My expectations for MozCamp Europe, Berlin.

by Alina Mierlus

I have only a few days to accept the invitation I received for attending the Mozilla European Contributors meeting in Berlin, November 12 – 13. I’m still asking myself about what I can get from there or which is the value I can add to the event.

Given that the event is scheduled in a relatively busy week (right after the Mozilla Festival and another Digital Humanities event in Barcelona), I was thinking seriously – what would be worth my time to attend?  .

I’ve been participating to a number of Mozilla Contributor events (from European, Balkans Mozcamps; to Summit and Fossdem(s)). It’s fantastic to (re)meet the other people in the project, talk and see what they do in their locale. But, at the same time, there is a high risk to transform all those contributor meet-ups in a pleasant routine, which is the opposite of the “extremely fast changing process” that the web, the organization and even the community is facing.

I remember that 2 years ago, in Prague, I started a discussion about “remixing the Mozilla Manifesto” and I attended some thoughtful sessions around open web and back then, the early idea of Drumbeat. It was an incredible experience to be in those groups, taking a lot with me after the event.
And since the last MozCamp, both my focus and vision on Mozilla as a project have changed a bit. In those 2 years I’ve seen a few new communities rising up, met dozens of new Mozillians and I’m continuously  meeting new people that share the same values as us and need to find their place in the Mozilla community.

Mozilla Eu contributors (and the Project in general) have a tremendous opportunity to meet face to face, once a year (an opportunity that many open source / free culture projects do not always have). For this, I think that Mozillians should take seriously the emphasis on “generated value” (for both participants and organization as a whole) .

Following, I’ll try to summarize in 3 points my expectations from the next MozCamp event:

Collaboratively making of the agenda

And no, by collaboratively, I don’t mean that volunteers can apply to give presentations or organize a session.
Doing the event collaboratively means to be allowed to participate from the point 0 – from identifying the *problem*, why we get together there, what do people expect / want to add, which is the aim, giving the critical moment in the community.
Collaboratively also means that anyone can have his/her say, that the event can be hacked depends on how things evolves and/or use tools Etherpad/a special mailing lists to add feedback/suggestions during the preparation process.
More open spaces – and make sure that if a participant wants to host his own brainstorming/hacking/prototyping session he or she will have a space. It often happens to get ideas on site (the result of being in the same place with so many people).

Community-based

The last events tend to have the most of the presentations/sessions led by community members with an employee status (that could indirectly create a top-down/formal ambient that kills potential community innovation, great ideas or slow-down the community enthusiasm). Even though I’m in favor of  not differentiating between volunteers/employees/collaborators (all are community peers) I think that a balance is necessary.

Listen and give mentorship when needed. Just that! It’s much more in the community spirit than trainings (although would be fantastic to have event facilitators trainings).
There are mostly European core contributors and maybe some new ones -  Inspire trust and discuss in open.

Focus on the essential

I know that 2 years since the last MozCamp is much and exists the tendency to cover everything in Mozilla (Firefox) project but, at the same time, trying to do everything is not the most effective solution. We currently experience some deep problems in the community, such as:
*** centralized l10n model and leak of outside participation in the process;
*** people leaving the community (which is normal after a few years of contribution) and “the problem” of finding replacement or creating space for others to contribute/lead;
*** a still unclear image of Mozilla’s Culture / community member motivation.

Although I see the Community and Development track interesting, there are still things that don’t convince me (such as a more elaborated page w/ what peers from community would love to see in there).

As a one concrete thing, I would be mostly interested in MozSpaces, because I believe that this could be an important component in nurturing a community learning/development path. And not only the “official” MozSpaces, but open and coworking spaces in general – and how we could interact/engage w/ other communities in there and spread the Mozilla’s culture, how to design activities and events and build new spaces for other people (and new Mozillians) to participate.

The topic for this year is “Many voices, one Mozilla” – I really hope to see this a productive and solution design oriented meet-up. And as a fellow Mozillian says: “Stop Yammering and Start Hammering!”.