix the reliability at a medium/low technical cost. They are OK to gain more control at these prices. Users want to use things to do what they need and want to trust a reliability maintained for them. They are OK to gain control at a no technical cost. Depending on the matter we all have different skill levels, so we are all geeks, advanced users and users depending on our position or on the moment. And depending on our aspirations, we all want to be able to move from one category to an other. That’s what we need to build: we don’t just need to « better articulate the value to our audiences« , we need to build pathways thought audiences and thought IT layers (content, software, hardware, distant service). We should find a convergence between customization and reliability, between first time experience, support and add-ons thought all our users’ persona by building bridges, pathways. So, « better articulate the value to our audiences » should not be restrained in our minds to the Mozilla Leadership Network.
Part of this is being done in other projects outside of Mozilla in the commons movement. There are many, but let’s take just one example, the Fairphone project: modularity, howtos, … all this help to break the product-to-use walls and drive appropriation/emancipation. Products are less product and brand centric and more people/user centric.
Part of this has been done inside Mozilla, like integrating learning in our products, in-content, as we have code comment on code. I think the Spark project on Firefox OS is on a promising path, even if maybe immature: it maybe has not been released mainstream because it misses bridges/pathways (on-boarding levels, progression from simple to high level techniques, and no or not enough reproducible/universal next task/skill building).
So some solutions start to emerge, the direction is here, but has never been conceived and implemented that globally, as there isn’t integrated pathways with choice and opportunity and a strategy embracing all products and technologies (platform, tools, …).

Better tools for collaboration and participation: task-centric to process-centric (use) infrastructure

The open community should definitely improve the collaboration tools and infrastructure to ease participation.
Discourse ‘merged’ discussion channels: email+forum(+instant, messaging, … and others peer-to-peer discussion?). Stack exchange merged the questioning/solving process and added a vote mechanism to rank answers: it eased the collaboration on editing the statement and the results while staying synchronous with the discussion and keeping the discussion history. We need such kind of possibilities with discourse: capitalize on the discussion and preview the results to build a plan.
This exist in document oriented software (that added collaboration editing tools), but not that much in collaboration software (that don’t produce documents). For example, while discussing the future plan for Fx/FxOS be supported to keep track on a doc about the proposals plans + criteria & dependencies. In action, it is from this plus all the discussion taking place to that.
This is maybe something like integrating Discourse+Wiki, maybe with the need to have competing and ranked (both for content and underlaying meaning of content=strategy?) plan/page proposals. From evolving the wiki discussion page to featuring document production into peer-to-peer discussion.

A recovering strategy: from fail to win

There is maybe one thing that is in the shadow in this plan: what do we do when/if we (partially) fail ?
I think at least we should say that we document (keep research going on) to be able to outline and spread the outcomes of what we tried to fight against. So we still try to built consciousness to be ready for the next round.


If you see some contradiction in my thoughts, let’s say it’s my state of thinking right now: please voice them so we can go forward.
The same for thoughts that are voiced definitive (like users are): take it as a first attempt with my bias: let’s state these bias to go forward.

  1. Radical‘ can be in some cultures an euphemism to ‘violent‘. Let’s be clear that the change by increasing violence is done to make a popular uprising of some part against others. While it does not help the majority to magically understand that the minority is right, it stigmatize the radical-violent-changers and in the way it discredits the alternative proposed.

3 réflexions au sujet de « Mozilla cultural revolution: from ‘radical participation’ to ‘radical user-centric’ »

  1. It is not like you pile up words and your software works better because of it.
    If your mission is « to change the world through crappy software » I guess it is going to fail.

    FIrefoxOS is the funny/not so funny example. You see there is a lock between hardware and software vendors in the « mobile market », for some « political reason » or to try to stay relevant when everybody goes « mobile », you want to break the lock, so what do you do? You build a sort of OS on top on Android because otherwise it would not work with any hardware, made with « Web technologies » which you know since the very beginning are not good enough (the Web as a concept has been stretched way too much) and finally you place it on « emerging market phones ». At the end, besides the fact that basically no vendor is interested in FirefoxOS, the few people who are curious about it get crappy phones with crappy software on it. Obvious and inevitable fail. Now I don’t know if Mozilla can exist by paying people to move from a failure to another but being « social ».

    Consider the flagship product, Firefox. Since some time now, Firefox is being redone to mimic Google Chrome. This is being done by taking away the « plus » features in Firefox and adding features that more or less look like the same but work worse than in Chrome and they come years later. It basically means to follow and to follow already knowing you aren’t going to catch up, ever, because you are doing exactly the same thing starting from a lower ground and with inferior tools. So again what is Firefox? The emerging markets browser like FirefoxOS is the emerging market OS?

    My suggestion is Mozilla should provide some new ideas, some innovation, it can’t exist by redoing software that already exist, adding a « social » or « political » agenda on top. Simply because the resulting software is not good enough. People can feel « simpathy » for Mozilla but it is difficult they pick an inferior copy over the original just because of it.

    1. I get your point but disagree on the diagnosis.
      Lets make some things more clear:

      • 1. If we want our software to work better (being perceived working better), we should care not only about the product, but about the four domains of action as outlined in the summary: people, technology, product, organization/institutions. Therefore, even if the question of a performant vs crappy software is important, it’s too narrow. In our lives, each of us value more one thing than an other (governance, history, performance, ethical values, social adoption,…) depending on its own character and time. It doesn’t mean that one is better than an other and that we should focus our answer. It means we should build a solution that can answer to each and help discovering the others. We should not restrict our audience. To get adoption, a performant product is not enough, a marketing campaign is not enough,…
      • 2. Calling for innovation, new ideas, do not say what and how to build it. Making it key while not qualifying it is incantational: it’s meaningless. What make a good innovation, an adoption of an innovative solution, is its social benefit (social utility). Therefore, the key is an articulation: how people perceive the innovation.
        Therefore, to build an innovant product and get adoption we should increase the social benefit. There are then things to do in the four domains (people, technology, product, organization/institutions) that must be done with consistency. I do think that our platform should unlock discoverability and provide better interconnections to build a not crappy software, to not be seen as an inferior copy of an original product.
      • 3. It is not about mimicking Google Chrome. The question is not about who’s first, it is what is right for us. If something make sens for us we should do it, neither Chrome is or isn’t doing it. Again, the value provided is not only in the product and not only in the product or people or technology or organizations/institutions: it is in how we interconnect them as a system. Google’s platform open but don’t unlock use. Mozilla should unlock the use paths.
        Time have changed since we built a strategy for our flagship product, Firefox. We face a new challenge because the social understanding have shifted: from performant software to performant access to people’s data with continuity thought task and/or devices. The challenge is less on the local client side than on (performant client_s_ to access) the distant server side. This is where the value and the dynamic are. Therefore where we can built a « plus »: we should not make our own, separate, better place, but make our world a better place.
      • 4. Failing is not a moment, it’s a process. The issue is not an absolute object but a relative way. It isn’t that Web technologies were not good enough since the very beginning because it consider only one moment and one object (technology). Therefore, we can have a victory with web technologies.
  2. Spot on with this write-up, I truly believe that this web site needs a lot more attention. I’ll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the advice!

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