Tag Archives: mozilla

Send helpful ripples in the Twitterverse!


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How would you describe yourself? Here are some profiles:

  • You recently discovered Firefox and are still new to this idea of participating rather than just passively using software. That said, you’ve always been considered helpful by your peers.
  • You’ve used Firefox for a while now, and you know about Mozilla’s open source values. You wish you could contribute in a meaningful way, but you’re not sure if you have the required skills.
  • You know quite a lot about Firefox and have helped friends with their problems, but you don’t really have time to do it regularly more than maybe 5 minutes per day.

Do any of these descriptions sound like you? If so, Mozilla’s all-new Army of Awesome comes to rescue — a lightweight, quick and super-simple way for anyone to help fellow Firefox users with their web browsing experience!

Becoming an active contributor of the Mozilla community has never been simpler:

  • This is a super-simple way for anyone to reach out to actual Firefox users — the main idea is to direct people to where they can get help with their problems: support.mozilla.com. In other words, you can help even if you don’t know the answer to their problem!
  • It’s also a great way to get in touch with users who aren’t necessarily looking for help, including people who just raved about the latest beta, or people who openly asked which browser they should use. You probably know the answer to that question, which means that…
  • Everyone can contribute here, including you!

Army of Awesome

I really want to stress that last point: everyone can make a difference here, and it doesn’t have to take more than a couple of minutes per day. It will go a long way in spreading helpful ripples in the Twitterverse. Please give it a go and let me know what you think!

By the way, we’re also thinking about ways to integrate other social media into this effort, such as Facebook; and we’re thinking of creating a Firefox add-on that will allow you to use the same helpful snippets when helping people on blogs, various forums, and other places online. More on that later. If you have other ideas on how to spread the helpfulness to other places, let me know!

Lastly, a big thank you to everyone who helped pull this project together — William Reynolds, Kadir Topal, Michael Verdi, Alex Buchanan, Fred Wenzel, James Socol, Paul Craciunoiu, Stephen Donner, Krupa Raj, Craig Cook, Mike Morgan, Mike Alexis, Anurag Phadke, and Daniel Einspanjer.

I love the iPad!

Mmm, the iPad. It’s so beautiful, so sleek, so elegant, so useful. I think everyone should buy one. A couple of things I love about it:

1. Seal of Quality

Isn’t it great that Apple reviews all programs before they’re added to the App Store? It’s a bit like the Seal of Quality™ stamp that good old Nintendo put on their NES games to ensure you that your purchase would give you hours of quality game play in front of the television set make more money.

In practice, this means that we can feel safe with our iPads knowing that the virtual chocolate box app we purchase meets Apples’ rigorous quality standards. And it’s only $0.99! That’s almost free as in beer, folks (who cares about free as in speech anyway?).

2. Browser Choice

We all know how important the web browser choice is. That’s why it’s so convenient that Apple already made the choice for us on the iPad: Safari! They even went the extra mile to make it impossible to install other browsers, so I don’t need to worry about whether or not Safari is the right choice for me.  And besides, Safari is the best browser out there, right?

Or as they say themselves:

“Our lives are full of choices. iPod Touch or iPod Nano? Silver, Pink, Orange, Green, Blue, Purple or Black? All of them?

As a for-profit corporation, we have always believed that the freedom to make smart choices should be restricted to Apple to make the product experience, the Web, and the world, a better place. This shows through with our iPad running Safari, a free-as-in-beer, closed-source Web browser that we have chosen for more than 350 people in the US. Values of choice and self-determination are built into everything that we do: you can either buy the iPad, or don’t. You know you want to.”

Some ideas for the mobile Firefox UI

This post is also available in Belarusian thanks to Marcis G. Thanks for the translation!

Following up on my post yesterday about my impressions with web browsing on the N900, I wanted to elaborate on one of the points I was making: Firefox’s UI model of showing controls (a.k.a. chrome) on two sides of the web page.

I see a few problems with it:

  • You need to swipe your finger in a specific direction in order to reveal specific chrome (e.g. swipe to the right to show tabs, and swipe to the left to show Back/Forward buttons and some other controls).
  • The split between the chrome on both sides isn’t natural. For example, both Back/Forward and tabs are types of navigation, but they’re on separate sides. This means you simply have to learn on which side specific UI is located. Not a huge problem, of course.
  • If you’re zoomed in on a page, you may have to swipe several times to reach the side of the web page and reveal the chrome (or double tap and then swipe).
  • Having controls at the bottom of the screen feels more intuitive to me. More objectively, though, it also works better in portrait layout when you’d rather not waste width on chrome.
  • The required panning of the web page itself when reaching for chrome feels rather clunky. I’m swiping to reveal toolbar buttons, not to pan around on the page, but I have to do both at the same time in Firefox.
  • The tab thumbnails are always of the same (small) size, since the chosen tab model doesn’t allow for flexibility.

