Are we on track with our 2014 contributor goals?

I presented a version of this on the Mozilla Foundation staff call yesterday, and thought it’s worth a write-up for those who weren’t on the call and those in MoCo working on related things.

Some Context:

One of the cross Mozilla goals this year is to “10X” the number of active contributors, with a longer term goal of growing to a million Mozillians.

When the 10X goal was set we weren’t really sure what X was, for valid reasons; defining contribution is as much art as it is science, and the work plans for this year include building the tools to measure this in a systematic way. The goals justify the tools, and vice versa. Chicken and egg.

2,000 contributors were invited to the summit, so the target was set at 20k active contributors shared between MoCo and MoFo. MoFo have been working to a target of 10k contributors but in practice this isn’t going to be a clean 50/50 split and there will be overlap in contributors across teams, projects and MoFo/MoCo. For example, 10k MoCo contributors + 10k MoFo contributors could = 19k Mozilla contributors.

When I joined in January, each of the MoFo teams did some (slightly tedious) manual counting and estimated their contributor numbers for 2013, and we added these up to a theoretical 5,600 contributors. This was our baseline number. Useful to an order or magnitude, but not precise.

This 5,600 number suggests that 10k contributors was quite far off 10X contributors based on these January estimates, but 10k is still going to be a challenging goal. At 10X we’d have been aiming for 50k+ contributors.

From the data that’s emerging, 10k active contributors to MoFo feels like a sane but stretching target.

With the recent forming of the Badge Alliance, some MoFo goals are now Badge Alliance goals, and the same goes for counting people contributing to parts of the Open Badge ecosystem. As a result, our theoretical 5,600 contributor number got smaller. It’s now 4,200.

So 4,200 is where we assumed we started this year, but we haven’t proved this yet. And realizing this measurement has been our priority metrics project this year.

How are we doing so far?

We’ve been automating ways to count these ‘theoretical’ contributors, and feeding them into our dashboard.

But to-date as we’ve looked at the dashboard, and the provable number was 1,000 or 2,000 or so, we would then say “but the real number is actually closer to 5,000″. Which means the dashboard hasn’t been very useful yet, as the theoretical number always trumped the provable but incomplete number.

This will change in the next few weeks.

We’re now nearly counting ‘live’, all of those theoretical pots of contribution.

And the dashboard is at 2,800.

Once we add the Webmaker mentors who complete their training this year, and anything else that goes into the ad-hoc contribution logger, we’re basically at our real comparison point to that theoretical number, and we can drop the ‘theoretical’ bit.

If there’s a thousand mentors and another four hundred contributors added to the ad-hoc logger, our theoretical estimate will be remarkably close to reality. Except, that it’s six months behind where we thought it would be.

We’re getting close to that 4,200, but we expected (albeit pretty loosely) to be there in January.

This either means that:

(A) the growth shown on the graph to-date is an artifact of missing historical data, and we’re actually trending pretty flat.

(B) our 2013 estimates were too high and we started this year with fewer contributors than we thought, but we’ve been growing to date.

As we don’t have time-stamped historical data for some of these things, we’re not going to know which for sure. But either way, we now need to increase the rate at which we on-board new contributors to hit 10k by the end of the year.

There are plans in place for growing contribution numbers, but this is going to be active work.

Whether that’s converting new webmaker users who join us through Maker Party, or reducing barriers to contributing code or, actively  going out and asking people if they want to contribute. Growing that contributor number is going to be a combination of good processes and marketing.

Also to note

I’ll be making this MoFo total number smaller by X% when we integrate the data into a single location and de-dupe people across these  activities. But we don’t know what X% is yet. That’s just something to be aware of.

In relation to the points on there not being a clear MoCo/MoFo split in where people contribute, we’re much more directly connecting up the systems and processes now. We’ll have more to share on this in the coming weeks.

Tracking the status of the dashboard

3 responses to Are we on track with our 2014 contributor goals?

  1. One thing to look at when considering whether we are making progress is that some of our funding that supports contributor growth is lower this year then in previous years. For instance the reps program has a much smaller budget.

    Additionally some of the headcount that helped support contributors has been vacant. We have three or four community manager roles open right now that all support contributors.

    • Larissa says:

      I absolutely agree that getting more data can help us defend budget for community/contributor managers and builders.

      Adam, thanks for your continuous thoughtful data driven commentary… I follow closely and really appreciate it. Overall I see our combined efforts this year in part as a demystification process. Mozilla used to think volunteers came magically but we didn’t really track. I see the changes you and Pierros and systems and data (and others) are making as for the good, on that score.

  2. Adam says:

    Thanks Benjamin, and yes, there are a tonne of interesting and important questions, stories and processes that will come together to form a top-line count of how many people are contributing.

    I’d love any suggestions on where you think this data and the graphs etc that come from it could help particular communities and programs within Mozilla.

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