I’ve been involved with Mozilla as a contributor/community manager/Rep for the last three years and over the course of that period, I’ve heard from folks about contributing to Mozilla.
So that’s why I’m playing myth-buster and I’m going to tackle some of the common misconceptions I’ve heard from people.
Myth #1: It’s all about the Mozilla Firefox browser in my laptop/desktop
Mozilla Firefox is an awesome browser in your desktop/laptop machine and a lot of past contributor efforts have been about around it since it went out of beta in 2004. I bet a great deal of people joined the rally call almost a decade ago to take the web back.
But volunteers now have apps, projects and initiatives to support, and it’s not just limited to desktop environments.
Myth #2: I must know how to code
This is a very common misconception I hear, especially from non-techies who don’t know their HTML tag from their bag tag. Yes, it’s nice to get your grimy and dirty contributing to the nightly builds if you’re the developer kind of person, but I tell you, there’s more to contributing than that.
I’m a full-fledged Mozilla contributor and I have never added one line of code that affected the functional behavior of Mozilla Firefox. I’ve helped in localizing Mozilla Firefox to Tagalog (a Filipino dialect), organized events, led a community, and mentored other volunteers. If you type “about:credits” on the Mozilla Firefox Awesome Bar, you will see that Mozilla recognized the volunteer efforts I’ve done.
Myth #3: I have to know someone from Mozilla personally to get in on the fun
If you’re a shy person (even on the online realm), the lack of the social connections to Mozilla could be a hurdle. That’s totally understandable, but there’s one thing I’ve picked up in a recent Mozilla Camp about how contributing is in Mozilla– it’s a “Do-ocracy.”
What’s a “Do-ocracy” (a play obviously on “democracy”)? If I interpret it correctly, it means you just go ahead and do it, you don’t need explicit permission from people to do what you’d like to help in. If you look at the Contribute page in the Mozilla site, you’ll see that you don’t need to sign-up to anything to make a dent on Mozilla.
So if you don’t know any one from Mozilla or any Mozilla contributor, here’s my advice to you: Just do it, it’s a “do-ocracy.”
Myth #4: I have to do something big and grand
Mozilla community folks have come up with very grand stuff and witty ideas, but it really shouldn’t intimidate new volunteers. If you’ve followed some of the updates in Mozilla lately, there’s a conscious move to lower the barrier and make it easy for folks to do something Mozilla-related.
A good example of that is the 2012 Summer Code Party for the Mozilla Webmaker initiative. It encourages ordinary folks to organize Kitchen Table events, small-scale activities that should inspire people to “teach each other how to learn things” about the web at home.
Myth #5: Only Mozilla Reps can make a difference in a local community
Of course, I’m reserving the best for last. 🙂
I often people who have heard of the Mozilla Reps program and think that being a Mozilla Rep is some sort of license to be a Mozilla contributor and do Mozilla-related activities.
This is just one big misconception that should be put to the recycle bin and never retrieved.
The Mozilla Reps program is an initiative for contributor where it “aims to empower and support volunteer Mozillians who want to become official representatives of Mozilla in their region/locale and wherever they go.”
As the previous statement outlines, the Reps program can be seen a “next level” for volunteers, a level where the person has gathered enough experience and actually represent and speak in behalf on Mozilla on certain situations. It is not a prerequisite to doing stuff like localization, organizing events, contributing code, or even answering simple questions like “Why is Firefox slow in my laptop?”
I hope the five myths are considered busted for a lot of people out there. And if you have any concerns/mental hurdles about contributing to Mozilla, feel free to post a comment, email our community mailing list or even DM @firefox in Twitter.