Towards a new about:mozilla newsletter format

about-mozilla

The about:mozilla newsletter needs to evolve. It launched about 14 months ago and hasn’t changed at all in that time while the Mozilla project has continued to grow and expand. Based on the feedback I’ve received from a few people, I’m proposing that the newsletter morph from a “light and quick overview of a handful of interesting items” to a “full-blown newspaper for Mozilla project contributors”.

This is going to involve a lot more research and editorial work, and it could end up being longer, but it will have better structure and organization making it easier to skim and digest. As something targeted at project contributors, I think it will be more useful overall.

The following static sections were suggested:

Firefox
* Feature development, major changes, demos, etc.

Labs and add-ons
* Labs, labs projects, AMO, add-on news (Firebug, etc)

Other products and projects
* Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Camino, etc.

Upcoming releases
* Shortform list of all known/announced upcoming releases

Security notes
* Quicklist of recent security issues and information

Infrastructure and IT
* All project-infrastructure related news – upcoming planned outages, upgrades, changes, etc. Bugzilla, tinderbox, graphserver, etc.

Project coordination
* Upcoming bugdays, testdays, l10n events/deadlines, community marketing events, etc.

Events and conferences
* Devdays, barcamps, meetups, labs nights, Mozilla-involved conferences, etc. Bullet-pointy.

Meetings and meeting notes
* Standard reminder about the Community Calendar and all the goodness that resides there. Link to meeting notes blog + rss feed.

In the media
* Recent important media mentions or other PR-related things of interest

Mozilla
* MoCo/MoFo/MoMo related news. EC stuff, goals setting, education program, governance, awards, etc.

Etcetera/Miscellaneous
* Anything else that’s interesting enough to include.

What do you think? Good idea? Terrible idea? Do the proposed sections cover everything? Are there other things that would be useful in a weekly project newsletter? What else could/should be included?

I really want this newsletter to be as useful as possible for our project contributors, so your feedback is really important. Please leave your comments here or email me privately at deb-at-mozilla-dot-com. Thanks!

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16 thoughts on “Towards a new about:mozilla newsletter format

  1. Right now, many people seem to keep up with Mozilla by following planet.mozilla.org. It sounds like this could replace that for many people, since it would be higher signal/noise. People sufficiently close to the core might end up still wanting/needing to pay attention to planet, however, either in addition to or instead of the bigger about:mozilla. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how this ecosystem change might play out for the various groups of users.

    A more general question is “what are the important goals and non-goals for this proposed expansion”?

  2. Dan, one of the major things I hear these days is that planet is simply *too much* for people to keep up with, and that they appreciate the newsletter as a way to make sure they hit the highlights. Planet is incredibly high-volume these days, and just getting busier all the time. The goal of the expanded newsletter is to make sure that everyone has a way to catch the most important project-related stuff, whether they are able to keep up with Planet or not.

    I don’t think the newsletter is a replacement for Planet, just a weekly way to get caught up on the highlights.

    Does that make sense? I could be totally off-base on this.

  3. I’m all for it. In fact, I love the concept.
    People always have the option of not subscribing or unsubscribing if they don’t care for it.

    The world of Mozilla grows daily and it only makes sense to offer an organized summary of all that is going on especially from Mozilla itself.
    It would save a lot of time from jumping from site to site, cut back on email subscriptions, and having to check on numerous feeds.

    I’d like to see a Meet Mozilla section that features a different Mozilla employee or contributor each week. It would personalize the newspaper and carry on the Mozilla tradition of being open, welcoming, and a lot more casual than other organizations.

    There could be a standard set of questions for the Mozillian such as, location, role in the Mozilla project, how they become involved, how long have they been a Mozillian, what drives them, etc. Even with a standard set of questions, it would still be personal and simply mailed out to the Mozillian of the Week (?) and I seriously doubt that you’d run out of employees or contributors any time soon.

    I offer help in maintaining that if you’d like.

  4. I like this idea a lot. A few thoughts:

    * Insofar as it’d be a full-blown newspaper, it’d be awesome to see it be more of a community-contributed kind of effort. For instance:

    * Rather than having a separate newsletter called about:labs, perhaps Labs could have a “reporter” for about:mozilla who’s in charge of all of the Labs-related content in about:mozilla?

    * I would love to see some people who are interested in graphic design/layout get involved in the creation of this newsletter. As an engineer with an interest in design, I’m willing to do this if there are no other volunteers.

    * Going along the lines of Ken’s suggestions for contributor-of-the-week, it’d also be neat to have some sort of artwork-of-the-week, much as some of the magazines I read as a kid had… Aside from making about:mozilla more fun and visual, it could also draw in less techie, more design-oriented contributors.

    * How would about:mozilla be distributed? A full-fledged newspaper makes me think PDF, which certainly has its advantages, but it can also be difficult to read on a computer screen or an ebook reader. At the same time, though, part of what I really like about the few hardcopy magazines I read is their self-contained nature: there’s no way for me to get distracted by clicking a link that takes me away from the content that I’m most interested in.

    * Dunno if we’re already doing it, might it be useful to create groups on existing social networks like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. through which we can distribute about:mozilla?

  5. Dan: no, I’m more saying that people can stress less about keeping up with Planet, knowing they can catch up via the newsletter if they get behind.

  6. Atul: from feedback here and that i’ve received privately, I’m starting to wonder if there are three periodic publications we should consider…

    1) A quick overview of the interesting news items (the current about:mozilla newsletter) – weekly
    2) An indepth summary of the goings-on throughout the project (the proposed about:mozilla newsletter) – weekly
    3) A magazine, published and delivered electronically – monthly

    I think all of these would be great, and it would be doubly-awesome if they could be largely community-run.

  7. Yeah, I think using whatever tools exist to help promote the project is fine. We can’t *require* people to join Facebook or whatever, but if someone wants to create a group or leverage already-existing groups towards this end, I don’t really see a problem with it. 🙂

  8. I’m a dedicated Firefox user ever since version 1.5 and believe it or not, I didn’t even know the existence of the ‘about:mozilla newsletter’.

    Not only have I just subscribed to this newsletter, but I am also happy to read its expected editorial expansion as mentioned in your lines.

    Long live Mozilla, another way to surf, another way to think the Web.

  9. Well, I was coming here to suggest making the content of the newsletter provide content that the planet(s) do(es) not provide. I rarely read the newsletter nowadays (I skim the headlines, instead) because I’ve already read all the articles mentioned in it. I was hoping that it would be a supplemental reading, instead of summary reading.

    Apparently I’m alone on this, though, judging from earlier comments.

  10. Deb, have you considered “collating” together some of the other about: newsletters like about:mobile and about:labs to create a sort of magazine? Seems like this could require fairly little effort–it could even be an automated mashup of the gardened content–with the benefit of being able to show a fairly fine-grained summary of what’s going on project-wide.

  11. I take it you don’t think it would be worth proactively taking the next step and devoting a small amount of effort to pushing existing content via potentially high-leverage channels like Facebook (in addition to, not instead of, current channels)?

  12. I think pushing the content through other channels is a different problem than the one I’m trying to sort out here, but it’s definitely something to think about as a future possibility.

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