Category Archives: mozilla

User Success in 2015 – Part 2: What are we doing this year?

This is part 2 of User Success in 2015. If you haven’t already, read part 1 first!

Mozilla planned things differently this year. All of Mozilla including the Mozilla Corporation and the Mozilla Foundation started back in late October and had the 2015 goals 90%  finished in early December. As the humorous but insightful cliché goes, “the last 10% is the hardest 90%” which is why the goals weren’t really 100% done until after the Christmas break.

We started with a three year vision and then moved onto the goals.

Behold – here is the User Success three year vision:

We will push the boundaries of what it means to give global community-powered support for a billion users with excellence and personality. We will enable users to help themselves and each other in ways never before seen.

We will surface the issues that product teams need to fix first to stop attrition, because we understand that the best service is no service. As a result, user satisfaction is skyrocketing.

Internally, we will become known as the team that truly understands our growing user base. Externally, we will become seen as thought-leaders in proactive customer care.

Let’s get a little more specific and talk about our specific plans for 2015. First, some assumptions we’re working under:

  • Mozilla’s global, cross-product market share will roughly double in size (500M -> 1 Billion)
  • The size of the paid staff on my team will remain largely the same (give or take a couple of hundred people – one can always dream)
  • Our fantastic volunteer community continues to grow and thrive, aided by our focused community management efforts

With that out of the way, these are the specific things we’re doing in 2015:

1. Help make our products better to increase user happiness

  • Increase the accuracy of user insights provided to the org so that product and engineering teams can more easily act on them.
  • Get instrumentation in place to define and prioritize Top Attrition Risk issues (issues that are most devastating to user happiness and retention, such as data loss).

2. Help more users by moving our efforts up in the product/user lifecycle

  • Self-heal: Don’t wait for users to come to us with problems – when possible, fix known issues automatically in Desktop Firefox!

3. Provide excellent support to all of our products and services

  • Increase user satisfaction across our products and services.
  • Create feedback mechanisms and stand up support to serve and gain insights about users of new product and service launches.

SUMO Support ModelOn “moving our efforts up” in the product/user lifecycle, one analogy I’ve been kicking around in the past is the idea of our team on a football field (note that this comes from someone who isn’t very interested in football!).

Remember the amazing collection of circles-in-circles in part 1 of this blog post series? Now, consider those circles overlaid on a football field.

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 16.49.21

Maybe this helps illustrate how we think of the impact we have on both our products and our users. The higher up in the field we’re able to deflect issues, the lower the cost and the higher the user satisfaction.

One way of looking at this is to consider the point when a user hits a support website as a point of failure. If the midfield messes up, defense has to deal with it. And if the defense messes up, it’s up to the goalie to recover the situation. The closer you get to the goal, the more costly mistakes become and the less proactive you can be on the field.

To football fans out there, on a scale of 1 to 10, how painfully obvious is it that I know more about user happiness than the green field of chess?

Next up: User Success in 2015 – Part 3: How will we know we nailed it in 2015? (Will update this post with a link once that post is published.)

User Success – We’re hiring!

Just a quick +1 to Roland’s plug for the Senior Firefox Community Support Lead:

  • Ever loved a piece of software so much that you learned everything you
    could about it and helped others with it?
  • Ever coordinated an online community? Especially one around supporting users?
  • Ever measured and tweaked a website’s content so that more folks could find it and learn from it?

Got 2 out of 3 of the above?

Then work with me (since Firefox works closely with my area: Firefox for Android and in the future iOS via cloud services like Sync) and the rest of my colleagues on the fab Mozilla User Success team (especially my fantastic Firefox savvy colleagues over at User Advocacy).

And super extra bonus: you’ll also work with our fantastic community like all Mozilla employees AND Firefox product management, marketing and engineering.

Take a brief detour and head over to Roland’s blog to get a sense of one of the awesome people you’d get to work closely with in this exciting role (trust me, you’ll want to work with Roland!). After that, I hope you know what to do! 🙂

User Success in 2015 – Part 1: More than SUMO

Once again, happy belated 2015 – this time wearing a slightly different but equally awesome hat! In this series of blog posts, I’m going to set the stage for User Success in 2015 and beyond. Let’s start with a couple of quick clarifications:

  • SUMO =
  • SUMO != User Success

SUMO has come to mean a number of things over the years: a team, a support website, an underlying web platform, and/or a vibrant community. Within the team, we think of SUMO as the online support website itself,, including its contents. And then the amazing community of both volunteers and paid staff helping our users is simply called the SUMO community. But we don’t refer to SUMO as the name of a team, because what we do together goes beyond SUMO.

