Yesterday, I got an email from Wichai "Cheng"Termwuttipreecha, a lead Mozilla contributor from Thailand and based in Bangkok, informing me that the Thai localization crew had just about finished localizing Firefox 4. This is awesome news. I want to stress this not only because it's an important milestone - only a few weeks ago, localization efforts were lagging behind and it looked far from certain that Fx 4 would be shipping in Thai - but because it comes after some very productive and insightful team-building meetups I was fortunate to help lead during my week in Bangkok.

Cheng's email landed in my inbox just as I was getting ready to write a little summary of my recent trip to South East Asia, where I flew to Bangkok late October to meet up with my colleagues Gen and Dietrich to participate in Barcamp Bangkok 2010. It was surely SE Asia's largest barcamp this year, gathering more than 1,200 techies from more than 20 countries for 2 days of geeking out, learning and sharing.

This barcamp was by far the most memorable one I've participated in, not so much for its sheer size and scope but for the incredibly eclectic mix of developers, entrepreneurs, bloggers, journalists, web enthusiasts I met there. More than anything though, this BarCamp reminded me (or dare I say, made it blatantly clear to me!) of one thing: face-time and real-life interaction makes a world of difference when it comes to engaging with existing and potential Mozilla contributors. The talks we gave with Gen and Dietrich (ranging from an intro to WebGL and how to build your first JetPack, to community building efforts in Europe) attracted a lot of Barcampers and were very well received. By the end of the event, no fewer than a dozen people signed up to join the existing Mozilla Thai community and start contributing. Some focused on localizing MDC in thai, others started creating JetPack tutorials in Thai, while others worked on bug triaging.

Building on the momentum gained, we organized several meetups that same week with local Mozilla contributors to discuss the current state of the Thai community, key challenges the community faces, ways to strengthen and build the community and finally, to identify key goals to achieve for the next 6 months. With 15% Firefox market share, there's still a lot of work to do.

The 4 top priorities identified were:

  • localizing Firefox 4
  • empowering contributors, defining clearer roles and responsibilities
  • finalize the design of the Thai community portal and go live
  • preparing a community marketing plan in preparation for the launch of Firefox 4

By the end of the third and final meetup that week, the community had successfully defined a thorough roadmap for the next two quarters.

Item number one was to get Firefox 4 localized by mid-November. Status? DONE. (see first paragraph of this blog post.)

The rest of the roadmap looks like this (see google doc in Thai here):

Mid to end of November : hold a community meeting to discuss and agree on new organizational structure whereby clear roles and responsibilities are attributed to contributors.

End of November to end of December: hold a meeting to define and agree on final structure/design/content of community portal and produce content. Ideally, the community website will go live at the end of the year.

Early December to late January: produce a clear action plan for community marketing activities around the launch of Firefox 4 (ie. plan for several launch parties across the city, and a nationwide community marketing campaign online)

So yes, a very productive week indeed and the community made huge progress on many different fronts in very little time. Of course, that is not to say no progress would have been made had we not met that week, but what is that we got the ball rolling faster and in a clearer direction. I think this serves as great case-study which, I hope, Mozilla communities can use and find inspiration from. I think the main takeaways from working one week with the Thai community are three-fold:

  • identifying key priorities and then setting clear goals against each one of them helps everyone get more visibility on their respective tasks and makes everyone feel more comfortable taking owernship of them
  • defining a realistic roadmap puts everything into perspective, helps everyone plan ahead and work more effectively towards specific deadlines
  • spending time to meet and discuss in person helps strengthen the bond between contributors, creates trust and has a real galvanizing effect

I really want to put extra emphasis on this last point: meeting in person matters. Yes, it sounds obvious, but I think it's something we all too easily forget or brush aside at Mozilla, as we sit hunched over our computer chatting away on IM or IRC. Of course it's not always easy to meet (especially when living hundreds or thousands of kilometers apart) but if the opportunity does arise, then you should jump on it. That extra effort to meet and work together will go a long way.... My job at Mozilla, among other things, is to help facilitate these meetups and encourage Mozillians to work more closely (and productively!) together. If you are thinking of organizing  a local Mozilla meetup in your town or region, shoot me an email and I'll be more than happy to help any way I can.

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Special shout-outs:

  • Huge thanks to Cheng for being such a great host and for helping with all the logistics in Bangkok and a huge thanks to all who participated in the meetups. Also many thanks to Patipat "Keng" Susumpow (Mozilla Thailand's community lead) for the lengthy Skype follow-up calls to catch up. Such a shame you couldn't join us that week.
  • a very big hat tip to Viking Karwur (Mozilla Indonesia) for being such an amazing host in Jakarta and many thanks to the whole PestaBlogger crew! My stay was way too short (and so was my talk!) but so happy to have met you all and to have experienced my first PestaBlogger :) Can't wait to be back and continue where we left off!