We’re a little over halfway through the year now, and our dashboard is now good enough to tell us how we’re doing.
- The existing trend lines won’t get us to our 2014 goals
- but knowing this is helpful
- and getting there is possible
- Ask less: How do we count our contributors?
- Ask more: What are we doing to grow the contributor community? And, are we on track?
Changing the question
Our dashboard now needs to move from being a project to being a tool that helps us do better. After all, Mozilla’s unique strength is that we’re a community of contributors and this dashboard, and the 2014 contributor goal, exist to help us focus our workflows, decisions and investments in ways that empower the community. Not just for the fun of counting things.
The first half of the year focused us on the question “How do we count contributors?”. By and large, this has now been answered.
We need to switch our focus to:
- Are we on track?
- What are we doing to grow the contributor community?
Then repeating these two question regularly throughout the year, and adjusting our strategy as we go.
Are we on track?
Wearing my cold-dispassionate-metrics hat, and not my “I know how hard you’re all working already” hat, I have to say no (or, not yet).
I’m going to look at this team by team and then look at the All Mozilla Foundation view at the end.
Your task, for each graph below is to take an imaginary marker pen and draw the line for the rest of the year based on the data you can see to date. And only on the data you can see to-date.
- What does your trend line look like?
- Is it going to cross the dotted target line in 2014?
Based on the data to-date, I’d draw a flat line here. Although there are new contributors joining pretty regularly, the overall trend is flat. In marketing terms there is ‘churn'; not a nice term, but a useful one to talk about the data. To use other crass marketing terms, ‘retention’ is as important as ‘acquisition’ in changing the shape of this graph.
Dispassionately here, I’d have to draw a trend line that’s pointing slightly down. One thing to note in this view is that the Science Lab team have good historic data, so what we’re seeing here is the result of the size of the community in early 2013, and some drop-off from those people.
This graph is closest to what we want to see generally, i.e. pointing up. But I’ll caveat that with a couple of points. First, taking the imaginary marker pen, this isn’t going to cross the 2014 target line at the current rate. Second, unlike the Science Lab and OpenNews data above, much of this Appmaker counting is new. And when you count things for the first time, a 12 month rolling active total has a cumulative effect in the first year, which increases the appearance of growth, but might not be a long term trend. This is because Appmaker community churn won’t be a visible thing until next year when people could first drop out of the twelve month active time-frame.
This graph is the hardest to extend with our imaginary marker pen, especially with the positive incline we can see as Maker Party kicks off. The Webmaker plan expects much of the contributor community growth to come from the Maker Party campaign, so a steady incline was not the expectation across the year. But, we can still play with the imaginary marker pen.
I’d do the following exercise: In the first six months, active contributors grew by ~800 (~130 per month), so assuming that’s a general trend (big assumption) and you work back from 10k in December you would need to be at ~9,500 by the end of September. Mark a point at 9,500 contributors above the October tick and look at the angle of growth required throughout Maker Party to get there. That’s not impossible, but it’s a big challenge and I don’t have any historic data to make an informed call here.
Note: the Appmaker/Webmaker separation here is a legacy thing from the beginning of the year when we started this project. The de-duped datastore we’re working on next will allow us to graph: Webmaker Total > Webmaker Tools > Appmaker as separate graphs with separate goals, but which get de-duped and roll-up into the total numbers above, and in turn roll-up into the Mozilla wide total at areweamillionyet.org – this will better reflect the actual overlaps.
[ 0 contributors ]
The MoFo metrics team currently has zero active volunteer contributors, and based on the data available to date is trending absolutely flat. Action is required here, or this isn’t going to change. I also need to set a target. Growing 0 by 10X doesn’t really work. So I’ll aim for 10 volunteer contributors in 2014.
All Mozilla Foundation
Here we’re adding up the other graphs and also adding in ~900 people who contributed to MozFest in October 2013. That MozFest number isn’t counted towards a particular team and simply lifts the total for the year. There is no trend for the MozFest data because all the activity happened at once, but if there wasn’t a MozFest this year (don’t worry, there is!) in October the total line would drop by 900 in a single week. Beyond that, the shape of this line is the cumulative result of the team graphs above.
In Q3, we’ll be able to de-dupe this combined number as there are certainly contributors working across MoFo teams. In a good way, our total will be less that the sum of our parts.
Where do we go from here?
First, don’t panic. Influencing these trend lines is not like trying to shift a nation’s voting trends in the next election. Much of this is directly under our control, or if not ‘control’, then it’s something we can strongly influence. So long as we work on it.
Next, it’s important to note that this is the first time we’ve been able to see these trends, and the first time we can measure the impact of decisions we make around community building. Growing a community beyond a certain scale is not a passive thing. I’ve found David Boswell’s use of the term ‘intentional’ community building really helpful here. And much more tasteful than my marketing vocabulary!
These graphs show where we’re heading based on what we’re currently doing, and until now we didn’t know if we were doing well, or even improving at all. We didn’t have any feedback mechanism on decisions we’d make relating to community growth. Now we do.
Here are some initial steps that can help with the ‘measuring’ part of this community building task.
Going back to the marker pen exercise, take another imaginary color and rather than extrapolate the current trend, draw a positive line that gets you to your target by the end of the year. This doesn’t have to be a straight line; allow your planned activity to shape the growth you want to see. Then ask:
- Where do you need to be in Aug, Sep, Oct, Nov, Dec?
- How are you going to reach each of these smaller steps?
Schedule a regular check-in that focuses on growing your contributor community and check your dashboard:
- Are your current actions getting you to your goals?
- What are the next actions you’re going to take?
The first rule of fundraising is ‘Ask for money’. People often overlook this. By the same measure, are you asking for contributions?
- How many people are you asking this week or month to get involved?
- What percentage of them do you expect to say yes and do something?
Multiply those numbers together and see if it that prediction can get you to your next step towards your goal.
Asking these questions alone won’t get us to our goals, but it helps us to know if our current approach has the capacity to get there. If it doesn’t we need to adjust the approach.
Those are just the numbers
I could probably wrap up this check-in from a metrics point of view here, but this is not a numbers game. The Total Active Contributor number is a tool to help us understand scale beyond the face-to-face relationships we can store in our personal memories.
We’re lucky at Mozilla that so many people already care about the mission and want to get involved, but sitting and waiting for contributors to show up is not going to get us to our goals in 2014. Community building is an intentional act.
Here’s to setting new trends.