10 Years as a Mozilla Volunteer

2018-04-09 at 19:29:11

March 10th, 2018 marked my 10 year anniversary as a Mozilla volunteer. I wanted to write this blog post for quite some time now, but as you might know, writing is not one of my capabilities I’m exercising a lot. With this blog post I’d like to give a quick wrap up of the past 10 years and share the story on how I came to Mozilla. Upfront I’d like to thank everyone who made this journey as amazing as it was, to many more years!


If you only care about numbers, here they are. These were measured until early March 2018 and taken from Mozilla’s Community Analytics tool.

First contact

I have been using Firefox for at least since the 1.0 release. Unfortunately I don’t have any recollection or evidence for this, but I have a feeling that it could have been one of the releases before as well. In any case, I had been using Firefox for quite some time before I even came into contact with the principle of it being Open Source.

I was in high school when the first contact with a Firefox contributor happened. This must have been some time in 2007, can’t remember when exactly that was. Friends of mine found our Math teacher’s name connected to Firefox. You might ask how that might have happened? Well, I’d say basic stalking. They found his name in the Mozilla Credits, probably by googling his name. Until now I’m not fully sure how it happened, but that seems like the most credible variant of it. The other possibility would be that they saw him in-product. Back then there was a scrolling list of all these names in the “About” window of Firefox. Having seen it there seems less credible though, as they would had needed to stare at this scrolling list for a few names until they found it. I’m pretty sure they were not that bored. You never know though. In the next Math class, they asked him about this and he decided to give a short introduction explaining what he has done for Firefox and showed some code. At that point I was fully hooked and it dawned on me that I can do that as well!

From then on I was hooked and started using the Minefield, nowadays known as “Nightly”, version of Firefox. Since then I’ve been using testing versions of Firefox and (except for a few days) never switched to anything else for daily use. It took a while of using it until I found my first bug. This was on March 10th 2008, more than 10 years ago. After that I started to get more involved in forums such as MozillaZine and started to interact with Mozilla mailing lists. I remember using the daily threads on MozillaZine to see what changed in the latest nightly build I was using. This also put me a little bit closer to what was going on in Bugzilla and I started to follow a few bugs to keep myself up to date.

Even though I was using Minefield and testing it before I filed my first bug, I took my first Bugzilla activity as official start date of my contributions. I think that’s a fair starting point - and honestly the only one I would have a solid date for.

First patch

I didn’t work on my first Firefox patch until about a year later. Funny enough, I went back to the first bug I filed and tried to fix it. Getting the development environment up and running and getting used to the Firefox coding style took me some time, and it’s probably also the patch I needed to revise the most times till now. I remember being on IRC and asking all kinds of questions that are still turning up on IRC nowadays. I remember being very happy once the patch was done and got merged into Firefox itself.

I have to admit, I’ve done probably less coding on Mozilla projects between 2008 and 2013 than I have done in the past 2 months.

First contact with the community

In 2009 I added myself to the Germany/Austria/Switzerland contributors wiki page. This is how my real-life interaction with the community started - I’m not counting my Math teacher in high school here - for reasons. Henrik, my dear mentor eversince, was working in Switzerland in 2011, and he checked out the mentioned Wiki page and found my name. He contacted me and asked if I’d like to have a coffee and talk about Mozilla and meet eachother. Of course I was in! We’ve met in Bern on a summer evening, 22nd of August 2011 to be exact. Yes, that was the Firefox 6 launch party in Bern. I even got my first Firefox stickers!

Mozilla Switzerland

After this initial meeting, we started to meet more regularly in different places in Switzerland. We organised “MozCoffees” in Bern and Zurich, slowly but steadily growing and building the Mozilla Switzerland community.

Our first event in Switzerland apart from regular MozCoffees was the “Weekend of Code 2012” event. Mozillians from Switzerland shared their knowledge about different areas they are contributing to. I’ve held a Firefox Source Code talk, my first talk I’ve ever given about a Mozilla topic.

Over the recent years we got more and more organized, having regular meetups in Zurich and other cities of Switzerland. I don’t want to get into too much details about Mozilla Switzerland here, but you can check out our Wiki page and Twitter account. Also a big “thank you” to everyone involved in the Swiss community, it’s always been a pleasure to organise all these events and make friends.

Henrik also introduced me to MozFest which I attended the first time together with Henrik in 2011. Since then I’ve attended all MozFests and I don’t plan to stop doing that!

(Mozilla Switzerland reunited at MozFest 2014 - photo credits to Henrik)

The Mozilla Switzerland crew also attended the MozCamp in Warsaw in 2012. This was my second interaction point with the international community which helped me a lot to get around! That’s also the first time I’ve met Ioana, our lovely Mozilla Reps module owner.

The Reps era

As Henrik left his job in Switzerland he suggested me joining the Reps program he had been part of for quite some time before. With his mentoring skills he already had prepared me for it the year before that, so it was a quite easy decision for me. I’ve applied to the program on November 8th 2012 and got accepted 5 days later. I’m pretty sure there was some pressure from Ioana as I’ve created my application when sitting right next to her at MozFest. In hindsight a very good thing ;)

I think my contributions through the Reps program would deserve a completely independent blog post, so I’m not gonna go into details here. You can find all 44 pages of reports since then in the Reps archive. Have fun! I was also featured as “Rep of the Month” in March 2014, I was really happy about that!

