Tag Archives: social movements

5 Ways to get to the Next Million Mozillians

Mark Surman, Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation has been ruminating on:

how Mozilla can actively encourage large numbers of people to participate on making the web more open and awesome.”

For a long time I’ve been a supporter of the idea that supporters of an Open Web are part of a social movement and that mobilizing these supporters could be a helpful part of a strategy for preserving and promoting the openness of the web. More importantly, I think the rise of open source, and in particular the rise of Mozilla tracks shockingly well against the structure of a social movement.

So if we are interested in increasing interest in the openness of the web and believe that recruiting the next million Mozillians can helps us accomplish that, then I think there are 3 things any strategy must do:

1. Increase the range of stake holders involved (this is part of why I write about women in open source so much) as this gives open web supporters more leverage when negotiating with those who threaten the web’s openness or who influence its development

2. Connect nebulous ideas like “security” and “openness” to tangible experiences people (users?) can relate to and to core values they believe in. (This is why Mark’s “seatbelt moment” narrative is awesome in this regard)

3. Outline actions that stakeholders and supporters can take.

So with the (not always successful) intent to focus on these 3 objectives here are five ideas I think could help us:

Idea 1: Partner with Consumer Reports and help shape the criteria by which they evaluate ISPs

One key to ensuring an open web is ensuring that people’s connection to the web is itself open. ISPs are a critical component in this ecosystem. As some observers have noted, ISPs engage in all sorts of nefarious activities such as bandwidth shaping, throttling, etc… Ensure that the net stays neutral feels like a critical part of ensuring it stays open.

One small way to address this would be make the neutrality of a network part of the evaluation criteria for Consumer Report reviews of ISPs. This would help make the openness of an ISP a competitive, would increase the profile of this problem and would engage a group of people (Consumer Report users) that are probably not generally part of the Mozilla Community.

Idea 2: Invest in an enterprise level support company for Firefox & Thunderbird.

Having a million citizens supporting Firefox and Mozilla is great, but if each of those supporters looks and acts the same then their impact is limited. Successful movements are not just large they are also diverse. This means having a range of stakeholders to help advocate for the open web. One powerful group of stakeholders are large enterprises & governments. They have money, they have clout and they have large user bases. They are also – as far as I can tell – one of the groups that Firefox has had the hardest time achieving market share with.

From my limited experience working with governments, adopting Firefox is difficult. There is no one to sign an SLA with, no dedicated support desk and no assurances problems will be escalated to the right developer within a fixed time period. Many of these challenges are highlighted by Tauvix in the comment section of this post). We could spend our time arguing about whether these issues are legitimate or if those large organizations simply need a culture shift. But such a shift will take a LONG time to materialize, if it ever does.

Finding a way to satisfy the concerns of large organizations – perhaps through a Redhat type model – might be a good way to invest Mozilla Foundation money. Not only could there be a solid return on this investment, but it could bring a number of large powerful companies and governments into the Mozilla camp. These would be important allies in the quest for an open web.

Idea 3: Promote add-ons that increase security, privacy and control in the cloud.

One reason behind Mozilla’s enormous success is that the community has always provided innovative technical solutions to policy/privacy/openness problems. Don’t like they way Microsoft is trying to shape the internet? Here, use a better browser. Don’t want to receive target advertising on website? Here, download this plug-in. Don’t want to see any advertising? Here, download this plug-in. Not sure if a website is safe? Here, use this plug-in. In short, Mozilla has allowed its software to serve as a laboratory to experiment with new and interesting ways to allow users to control their browsing experience.

While not a complete solution, it might be interesting to push the community to explore how Greasemonkey scripts, Jetpack plug-ins, or ordinary plug-ins might provide users with greater control over the cloud. For example, could a plug-in create automatic local backups of google docs on your computer? Could a Thunderbird plugin scan facebook messages and allow users a choice of mediums to respond with (say email). Fostering a “product-line” of cloud specific plug-ins that increase user control over their experience might be an interesting place to start.

