Inside the Life of a New Contributor

This is a blog post that appeared a while back on quality.mozilla.org, which was the main page of Mozilla’s QA efforts. I wrote this during the summer when I was considered a “sponsored intern,” working 15-30 hours a week on Web QA related work with Mozilla, in exchange for my parents to pay for my car insurance and gas. I thought it would make a nice first post, as a view into the past of who I was, and where I am today, as a core contributor to various projects including Mozillians, Webmaker, and learning the ropes of Firefox OS QA. So without further delay, my first blog post ever written…

Inside the Life of a New Contributor

I had always known I wanted to be in software. Having the opportunity to contribute to Mozilla has set me in a direction where I am learning and gaining real-world experience while helping on one of the most powerful non-profit web organizations. But don’t get me wrong, I was a bit intimidated. I started out in documentation on the Mozilla Developer Network. I was there through the recent redesign but I felt like I was ready to take the next step and use the knowledge I had learned in my AP Computer Science class to good use, and now I have ended up contributing to automated tests and other QA related topics for Mozilla. I started with mozillians.org, a phonebook for contributors, then started working on some of the first tests for webmaker.org. Recently I have been honored to work on the Firefox OS tablet contribution project which involves searching for bugs and experimenting with the new Firefox operating system on tablets. Automation, for those of you who don’t know, is a series of programs that have the ability to interact with elements on a web page and go through different tasks that a user would do on a day to day basis. By constantly running these tests, the computer can alert us if a page breaks or a feature is not working properly.

Starting with automation made me really excited. I get to work with a lot of cool people that were open to questions, but I started to ask myself, “When should some questions be better left alone?” I started to feel like I was asking about the same procedures over and over again. I would always refer back to some of my first emails that contained information about how to accomplish certain tasks. I found myself looking through my mail folders for those sacred emails which dictated how I write and commit my code.

When I was younger, and still today, I am always told to ask questions, because other people may have them too. So, why wouldn’t this apply to other things? If I was always wondering about procedures, is it true that other people could also be? Having my background in documentation helped me out a lot and prepared me for what was to come. I had read online that when you work at Mozilla, there’s no boundary for fixing bugs. The philosophy was simple: find an issue, fix it. The obvious issue was that I was having trouble following new procedures and I was sure that others were as well. So, embracing the philosophy, I took it upon myself to write some documentation to be put in a prominent and easy to find area so contributors and employees could better follow the procedure.

The fact that as a new contributor, coming into a new department, and not really knowing much, is able to suggest ideas, make changes, and have their voices heard is truly extraordinary. It has opened my eyes knowing that anyone has the power to make a difference and all that it takes is initiative.

This new documentation will help contributors and employees alike better locate the proper guidelines and procedures when making their valuable contributions. Having access to this documentation will also allow people to learn it more easily as it is easy to access and will always be with them. I believe that making this contribution will have a large impact on the way that Mozilla guidelines are established and displayed throughout the community and hope that each contributor finds something useful out of it. I also believe that through the simple action of improving the community as a community member myself, I am setting the notion that anyone can do anything to make a difference. Mozilla isn’t like a lot of places. I feel that what I am doing here as a contributor matters.

You can view the piece of documentation here: https://gist.github.com/justinpotts/2085bfa500c81f9b6c87

Learn more about me on my Mozillians profile: https://mozillians.org/en-US/u/justinpotts/

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Inside the Life of a New Contributor

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