MozCamp LatAm ended a week ago and I’m still trying to recover my sleep. It was an intense experience, much more so than any other Mozilla event I’ve ever attended before. It felt like every member of the Latin American / Hispanic community had their mind set on having a fantastic time and making the best of every minute they spent in Buenos Aires. Well, I think they succeeded!
Here’s a recap of my MozCamp experiences:
MDN Hack Day
The MDN Hack Day was held the day before MozCamp, on Friday. There were a number of interesting talks about apps, developer tools and the Add-ons SDK, among others.
Unfortunately most talks were given in English, which is a challenge for many locals who attended the event. While one would expect people working in software to have an above average understanding of English, this varies significantly across Latin America. I think we need to make a bigger effort getting native speakers to give these talks, even if they are not first-hand experts in the subjects being discussed.
The afternoon was opened for free hacking. People at first had no idea what to do, but then we got organized and formed groups around different subjects and started working on small projects we could get done during the session. I spent some time demoing how you can build a userscript from scratch using the developer tools that now ship with Firefox. Inspector, Scratchpad and the Scriptish extension can help you create effective userscripts in a matter of minutes, as I discovered while preparing my MozCamp talk.
Later, Hernán joined us and came up with an idea we could work on as a team: an SDK add-on that imitates Instagram. Hipsterizer lets you right-click on an image and upload it to an image service after applying some lame photo effect. At the moment it only does black and white and uploads to imgur, but it can potentially use all effects supported by the filtrr library, which is what we’re using. The image filters are applied using canvas, so it is web standards all the way down. Want to contribute? We’re also willing to sell it for 7 billion dollars.
As usual, MozCamp began with a marathon of excellent keynotes, followed by a tightly packed two-day schedule. The tracks were fairly well organized, so I didn’t have much trouble figuring out which talks to attend. The venue was a nice place, though it took lots of walking most of the times you needed to switch rooms.
Early on Sunday there was a soccer match for those few of us who were willing to get up at an ungodly time and run around under the morning sun. We ended up packing 20 or so players in a small field usually meant for 5-on-5 games. It was a blast! I had a great time and running around energized me for the rest of the day. I should exercise more when I travel.
I gave my talk on the second day. I’m usually very nervous about speaking in public, and the circumstances didn’t help at all. This being the second day, things started a bit late, and the Q&A session right before my talk ran longer than scheduled, so we were a good half an hour behind. Then there was a problem with the video displays in the room I was giving the talk in, and that took what seemed like an eternity to fix (I think it took about 15 minutes in reality). So, I had to rush the talk and then take some extra time from the lunch break to do Q&A.
Overall, I think the talk went well. The demo went without a hitch, which is saying a lot given the poor Internet connection we had across the whole event. I got a good cheer when I told people I was giving the talk in Spanish. My choice in language initially depended on the crowd, but finally I just went with Spanish because of all the delays. There was only one Brazilian in the crowd and fortunately he understood Spanish well enough.
Community Work Day
Following MozCamp, there was a separate day dedicated for Mozilla Hispano project coordination.
This is something that I think is fairly unique to the Hispanic community. Mozilla Hispano is a meta community composed of several Spanish-speaking communities, spanning numerous countries and potentially one of the largest groups of contributors in the world. Having a common language means that most efforts can be coordinated at the Mozilla Hispano level, rather than the local community level. The communication at MozCamp is fairly unidirectional, a point Kevin Dangoor covered very well. The Work Day gave the Hispanic communities a bidirectional channel to align their visions and figure out what they want to do. The sessions were very open-ended and meant to encourage debate. Everyone had their chance to speak their mind, sometimes emotionally but never aggressively. I’d like to see MozCamp have some of that.
I was very interested in the Mozilla Hispano Labs session, for obvious reasons, and I found myself talking a lot in it. Their biggest concerns were focused around getting the right people to contribute in their projects, and keeping them interested. This paralleled many of the experiences I’ve had while working with the add-on developer community and the AMO Editors team, so I had plenty to say. It became evident that the group wasn’t doing enough to project its image and engage developers. A number of important action items came out of this discussion: setting up a separate mailing list, updating the Labs landing page, and setting up a developer blog (where I volunteered to contribute). About halfway through the discussion, Felipe – who was leading the discussion and currently manages MH Labs – said something like “Well, it looks like we can’t code any of these solutions!”. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail :).
I was very happy to reconnect with the MH community, and it makes me feel a tad guilty that they are doing so much for Mozilla in their spare times while I often feel overwhelmed just doing the work I’m paid for. I’m also a bit embarrassed that there’s no Costa Rican Mozilla community whatsoever, and I should’ve done something about it long ago. So, I’m taking some initial steps in that direction, and now I’m determined in forming at least a small group that can represent my country in MH. Expect updates about this in the near future.
As mentally and physically exhausting as it was, this MozCamp is the best Mozilla event I’ve attended so far. Every hour I spent not sleeping was totally worth it. Bringing so much passion, intellect and strength under one roof is priceless. I love the direction MozCamps are taking in general, and I hope they continue growing as they have.
To all the people who worked organizing this event: THANK YOU!