Crucially, SUMO is a subset of User Success, which consists of a number of teams and initiatives with a shared mission to make our users more successful with our products.  User Success is not just our fabulous website which millions of users and many, many volunteers help out with. User Success is both proactive and reactive, as illustrated in this hilariously exciting collection of circles in circles:

SUMO Support Model

Our job starts as soon as somebody starts using one of our products (Firefox, Firefox for Android, Firefox OS and more). Sometimes a user has an issue and goes to our website to look for a solution. Our job is then to make sure that user leaves our website with an answer to their question. But our job doesn’t stop there – we also need to make sure that engineers and product leads are aware of the top issues so they can solve the root cause of the issue in the product itself, leading to many more satisfied users.

Other times a user might just want to leave some feedback about their experience on Our job is then to make sure that this feedback is delivered to our product and engineering teams in an aggregated and actionable way that enables them to make the right priorities about what goes into the future versions of the product.

The proactive side of User Success consists of:

  • User Advocacy – A team looking at all our user interaction points, from support, social media, telemetry and other data to better understand what our users need so we can then help engineering with getting bugs fixed, eliminating the need for reactive support for these issues in the future.
  • Education – This includes things like our in-product information, tutorials, how-to’s, and other Engagement content we collaborate with other teams to create).
  • Self Service – This includes our vast knowledge base of solutions to common problems users experience when using our products.

The reactive side of User Success consists of:

  • Community Support – Our forums, the Army of Awesome on Twitter.
  • Helpdesk – Paid staff looking at issues that others aren’t able to answer.

When you add up our reactive and proactive initiatives, you get the complete equation for User Success, and that’s what I’ve been calling my team at Mozilla since 2014.

Next up: User Success in 2015 – Part 2: What are we doing this year? (Will update this post with a link once that post is published.)

Brace for impact (in a good way!)

Happy belated new year! And what a year this will be for Mozilla. I’ll talk about 2015 in a bit, but I want to start with some context to make it clearer why this will be the year where we brace for impact, and how a new team I’m helping get off the ground will be at the center of the action.

Let’s be frank here: over the last few years, Mozilla has gradually shifted its culture into becoming an organization where it’s harder to contribute as a volunteer. There are many reasons why this is the case, such as the fact that we 10x the number of paid staff over the course of just seven years. Rapid growth like that tends to shift the culture of an org like that and Mozilla is no different. And as volunteer participation becomes harder, so does the perception of working with volunteers change among paid staff. It becomes a vicious circle that can be hard to stop.

To put things in context, by any objective standard Mozilla is still one of the (if not the most) open, transparent and collaborative organizations in the world — but it’s no longer as obvious to an “outsider” trying to identify opportunities to have an impact where to start. And that’s what makes me so excited about 2015, because we’re going to do some pretty radical things to shift that culture around and put a clear focus around Participation to turn the vicious circle into a virtuous circle instead.

Mozilla used to have two separate community teams: one focusing internally on working with business units within MoCo to open up opportunities for volunteer participation to happen — “designing for participation”. And then another team that focused on growing healthy local volunteer communities and ensuring that there was a robust governance structure to hold these volunteer communities together. Focusing on these two aspects of participation is crucial because it definitely takes two to tango. However, in order to maximize impact, the two aspects need to get really close to each other:

  • You can spend a lot of time and effort into teaching business units how to design for participation, but if you don’t have a connection with the volunteer communities around the world, it’s mostly just theory.
  • Similarly, you can spend a lot of time and effort into building a perfect community leadership and governance structure, but if you don’t guide that community towards the projects that are in most need of help, you’re not maximizing impact.

That’s where 2015 comes in. I’m devoting part of my time to lead a newly formed team called the Community Development Team, sitting in the new Participation org at Mozilla and consisting of truly amazing people who will focus on two things at the same time: maximizing impact for our volunteer leadership on the ground (Reps, regional communities) and connecting that with our product teams within the org. It’s worth noting that there are lots of people and teams across the org where community is already a core part of what they do. This includes teams like QA, SUMO, MDN, QA, l10n, Webmaker, Community Marketing, etc. That’s a key reason why Mozilla has been so successful over the years. The Community Development team will focus on broadening this success across the org by helping more projects and teams reach the level of success that these prime examples already demonstrate. And that may also mean working directly with these already very participatory teams to amplify their efforts even more.

Our team goal is pretty simple: we will help key initiatives achieve more, move faster and better meet Mozilla’s core goals by helping them integrate new participatory approaches and by investing in volunteer skills and know how. We’ve set a 2015 goal to get at least 15 projects that meet this criteria of the virtuous circle.

