A new Mozillians.org signup process

I previously wrote about some issues with the Mozillians.org authorization system. In a nutshell: The language we use to talk about signing up for (“vouching”) and accessing the platform through the API (“corporate vs. consumer”) doesn’t match our present and future needs, and also doesn’t match some of our recent practices. This disconnect has a variety of problematic ramifications. We want to fix it.

The resolution for these dual concerns is related, but we don’t need to resolve them simultaneously. Below, I describe a proposal for resolving concerns related to signing up for the platform. Many of these ideas came from williamr, jmenon, davidwboswell, giorgos, and others across Mozilla.

The problem we need to resolve is ambiguity about what it means to have an account in Mozillians.org. And, with a nod to Mozilla’s ambitious plans for community building, we need to resolve this problem in a way that makes it easy for the right people to join Mozillians.org.

Goal: Eliminate confusion about what having an account in Mozillians.org means. Make it easy for the right people to join Mozillians.org.

Those two requirements are quite complex. Opinions differ about what it means to be a Mozillian, and about how that relates to the systems that a Mozillian might join. We reached out to the community in a variety of forums to help us understand the scope of this conversation (here and here, for example). After discussing for several months, we believe the community has provided sufficient guidance for us to write code. Specifically, the community said (to use Mitchell Baker’s words),

‘[We need] to be inclusive, and provide welcome, encouragement and legitimacy to people across a range of different levels of engagement. At the same
time, we want a way to identify the set of people who are actively committed and engaged in a community of shared effort. A single “yes/no” decision — yes, you’re a Mozillian, or “no, you’re not” can’t capture all of this well.’

It’s clear that being a Mozillian is a journey. In order to support this journey, we want people who are just starting out to have access to a basic set of resources within Mozilla’s contributor ecosystem.

Mozillians.org is in a position to provide this basic level of service; for example, having an account in Mozillians.org allows Mozillians to connect with one another, lets them access certain protected resources, and makes possible a unified view of an individual’s contributions across myriad contribution pathways. Therefore, we want to build a Mozillians.org signup process that allows people to join Mozillians.org as soon as possible — at the beginning of their journey.

We want to build a Mozillians.org signup process that allows people to join Mozillians.org as soon as possible — at the beginning of their journey.

However, not just anyone can join. Mozillians do share certain characteristics and we want our signup process to capture these. The community has converged around a small set of criteria that distinguish a Mozillian. According to that consensus, in order to be a Mozillian, someone should…

  1. Be active, now or historically
  2. Self-identify with Mozilla’s mission
  3. Engage with other Mozillians in the community

We can capture all of these criteria in a signup process. In other words, we can build a harmonic coherence, building the community’s definition of Mozillian right into Mozillians.org.

cohere

Obligatory doge graphic

We’ll do this by replacing the current signup process, which depends on a vouching step, with a signup process driven entirely by invitations. Here are the specific features we propose to implement in the first iteration of this work:

  • In order to join Mozillians.org, a person must have an invitation.
  • Invites can be sent by people who already have accounts in Mozillians.org.
  • Inviting will be rate-limited (e.g. every Mozillian gets 5 invites per month).
  • The signup process will be clearly explained to logged-out users anyplace it makes sense to do so. For example, “Think you have what it takes to be a Mozillian? Great! Just find a Mozillian to invite you.”
  • The invitation process will include specific instructions including the criteria for inviting someone. For example, “Mozillians are active. Please invite people who are actively contributing.
  • All language about vouching will be replaced with language about inviting, site-wide.
  • Upon accepting an invitation, a user will be presented with the Mozilla Manifesto. Clicking “I Support Mozilla’s Mission” lets them continue to the profile creation screen.
  • The profile creation/editing screen will include links to specific information about how particular information added to Mozillians.org profiles is shared (e.g. “Information in your profile will be viewable by other members of Mozillians.org”).
  • Profiles will include an “Invited by” link to the person who invited them (people who were vouched in the prior system will be “invited by” their voucher).
  • A formal announcement of this change will be made in advance, giving all users 30 days to change or remove their accounts if they wish to.