Trying to build the German speaking community

A big part of my Reps life was devoted to the German-speaking community. This includes Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland. I was invited to the “Community Reboot” event in January 2013 which marked the start of my little project to nurture the German-speaking community and bring it closer together. We did several experiments with the regular online meetings of the community and also introduced regular video meetings.

I’ve organized a followup real-life meeting in February 2014 to bring the community together and talk about everything community related. In 2015 we’ve organized the first Mozilla Tech Weekend which gave a good initial boost to the Berlin community. A big shoutout goes to Florian Merz for talking it into his own hands to build a community in Berlin. Well done! A big "thank you" goes to Axel Hecht as well, as he has been guiding and mentoring me along the way. I think I would have abandoned this project earlier without him.

All my efforts lasted until around early 2016, when I decided that the whole project doesn’t meet my high expectations and I didn’t see any progress within the German-speaking community for quite some time. There were other reasons I’d like not to mention here, that’s why I’m keeping this section of the blog post quite small. All in all, it was a good opportunity for me to build skills and capabilities and I think it’s always good to learn from unsuccessful projects. I definitely did!

The Firefox OS era

When I first heard about Firefox OS I was excited. At one of the Mozilla Switzerland meetups Henrik tried to get it running on a Samsung Galaxy and we had a lot of fun. This was before the Geeksphone devices came out. I remember the day when I ordered my first Firefox OS phone so I can play around with it. Turned out, I very quickly switched to it as my primary phone and until it’s end always used a Firefox OS phone as primary phone. Sometime with experimental builds on it, but that was nothing new as I was using Firefox Nightly as my main browser as well (same people might say I like to live dangerously..). Dogfooding (or as we called it, Foxfooding) was very important to provide a stable and working platform and I didn’t see another way apart from using it daily. Up to now I’m missing the “switch apps by swiping from the very edge of the phone” feature, that was amazing!

As Firefox OS was my new primary focus, I started organising events and talks about it. Together with other amazing contributors around Germany, Austria and Switzerland I’ve organized App hackathons, to name a few (not a full list):

You can find all my talks I’ve ever given on my website.

Once Firefox OS launched in Germany, I was part of the launch team. We did a promotion event in Cologne which was something new to me. I was used to "selling" Firefox to people, but there was no actual sale involved. With Firefox OS, potential users had to buy a phone to actually use it. I think we had some traction with the Firefox costume, but not really with Firefox OS. Well, I guess that was to be expected in hindsight.

I was involved with Firefox OS until the decision to pivot to Connected Devices. After that I was more focused on Reps specific tasks.

Reps Governance & Participation

Thanks to my involvement in the Reps program on a strategic level and my interest in continuing this, I’ve applied to the Reps Council elections in 2015 in May 2015. This allowed me to shape the conversation and strategy about the Reps program on a more impactful level. This included being invited to several Mozilla All Hands where we spent a week discussing everything about Participation. Some people might not understand why I would take a week off my work to go “work” for Mozilla in my free time, but well, that’s who I am.

As my first term came to an end, I like having these conversations so much that I decided to apply for another term. Crazy, I know. We went through the whole “Reps Next” project and introduced a few improvements to the program which were overdue for a long time. This term lasted until November 2017. You might ask why two terms amount to about one and a half year? We had a little delay on the second elections and therefore were not fully on schedule anymore. Happens :)

After my second term on Council I decided to accept Ioana’s proposal to become a Peer. This was officially announced in December 2017. I hope to bring the same valuable inputs to strategic discussions about the program to the broader group as I have been in Council. Let’s see what comes next :)

What is next

I’ve recently moved to Berlin to my amazing Mozillian girlfriend. As some of you know, I've been together with Konstantina for almost 3 years now and finally was able to make the step to move there as well. This means no longer commuting from Switzerland to Berlin on weekends, which became quite cumbersome over time. I'm very happy I did this and there are no regrets whatsoever. As I'm still employed by NEEO and working remotely, it's definitely an exciting time.

Moving to Berlin means putting the Swiss community into the very capable hands of other contributors but of course I’ll still be in Switzerland from time to time. I’m sure they will do fine without me :)

In Berlin I’ll for sure be involved with the local community, my first event will probably one of the bi-weekly Mozilla Nights here. I’ll slowly gonna get to know how everything works here and then I’ll start to help out to organise events as I did in Switzerland. I’m sure my help is needed and I can provide valuable impact in Berlin as well.

Regarding the Reps program, I’ll continue my work as a Peer and support the strategic discussion around the Reps Program and Participation at Mozilla as best as I can. All this work will of course be reported on the Reps Portal. Additionally to that, I’ve recently started to provide my relatively new Python coding skills to the Reps Portal and I plan to continue doing this. There are definitely a few things to fix and improve there. When time permits, I’m also planning to contribute more to Firefox as I’ve been in the past. There is always something coming up though, you know how it is.

Generally, I don’t think my move to Berlin will impact anything else apart from the local community work. I’m sure you’ll hear from me on how that is working out!