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Article published on: 9 February 2012, 12:20
In summer 2010 when I joined the new and awesome developer tools team little did I know about Mozilla, how Firefox is built and what is the "Mozilla community". Every day I learned more and more, and now I am surprised in a very pleasant way. The Mozilla community is a broad one, helping our open source projects in multiple ways: from spreading the word, advertising our project, to localization, documentation writing and even development.
We have recently made our developer tools more "public" simply by releasing them to our users in stable versions of Firefox. The latest releases of Firefox have put the new developer tools into the hands of many interested web developers around the world. The coolest outcome of this is that some people want to help us improve our tools! There's no better way to do this than writing actual patches for new features and bug fixes.
At Mozilla we have the Bugzilla site where most of all development tracking happens: that's where we open "bug" reports for new features, for issues we need to fix and so on. We have a way to mark bugs that are easy to fix for volunteers, newcomers to the project. We call these "good first bugs" and we associate mentors to them, people more experienced, who know how to fix the bug and can help the volunteer in the process of writing a patch.
Recently I had the pleasure of working with several contributors from our big community, and it was quite awesome. From "near-perfect" contributions that needed almost no help from me, to contributions that needed more guidance. In all cases I was glad to see contributors enthusiastic about their work, happy to help, taking bugs we can't immediately fix (people on the team usually work on higher priority tasks).
It's really cool to see people joining the Mozilla IRC servers, in the #devtools channel, and just saying "hey, I want to help with fixing bug #nnn. any pointers for that?". That's all it takes to start the ball rolling. It's the spark of curiosity in our volunteers, their desire to help and to learn. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, it doesn't take anything "hard" - it's just that drive to do something useful for them and for us.
While Firefox has hundreds of millions of users, I think the coolest part of the Mozillians community is these fewer people who "bite the bullet", who try to do something they didn't do before: get the Firefox source code, build it, write a patch (with automated tests), ask for feedback from the mentor, update it as needed, and done! They take time to read and understand existing code, and they read our documentation to be able to successfully complete their patches.
This is very much different from what one can expect from a closed source project where users, irrespective of their appreciation of the project, irrespective of how capable they would be to help the project forward, they cannot do so. This is open source and simply being so it enables a whole new level of engaging people around the world within the Firefox project, or within the other Mozilla projects. Also, it goes without saying that simply being open source is not always enough, open source done right allows actual successful contributions from volunteers.
Our contributors are always happy when their patches land in Firefox but we are also thrilled when we see the final patches land, it feels great to see others helping to improve code we previously worked on.
Thank you all and keep on rocking! You make Mozilla unique!
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