Together, these features address the overarching goal of this effort because they clarify the makeup of our community. The new interactions and language clearly explain that Mozillians.org relies on the good judgment of each community member, and can grow organically based on the actions of any existing member.

These features also address the criteria that define a Mozillian:

  1. They specifically ask existing members to consider contribution activity when inviting new members.
  2. They require each new Mozillian to read and support the Mozilla Manifesto, self-identifying with the mission.
  3. They ensure that new members of Mozillians.org are already engaged with someone in the community.

In the future, we can imagine extending this functionality in a few ways:

  • We can allow certain API accounts to create invitations on behalf of a specific pathway. For example, when someone submits their first PR to a Mozilla repository in Github, they might get an automatic invitation to join Mozillians.org.
  • We can prompt existing Mozillians to read/agree to the Manifesto on a regular basis — perhaps annually?

We are eager to hear feedback about this proposal because we intend to start coding a new signup process in early 2014. Please reach out in the developer’s mailing list or in the comments.

12 thoughts on “A new Mozillians.org signup process

  1. @jesseruderman, thanks for your feedback. I think your suggestion about likerts (or some similar mechanism) is a good one.

    I can see from the comments on your blog that this part of the proposal is not unanimously popular. I hope the folks commenting there and here will assume good intent on the part of the people who’re trying to solve this problem. We’re trying to make it better and we’re listening.

    I have a couple follow-up questions for you:

    * Do you think it’s a valuable exercise to try and capture the community’s criteria for identifying its members in a signup process on Mozillians.org?
    * Do you think the criterion, “Self-identify with Mozilla’s mission”, is a valid criterion for identifying a Mozillian?
    * Can you suggest any other good ideas for programmatically discerning someone’s self-identification with Mozilla’s mission? The manifesto is just one way, after all.

  2. I still don’t quite get *why* we need to identify people as Mozillians. I also disagree with “Mozillians do share certain characteristics and we want our signup process to capture these.”. We need to distinguish between what Mozilla *wants* the community to be and what the community actually is.

    Honestly, if Mozilla wants people to follow their guidance, maybe a less obvious way might work. It seems like Mozilla is either: “You go by our rules (“the manifesto”) or you’re not a Mozillian” which I don’t agree with.

  3. Nice to see thoughtfulness in how our abstract ideas are translated into actions. thanks!

    I’ll comment on the piece that I’m struggling with and not re-iterate the things that feel right. I am struggling a bit with the idea that people must click “i agree” to the manifesto. It brings two difficult images to mind. Neither of these are accurate, I’m more focused on the emotional response they cause than whether they are perfectly analagous examples. One is the “loyalty pledge” idea. My reference for this is very US-centric, the anti-communist loyalty pledges required in the 30s. The other image that comes to mind is today’s EULA, which most people click through to get past it.

    I really like the idea of describing the community one is entering. I was talking with Jesse, and he suggested some way to personalize the manifesto. So maybe something that explained that Mozilla is a mission-driven organization, here are the values we use in decision-making, and the mozilla community gather around these values, and when you join us you’re entering a community where this is the worldview that we use to determine our actions.

    Another possibility would be to ask people to identify which of the principles really resonates with them, or to give people an option to do so. There are probably lots of other nice ideas about identifying the relationship between the manifeso and our community. Something like that would be awesome, I’ll bet we could make it fun and Mozilla-like.

  4. I still think the fatal mistake that is being done is that it’s assumed that people need to identify with Mozilla in one way or another or that there’s a typical Mozillian, which is not the case. We should still separate the individual’s opinions / character from the goals of the corporation.

    Let’s do this and we keep the community healthy. If we don’t, we might make the false assumption that people *need* to identify with the organization in order to be considered valuable, and as I pointed out before (read my blog post written earlier about “Community 2.0)[1] we *do* want to value the individual for what he is, not for what he does.

