When ‘less than the sum of our parts’ is a good thing

areweamillionyetHere’s a happy update about our combined Mozilla Foundation (MoFo) and Mozilla Corporation (MoCo) contributor dashboards.

TL;DR: There’s a demo All Mozilla Contributor Dashboard you can see at areweamillionyet.org

It’s a demo, but it’s also real, and to explain why this is exciting might need a little context.

Since January, I’ve been working on MoFo specific metrics. Mostly because that’s my job, but also because this/these organisations/projects/communities take a little while to understand, and getting to know MoFo was enough to keep me busy.

We also wanted to ship something quickly so we know where we stand against our MoFo goals, even if the data isn’t perfect. That’s what we’ve built in our *interim* dashboard. It’s a non de-duped aggregation of the numbers we could get out of our current systems without building a full integration database. It gives us a sense of scale and shows us trends. While not precise and high resolution yet, this has still been helpful to us. Data can sometimes look obvious once you see it, but before this we were a little blind.

So naturally, we want to make this dashboard as accurate as possible, and the next step is integrating and de-duping the data so we can know if the people who run Webmaker events are the people who commit code, are the people who file bugs, are the people who write articles for Source, are the people who teach Software Carpentry Bootcamps, etc, etc.

The reason we didn’t start this project by building a MoFo integration database, is because MoCo were already working on that. And in less than typical Mozilla style (as I’m coming to understand it), we didn’t just build our own version of this. ;) (though there might be some scope and value for integrating some of this data within the Foundation anyway, but that’s a separate thought).

The integration database in question is MoCo’s project Baloo, which Pierros, and many people on the MoCo side have been working on. It’s a complex project influenced by more than than just technical requirements. Scoping the system is the point at which many teams are first looking at their contributor data in detail and working out what their indicators of contribution look like.

Our plan is that our MoFo interim dashboard data-source can eventually be swapped out for the de-duped ‘single source of truth’ system, at which point it goes from being a fuzzy-interim thing to a finalized precise thing.

While MoCo and ‘Fo have been taking two different approaches to solving this problem, we’ve not worked in isolation. We meet regularly, follow each other’s progress and have been trying to find the point where these approaches can merge into a unified cross Mozilla solution.

The demo we shipped yesterday was the first point where we’ve joined up this work.

Dial-up modems

I want to throw in an internet based analogy here, for those who remember dial-up modems.

Let’s imagine this image shows us *all* the awesome Mozilla contributors and what they are doing. We want there to be 20k of them in 2014.


It’s not that we don’t know if we have contributors. We’ve seen individual contributors, and we’ve seen groups of contributors, but we haven’t seen them all in one place yet.

So to continue the dial-up modem analogy, let’s think of this big-picture view of contribution as a large uncompressed JPEG, which has been loading slowly for a few months.

The MoFo interim dashboard has been getting us part of this picture. Our approach has revealed the MoFo half of this picture with slowly increasing resolution and accuracy. It’s like an interlaced JPEG, and is about this accurate so far:


The Project Baloo approach is precise and can show MoCo and MoFo data, but adds data source at a time. It’s rolling out like a progressive JPEG. The areweamillionyet.org dashboard demo isn’t using Baloo yet, but the data it’s using is a good representation of how Baloo can work. What you can see in the demo dashboard is a picture like this:


(Original Photo Credit: Gen Kanai)

About areweamillionyet.org

This is commit data extracted from cross team/org/project repositories via github. Even though code contribution is only one part of the big-picture. Seeing this much of the image tells us things we didn’t know before. It gives us scale, trends and ways to ask questions about how to effectively and intentionally grow the community.

The ‘commit history’ over time is also a fascinating data set, and I’ll follow up with a blog post on that soon.

Less that the sum of our parts? When 5 + 5 = 8

With the goal of 20k active contributors this year, shared between MoCo and MoFo, we’re thinking about 10k active contributors to MoCo and to MoFo. And if we counted each org in isolation we could both say “here’s 10k active contributors”, and this would be a significant achievement. But, if we de-dupe these two sets it would be really worrying if there wasn’t an overlap between the people who contribute to MoCo and the people who contribute to MoFo projects.

Though we want to engage many many individual contributors, I think a good measure of our combined community building effectiveness will be how much these ‘pots’ of contributors overlap. When 10k MoFo contributors + 10k MoCo contributors = 15k combined Mozilla contributors, we should definitely celebrate.

That’s the thing I’m most excited about with regards to joining up the data. Understanding how contributors connect across projects; how they volunteer their time, energy and skills is many different ways, and understanding what ‘Many Voices, One Mozilla’ looks like. When we understand this, we can improve it, for the benefit of the project, and the individuals who care about the mission and want to find ways into the project so they can make a difference.

While legal processes define ‘Corporations’ and ‘Foundations’, the people who volunteer and contribute rarely give a **** about which org ‘owns’ the project they’re contributing too; they just want to build a better internet. Mozilla is bigger than the legal entities. And the legal entities are not what Mozilla is about, they are just one of the necessities to making it work.

So the org dashboards, and team dashboards we’re building can help us day-to-day with tactical and strategic decisions, but we always need to keep them in the context of the bigger picture. Even if the big picture takes a while to download.

Here’s to more cross org collaboration.

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