How is it different from how we’ve done things in the past? The key change is a new center of gravity: acting as a liaison between product teams and volunteer leadership on the ground. In a nutshell, we’ll be holding business units and product teams with one hand, and our amazing volunteer leadership in the other hand, and we’ll make sure these two connect in a meaningful way that benefits both.

Our basic strategy is built around certain theories and hypotheses of what constitutes successful participation that we intend to test out. The formula looks like this:

  1. Define a set of theories of what constitutes successful participation.
  2. Work with business units within the org to identify opportunities where we can put these theories to the test on projects that serve our mission.
  3. Connect the people behind these projects with our volunteer leadership in ways that provide benefits both to our products and to our community.
  4. Evaluate and learn from the results of these experiences to further refine our theories.
  5. True success happens when both volunteers and business units benefit from the collaboration to ensure lasting connections. Volunteer benefit might be to grow new business skills or the satisfaction of making a real difference to products touching hundreds of millions of users globally. Business unit benefit might simply be more reach and the ability to punch above their weight. This virtuous circle of benefit on both sides is what we really mean with “impact”.

The theory part is crucial here: we’re taking a scientific approach to participation, where everything we do to enable impact in the organization is also seen as an opportunity to validate our theories. Some of the great people on the Community Development team will get into more specifics around what those theories are in upcoming blog posts, and I will update this blog post when their posts are up. For now, I wanted to just present everyone on the team:

  • William Quiviger – strategic lead
  • Rosana Ardila – Reps program manager
  • Brian King – Regional community manager, EMEA
  • Gen Kanai – Regional community manager, South East Asia
  • Guillermo Movia – Regional community manager, South America
  • Pierros Papadeas – Participation infrastructure lead
  • Emma Irwin – Education project manager
  • Rubén Martín (aka Nukeador) – Reps community manager
  • Konstantina Papadea – Reps program coordinator
  • Anastasios (Tasos) Katsulas – Participation Infrastructure Dev
  • John (Nemo) Giannelos – Participation Infrastructure Dev
  • Nikos Roussos – Participation Infrastructure Dev

Mitchell Baker and Mark Surman are also heavily involved in our efforts around Participation. In fact, they are the instigators and I consider them my part-time bosses. Mark recently wrote about his thoughts on the Participation plan, which provides more depth to the concept of the virtuous circle of impact both in our volunteer communities and in our business units.

On a more personal note, in addition to the exciting work around Participation, I continue to lead the User Success team (SUMO + User Advocacy + more) as well and I will blog more about the exciting stuff we’re doing there in a future blog post. Reflecting on my own journey at Mozilla, starting as a volunteer back in 2001, seeing a leadership opportunity in 2002 to develop the first support site for Firefox (then Phoenix), building up a new community support initiative called SUMO in 2007, and today seeing how it has become a movement of hundreds of contributors in any given month, it feels like I’m going full circle by joining the new Participation initiatives. The focus is once more on volunteer leadership, meaningful connections with our organizational goals and key initiatives, and a goal to maximize impact by working together.

What’s next?

If you’re a manager of a product or functional team, expect to hear from us as we being the discovery phase in the next couple of weeks to better understand the participation opportunities we have in front of us. If you’re impatiently waiting for us and have ideas already of where you need help with expanding your reach through our amazing community, please beat us to it and reach out!

If you’re a volunteer participant to the Mozilla project, there are two things I’d like to see happen. First off, I expect that our efforts in the Community Development team to meet with various business units at Mozilla to lead to new and meaningful ways where you could have a direct impact on the products that we build to serve our mission, either locally or globally. And second, I would be thrilled to hear from you about your personal journey so far and what you have learned and what things you’d like to see change around Participation at Mozilla. Ping me (djst on IRC, djst on Mozilla’s email, djst on Twitter) and let’s talk. I hope to be having lots of conversations with people across the world in the next month to learn more about the opportunities we have in front of us.

Leadership: striking a balance between runway and horizon

Inspired by the LEAD leadership training last year with Mozilla, I’m writing this blog post to share a snapshot of where I am in my leadership journey today. I believe that true learning doesn’t begin until you share, since that’s how you get to validate your observations and see if your reflections hold any value.

One thing I got familiar with last year is the concept of the runway and the horizon — and more importantly, I learned that you can’t have both as your team grows bigger. First, let me explain the concept.

Things like looking after your team, ensuring that everyone is on a growth path and that they’re happy, stimulated, motivated, and that you’re delivering on all of your team’s objectives and projects — that’s the runway. In contrast, meetings with stakeholders, forming healthy alliances with key players in and outside of the org, getting yourself some solid mentors and using all you learn from them to influence your team’s strategy and success — that’s the horizon. Everyone in every part of an organization typically does a bit of both, and generally speaking, the bigger your individual responsibility, the more you need to focus on the horizon.

