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…
- Be active, now or historically
- Self-identify with Mozilla’s mission
- 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.
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:
- They specifically ask existing members to consider contribution activity when inviting new members.
- They require each new Mozillian to read and support the Mozilla Manifesto, self-identifying with the mission.
- 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.