    [1] http://mozillatobbi.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/new-mozilla-or-community-2-0/

    I still don’t get why we need to have a definition unless we want people to be in our image.

  5. At the risk of demonstrating yet again how much I still have to learn about Mozilla, I’ll offer one possible answer to Tobbi’s question about “Why?”.

    At the Community Builder’s Meetup last week we heard dozens of people express powerful excitement about a blossoming effort within Mozilla. The effort stoking their enthusiasm is (in my words) to work as a community to develop our community much more deliberately than we have in the past. A lot of people (myself included) are trying to figure out how to do that in our own areas of influence.

    But since (I get the impression) this is kind of a new way to think about and interact with community at Mozilla, we’re also trying to create some shared understanding of what the heck it means. How will we undertake a deliberate effort around community development? How will we know that it’s working? Well, maybe we’ll know because community members matching X description are experiencing Y outcome; or because there are 200 more community members matching Z description every month, or because of some other thing that requires us to have a basic understanding of who we are and who we aim to be.

    I think this conversation, and the other conversations underway, is what it looks like when a community attempts to define itself and chart a course for its future. It’s challenging!

    For a moment, imagine that we (all the commenters on this blog post) were committed to work together to generate more community momentum around Mozilla’s highest purpose in the world: What would that actually mean? What would we spend tomorrow doing? That’s what we’re all trying to answer; sometimes in ways that express Mozilla perfectly, and sometimes less so.

    (/me grins sheepishly)

    I will post separately (later on Friday, PST) with some follow up specifically about all the great feedback coming out of this proposal.

    Thanks everyone!

  6. I think the efforts to “developing” a community have been done without thinking about the possible implications of such a huge community. If many people *really* expressed excitement about this, I am sure, they did it without being aware that having a lot of people in a community most certainly alienates it. There’s a maximal size a *healthy* community can has. And this size has been by far exceeded. I am not sure *if* there were any philosophical thoughts spent on the maximal size of a community. If this indeed was the case, I would love if anyone could link me to relevant parts. If not, I assume that this growth was done without spending any time on figuring out if we can *handle* it.

    If you guys want to have a healthy community, I don’t think that numbers matter. Deliberate efforts to *scale* community are hopeless. You cannot force the population numbers of a country to go up, neither can you scale community. It’s just not working, unless you want to create pressure, which currently is the case. On the same page, I think it’s worthless to think about a “shared understanding”, because this shared understanding doesn’t exist. You just cannot tell certain people what to “understand”. Everyone joined Mozilla for different reasons. And I believe that a huge percentage of those was not due to the manifesto, but maybe to be “doing something good”, where the Manifesto simply does. not. matter. The question about “Who we are and who we want to be” is pointless as well. Who can define such things and if we do define it: *Who* gets to have the final decision? Community? Corporate Mozilla?

    I have to repeat something that I also wrote in my blog post: I refuse to work on something I don’t have influence in (unless I get money for it, of course). Under the circumstances of getting paid for it, I will of course even commit to working together. In the past, it was very well possible to interpret the manifesto in my own way and do projects accordingly, without Mozilla’s guidance but with the Mozilla banner.

    I believe it’s best if you reconsider the whole thing! If I had a voice, I would suggest that we should spend “a lot of things” tomorrow. Let the community develop on their own, and something fruitful will come out of it.

  7. Well, I replied as earlier promised, but sent my reply to the wrong email address[0]. So, I think nobody saw it. Here’s a second attempt.

    https://mail.mozilla.org/pipermail/community-building/2013-December/000992.html

    Tobbi, you raise good questions. The scope of them is far larger than this proposal, and I encourage you to take them to the community building list itself[1] — perhaps with a subject like, “Why Scale Community?”.

