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.
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.
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.
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.
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