Idea 4: Create and brand the idea of an openness audit

As more and more personal data ends up in servers controlled by companies, governments and non-profits there are real concerns around how secure and private this information is. Does anyone know that Google isn’t peeking at your Google docs every once in a while? Do you know if you’ll ever be able to delete your personal information from facebook?

These are legitimate questions. Outlining some guidelines around how companies manage privacy and security and then creating an audit system might be an interesting way to nudge companies towards adopting stronger standards and policies in the cloud. This might also increase public awareness and encourage a upwards spiral among competing service providers. Working with companies like KPMG and Deloitte Mozilla and others could help foster a new type of audit, one that would allow consumers to easily discriminate against cloud service providers that respect their rights, and those that don’t.

Idea 5: Let’s use that Firefox launch screen to create the next million Mozillians

At the moment, when you download and install Firefox the first website you see when you load the program congratulates you on downloading the program, tells you that you are helping keep the internet open and outlines some of Firefox’s new features. We could do more. Why not prompt people to join a “Mozillians” club where they will be kept up to date on threats and opportunities around the open web. Or maybe we should list 3 actions (with hyperlinks) they can take to increase the openness of the web (say, upgrade a friend, send a form letter to their member of congress and read an intro article on internet security?)

With maybe 300+ million people likely to download Firefox 3.5, that’s a lot of people we could be mobilizing to be more active, technically, socially and politically, around an open web.

There’s a start… I’ll keep brainstorming more ideas but in the interim, please feel free to let me know if you think any of these have real problems and/or are bunk.

Mozilla knows it is part of a social movement

So I while back I wrote that the open web is a social movement. The post generated a fair number of pingbacks and emails as well as a few comments. Some people wondered – is the open web a social movement? Is Mozilla part of a social movement? I sense… there may still be doubters.

Today, I bring tantalizing evidence that the open web is indeed a social movement and that Mozilla is actively promoting its growth.

As part of the “party packs” shipped out to people who volunteered to host Firefox 3 launch parties Mozilla included these bad boys:

The Mozilla Cause Bracelet

The Mozilla Cause Bracelet

The rubber bracelet is the sine qua non ingredient for any well known (and sometimes less well known) social movement. For example (or for those not up to date on your rubber bracelet colours) white bracelets = make poverty history, yellow bracelets = livestrong.

The rubber bracelet is THE symbol of a social movement. Hip movements have them, emerging movements want them, and to be clear, non-social movements look silly with them. Although there is no rule preventing it, when was the last time you saw someone sporting a wristband in support of “make mircosoft (more!) profitable” or “re-make the breakfast club.”

And so I thought it was curious that Mozilla handed out wristbands – not advertising the launch of Firefox 3, or even saying “Support Mozilla.” Instead, orange wristbands = support the Open Web – Mozilla.

Remind me again. How is the open web not a social value? And how are its wristband sporting supporters not part of a movement?

The challenge of mozilla’s magnetism

Mozilla is unique. The project gets more media, more publicity and more buzz than virtually any other open source project. It is, in much of the public’s mind, the poster child for open source and the open internet. More critically, this isn’t some interesting observation, why this is the case, and what it means, is profound implications for the success of Mozilla, the open web and the future of the internet.

I would argue that Mozilla’s uniqueness is not a result of being the most successful open source project. (I’m sure there is much heated debate over which is the most successful, largest, most complex, most important, etc… open source community/project). The fact is, it’s irrelevant.

moz-head-bigMozilla matters because Firefox is a consumer product. And not just any consumer product, it is THE consumer product that allows people to interact with the world wide web, the most consumer oriented part of the internet. Thus, while Apache, Linux, Sendmail and the million of other open source projects matter (a great deal!) the simple fact is, Mozilla is the brand that represents both the potential of open source and the importance of an open internet. This matters because it means a) Firefox and Mozilla are the catalysts in creating social awareness among millions of consumers about the importance of the open internet and b) as a result, Mozilla will likely be the first port of call of these newly awakened activists who wish to find ways to contribute.

This, of course, is both a blessing and a curse.