Here’s the catch: the more you look up at the horizon, the less you get to look down at the runway. You can’t do both well unless you have a really small team. If your team is large, you have to choose what you want to focus on, and you need help with the parts that you choose to step away from.

Finding the right leadership balance is rarely as simple as the classic rule of third!

I used to be a manager of a handful of extremely creative and hard-working individuals. With a team of that size, things were fairly straightforward and it was relatively easy to keep an eye on both the runway and the horizon. It also helped that Mozilla only had one product at the time. Some people say that there’s a breaking point in terms of the size a team can have before you begin to fail to manage it reasonably well on your own. This breaking point is often said to be around 7-8 direct reports; after that point, you begin to compromise on your important responsibilities as a manager and you have to essentially choose between the runway or the horizon — or do a half-assed job with both like I did when I had ten direct reports in 2012. Luckily, all ten were as creative and hard-working as the first handful of people I hired, but it was still too much to manage for one person while at the same time trying to work on strategy.

By the time I had ten direct reports, I found myself unable to do my job well, and this impacted my team, created some conflicts, and probably also led to my team missing opportunities in the org. This was a big cause of stress for me, because I felt like I wasn’t in control of my life. There were things I knew I should be doing that I simply didn’t have time for anymore. I began to realize that I couldn’t handle both the runway and the horizon anymore, so I had to get help to continue to grow the influence and success of my team. The solution was to form another management level in my team to get help with some of the load.

The art of letting go of the runway

This change of structure of my team also changed my own role, because it allowed me to gradually focus more on the horizon and less on the runway. This gradual change is still going on today: as my new managers grow into their new roles, so am I growing into my new role; and vice versa. At first it felt strange — actually a bit empty and saddening — to not have frequent 1:1s with everyone on my team. All of a sudden, I only managed three people directly instead of ten (today that number is up at four again).

It was hard for me to let go of the idea that I need to stay on top of everything that is going on in my team, but I realized that if I tried to do that, I would fail even more to stay on top of what was going on outside of my team. Also, letting go is the only way the people on my teams will be able to continue to grow their own autonomy and influence by being allowed to step up, make mistakes and learn from them.

If I focus less on the runway and more on the horizon, new opportunities arise that would otherwise not happen to the team. And this new focus of mine has the great side-effect that it spills over to the entire team: I’m noticing that everyone in all of my teams is wearing bigger and bigger strategic hats. In short, every single person is increasing their impact in the organization today — the crucial strategic thinking seems to spread like ripples in a pond.

But there is still a balance between the runway and the horizon that I have to strike. I’m still exploring and learning what the right balance is for me. On the one hand, if I focus too much on the horizon, I run the risk of being useless to my team because I’m simply not in the loop on the things that are happening in the teams I’m responsible for. And on the other hand, if I get myself too involved in the projects and people on the teams, I run the risk of missing critical strategic opportunities for my team — and being perceived as a micro-manager! I believe that the right balance for me is to try to do two things well. I’ll share them here because they may be helpful to others, too:

  1. Runway: Grow the leadership of your direct reports by helping them increase their autonomy, accountability, and ability to communicate and coordinate their work with others. Support them when they make mistakes, cheer for them when they succeed. Don’t micro-manage, but try hard to understand most of what they do so you can be supportive and offer support when needed. Be there for them, but stay out of their way. And help them be the same kind of influence to their direct reports so the ripples continue to spread.
  2. Horizon: Devote all of your remaining time on the things that influence your teams indirectly: strategic alliances with other teams, coordinating efforts with stakeholders in the organization, ensuring your teams are where they need to be, looking for opportunities for your teams to increase their impact, staying on top of news and activities related to your area of responsibility. Do everything you can to ensure that your teams make a big difference in the organization.

If you do both of these things well, your teams and the entire organization will benefit. Sounds easy? I’m afraid it’s anything but. This should really be seen as the instruction manual for myself, not me trying to preach to anyone else how to be a great leader. I keep making mistakes almost every day, but I try hard to learn from them — that’s my key, I think, to become a better leader in the future.

Firefox is freedom

Love this quote:

I honestly believe Mozilla is committed to freedom and privacy on the web. Google is committed to making money and knowing everything I do. Firefox greets me with a page explaining my rights as a user of open source software. Chrome greets me with… sigh… Chrome greets me with a fucking advertisement for a Chromebook.

Cameron Paul on Why I’m Switching (Back) to Firefox

If you’re running Windows, Mac, Linux and haven’t used Firefox for a while, it’s time to switch back. And if you have an Android-powered phone, you definitely should check out the best mobile browser, bar none: Firefox for Android.