Power of Support

I started as the Support Community Manager at Mozilla two weeks ago and I thought it would be a good idea to share my view of Mozilla and support, so you can see where my enthusiasm comes from 🙂

Firefox is used by around 350 million people all over the world. There aren’t many commercial applications that can claim that and I don’t know of any free and open source software that has a userbase even close to that. And what is even more amazing: Almost all of our user have chosen our product over another one. Almost all of them already had a browser on their system and still did download our software.

But even more amazing: We are competing with Apple, Google and Microsoft, the biggest IT companies in the world. Having even only one of them as a competitor is crazy, but we are competing with ALL of them and we don’t have a real advertising budget. In fact our whole income is not even close to the marketing budget of even one of our competitors. And what is even more amazing: Not only are we able to compete with them, but we even do better than them. People are choosing us actively over Apple’s pre-installed Safari and Microsoft’s pre-installed Internet Explorer.

While this is all … well … amazing 😉 it also puts a lot of responsibility on us. A great mind once said: “With great power comes great responsibility”. A quarter of the Internet population trusts us with their data (passwords, browsing history, bookmarks) and their browsing experience. They trust that we will make sure they will never ever lose their data and they trust that we’ll make sure that their browser will just work. Always.

That’s a lot of pressure coming from 350 million people. We work hard, everyday around the clock (benefit of having contributors in almost every time zone) to make sure we meet the expectations of our user. Still, nobody is perfect. In some cases we may have screwed up, after all we have 350 million users on just as many different computers with different operating systems. In other cases someone else may have screwed up and may affect the browsing experience of our users. In a perfect world that would never happen, users would know the manuals by heart and no software would ever be released with any bugs left in it. Well, the world is not perfect, users don’t know all the tricks needed to get the software to do what they want and software, operating systems and applications do have bugs. This is our opportunity to shine. We can’t create a perfect world nor can for example doctors, but like doctors we can help people and heal what is broken.

That is the power of support. We can give people aid in how to prevent problems and we can give them instructions what to do if something goes wrong. Sure we seldom engage in life and death matters, but neither do most dentist or optometrists. I still wouldn’t want to live without them. There are even more parallels if you think about it: nobody want’s to go to a doctor, but everybody is hoping for them to be available should they ever need them.

Unfortunately tech support has a bad reputation. Most organizations see support only as a cost center. But cost centers have to be held down, nobody will praise you for having doubled your expenses for a cost center. That is why people dread tech support and just hope to never have to deal with it. That is both, the giving end and the receiving end. Fortunately though Mozilla sees support as an important part of the project and one more way to be a pioneer for free and open source software. There are not many projects to take cues from on how to offer support for 350 million people, but that makes it all the more challenging. And since it is our goal to offer the best possible support experience in the world, the winners will be all users, not only ours.

My first day, after 7 years

Hello Mozilla community,

today is my first day as the SUMO community manager. I actually do plan to put that on my business card “SUMO community manager”. I guess it will lead to a lot of interesting questions 😉 And that will give me an excuse to tell people about the extraordinary privilege that I have doing just my job.

I have been with Mozilla for more than seven years now. I started as a localizer for Firefox (then m/b or Phoenix) and lead the German Firefox community ever since. A few month ago I applied for the position of the “Support community manager” at Mozilla. After all, managing a support community is what I’ve been doing for several years as a hobby.

I mean that’s the dream of most people, right? Getting payed for something you would do even if nobody happened to pay you. Turning your
hobby into your job. But it’s more than that. Now I don’t have to feel bad for putting so much time into it and I get to extend the scope of my
work, which is just awesome.

While leading the German community I had a lot of time to gain experience in building communities and working with them. I’ll still be
part of the German community, but now I hope to use that experience to work much more closely with the international community on global support issues at Mozilla. Coming from a local community I know the pain points of those communities and my hope is that as part of the SUMO-Team I’ll be able to guide the way to a much more localization- and community-aware SUMO.

So, all in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation to be in, I’m grateful everything worked out so perfectly and I’m excited to get
started. Oh, and I have one more blog post about why I think I have one of the best jobs in the world.

7 Things about me

Für meine deutschsprachigen Leser: Dieses Posting ist eine Ausnahme, das Blog wird nicht auf Englisch umgestellt.

I usually only translate from English and never write in English, but I was tagged by marcoos and after procrastinating it for 4 days, I have to get it over with. So here it comes:

The rules.

