Well, it’s not really a secret that despite Spreadfirefox.com’s great success, it hasn’t been firing on all pistons. There seem to be two camps, either people amazed by the project and its success and are blind to any shortcomings, and those who are quite the opposite. I’d like to look at a few things from a business standpoint rather than a geek for a moment (since I am a Business Major). A lot of suggestions have been given, some completely baseless, some completely off the wall and impossible to accomplish, and a few that are ok.
There are actually several problems right now that I see. I’m going to list them in order of importance from greatest to least. Since they are all related, fixing the first inherently helps all below it.
- Organization – the first critical issue is the lack of organization. There are essentially a few sfx admin’s, and thousands of members. 2 organizational classes for thousands of individuals. That is a recipe for disaster. Then throw in members who decide to take on projects. They appoint themselves head of the project, make things look official, give it their best effort, and end up abandoning efforts when things don’t come together. Admin’s are to busy with other tasks, and often don’t keep close enough interaction with the sfx community. This structure works with a few members, maybe even 100 or so. But not thousands.
- Project Fever – people creating projects are great, it’s wonderful to see people that motivated, but it’s not effective. Fact is most projects without upper management endorsement and guidance fail. That’s business, and yes it applies here. If you’re creating your own project in sfx, and it doesn’t have a higher up looking out for it, it’s most likely not going to turn out positive. Creating more projects doesn’t help this. It just makes for more frustrated people.
- Communication – there is a complete lack of good communication, and no the Admin’s aren’t really the big problem here. They have a communication problem, but the big one is the users. Everyone is doing their own thing on different sites, wiki’s, irc channels. There’s a lack of coordination, and nobody is willing to admit it thus far. That’s bad. It alienates other members, and confuses new members.
I propose making several changes targeted to fix the three major problems facing sfx. Some are more radical, some are simple.
- SFX Steering Committee – Admin’s need to appoint a set number of people to participate in what is essentially an executive board for sfx. Admin’s head this group, but has participants who are active, functioning members from all walks of life (students, IT professionals, average Joe).
- Organized Projects – unorganized projects don’t work. A project is a large undertaking. Typically well over half of it has nothing to do with the end product, its business networking and politicking. Just because you’re behind a computer doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. You need participants, you need to agree on how to do things, and delegate it. SFX’s steering committee needs to organize projects and nurture them. Free for all projects don’t work. There should be a suggestion box for recommending projects, and perhaps even a routine poll (every month, quarter for example).
- Consolidate projects – each project requires many [wo]man hours (yes, there are ladies on sfx btw). If each project takes 100hrs to complete, and there are 10 projects, you need to have 1000hrs for them all to succeed. With equal distribution of labor 991hrs for one of them to get 100%. If there is 5 projects, your chances of getting the needed resources is much higher. Spreadfirefox needs to focus resources on clear obtainable goals. A concise list of projects.
- It’s not a job – most sfx members don’t have much time to dedicate. Expecting each person to donate Xhrs a month is absolutely ridiculous. The reason why the NY Times campaign was successful is because it was quick. It took < 10 minutes for someone to help. It was easy. Projects need to follow this format. Simple tasks for participants. The icons, logos, and buttons people put on their website also follow this. Quick easy ways to participate. People have jobs, families, school. Not too many can devote hours to sfx. Someone needs to understand that.
- Polls – its clear sfx members do have opinions. There should be a weekly poll to participate in regarding decisions on future projects, evaluating current projects, etc. Right on the homepage.
- Newsletter – should be weekly, monthly or quarterly and briefly inform members what’s going on and how they can help out. Opt in of course. Should be posted on the website as well.
- Weekly IRC meeting – there should be an official meeting each week (perhaps pick a day, and rotate the time by a few hours each week, so everyone around the world hopefully gets a chance to participate) on IRC. Moderated by the committee, but have an open forum, so that issues, concerns, strategy’s, can be discussed. Again: communication.
- Consolidation – sfx needs to get a wiki hosted by Mozilla.org. Organized and maintained so that members have 1 place to go to for each project, and know where the projects wiki is.
There has been a fair amount of silly stuff being suggested, so I thought I’d take a minute to address them:
- We need more projects – read above for why we need to consolidate them. To many projects is a bad idea. Overextending resources is always a way to fail. You’ll loose your country, your company, or your organization. Empires have fallen because of this mistake.
- Admin’s stink – no they don’t. They are overwhelmed by sfx’s growth. That’s why organization needs to change to accommodate the problems. It takes more than a few to manage all this. sfx is essentially a large marketing firm. You need more than 3 people in charge, and thousands of employees. You need a hierarchy.
I intentionally didn’t link to any sfx posts or other blogs, as they were all written as either flamebait, or advocating patches rather than fixing the problem.