Make Firefox Better?


Recently Marcia Knous and I sat down with Mark Surman the Director of Drumbeat. Drumbeat is a world-wide effort to educate folks about the open web and how anyone can participate in this endeavor. A truly noble goal that fully supports Mozilla’s mission; promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web.

It was my first meeting with Mark and the focus was to explore ideas how Mozilla QA and Drumbeat can be more aligned and promote both of our efforts. Mozilla QA is all about testing and assessing the quality of Mozilla products such as Firefox, Fennec and Thunderbird. Our testing community has been helping us get through major product releases since the very early days of the Mozilla project. But let’s be frank, test execution, test case development  and the related activities such as bug triage and bug verification can be rather unglamorous and tedious. Finding and reporting bugs in nightly, alpha and beta builds can be rewarding and challenging to some folks for sure, but that is probably a minority slice of the Mozilla community. Mark, in his thoughtful way, expressed that folks who are willing to do this for us are expressing their desire to make Firefox better. They may not have the skills to write a patch, so testing is where they can contribute the most and they will do so to make Firefox a better product. Wow, it really hit me how much I felt he was right about this. Strongly promoting and messaging this connection of testing and making Firefox and our other products better  to the broader community and those who may want to help Mozilla, should in theory increase the participation in our testing efforts.

Mozilla has an advantage in that many people around the world believe in the goals of the project and specifically want to be involved in making our products better. There is a huge loyalty to Firefox and we are seeing both long time fans and new users wanting to discover how they can help and contribute. Asking the Mozilla community to help us test Firefox has met with mixed results over the years. Some people get it that these efforts are key to a successful release of Firefox, but I think we could do more to point out that testing Firefox makes it better. Finding a bug, reporting it to a developer and verifying it has been fixed is an absolutely direct way to improving Firefox and increasingly important these days, a more competitive product.

Community software developers have a pretty clear avenue to making a positive impact on the product; develop an accepted patch that implements a new feature or fixes a bug. If you do this successfully several times, you are on your way to Mozilla rock star status. You have made Firefox better. Testing on the other hand, needs more communication and messaging to demonstrate to the wider community just how equally valuable these contributions are. Maybe not quite as visible as that awesome newly landed patch, but still worthy of crowds of appreciative fans holding up their glowing cell phones and chanting  for an encore.

In fact it is my goal for Mozilla QA over the next few quarters to focus on this theme to ensure everyone knows that testing and related activities make our products better. In addition, we need to fully recognizing folks who are making Firefox and all other Mozilla products better through participation in test and bug days, checking out the latest nightly build or discovering the steps to reproduce some nasty crash bug. So, come on, lets all rollup our sleeves, get up on stage and make Firefox better for us and everyone else on the planet.