Webmaker 2013: product + community

Webmaker is both a product and a community.‘ This is the conclusion that a bunch of came to last week as we were looking at goals for Webmaker 2013. We need a product that delights, gives people value and builds up demand for content that could only be made on the web. We also need a global community of people excited to teach about the open tech of the web and the creative freedoms that it offers We need to build both of these things.


Based on this discussion and many others, I’ve worked up a first cut description of what Webmaker 2013 might look like. It includes: a product and community description; audience definitions; goals and objectives; and top level metrics. Over the next few weeks, I want to discuss these more broadly and then refine them.

The idea that we want to make a product that people love is at the core of Webmaker 2013. With that goal in mind, I’m proposing a number things that change what we’ve made so far:

  • The product will be positioned as a way to ‘animate the web’. Popcorn-powered videos, slideshows, etc. have caught people’s attention. We will make these our core differentiating feature.
  • Thimble + Popcorn Maker + Xray Goggles will become more tightly integrated. Your Popcorn video will come wrapped in a Thimble paged editable with Goggles.
  • Webmaker.org will become a) showcase for best content people make and b) jumping off point for remixing and learning.
  • As part of this, we’ll make flexible gallery tools for ‘me, my friends and my themes’. The galleries themselves will be highly hackable.
  • Also: we will start to look like a distributed social network, pushing your content into Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and always including a remix button that pops you out to Webmaker.org so you can learn, tinker and (re)create.
  • Hive + Code Party will merge into an ongoing global community of mentors with local roots. This will be core to the movement building side of Webmaker.

Assuming we go in this direction, we’ll need to again evolve the way we describe Webmaker to the world. Long time Mozilla engineering genius Johnathan Nightingale has been known to day that ‘Firefox combines both rocket (awesome browser) and payload (user choice and web standards)’. We could think of Webmaker in a similar way:

Rocket: Apps to author web pages that move: videos, slideshows, etc. that combine content and code from across the web. The tools solve a problem: they make it way easier than it is today to mix your phone, web and social media content together into a compelling, moving collage that you can share with friends. Also, the content that pops out the other end is magnetic, edgy, useful, new. It looks unlike anything people are making today because it’s made by combining real, live and, sometimes, constantly changing content from across the web. People will love this stuff. And no one else has it (yet).

Payload: Ultimately, this gets people to expect a remix button for everything. People start by making videos, slideshows, etc. that could only be made with the open technology of web. The videos, etc. pull material via URLs + APIs. They pull from your phone, your social networks, everywhere. They make it easy to see, edit and drop in code. Over time, people realize Webmaker content is remixable, view sourceable and can change as the web changes. Also, the tools and the content you make show you how the web works as you make things. There are ‘remix’ and ‘how to’ buttons on every piece of content created using Webmaker tools.

These tools can be hugely popular. I believe that quite deeply. But, like Firefox, with its millions of early adopters who installed a new browser on a friend’s computer, we also need a community and a ground game. I propose that we leverage our existing work on Hive and Summer Code Party to build a global community of mentors, teachers, techies and evangelists. It might be described this way:

A global community of makers and mentors excited to show people what you can do using the creative and technical freedoms of the web and (and open tech in general). They use open tech and a maker attitude to teach everything from art to science to citizenship. Sometimes, they use Webmaker tools. Sometimes they use Scratch. Sometimes they hack with toys and hardware from the junkyard. And everything in between. This community is built on the event and local learning network models that we’ve begun to develop with Summer Code Party and HiveNYC.

The important thing about this community is that, like Mozilla Festival, it’s not just about our tools. It’s about something bigger: using the maker spirit to teach and inspire. Mozilla has an important role to play in connecting this maker spirit back to the web and showing how you can live an online life that taps the creative and technical freedoms of the web to their fullest. This Mozilla side of making — and the Webmaker products — should both fuel and draft in the wind of the broader maker movement, just as Firefox did with open source a decade earlier.

As I say, all of this thinking — plus the detailed goals and objectives I’ve written up for Webmaker 2013 — is a draft for feedback. I’ve set up a bunch of threads on the Mozilla Webmaker mailing list to discuss different aspects of this plan. That’s the best place to go if you want to join into a discussion on these ideas. Of course, comments here on my blog are also welcome.


  1. Barry Joseph replied on | Reply

    This is a great vision and I look forward to exploring how science and museum education can participate and contribute.

  2. Ira Socol replied on | Reply

    The concept here sounds like something I’ve been wishing for – especially in education – for a long time. A free, open source, system which allows one’s digital presence to coalesce in one place. I’m imagining this for teachers, but really focusing on it for students. I am asked all the time about the most effective ways for students to build portfolios for alternative grading schemes and alternative CV documentation – perhaps in a “post-degree-importance” world.

    Of course the possibilities reach far beyond this, but this is my personal/professional focus.

    The issue for me here is how to join the work. I’m not unfamiliar with open source collaboration – the “Freedom Stick” – http://www.specialeducationadvisor.com/free-for-download-the-updated-freedom-stick/ – is one of my big efforts of the past few years, but connecting to the Mozilla Community around new projects can be daunting if you are not a hacker by temperment. If I go to a phone meet http://youtu.be/SfeasP_Vv0c or to https://webmaker.org/en-US/events/ I’m not finding a workable “entry point” to the conversations or local support in any of the places I live or work on either side of the Atlantic. And if I can’t “find my way in,” I’m not sure how the teachers I work with can.

    We’re not “out of the loop.” We carried the CoderDojo back from Ireland with us and have involved thousands of Virginia kids in that. We’ve helped popularize fully accessible Firefox, but this is a block for me…

    How do you open the doors wider?

  3. Goofy replied on | Reply

    I just cannot understand why nothing is planned here to make webmakers tools localizable, that is, provide tools with interface and howtos to every user in his own language. This is major cultural issue you did not even realize it seems. Too bad.

    1. msurman replied on | Reply

      Hey Goofy, L10N is an explicit goal for 2013. See goal 3.5 on the wiki: “Build basis for ‘L10N Everywhere’: tools, starter content and ‘makes’ should all eventually be translatable.” We have an ambitious L10N vision emerging from the community, so only thing we need to be realistic about is that not all things will happen at once or even all in this next year. But we are putting resources and attention to this issue.

  4. yoric replied on | Reply

    So how do we get in touch to contribute to Thimble?

    1. msurman replied on | Reply

      The best thing to do is introduce yourself here and let people know you want to help w/ Thimble:


      Say a bit about how you’d like to contribute / what your skills and interests are.

  5. Michael McCarthy (@drawnalong) replied on | Reply

    Mark, I am particularly excited about the concept of webmakers being offered a resource to establish their own Creative Cloud. The idea of an aggregated “me media” resource is awesome! Our individual media sources are in different formats and spread across numerous sites. Often without recognizing it, many of us are isolated in fiefdoms and lodged in service loops. The lowered barrier to creation and sharing has been empowering to we the “users,” but it has come at a proprietary, privacy-busting premium. APIs and javascript libraries are a great way forward for those few who can manipulate them, but everyone else is left working with user-friendly, but not maker-friendly solutions.

    It’s daunting to be code illiterate! I’ve watched the a world open up for the few who can tap into it natively. To be a creator with no access to what is beneath the screen is paralysis! Web media drives our ability to combine in this free world, to share our voice and tell our stories. As potential creators, we need new resources to beat the odds.

    If Webmaker heads in this direction, I see many of us gaining our across-the-web creative agency. Webmaker is promising to “lift the hood” and expose the bones of the code. When you add the mentorship and guidance of an open creative community, then this really could be the tool we need.

Add a Comment