Driving Project-wide Community Growth by Improving the Mozilla Wiki

At the Mozilla project there are many ways to contribute. Some contributions are directly to our products: Firefox Desktop, Firefox for Android, Firefox OS, Webmaker, etc. Some contributions are to things that make those products better: QA, localization, release engineering, etc. Some contributions are to tools that help us work together better, such as: Pontoon, Bugzilla, Mozillians and the Mozilla Wiki.

I’ve long had a personal interest in the Mozilla Wiki. When I started as a paid contributor in 2011, it was my main source of information about the many, many Mozilla projects.

And I’m not alone in this. Contributor Sujith Reddy says:

The wiki page of Mozilla has got info about every project running around. For instance, being a Rep, I get questioned by many people on mails, What exactly is the ReMo program. I would reply’em with a single link: https://wiki.mozilla.org/ReMo Basically, it makes my work easier to explain people. It is Mozilla-Encyclopedia :)

And contributor Mark A. Hershberger says:

Wikis provide the best way for a community with many members to collaborate to disseminate knowledge about their shared interest…The wiki provides one of the easiest ways to start contributing to the shared work and become a contributing member of the Mozilla community.

And it’s not just volunteer contributors who find the wiki essential. Here’s Benjamin Sternthal from Web Production:

The Mozilla Wiki is an essential part of how Web Productions manages projects and involves community. The Wiki is particularly valuable for our project hubs, the central place where anyone can view information about a project without having to hunt around in various systems.

History of the Mozilla Wiki

The Mozilla Wiki has been around for a long time. According to WikiApiary it was founded on in November of 2004 making it nearly 10 years old! It has over 90,000 pages, all of which are public, and roughly 600 daily users.

During most of its existence the Wiki has been maintained by community without organized effort. Mozilla IT has supported it on Mozilla’s corporate infrastructure, and various community members, paid and volunteer, have worked to keep it as up-to-date and functional as possible.

This approach worked fairly well for a long time. But during the last couple of years, as our community has experienced incredible growth, this ad-hoc approach stopped serving us well. The wiki has become harder and harder to use when it should become easier and easier to use.

Formation of the Wiki Working Group

And that’s why a group of us came together in March 2014 and formed the Wiki Working Group. It’s been a few months and the group is going very well. We meet twice a month as a full group, and in smaller groups as needed to work through specific issues. There are 25 people on our mailinglist and meeting attendance averages 8-12, with a mix of paid and volunteer contributors in about a 1:1 ratio. Of the paid contributors, I am the only with time dedicated to work on the Wiki.

In a short amount of time we’ve made some significant accomplishments, including:

  • triaged all open bugs (>100, some open several years without updates)
  • created a formal governance structure by creating a submodule for the Wiki within Websites
  • reduced the clutter and improved usability on the wiki by eliminating new spam (spam accounts and pages previously numbered in the several hundreds per day on average)
  • improved usability of the wiki by fixing a few critical but long-standing bugs, including an issue with table sorting
  • created an About page for the Wiki that clarifies its scope and role in the project, including what is appropriate content and how to report issues

One of the long-standing bugs was to re-enable the WikiEditor which greatly improves usability by giving users an easy-to-use toolbar to allow page authoring without having to know wiki markup.

Chris More from Web Productions gave us this feedback on these recent changes:

With the re-introduction of the visual wikieditor, it has allowed non-technical people to be able to maintain their project’s wiki page without having to learn the common wiki markup language. This has been invaluable with getting the new process adopted across the Engagement team.

We’ve also worked hard to create a clear vision for the purpose of the Wiki Working Group. Early on we reached consensus that it is not our role to be the only ones contributing to the wiki. Rather, it is our role to enable everyone across the project to feel empowered to participate and collaborate to make the Mozilla Wiki an enjoyable and lively place to document and communicate about our work.

Where we’re going in 2014

With that in mind, we’re working towards the following milestones for this year:

  • increasing usability and stability) upgrading to current version of Mediawiki
  • updating the default skin (theme) to be more usable and mobile-friendly
  • improving the information architecture of the site so content is easier to find and maintain
  • engage contributors to learn to use the wiki and help us improve it by running a series of “wiki missions”
  • create compelling visual dashboards that will help us better understand and recognize wiki activity

We expect these changes to increase participation on the wiki itself considerably, and to increase community activity in other areas of the project by making it easier to document and discover contribution pathways. In this way, the WWG serves all teams at Mozilla in their community building efforts.

Chris More from Web Production again:

The use of the wiki has recently been amplified by the introduction of the Integrated Marketing process. The new process is essentially program management best practices to ensure what Engagement is working on is relevant, organized, and transparent. The wiki has been used to document, share, and to be the hub for both the process and every major project Engagement is working on. Without the wiki, Engagement would have no central public location to share our plans with the world and to understand how to get involved.

So, while our group is small, we are highly engaged. As we continue our work, we’ll enable many, many more people to become contributors and to continue contributing across the project.

How to Get Involved

If you’re interested in joining or following the Wiki Working Group, take a look at the How to Participate section on our wiki page for links to our mailinglist and meeting schedule.

If you have general feedback about the Mozilla Wiki, or things you’d like to see improved there, leave comments on this Sandbox page.

One comment

  1. David Boswell

    It’s great to see so much renewed activity around the Mozilla wiki. I had been struggling with some issues on the wiki and those are now fixed. I’m glad to see that the improvements that have been made recently have been helpful for so many other Mozilla contributors as well.