My simple ideas:

Allow me to present a few ideas on how the UI could be simplified. Please excuse this poor GIMP mockup:

The mockup above shows a redesigned navigation toolbar and a different way of switching tabs. Let me explain each feature in more detail:

  • The new toolbar is overlaid on top of the web page and fades (or slides) into view when interacting on the page (e.g. when scrolling or tapping).
  • All buttons are on the same toolbar. This means that you don’t have to remember which direction to swipe to reveal the controls, because any direction works.
  • The web page itself doesn’t pan when the toolbar appears.
  • After a short while of no interaction, the toolbar fades/slides away again.
  • The left side of the toolbar shows the Back/Forward buttons, the center shows the Tab (or Web Page) Switcher button, and the right side shows a Bookmark and a Tools button.
  • This toolbar can easily fit in a portrait layout.
  • Clicking the Tab Switcher button shows the currently open tabs. The size of the thumbnails change dynamically depending on the number of open tabs. Clicking on the Tab Switcher button again or outside the tab switching “pop-up” takes you back to the current web page again.
  • Clicking the Tools button reveals a “pop-up” similar to the Tab Switcher chrome, but this one of course shows the Firefox options window. Rather than clicking a back button to come back to the web page, you click outside of the “pop-up”.

In addition to the ideas above, I would also suggest that the toolbar is made customizable. Personally, I would like a zoom button (maybe even a +/- type of button) instead of a bookmarks button, but there’s obviously a limit on how many buttons you can show at the same time. This mockup assumes approximately the same button size as in the MicroB browser, so there would be plenty of space for buttons, at least in horizontal layout.

Thoughts? Piece of crap? Just shoot me.

My impressions with web browsing on the N900

I’ve recently had the pleasure of testing Firefox on the brand new Maemo based Nokia N900 phone (which I blogged about previously), and I have to say I’m impressed. Of course, I’m biased — I love Firefox. I’ve been using it since the Phoenix days and it’s almost part of my DNA these days.

However, I have a confession to make: Firefox isn’t yet my default browser on the N900. I think it will be very soon, but right now, my browser of choice on this particular device is another Mozilla-based browser: MicroB. It’s actually the best web browsing experience I’ve ever had on a mobile device (but to be fair, Firefox is the second best experience, so it’s definitely up in the same league already).

Allow me to summarize my initial impressions with both of these Mozilla browsers:

  • The Awesome Bar in Firefox is… awesome. I never actually reflected on how convenient it was to use until I tried MicroB, which forces me to remember URLs again.
  • Weave is probably extremely useful, too, but since I’m using the latest trunk builds of Firefox (“Fennec”), I can’t actually use it.
  • I’m not completely sold on Firefox’s UI model of showing controls on a surface on the sides of the web page. I’d be curious about whether there has been any usability research that suggests it’s better than the more traditional toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Btw, I’ll follow up with some ideas about this in a future blog post.
  • I’ve fallen in love with the volume rocker zoom in MicroB — it’s smooth, fast and surprisingly accurate. Would love to see this in Firefox!
  • When double tapping to zoom in MicroB, a subtle zoom animation is used which feels intuitive and responsive. In Firefox, the zoom is instant, making it feel less fluid.
  • The default page zoom in Firefox is designed to make the full width of the page fit on the screen. This unfortunately has the side effect of making the text on almost all web pages too small to read. It seems like MicroB has chosen a different approach where the default zoom includes about 800px of the web page width, which makes it possible to read most pages without zooming in.
  • Actually zooming in on a page in Firefox is a bit tricky, because it auto-zooms on the object you double tab on, even if that object is only e.g. a small image. This means that you often zoom in too much, and since it’s not possible to adjust the zoom level in an easy way (keyboard shortcuts don’t cut it, especially not for me since I have the Scandinavian keyboard layout where [Ctrl]+[-] doesn’t work), you have to double-tap again to zoom out and then try again.
  • MicroB feels more responsive when panning around on a page. This is mostly due to the fact that the UI and panning is done in a separate process from the actual Gecko web rendering process. At FOSDEM, I was pleased to hear in the Mobile talk by Mark Finkle that Firefox will make full use of the Electrolysis technologies that are currently being baked. What this means, in simple terms, is that Firefox will be just as responsive as MicroB in the future since the web rendering process will be separate from the UI/frontend. I can’t wait to see the results of that (which of course will benefit desktop Firefox as well).
  • The checker pattern seems to show up more frequently on the screen in Firefox compared to MicroB. I don’t know if Firefox is just more conservative with how much of the web page it pre-loads off-screen, but sometimes it can cause the whole screen to remain “blank” for a few seconds, which rarely happens with MicroB.
  • The Back button history in MicroB is a good idea in theory: when clicking the Back button, small thumbnails of the previous pages are shown, making it easy to pick the page you want to get back to. However, the implementation sucks because it takes several seconds to load these thumbnails and the thumbnails are big enough that you have to pan around in order to see anything more than one page back. Would be nice to see some kind of combination of Firefox’s and MicroB’s implementation: when tapping on the Back button, Firefox would simply go back to the previous page, but when tapping and holding, it would show a pop-up with preloaded thumbnails in a similar fashion as with MicroB, except without the delay. (Maybe the actual thumbnails could be recorded when you navigate away from a page?)
  • Flash — as much as I hate it — works pretty well in MicroB out of the box. In Firefox, I have to enable it manually, and the responsiveness of the UI with Flash enabled isn’t great. Can every web site switch to open video, please?

