04 March 2010

Hear that Mozilla Drumbeat? No, Me Neither

A few months ago, I wrote about Mozilla's new Drumbeat campaign, "a global community of people and projects using technology to help internet users understand, participate and take control of their online lives."

As a big fan of Mozilla since its earliest days, I'm all in favour of this - just as I'm in favour of its new Drumbeat site for developers. As Mark Surman explains:

Our main goal with this early version of the site is to get people developing and working on a handful of Drumbeat projects. Which is why we're calling it a 'developer version'. It's intended first and foremost for brave souls with good open web ideas who are ready to a) put their ideas on the table and b) help us figure out how Drumbeat should work along the way.

If that sounds like you (brave soul + big open web idea), check out the site and create an account, then go to the 'create a project' form to describe what you'd like to work on.

Well, that's absolutely super-duper and fab, Mark, but just a teensy-weensy little thing: when something is called *Drumbeat*, as in making a noise, getting the message out etc., you don't think it might be a vaguely good idea to *tell people what you're doing*?

Had it not been for the wonders of Twitter, I would never have known about this latest move, and that's both a pity and something of a concern for the future of Drumbeat...

Update 1: There's now a Drumbeat calendar which gives an indication of the planned crescendo...

Update 2: Mark Surman has fleshed things out with this useful post.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.


msurman said...

Wow! Scathing!

As I said in my post, the plan for this release is exactly to keep things small for the next two months, to get a *small* handful of people developing projects on the site that form the core of the drumbeat. If you listen carefully in the forest, you'll see that's already happening.

Don't worry: a loud launch is coming. Likely in May. When there are real projects up there on the site and in motion that people can join, and when the most obvious bugs have been worked out.

Making a bunch of noise without these projects in motion would lead to something way worse than a tree falling -- a bunch of people showing up, looking for something to so, and then leaving for good.

Glynn: would love as always to have you in the mix as we build up to the noise making.

Glyn Moody said...

@Mark: scathing? Moi?

No, seriously, I'm just concerned when something like this pops up without any notice, because it confuses me. And I think it will confuse other people/journalists/bloggers too, so that they ask the same question: is Drumbeat really going to make a noise or just turn into an inaudible rumble?

So, by all means keep the launch modest, but at least *tell* us that's what you're doing, and that's there not much to see yet - but don't let it seep out and be misinterpreted by cynical, scathing journalists....

msurman said...

Fair and helpful point. I'll do a clearer blog posting on the overall plan later today.

Also: I know I owe you a mail re: Mozilla stepping up more on 'what is the open web?' topics. We're doing a bunch in the background to amp up on this (and the foreground w/ browserchoice.org). But probably worth narrating this more in public just as you suggest w/ Drumbeat.

Glyn Moody said...

@Mark: that would be good on both.

msurman said...

Just updated and promoted this previously buried drumbeat roadmap wiki page:


Will do blog post overviewing the roadmap and strategy later today or tomorrow.

Thanks again for the friendly kick in the ass.

Glyn Moody said...

@Mark - thanks. It's just tough love...

Gerv said...

It seems to me there are two ways we could have done the Drumbeat website launch:

1) Build the site entirely behind closed doors, using a small group of chosen or paid people. Get all the projects signed up secretly, and loading their data in behind a login wall. Make sure everything is utterly brilliant for day 1. Then: launch! Press release, noise, the whole nine yards.

2) Put up a developer site as soon as we can and invite the community to hack on it (bug list) even as the first projects are loading in their data. Build it organically from the ground up, in public, and start a community forming.

The former would have achieved the effect you want, but it's not really the free software, community-based way of doing things. The latter is, but it makes it harder to arrive with a bang. I'm not sure there's a way to have it both ways :-)


Glyn Moody said...

@Gerv: you're right, it's a tricky balance.

But how about a third option?

3) Put up a developer site as soon as we can. Tell people about it, explaining that it's just a beta, that a full launch will follow, and invite the community to hack on it. Get some useful low-key but positive publicity at this stage.

Then later allow the butterfly-like site to emerge from its caterpillar/chrysalis stages, garnering yet more publicity which is suitably positive because of all the preparations and hard work....

Gerv said...

Glyn: I think your 3) is basically a rephrasing of my 2) :-) But yes, that's pretty much what we were aiming for. If you think we soft-pedalled it a little too much on the publicity, fine. I think Mark has commented that he'll be doing a bit more. :-)


Glyn Moody said...

@Gerv: yes, it's essentially your 2), but with a slightly heavier drum-stroke....

Anonymous said...

Im a heavy consumer of FLOSS blogs and websites and this is the FIRST I have heard of Drumbeat, so yes

"..when something is called *Drumbeat*, as in making a noise, getting the message out etc., you don't think it might be a vaguely good idea to *tell people what you're doing*?"

is right on the money.

Yes, I understand the slow buildup but I also know the impatience of the community and how sometimes the message doesnt get heard (I still remember that KDE4.0 was SPECIFICALLY mentioned as NOT being ready by the devs but people couldnt be bothered to listen/read) when people cant see the long road ahead.

Besides, I have cousins in Brazil who are involved in FLOSS as well and when I IMd this:
>Rio or Sao Paulo local events (March >19 + 21)
they had never heard of this.

Seems to me a local event in 2 weeks should be better advertized in Brazil at least.
If you have a party and dont tell anyone, whos gonna come?

I will keep an ear open for the Canadian event on Apr23-24 to see if we get more info here.

Of course, if you plan to do a big noisy launch in May, that leaves the dev events in March and April where exactly?

Sorry, it looks good on paper but it also feels like there are too many holes and very little info for outside developers to get interested.
How are you getting the word out to these people?

Im gonna send the link to others I know and on some lists but cant say I would have know about this had it not been for Glyn.

Im not by any stretch a barometer of the FLOSS world but if I havent even heard of Drumbeat by March 6th, maybe, just maybe, the beat isnt loud enough, even in its embryonic stage.

My cousins will keep me abreast of what is happening back home in two weeks and I will keep track of the Toronto events so Ill leave more comments for then.

Right now, Im not gonna say its a fail but it definitely is underwhelming approach to social engineering.
(I have to be honest and admit Im not a fan of these campaigns. I know their usefulness and the importance of getting non-geeks/codes/developers involved in FLOSS causes but I prefer the X and O's of coding and more precise goals. But taht's a personal thing.)


Glyn Moody said...

@Hickson: thanks for that feedback on your experiences.

msurman said...

@GlynMoody here is roadmap post: http://commonspace.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/drumbeat-roadmap/

Glyn Moody said...

@Mark: great stuff - thanks for that.