Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Evolving Webmaker in 2013

"Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them." - Bruce Mau from Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

2012 was a full year for us at the Mozilla Foundation - we released Thimble, a universal navigation MVP, soft launched badges, refined and launched Popcorn 1.0 and became an active voice for Web Literacy values in the community. So where does that leave us for 2013? As Bruce Mau's beautiful sentiment here reflects, now is the time for us to live in the moment and to be strong enough to allow ourselves to be changed or affected - by users, by people who do unexpectedly amazing things with our tools, and by people who are standing next to us in the crowd and trying to get their own voice heard.

2013 is full of a lot of opportunity.  For Webmaker that means evolving our design to be a real - world learning experience. By that, I mean that we need to focus on collaborative webmaking.  At our hack jams, community calls and festivals we have seen the value and success of peer to peer learning and we need to leverage the experiences of those events and have them inform our design.

We have laid the ground work for this in 2012 by introducing badges into our ecosystem. Badges are naturally equated with skills, however they need to have a level of social value in an ecosystem to have any meaning.  That's the problem- badges for the sake of badges leave you feeling pretty flat, so you need the entire ecosystem to live and breathe as a social, collaborative environment where you have supportive peers who are invested in the skills, but also - importantly - what it takes to earn those skills. That's our mission: create an environment where making = learning. Concretely that means that our website is going to shift from a site to a platform and our suite of tools are going to evolve into a more unified experience.

Over the past few weeks, a bunch of us on the Webmaker team took some time to do the blue sky thinking that needs to happen to take a design concept to the next level. We came up with some ideas and prototypes and I am going to share a few here.  Each prototype represents a concept that we want to explore in the New Year.

1. Your Creative Cloud - We want to make it easy to collect, share and remix content from your world - and this means everywhere that you are going- whether that be collecting content from your mobile device or browser and adding that directly to a project to remix on Webmaker . Maybe in the future that means remixing Webmaker content that you have clipped or saved from your cloud on to some sort of media clipping gallery -- remixing that on the web in a more distributed manner.  Click here to see the enlarged mockup. 
We feel that this is one area that Mozilla can lead as we are uniquely suited to be effective here because of the precedent of bookmarking in browser in Firefox as well as with our work directly around identity in conjunction with Persona. To be clear, we don't need or want to lock you in to a uniquely browser based experience - but the opportunities for this association and leveraging of the Mozilla brand and design values are quite large. We know this is a win for us, because our colleagues over at Firefox are in- line with our thinking and we are starting discuss opportunities for us to collaborate on this piece of the puzzle.


2. Collaboration as learning is a big theme for us, not just in the mockup I am showing but it is going to be a consistent and fluid theme within our tools and platform.  In the mockup above you are looking at system for using to revision history as a way to document process. Here, just like in etherpad, you are able to record your Webmaking sessions and replay them at different points in your timeline. You can see the work that you have done and how you constructed a project,  as well as how a peer who is helping to hack your project made the changes that she did. This allows for asymmetrical as well as symetrical collaboration experiences.

3. Making our tools speak the same language. We are trying to make the experience for an average user easier- this means putting some controls in place so that the user starts to recognize conventions and see how the Webmaker properties relate to eachother.  As you can see in this mockup, I am starting to experiment with building a more unified experience- which includes: having a unified (and single) login for Webmaker, building out common terminology, controls and User Interface - and incorporating the tools into the same experience. To be clear- this does not mean that Thimble goes away, it just means that we figure out a way for our tools to speak more clearly to the end user.

4.  Creating opportunitites for Community of Craft - working with peers and mentors to build the web in a social, real way. I demo-ed this prototype at the Webmaker community call and Bobby Richter helped me present it:

Imagine that you logged into and landed on the above gallery page.The view that you are looking at- is as if you have followed several other Webmaker users who have posted projects that they made as well as "themes" that you might have followed- for example- video projects or projects about activism. Any of these projects are remixable. You also are seeing badge graphics which, when you click on them, open up to a sub-gallery of sets of projects connected to various skills. For the moment, imagine that you are Secretrobotron going on to this page, you see a cool project by your friend and you click the green remix button which opens it directly in the editor. 

These are examples of some of the things that we have been thinking about. And this is exactly how we want to be working--- putting out crazy ideas, testing them out, seeing what sticks and iterating. Shout outs to Chris, Kate, Bobby, Atul , Brett, Chris, Erin and everyone who has been on Webmaker community calls in 2013. As I said earlier, this is an evolution of our thinking so all these ideas came out of lots of ground work, user testing , hive pop ups and festivals.

That last prototype was built in a period of 48 hours by Bobby, myself and Chris Appleton- so if all it takes is 48 hours to get some collaborative Webmaking action - imagine what we can make happen in 2013!

Reference: Check out this great post by Bobby on the prototype implementation.