Link back to your original tagger and list the rules in your post.
Share seven facts about yourself.
Tag 7 people by leaving names and links to their blogs.
Let them know they’ve been tagged

1. Although I’m writing my master thesis in applied linguistics, I do have a degree in electrical engineering. My first programing language was assembler (beat that!). I learned programing micro controllers and wrote programs for elevators and traffic lights. My final exam was writing a Cyclocomputer in C — on paper! My first computer was an ATARI 500ST, it broke after a few month and I took more interest in playing the bass and later the drums in our school band. Eventually computers won me back when I wrote my first web page in 1997 at high school and two weeks later knew more about HTML then my teacher and began teaching the other kids in my class (unfortunately most teachers don’t like that).

2. I’ve been specializing in conversation analysis for some time now, and I secretly analyze telephone calls I make with friends, offices, help desks etc, I can’t help it, it just happens. Friends gripe cause sometimes I use our mail conversation to demonstrate my point in seminars, of course it’s always anonymized.

3. I’m originally from Turkey (or at least my parents are) and I’m leading the German Firefox localization, which is maybe a little odd if you thing about it (of course a translation of this article in German will follow). I’m also a muslim which makes me somewhat of a rarity in the Mozilla universe, but I was almost never approached because of it (and I’m pretty thankful for that). One time I was invited to FOSDEM by Mozilla and we had to share rooms. My room mate was Simon Montagu, who is jewish and from Israel. I guess it must have been a pretty curious sight, when in the morning Simon prayed towards Jerusalem, while I was standing next to him praying towards Mecca. At breakfast we sat together with Gerv, who is hacking for Christ, and IIRC we had an interesting conversation about the Bible. I guess that’s the power of Mozilla!

4. A few years ago I went on a Southern Europe trip with a friend. We bought a Ford Transit, equipped it with selfmade beds and went on a 7 weeks 7 countries tour through the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland. We spent every single night in that car, the whole 7 weeks. Doing that was one of the best decisions in my life. Driving down the Atlantic coastline of France or standing in Tarifa in southern Spain and looking at Africa was just unbelievable. It was during that trip that I started juggling.

5. I lived and studied in Göteborg, Sweden for 7 months during my Erasmus semester, so jag can pratar en liten svenska, men bara en liten liten as David Tenser knows. Erasmus is not so much about studying (okay, it’s not about that at all) and also not so much about seeing another country (although that’s a very nice extra), in my opinion it’s about meeting people. I’ve never met so many so great people from so many different countries and so diverse backgrounds ever before or after that year. And I met a very, very special friend, maybe the most honest, most sensitive and most sympathetic person I know, and can you believe it, he is from Italy! I regard my time in Sweden as one of the best I’ve ever had and I can only urge everybody to study abroad, at least for one semester. By the way, I’m with Ted, Göteborg IS beautiful in summer.
This summer I’m going to take Swedish classes, to reach level B2 some time next year.

6. I’m a procrastinator, I used to be really good at that, maybe the master of all procrastinator, nothing would help, not even throwing out the TV (I still don’t have a TV, 3rd year now). Last year I read David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” and then Mark Forster’s “Do It Tomorrow“. Shortly afterwards I discovered “Things“. My life has never been the same. I’m still trying to procrastinate, but the difference is staggering. If you are a procrastinator or have trouble juggling ten projects at once and haven’t read David Allen, do it tomorrow (you’ll know why tomorrow after reading Forster)

7. I’m also a published author, that was my first book and I was 23 at that time (last month a scientific article of mine was published but it’s not online yet). I’ve also been on national television and radio shows and printed in national newspaper and magazines. After those airings I’ve been approached by total strangers on the streets a few times already, which was sometimes a little crazy and sometimes just awesome. And all of that because I decided to offer my far from perfect translation of Phoenix to the 3 other German users at that time. I have to say, I would have never ever expected to see Firefox usage skyrocketing to 25 million German users or even 200 million worldwide. It blows my mind every time I think about how this started with Blake, Hyatt and a few others and how it has changed (not only) my life completely since then.

Chosing next victims is not so easy, since I’m pretty late in the game and most of my friends don’t have a blog, but here you go:

David Tenser, du skulle blogga oftare, verklig
William I guess I’m the 10th person tagging you
Seth Managing L10n Communites for a year now, but no secrets revealed since then, about time 😉
Henrik for beeing the rising star on the QA sky
Thomas Schwecherl for leading SUMO work so passionately
Jonas, since he should start blogging more, much more
Ramis for having the guts to move to Sweden and to drag someone totaly unrelated into this meme.

By the way, don’t expect this meme to end anytime soon, I’ve tracked it back to at least November 12th 2008 (yes, I have way too much time)