Mozilla Arabic Meetup 2014 and thoughts on Regional Support

Last weekend I had the pleasure to be among the Mozilla Arabic meetup for their annual community meeting, this time in Istanbul, Turkey.

The meetup schedule was packed for two full days, and we barely had time to cover all planned items. We made it though, thanks to the fantastic organizing team (Melek, Sofien, Majda, Rami (who joined remotely), Migdadi and Nefzaoui)

Note to self #1 This is once again a reminder that such 30-people meetups that happen annually (or in less frequency) need to run beyond 2 days. The addition of half a day on Friday would tremendously help, enabling everyone to sync up, bringing people up to speed and informing the schedule of the next two days.

The first day was dedicated on meta-community organization issues. Arabic community is a group of regional communities that are coming together under same goals (especially around l10n). The challenge on having such a meta-community is that the regional ones already have structure, leadership, pace and goals in place, and those might not necessarily be compatible between each other. We initially spent some time to determine the shared functions, roles and goals that should be dealt on a meta-community level rather then individual community one (things like: l10n oversight, Arabic community visibility, cross-community events and activities etc). The structure proposed (which I totally support) is forming a coordination committee with a rolling chair. Each community gets to be the chairing (“hosting”) one, driving and coordinating the meta-community for a period of 6-months. Then another community takes over.

The notable pros of this approach is the shared load over time, the visibility this brings to individual communities, the helpful exposure to different coordination styles and the sense of involvement and leadership all communities will get to experience. The ball is already rolling with this approach and a meeting next week will determine the first chairing community and finalize the way forward.

IMG_20141102_235026-SMILESecond day was more project specific. We had 3 core themes (L10n, FirefoxOS and Webmaker) and we split up in groups to have sessions on those. Partially training, partially brainstorming on next activities on the region, it was a productive experience for both participants and session owners. Haven’t showcased WebIDE to people? Introduce them to the magic of developing apps with Firefox Desktop and watch them drool.

During the meetup we also had a long session on participation and community building (which was kinda different from the approach taken on previous meetings). This time we introduced the idea of “Innovation from the edges” to people and brainstormed under two arcs: “Innovative ideas that you would like to work on” and “Ways that the rest of the Mozilla project could help you“.

Stating with the realization that Mozilla Project (supported by Mozilla Corporation and Mozilla Foundation) could not plan, execute, innovate and support all possible activities and projects that advance our Mozilla Mission, we let people loose to come up with regional (and global) activities and projects that would bring innovation to Mozilla and help us advance our mission. The response was enthusiastic and informing. People quickly came up with ideas that they would like to work on ranging from engineering projects to partnerships with other projects on the ground. More interestingly, patterns emerged under the arc of “how the rest of Mozilla can support you“. Hands-on training (technical or not), mandate to represent Mozilla, access to tools and systems (in an open way) and resources around IT, were some recurring themes that we identified. All these will be taken back to the Mozilla Community Building team and the appropriate Working Groups to inform our strategy for the near future and enable us to support regional and functional communities better.

Note to self #2 Budget and Swag (our default go-tos for regional support) were not even mentioned on the “how we can support you” session. We may need to rethink many of our assumptions moving forward.

I am confident that the Arabic Community has a solid way forward planned after this meetup, and I can’t wait to see the results of it. As for the learnings that we got out of this weekend, we need to evaluate them and plan the way forward for participation strategy informed by such inputs.

Event wiki page: https://wiki.mozilla.org/ArabicMozillaMeetup/2014
Analysis of the community: https://etherpad.mozilla.org/arabic-meetup-swot
Action plan: https://arabicmozilla.etherpad.mozilla.org/meetup-14-action-plan