How I Got Involved With Mozilla

16 Oct 2011 - webdev mozilla

There have been a fair number of responses to David Boswell’s post about how he got involved with Mozilla. Most of the responses have been from fairly established contributors and contributing for a while. I thought I’d share my experience since I’ve been around for hardly 4 months now and moderately active.

My first attempt at contributing to Mozilla was a disaster. It was around January 2011 and I tried to contribute to (AMO) before its cleaned database was publically available. It took me a while to set the whole thing up and eventually when I did have things setup, I couldn’t properly reproduce bugs since I had no data and I had trouble adding new data. Eventually, I gave up out of frustration and I had lesser time available and my interest died out. Things have definitely changed since, the database for AMO is now downloadable and I’m pretty sure my setup troubles were my lack of experience; thank you Wil Clouser for being patient with me back then.

Around June 2011, I applied to a web developer opening at Mozilla. The email which confirms my application said this, ‘If you’ve gotten this far, we’re certain you care about the future of the web. It’s easy to get involved and further that mission.’ I think this struck a note in me (whoever thought to add it, great job!). I wanted to give it another shot. This time, I just joined #webdev and asked if any projects needed help. Dave quickly responded saying that Input could use some help and I started checking out the code and setting it up. By July, I had cleaned up most of the easy bugs on Input and I continue to help fix bugs. I ended up not getting picked for the position I applied for, but I’m really glad to be contributing.

Things have changed since my attempt in January. There is now a significant interest in making virtual machine images available via either vagrant or some other means so setting up a dev environment is much easier (See posts by tofumatt, lochard, and groovecoder). This reduces the barrier of entry and frustration levels significantly. A frontend person need not be a linux sysadmin anymore to be able to fix a small CSS bug. Another good thing about this is, since everyone will be on the same environment, we’re reducing the chances of a weird environment problem.

Is the route I took still possible? I’d definitely say yes. If you know Python and Django or PHP or CSS or JavaScript, there are a bunch of webdev projects, and just asking in #webdev channel could guide you to projects that need help. It’s probably a good idea to ask during UTC–8 working hours since working hours of most of Mozilla WebDev overlap significantly around that time.