I personally feel that both MicroB and Firefox are really good web browsers, and the fact that they’re both powered by Mozilla’s Gecko web rendering engine is a huge plus for me. So in a way, I don’t feel bad for not using Firefox primarly right now, because my current web browser of choice is still filled with Mozilla love. :)

That said, I can’t wait to use an Electrolysis-powered version of mobile Firefox later this year!

Dreaming of lizards, too

Following up on my brief blog post the other day, I am currently in Mountain View to work from Mozilla’s main office. The main reason for this is that we had the pleasure of hiring Kadir Topal as the SUMO community manager. The plan is to get him properly introduced to all the people he’s going to work with remotely. So far, the plan has really played out well, but it’s definitely been an intense first day for him!

Of course, traveling nine hours back in time also means fighting a pretty intense jet lag. The first night is always toughest (although I was pretty excited about one particular dream I had of holding the jaw of a huge lizard with one hand and petting it with the other… it’s a shame I had to wake up while I was running through the forest to get my camera!), so I’m confident that both Kadir and I will be more energized tomorrow.

Let's create that ideal world together!

John Slater recently hosted a brown bag about how to improve Mozilla’s web sites by making a clearer distinction between Mozilla, the non-profit organization, and Firefox, one of its products (and, of course, the most popular since it happens to be the best browser in the world!). He also posted a blog post about the topic, and David Boswell then followed up by providing his thoughts from the point of view of the Mozilla Foundation.

As I’ve said before, my vision for SUMO goes beyond Firefox: SUMO is a vibrant community of people who want to help others with their web experience. It’s also a support website platform for products like Firefox, mobile Firefox and Thunderbird.

The URL for Firefox Support, the largest SUMO-powered support site, is currently support.mozilla.com. While I don’t think URLs are that important in the first place (the navigation and structure of websites are far more important), this particular URL is a bit unfortunate because the support site is indeed about Firefox, and not Mozilla as a whole. A URL like support.firefox.com would make more sense, and would also send a clearer message to everyone what the focus of the site is.

In the ideal world, there would be a central place for support on mozilla.org where users of all products could find easy access to the support offerings per product. In other words, something like mozilla.org/support, which already exists today (although I would also make sure that support.mozilla.org worked).

Then, each product would have its own support site hosted on the product domains, e.g. support.firefox.com, support.thunderbird.com, and support.seamonkey-project.org. Of course, these sites would also link to all the amazing community-hosted support websites around the world — just like they do today.

So, what stops us from creating this ideal world? Well, nothing, really. But we’re an incredibly big community and support is just one piece of the big puzzle, so I encourage you to participate in the discussion!

djst's nest, a microblog?

I’m thinking of turning this blog into a microblog. What that actually means is simply that I would write more often on the blog without feeling that every blog post needs to be substantial, clever, and proof-read.

I’ve found that I blog much less nowadays and the main reason for it is a lack of time — it’s so much simpler to just post a Facebook status update, or tweet. But at the same time, I often feel that I could write at least a few sentences about any given topic, which immediately makes the 140 character limit somewhat… limiting.

In the Mozilla world, I recently worked in the Paris office for a week, interviewed some really strong candidates for the Support Community Manager role, hung out with my Mozilla community friends at FOSDEM 2010, and sang songs about nukeador — all of which are topics worthy of (micro)blog posts on their own.

So, rather than letting this blog slowly die, I will start to write briefer blog posts and get them out more frequently. Consider this my Sunday morning promise (whatever that means).