    Mitchell, thanks for finding your way to my blog! You’re quite right: This proposal wasn’t intended to be about a “purity test”, but that interpretation of it provoked some excellent clarifying conversation. It wasn’t clear before to me, but it is clear now that many of us give as much weight to “self” as we do to “mission” in the second criterion, “self-identify with Mozilla’s mission”. I expect the next iteration of this proposal will balance those factors more evenly.

    [0] https://groups.google.com/d/msg/mozilla.dev.community-tools/Cju1GxezcYs/yEK5_va4G3sJ
    [1] https://mail.mozilla.org/listinfo/community-building

  8. Justin, thanks for having this discussion on your proposal and iterating based on everyone’s feedback. I’ve had a chance to catch up on this thread and wanted to post a couple of thoughts to be considered.

    I agree that it is critical to identify all of the people who are actively committed and engaged in the community and the three criteria from the Summit (action, interaction, belief) will let us do that.

    First, I don’t think there’s any right way to get involved and people’s journeys will be different. Some will start with passion about the mission and then will find a way to contribute. Some will initially be connected to us through the work and then will come to understand the mission. Others will be connected first through interactions with a Mozillian.

    So, I’d like to see the invite process take into account any of the three criteria and not require any of the others. For example, if you’ve committed code to a Mozilla site in Github but have never heard of the Manifesto, that’s fine and you should be invited. Your journey can then lead to learning more about the mission later on.

    Second, I think automating invitations is critical and should be a requirement for a transition to this model instead of something to address in the future.

    Relying on manual invitations is not going to get us to the goal of getting everyone who we want on the site. Existing Mozillians have limited bandwidth for this task, individuals are usually interacting with people who have already jumped a lot of hurdles to gain our attention but we want to focus on people just starting out, etc.

    I’m not suggesting blocking this change until we have every pathway fully documented and automated, but we should at least automate invitations initially where we can. For instance, webdev has a well documented contribution pathway that has already been automated to send out badges without requiring Webdev Stewards to spend their limited time issuing badges and that could be reused to automate invitations.

  9. David,

    others, however, will always be connected through the work, and the work alone. We should not force the mission upon them. And another group of people might just have limited time to pursue the mission, and might just want to care about their area of contribution only (for fun, because of boredom, or for whatever other reason). We should not force the mission upon these group of people either.

    In my opinion, seeing contributing to Mozilla as a journey is a wrong impression. Mozilla is still an open source project. There will always be people who just want to try it out, and who will leave because it wasn’t as good as they expected it to be. Please give them this freedom, and don’t make them care about fuzz they really do not want to deal with.

    I suggest giving contributors as much of a free choice as possible. If they want to be part of the community, I think we should make it easy for them to find Mozillians, but IMHO automatically inviting them is a step too far.

  10. Tobbi,

    I completely agree with you — I had said that I think involvement with any one of the three criteria should be sufficient to be considered a Mozillian and that none of the criteria should be a requirement. We will want some people to be active in all three criteria, but that will certainly be a small percentage of the whole community.

    To be more clear, here is what I propose. The invitation process should take into account workflows for all three criteria. That could look like:

    * Interaction: The manual invitation process Justin describes above captures the interaction criteria since we know there has been some connection between people when an existing Mozillian sends an invitation to a new person.

    * Action: The API Justin mentions would cover this as long as we make sure that all sites in the community where activity can occur are making use of this.

    * Belief: If the Manifesto is being updated to be interactive, we could invite people to join Mozillians once they’ve interacted with it. Seeing when someone does interact with the Manifesto and then inviting them seems to address the concerns with baking in interaction with the Manifesto into the registration process on mozillians.org.

    It’s worth noting that if we follow something like this that we’ll also solve a discoverability problem where people new to Mozilla don’t know about mozillians.org. They don’t need to know about the site — each of these three processes happen off of the site and take place where people are contributing to Mozilla. I think that is a critical thing to consider — people should be invited to mozillians.org and shouldn’t need to figure out what it is and how to get a profile.

    David

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