One the one hand it often seems that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, has an opinion about Mozilla (and boy am I guilty of this). I’m not inside Mozilla but I can imagine the constant barrage of “helpful” ideas or suggestions or worse, outright complaints or threats, must feel exhausting. The banging on the gates never ends and engaging in it could distract the community from its important work.

On the other hand… how great that an increasing number of people have this energy and passion for Mozilla and, by extension, the open internet. Many of those banging at the gate – and a good many more who are simply too intimidated or too unsure to even do that – are primed and ready to be among the next million mozillians. The banging (or loitering) is a symptom of a desire to contribute – indeed it may be the only outlet they know of or have.

The real question is – how do we engage these people?

Should Mozilla do more to shape and lead the social movement around the open web? As David Ascher also notes, the opportunity of broadening Mozilla’s tent by absorbing these newly minted activists into streams of activities and helping channel their energy and enthusiasm is an exciting prospect. But I’m not sure the answer is a definite yes. As Mitchell Baker – in part – points out, the risk of diluting Mozilla’s mission or its culture is a serious one.

However, the social movement around the open web is going to keep attracting supporters. Again, because Mozilla is one of the leading catalyst in creating this social awareness these supporters are going to show up at it’s doorstep first. Regardless of the choice (absorb or not absorb) to successfully support the movement I’d argue that at the very minimum Mozilla needs a plan to a) greet these newcomers and make them feel welcome; and b) some capacity to point them in the direction of a variety of institutions, organizations, projects and activities, where they can channel their energy. The more people the movement can engage – or to reframe – the more communities of action with can create within our broader community of interest, the more likely we will be successful in acheiving an open internet.

Hackers are Social Activists mashup – Eric Raymond vs. Bill Moyes

Bullhorn5If the Open Web is a social movement then are Hackers Social Activists?

From the reaction of a number of people to that post the answer at first seems unclear. Some of those who responded shared their discomfort with the idea of being labeled a social activist. Notions of people chaining themselves to something, yelling into loudspeakers or even adopting the approach of archetype hacker activist Richard Stallman’s makes many open source supporters uneasy.

I agree – but being an activist doesn’t necessarily mean these things.

I’ve been struggling to explain why when, while re-reading the Cathedral and the Bazaar essay “Revenge of the Hackers” I was stuck by how Raymond’s description of the rise of Open Source parallels the stages of activism outlined in the “Movement Action Plan” – a strategic model for social movements developed by Bill Moyer, a US social change activist (basic outline at bottom of this post).

The parallels are not perfect, nor are they absolutely linear (but then Moyer concedes that they never are). Moreover, the language used by Bill Moyer would probably make any coder (or even non-coders like me) feel out of place or downright uncomfortable (does anyone in an open-source community talk powerholders?).  But mapping Eric Raymond against Bill Moyes is instructive. It highlights quite effectively that hackers are a movement, they are social activists (even when thy don’t consider themselves to be), and that when mobilized they can achieve big hairy audacious goals more effectively than many other groups.

I share this not because I want hackers to change who they are or what they do, but, like Eric Raymond, to help them gain a better awareness of who they are and what they are doing (accomplishing!). There are others who want to join this movement – and so understanding that there is a movement, and your role and place in it, is the first step in figuring out how to help others join in. If we want to invite, enable and foster the next million mozillians, we need to at least understand our place within the ecosystem of the open web social movement.

Title and Quotes from the 8 stage Movement Action Plan (see below) by Bill Moyers

Quotes from Eric S. Raymond’s “Revenge of the Hackers”

Stage 1: Business as UsualIn this first stage there are many conditions that grossly violate widely held, cherished human values such as freedom, democracy, security, and justice, and the best interests of society as a whole.

The opposition feels hopeless because it seems that the situation will continue indefinitely, and they feel powerless to change it.


