Increasing developer engagement at Mozilla {Science|Learning|Advocacy|++}

I love watching a community come together to solve problems.

The past two years, I’ve been testing ways to engage contributors on open source science projects. As Lead Developer for the Mozilla Science Lab, I built prototypes in the open with our community while mentoring others to do the same. We’ve seen exponential growth in contributorship and mentorship, and I am incredibly proud of the work we accomplished.

I’m excited to be moving into a role where I’ll be extending the contributor pathways we’ve built in the Science Lab to other programs within the Foundation. As Lead Developer, Open Source Engagement at the Mozilla Foundation, I will be shaping how we interact with the open source community not just in Science, but also in Learning, Internet Policy & Advocacy and newer efforts like Internet of Things and Women & Web Literacy.

Mozilla’s mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. People are key and necessary as we work towards Mozilla’s mission through the lens of each program.

 Starting in Science

Starting this experiment among academic researchers in Mozilla Science helped prepare us to reach the broader Mozilla community.

The Science Lab community is a cross section of Mozilla’s community. Within Mozilla Science, we’ve hosted projects exploring IoT, research policy, women in STEMM, education and more. These projects helped us learn how to engage a diverse community.

Bringing the concept of working openly to academic research has helped us understand a wide array of complex challenges. The research world is full of competition, private data and a cutthroat need to publish. These challenges forced to us articulate why open matters and emphasize a scalable mentorship model as we work towards culture change.

 Contributor Pathways

Modelling the contributor pathways we used within the Science Lab, we’ve found four stages needed to create a cohesive pathway for contributors.

contributor pathways

  1. Sourcing: Finding new contributors. This can be passively on a project or more actively at an event or in a specific ask.
  2. Onboarding: Intentionally onboard new contributors to answer:
    • WHY: Why Mozilla? Why open source?
    • HOW: How do they practically contribute? What steps or skills should they know?
  3. Prototyping: We need to build with our community. This gives contributors a chance to learn and practice collaborating while building new features or tools.
  4. Training & Mentorship: While prototyping, work is constantly acknowledged, rewarded and refined. As contributors learn to bring others into their work, they may take on the mentor role to newcomers.

Taking these ideas, I’ll be working to see how we can define and measure a contributor pathway across the Mozilla Foundation.

 What Next?

Over the next few months, we’ll be studying how different programs across the Mozilla Foundation work with their contributors. At the same time, I’ll be continuing to work with the volunteers and mentors in the Science Lab.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on the idea of setting contributor pathways across the Foundation. You can reach me on twitter @abbycabs or email me directly at abby at

We’re entering an exciting time at the Mozilla Foundation as we break out of our prototyped, siloed programs and share how we’ve been successful. The Mozilla Science Lab - and our other community centred programs - will be so much stronger as we collaborate across our combined networks. Together, let’s build a better internet!


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