How I became a Mozillian

Published: 2014-08-06

As I promised myself in my resolutions for the new year, I decided to become an active member of the Mozilla community. But with a twist.

I thought the better way to participate to the project was by coding, specifically helping with the Firefox OS code base. Instead, I decided to contribute by localizing the Mozilla Developer Network into Italian.

Here is the story of how it happened.

Humble beginnings

My desire to start contributing to Mozilla began last summer, at OHM 2013 in the Netherlands. There I met Ali Spivak (Product Manager for MDN) and Laura Hilliger (who volunteers as a Mentor for the Mozilla Foundation) who were doing a workshop on Webmaker, a Mozilla project to help teaching users to create their own web pages. That was the moment I decided I wanted to be part of the Mozilla community.

On that occasion, Stefan Arentz was holding a speech about Firefox OS. I already had my Geeksphone Peak running Firefox OS, so the project was not new to me, but that talk made me think that was the project I wanted to collaborate on.

So, once home, I scourged MDN in search for information about how to contribute to Firefox OS.

After a while I found a mentored bug that seemed easy enough to try my teeth on. Something about changing some strings. That way I would familiarize with the code base and with the process of fixing things and submitting my patch.

This went horribly wrong. Someone else was making modifications to the file I was editing, so when I tried to merge my patch a lot of conflicts popped up. I had to redo all my edits line-by-line. In all this process, my assigned mentor was super-useful and patient, and tried to help me as best as he could. Nevertheless, the bug was not fixed (last time I checked, someone else took over it and the bug was subsequently blocked because of a dependency on another bug).

Realization

While reading the documentation on MDN, I noticed that some of it was incomplete. I wasn't in the position to add stuff, because I simply didn't know it.

At this point, I started to think translation would be something I could do that would have helped Italian developers not so well versed in English to overcome the language obstacle. So I started randomly translating short articles.

United we stand

I knew there had to be someone organizing the Italian localization effort, and I discovered it was Mozilla Italia. So I subscribed to their forum and lurked for a while. There seemed to be no active project for the localization of MDN, so I asked if they needed a translator for that. They gladly accepted warning me it would be a gigantic effort. So I began translating and submitting QA requests to the helpful people of Mozilla Italia. The rest, as they say, is history :)

Side projects

Apart from translating, I tried various other ways to contribute to Mozilla. I participated to a Marketplace Day, where you do various tests and QA on the Mozilla Marketplace. I also participated to a Test Day for Firefox Mobile, finding a couple of minor bugs.

That Marketplace Day is what actually certified me as a Mozillian. Daniele Scasciafratte recognized my efforts and decided to vouch my profile on Mozillians.org.

Also, I subscribed to the Tablet Contribution Program so I can test Firefox OS on a tablet and give feedback.

Now what

I've done a lot of translations lately, and I also started creating original content in English for the new Learning area and the Glossary. I'm actively participating in the bi-weekly mdn meetings on irc so I can get the feeling of how the community process works. Finally, I'm trying to help newcomers landing their first contributions.

All in all, contributing to Mozilla can be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and satisfaction. You get to talk to awesome people and contribute to the community. Also you get a glimpse of how gigantic projects like MDN work and are coordinated.

The Mozilla community is a huge world that many people have no idea about :)

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