Things We’re Learning From #Mozparty

Last weekend was the kickoff of Mozilla’s Summer Code Party (#mozparty).

In a summer-long campaign, there’s over 400 scheduled events in nearly as many cities, hosted by passionate people who want to share their knowledge of the web and learn together with friends.

I’d like to surface some lessons I’m already taking away from the campaign.

For more context about the Summer Code Party, check out the great posts by my colleagues at the end of the post.

Host Trainings

It can be a big ask to put on a party, even if it’s mostly about getting together informally around your kitchen tables.

For the campaign to go well, event hosts should feel confident and prepared for their event.

Right before the kickoff weekend, we offered online “host trainings” at various timezones, focusing on realtime support for our three main event types.

While not as many people showed up as hoped, the organizers who came were very engaged and asked great questions. You could tell they thought a lot about their event already.

Next time I think we should offer more frequent, less structured office hours for hosts. They can drop into a channel within certain times and get immediate help. That might reduce scheduling friction while maximizing access to support.

Visual Hashtags

Scrolling through the lovely pictures that came in over the weekend, there’s a powerful uniting element: a visual hashtag.

As much as possible, we tried to provide hosts with stickers and materials they could print out at their event. In aggregate, when you see all these pictures from events spanning the globe, that visual hashtag — a green circle — ties it all together and makes it feel like pieces of a larger whole.

Next year I think we can go even heavier into the visual hashtag. Perhaps even see more online applications, too, such as banners, avatars, Thimble projects, etc. that incorporate it. Plus encourage hosts, like Mozilla Philippines did above, to take a picture of the group holding up the tag.

Hacked Gallery

One of the best hacks I saw this weekend came from Soki Briggs, a Mozilla Rep in Nigeria.

The new Thimble app doesn’t yet have a gallery. We were asking people to take screenshots and upload their hacks to third-party galleries like Flickr.

Briggs hacked that and made a new Thimble project that WAS a gallery of links, showing what everyone made at his event. Beautiful idea.

Overly Engineered Support

This whole campaign won’t have been possible without a lot of people. A special thanks goes to the support team (Benjamin Simon, Rebeccah Mullen, Matt Thompson as well as Erin Knight) for preparing an impressive volunteer manual and support infrastructure.

During the kickoff weekend, it was all hands on deck. The whole Mozilla Foundation staff was on IRC, Twitter, Facebook (yuck, I know), Flickr, Tumblr, you name it. We were monitoring incoming content, but especially watching for people using the tag #mozhelp, our signal for troubleshooting.

We had long planned to use a forked version of Army of Awesome, an amazing support tool used by the Firefox team. Sadly, that feature was cut due to time constraints.

Lo and behold, Brian Brennan whipped up his own version of Army of Awesome overnight. Bless.

All in all, I think live support went smashingly, due to the over-engineering. Huge thanks to everyone manning the channels and for all the hosts who ran things so smoothly.

Have Fun

It was definitely a lot of work by the whole organization and loads of talented contributors to kick off the summer. In the midst of all the planning docs and coordination calls, it’s easy to lose track of the fact: it’s about having fun, about hosting a party.

The best events are about being with people you enjoy, making and learning together. Now we can really do that — all summer long.

Fade out to adorable pictures.

More about the Summer Code Party

8 comments

  1. Doug Belshaw · June 25, 2012

    Hi Michelle, thanks for pulling this together. :-)

    I wouldn’t be too concerned about the low turnouts for the host training session – to my mind it means people feel confident about the event they’re about to run!

  2. fredrik · June 25, 2012

    hi michelle, thanks for the great write-up! would you perhaps be interested in presenting mozilla’s (webmaker) activities at a drupal meetup in berlin – i think a lot of “drupalists” are/will be intrigued by what you guys are doing, given that drupal and mozilla share a rather similar outlook on the future web development and have a spirit of inclusiveness and empowerment :) let me know if you’d be interested best, fredrik ps. we’re meeting at betahaus every 1st thursday of the month …

  3. Pingback: The weekend the world learned the web | o p e n m a t t
  4. Pingback: Global Summer Code Party Kick-Off |
  5. Ioana Chiorean · June 25, 2012

    Nothing about the Cluj craziness? (sight)

    • thornet · June 25, 2012

      Sorry! Tried to add your awesome Cluj countdown, but the formatting wasn’t working. Like the group photo now? ^^

  6. Alina Mierlus · June 25, 2012

    I think the same as Doug (re. host trainings). The information provided during the training was useful (the notes, tricks etc.).

    But, I was actually expecting low attendance. First, because by phone people don’t feel so confident. Although you provided phone trainings for all time zones, there are things such as language or simply feeling comfortable to have a conversation by phone. Second, all event organizers are volunteers (they do this because they are passionate about, believe in it). But a very very small percent of event organizers want to really get to a more “professional” level (and thus probably attending such trainings).

    In the future (to reach to that 98% of volunteer event organizers) I would suggest: * focus on storytelling (videos, photos, tips and tricks) – most event organizers feel inspired by what they see others are doing (and that went just perfect for #mozparty weekend); * IRC sessions (where people feel more comfortable to chat);

    • face to face sessions during MozCamp, MozFest etc. Even organize regional trainings (for example my practice on organizing events was highly influenced by Drumbeat events, facilitator trainings).

    Anyway, great work! And a bunch of good information during the phone trainings. Maybe next time we should focus more on conversations.

  7. chris lawrence · June 25, 2012

    Hi Michelle, great recap!

    I am wondering if soon it might not be awesome to have some debrief sessions worth various facilitators/organizers. We could unpack what happened, share resources and add layers of details to our guides more grounded in what actually took place. Just a thought.