Stage 1: A hackers life was not an easy one…I had been in the hacker culture, living through its various phases, for twenty years. Twenty years of repeatedly watching brilliant ideas, promising starts, and superior technologies crushed by slick marketing. Twenty years of watching hackers dream and sweat and build, too often only to watch the likes of the bad old IBM or the bad new Microsoft walk away with the real-world prizes. Twenty years of living in a ghetto — a fairly comfortable ghetto full of interesting friends, but still one walled in by a vast and intangible barrier of mainstream prejudice inscribed “ONLY FLAKES LIVE HERE”.
Stage 2: Normal Channels FailProve that the official doctrine and policies of powerholders and institutions violate society’s values and the public trust.

Positive results are not expected now

Except for the rare media coverage of opponents’ activities, the problem is still neither in the public spotlight nor on society’s agenda of contested issues.


Stage 2: Market fails to sustain open standardsNetscape had been targeted for destruction. Microsoft rightly feared that the open Web standards embodied by Netscape’s browser might lead to an erosion of its lucrative PC desktop monopoly. The weight of Microsoft’s billions, and shady tactics that would later trigger an antitrust lawsuit, were deployed to crush Netscape.For Netscape, the issue was less browser-related income (never more than a small fraction of their revenues) than maintaining a safe space for their much more valuable server business. If Internet Explorer achieved market dominance, Microsoft would be able to bend the Web’s protocols away from open standards and into proprietary channels that only Microsoft’s servers would be able to service.
Stage 3: Conditions RipenThe “take-off” of a new social movement requires preconditions that build up over many years. These conditions include broad historic developments, a growing discontented population of victims and allies, and a budding autonomous grassroots opposition, all of which encourage discontent with the present conditions, raise expectations that they can change, and provide the means to do it.The growing numbers of discontented local people across the country quietly start new autonomous local groups, which as a whole form a “new wave” of grassroots opposition, which is independent from the established Professional Opposition Organizations.


Stage 3: Condition Ripen
On new Groups and approaches:My first encounter with Linux came in late 1993. I had already been involved in the hacker culture for fifteen years and I thought I understood the hacker culture — and its limitations — pretty well.Encountering Linux came as a shock. I still carried in my head the unexamined assumption that hacker amateurs, gifted though they might be, could not possibly muster the resources or skill necessary to produce a usable multitasking operating system. The HURD developers, after all, had been evidently failing at this for a decade.

But where they had failed, Linus Torvalds and his community had succeeded. And they did not merely fulfill the minimum requirements of stability and functioning Unix interfaces. No. They blew right past that criterion with exuberance and flair, providing hundreds of megabytes of programs, documents, and other resources. Full suites of Internet tools, desktop-publishing software, graphics support, editors, games…you name it. The hacker tradition I had been observing for two decades seemed suddenly alive in a vibrant new way.

On a sense of awareness and identity:

…Around me was a community which had evolved the most effective software-development method ever and didn’t know it!. That is, an effective practice had evolved as a set of customs, transmitted by imitation and example, without the theory or language to explain why the practice worked.

Lacking that theory and that language hampered us in two ways. First: we couldn’t think systematically about how to improve our own methods. Second: we couldn’t explain or sell the method to anyone else… The Cathedral and the Bazaar was less a revelation of novelty than an opportunity to celebrate the new language and the consciousness that went with it. That standing ovations were not so much for my work as for the hacker culture itself — and rightly so.

Stage 4: Take Off!New social movements surprise and shock everyone when they burst into the public spotlight on the evening TV news and in newspaper headlines. Overnight, a previously unrecognized social problem becomes a social issue that everyone is talking about. It starts with a highly publicized, shocking incident, a “trigger event”…


Stage 4: Take Off!On netscape going Open-Source:

On January 22nd 1998 Netscape announced it would release the sources of the Netscape client line to the Internet… This was the event that commentators in the computer trade press would later call “the shot heard ’round the world’… For the first time in the history of the hacker culture, a Fortune 500 and darling of Wall Street had bet its future on the belief that our way was right.

