Phillip Smith

Rethinking Planet Mozilla: The challenge of too much signal

The Daily Planet covered the news in Metropolis

Planet Mozilla is home to more than 500 news feeds.

There will be even more feeds, as Mozilla’s growing army of Web makers are added to the planet over the coming weeks. (If you’re a Web maker, find out how to get your feed added.)

And I hope there will be even more news feeds down the road as the Mozilla community continues to expand.

Over the last couple of weeks, I would guess that there have been roughly fifteen new posts on Planet Mozilla on any given day. When there’s an event like the Mozilla Festival happening, the number of posts can easily double or triple.

These are not short, fluffy posts either. These are 100% signal: Meeting minutes from project teams, results of internal research, new software features, product announcements, and event summaries rich with links to talks, presentations, and more.

But herein lies the challenge: Planet Mozilla is a classic fire hose. There’s lots of information and very little categorization. It’s constantly flowing. If you try to drink from it, you might just find yourself underwater. As new feeds get added, the challenge of too much signal starts to undermine the benefit of having a planet.

There are many ways that people commonly approach the challenge of too much signal, for example by adding community filtering (think: simple up-voting mechanisms like what you’ll find on Hacker News) or by clustering related content together to make it easier to follow certain streams of information. There’s a lot that can be done in this direction, no doubt, that would improve the experience of Planet Mozilla.

However, those are not the ideas that interest me.

When I think about Mozilla, I think of a city that is growing. At its core is a small city council (Mozilla’s board of directors and executives). There is an active city staff (Mozilla’s employees) and many people that work directly on city projects (project-based staff, consultants, etc.). Expanding out from there is a large community of people who are active citizens: the shop owners, academics, activists, and so on (mostly volunteer contributors to Mozilla projects like Firefox). Beyond that there are the 400,000,000 people who live in the city every day just going about their business (people who use Mozilla software or interact with Mozilla projects).

Like any city, I believe that Mozillaville needs a smart, scrappy news organization to help its citizens understand what’s going on around them.

In Superman’s city, Metropolis, that was the Daily Planet.

In Spiderman’s city, New York, that was the Daily Bugle.

In Mozillaville, I think that the job should go to Planet Mozilla.

Some of the most interesting technology news stories are happening right here in our city, Mozillaville, so why are we’re waiting for other news organizations to cover them?

We have the scoops. We have the experts. We have the technology. So what are we waiting for?

(This is part of a series of posts. The first one is here.)


Hi, I'm Phillip Smith, a veteran digital publishing consultant, online advocacy specialist, and strategic convener. If you enjoyed reading this, find me on Twitter and I'll keep you updated.


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