Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mozilla's Crowdsourcing Mystique

As the maker of the Firefox Web browser relies on volunteer developers, such for-profit companies as Google and LinkedIn strain to copy the Mozilla model. There's a cool new video player in the Firefox Web browser that Mozilla released on June 30. But the onscreen buttons used to control it are too small for some visually impaired users to see. So Ken Saunders, a 41-year-old, legally blind volunteer for Mozilla, took it upon himself to create a tool that makes the player easier to use for people with vision problems. Saunders is among hundreds of people who donate time and skills to Mozilla, the Mountain View (Calif.) company that releases Firefox and other open-source software. Even as Mozilla's internal staff has grown to 250, from 15 in 2005, an army of volunteers still contributes about 40% of the company's work, which ranges from tweaks to the programming code to designing the Firefox logo.
How Mozilla channels those efforts is a model for a growing number of companies trying to tap into the collective talents of large pools of software developers and other enthusiasts of a product, brand, or idea. "There's structure in it," says Mike Beltzner, who runs Firefox. "But at the same time you allow people to innovate and to explore and [give them] the freedom to do what they want along those edges—that's where innovation tends to happen in startling and unexpected ways." At Firefox, Beltzer calls it "leading from behind." His team makes only the highest, direction-setting decisions, such as the date each new version of Firefox has to ship. It's up to Mozilla staff and volunteers to meet those deadlines through a process of identifying specific tasks that need to be done and accomplishing them. A system of recognition has formed among volunteers, who can be designated as "module owners" and given authority over certain areas, such as the layout. To Learn More Click Here

No comments:

Post a Comment