Stage 5: Activist FailureThe general populace experiences dissonance, not knowing who or what to believe. While many agree with the movement’s challenges, they also fear siding with dissidents and losing the security of the powerholders and status quo. The alternatives are unclear to them. The general citizenry is about evenly divided, 50 percent to 50 percent, between the powerholders and the movement. Movement violence, rebelliousness, and seeming anti-Americanism turn people off and tend to frighten them into supporting the powerholders’ policies, police actions, and status quo.

Powerholders continue a hardline strategy, including escalating their policies to prove that they are in charge and that both the movement and public have no effect.

The overall goal is to help activists become empowered and move on to Stage Six by becoming strategists by using a framework such as MAP, forming political and personal support groups


Stage 5: Crossing the ChasmOn developing a grand strategy:

At the Mozilla launch I met with several key people in the Silicon Valley and national Linux community. While helping Netscape was clearly a short-term priority, everybody I spoke with already understood the need for a longer-term strategy.

On abandoning failed activist approaches:

It seemed clear that the term `free software’ had done our movement tremendous damage over the years. Part of this stemmed from the fact that the word `free’ has two different meanings in the English language, one suggesting a price of zero and one related to the idea of liberty. Richard Stallman, whose Free Software Foundation (FSF) has long championed the term, says “Think free speech, not free beer” but the ambiguity of the term nevertheless created serious problems — especially since most “free software” is also distributed free of charge.

Most of the damage, though, came from something worse — the strong association of the term `free software’ with hostility to intellectual property rights, communism, and other ideas hardly likely to endear it to an MIS manager.

Under the pressure of the Netscape release the FSF’s actual position didn’t matter. What mattered was that its evangelism (associating `free software’ with these negative stereotypes in the minds of the trade press and the corporate world) had backfired.

Stage 6: Win Majority of Public The majority stage is a long process of eroding the social, political, and economic supports that enable the powerholders to continue their policies. It is a slow process of social transformation that create a new social and political consensus, reversing those of normal times.

The movement’s chief goal, therefore, is to nurture, support, and empower grassroots activists and groups. Finally, activists also need to have a grand strategy for waging Stage Six majority movements to win positive social changes against the strong opposition of the powerholders.


Stage 6: Win Majority of Decision MakersThe following six months were a study in increasingly surreal contrasts. On the one hand, I was giving talks on open source to Fortune 100 corporate strategists and technology investors; for the first time in my life, I got to fly first class and saw the inside of a stretch limousine. On the other hand, I was doing guerrilla street theater with grass-roots hackers — as in the riotously funny Windows Refund Day demonstration of March 15 1999, when a band of Bay-area Linux users actually marched on the Microsoft offices in the glare of full media coverage, demanding refunds under the terms of the Microsoft End-User License for the unused Windows software that had been bundled with their machines.
Stage 7: SuccessStage Seven begins when the long process of building opposition reaches a new plateau in which the new social consensus turns the tide of power against the powerholders and begins an endgame process leading to the movement’s success. The Stage Seven process can take three forms: dramatic showdown, quiet showdown, or attrition.


Stage 7: Marketplace Supports Open Standards
In the early part of 1999 big independent software vendors began porting their business applications to Linux, following the lead set earlier by the major database vendors. In late July, the biggest of them all, Computer Associates, announced that it would be supporting Linux. And preliminary results from an August 1999 survey of 2000 IT managers revealed that 49% consider Linux an “important or essential” element of their enterprise computing strategies. Another survey by IDC described what it called “an amazing level of growth’’ since 1998, when the market research couldn’t find statistically significant use of Linux; 13% of the respondents now employ it in business operations.1999 also saw a wave of wildly successful Linux IPOs by Red Hat Linux, VA Linux Systems, and other Linux companies.
Stage 8: Moving On Stage 8: Moving On

On a separate note, I think it is fascinating the overlap between Bill Moyes Movement Action Plan – which is about activism – and Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” – which is about technology in the market place. The two things are describing the same event (the adoption of something new) in different spaces (community/society vs. marketplace) and each highlights a point on the exact same place of an S-curve where the threat failure is greatest: the Chasm for Moore, and Activisim Failure for Moyers. Happily, I think Open-Source has crossed the threshold, but other significant challenges, challenges both Moore and Moyer have insights into, await.

