I had the pleasure (and the privilege!) earlier this month to attend my first ever team meeting of Aviary.pl, Poland's vibrant community of localizers and open source advocates who brought Mozilla Products to the country. Tucked deep in a forest in central Poland, in the town of Lipie 200km north Poznan, 15 members made the trip for the 3 day meeting.

I've been working with the Aviary.pl crew ever since I joined Mozilla in 2008 but I had never actually seen the team "at work" together. Earlier this year, at the Mozilla Summit, I had a long chat with the group's president, Hubert, and kindly offered that I attend their next meeting. I happily obliged.

It was not only the opportunity for me to finally meet in person many members of Aviary.pl and indulge in Zubrowka, it was also an opportunity to attend their meeting as a note-taking observer, to see how they work and take back observations and ideas that I could share with other Mozilla communities.

Aviary.pl was founded in 2004 and work on the localization, testing and promotion of Mozilla products and other open source projects. Over the years, they've built an incredibly efficient, disciplined, organized and productive volunteer organization that I believe serves as a model that Mozilla communities around the world can learn from. What is it exactly that makes Aviary.PL such an admired community in tech circles in Poland and such a productive and successful one?

Aviary.pl's structure resembles that of a standard non-profit organization in Poland, with a governing board presided by Hubert, a supervisory board and a team of project leads working on specific areas (eg. Firefox, Thunderbird, QA, SUMO, Linux distributions, Gnome, Marketing etc...). But perhaps what makes Aviary.pl differ most from other Mozilla communities is the way it recruits its members, where each new recruit must go through an extensive interview process and then a 6 month trial period. This method of recruitment is rigorous, lengthy but the end result is a team of committed, disciplined contributors who have a strong sense of ownership of their project and of responsibility towards the group.

Their bi-annual meetings, which aim to review the status of all projects, identify challenges/opportunities and then define goals for the next 6 months, are themselves extremely rigorous and very well structured. Spread out over several days the meeting I attended proceeded in the following way:

  • Day 1: status update of the past 6 months - review of what worked, what didn't, ongoing challenges and opportunities, priorities, ideas
  • Day 2: Goal-setting for next 6 months
  • Day 3: Bug triaging/fixing

The full detailed review of what was accomplished during the productive meeting can be found (in Polish) on Hubert's blog post. You can also find notes in English taken by Joanna here.

The weekend spent in Lipie was hugely interesting for me and I look forward to sharing my experience working with Aviary.pl with other Mozilla communities  across Europe and around the world. Of course, there's no one magic formula to get a community to work effectively and grow the way Aviary.pl has, but if I had to summarize the roots of their success in 5 words, they would be: leadership, organization, discipline, friendship and Zubrowka fun.

A big thanks again to the whole Aviary.pl crew for being so welcoming, open and patient with my non-existent Polish. A special thanks to Hubert and Joanna (for organizing the whole event) and to Gandalf, for promising to never perform a flying-armbar on me :)

(for photos of the meeting, click here, here and here)