on evangelism

I was going to write about the latest addition to our team, but then I realized that I still haven’t actually posted about what the Evangelism team does here at Mozilla, and we’ve been together for about 3 months now.

Here’s what we’re set up to do:

  • Help people understand Mozilla
  • Help people connect productively and enjoyably with the Mozilla project
  • Help Mozilla communicate “with itself”
  • Help people understand, build, and benefit from the open web

I’ll elaborate on each of those in upcoming posts, because I think they’re each important and interesting, but the core concept that we’ve been using to organize our thoughts so far is one of “stories”. What should the story of a new contributor getting involved be like? What’s the story of the performance work happening in Firefox 3? What is our story on standards, specifications, and interoperability? What story do we need to tell to explain to people why accessibility and cross-platform technologies are important? Stories aren’t always in narrative form — though when they can be, it’s often both fun and inspiring — and they’re definitely not intended to be fictional. We might tell stories that are aspirational, describing what we want the experience to be for someone who wants to help web sites become more compatible with all browsers, but we won’t tell lies. We’ll make mistakes, and we’ll change our minds, and we might have to simplify to make things understandable, but we won’t lie to people. We don’t need to — the true things about Mozilla are fantastic — and we just aren’t good at it. Mozilla is a project that is defined by openness and candor, and fighting that nature is neither productive nor viable in the long term.

We’re going to work on helping identify and refine important stories, as well as finding ways to make some aspirational stories come to life, but we’re also going to help people tell their Mozilla stories. From a peek inside the history of Mozilla’s test automation to what’s involved in a briefing with a reporter, we want people to understand what all is going on with the Mozilla project. Helping the right stories get to the right audiences — within the community and beyond — is a big part of the value we need to provide, and we’re ready to get started.

Evangelism isn’t just about saying nice things, since productive attention to challenges and mistakes is a critical part of improving how we work, and it’s not about making everyone love Mozilla. It’s about making sure that the great things Mozilla does are visible to the world, encouraging people who share our values, and helping our unique project work together better. It’s not going to be how everyone else does evangelism, but after nearly a decade of working on Mozilla I’m used to us just being kinda different. We’ll overlap in some areas with marketing, public relations, and other activities — if we do our jobs well, we’ll probably overlap with just about every part of the project! — but we’re concerned with helping out and not with defining territory.

If you’ve been around the project for a long time, the term “Evangelism” probably makes you think of “technical evangelism“, which was the term used for people doing outreach to sites that were not compatible with web standards, and helping/encouraging the site owners to repair their problems. That’s a very small subset of the sorts of evangelism that we’re starting to work on, and to be frank we’re unlikely to do very much such technical evangelism directly, though we’re definitely interested in helping organize and support those who do. (In fact, we have some ideas about that very topic!)

Next up: meet the MoCo Evangelism team.