Bill Moyes Movement Action Plan:

Movement Action Plan

The Open Web is a social movement

Social movements are collective actions in which the populace is alerted, educated, and mobilized, over years and decades, to challenge the powerholders and the whole society to redress social problems or grievances and restore critical social values.
– Bill Moyes in the Movement Action Plan

The mission of the Mozilla Foundation is to create and promote the Internet as an open platform that supports the principles set out in the Mozilla Manifesto.
– Mozilla Foundation’s Statement of Direction

The open web is a social value. It’s not a fact, it’s not necessity, and it’s not a requirement. It’s a value – one that a growing community of people believe in and are willing to fight for. Indeed an emergent community in support of this value, initially composed of coders and technophiles, has steadily grown in size and scope. Today, there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people who believe in the open web. They want the internet to be an open platform, indeed, they know the internet must be an open platform.

This means the message and goals of organizations like the Mozilla foundation and others that promote an open web, have broad appeal and resonate with a increasingly diverse community.

This is exciting.

It will also create new challenges.

Those involved in promoting an open web need to know that they are part of a social movement. Yes, it is language and terminology that make some of us uncomfortable. But it is the reality of our situation.

Embracing the notion that the open web is a social movement does not mean that we must start lobbying politicians or chaining ourselves to Microsoft servers (although some people may already be doing these things). I will be the first to admit that this social movement is very unlike those of the past. We do not need to employ the industrial and hierarchical model of influence and power that underlies the Bill Moyes document that, in part, inspired this post. It is for another era, or at least, for other movements.

This social movement is different in that, so far, it has been able to derive its power from a narrow set of people – mostly coders – who by volunteering their labour, have given the movement neither political power, nor economic power, but hard consumer power. This power has enabled projects like Mozilla to out-create, out-innovate, and out-perform the largest, best financed, and most successful software and IT companies in the world. As such, it does not need to rely on persuading government to create structural changes the way past social movements have. It has simply been able to force change though its market position.

This success however, does not mean it has nothing to learn from the past. Indeed, understanding and embracing the fact that the open web is a social movement would not only give the open web project structure – an organizing principle – upon which further success can be built but it would also allow it to reflect and leverage on the lessons of past movements.

Possibly the most important of these past lessons is that social movements may emerge organically but often do not succeed until at least some primitive form of organization or basic structure takes form around which resources, supporters, and eventually the general public, can coalesce.

This structure does not need to be hierarchical, but it does need to at least anchor or provide a platform around which the movement can build identity and direction. I sense a number of people look to Mozilla to be that rallying point. Indeed, last year when Chris Messina ranted online about Mozilla – which some in the Mozilla Corporation incorrectly felt was an unhelpful critique of the corporation – he was asking this very question. (I know Chris’ comments weren’t very popular with many people and that a major motivating factor for his rant was an effort to bring attention to his new consulting firm, but I’m still going to address his comments at face value) I don’t think Messina was being critical of the corporation per se, a large part of what he was asking was why Mozilla wasn’t serving as a rallying point for people (like him) who cared about the Open Web and Open Source.

The Berkman Center at Harvard, the CIS at Stanford, the Mozilla Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Shuttleworth Foundation, along with a handful of other organizations are already part of the movement’s ecosystem. Perhaps one of them could credibly take on a leadership/organizing/convening role for such a social movement. Perhaps not. At the moment, it seems unclear if anyone is.

Again, this social movement can and probably should be more decentralized than any past movement. But could we push ourselves harder? Are we creating enough hooks for new participants to latch on to? Are we creating an ecosystem where non-coders, but passionate open web believers, can find a niche? What are the big harry audacious goals that a larger community can get behind, and support? Are we willing to talk about ourselves as a social movement? What are the opportunities and dangers in doing that? I’m not sure. But it would be great if someone were thinking about who, or whom, might be asking these questions.

Please know this post is a draft and treat as such. Please tear it to shreds or build on it in the comments or in an email to me.