The Long Local Tail of Web Developers

Long Tail of Web DevelopersAt my last work week in Mountain View, I sat in on a few #devengage meetings. I heard someone (maybe Christian), say we do a good job talking to the top 20% of web developers but not necessarily the bottom 80% - the long tail of web developers. At Mozilla, I know I'm not in the "top" 20% of Webdev - there are just too many awesome webdevs around me. And though it's intimidating, it's also exhilarating to work alongside so many top-notch developers who can teach me the "top" 20% of web development skills. (Les, I'm looking at YOU!)

Still, something many of us remote Mozilla employees appreciate is the "rock star" status that working for Mozilla grants us in our local places outside of "Hugeness bubbles" like Silicon Valley. The Mozilla reputation is relatively higher and commands more attention outside these bubbles.

For example, at the Tulsa School of Dev conference, with (I think) 150 attendees, a few Tulsa Web Devs arranged a "web" track that really amounted to a "WordPress" track, since all of us had at least some WordPress experience to share on an entry level. That afternoon, I gave a Web App Security talk using our own WordPress site as the victim. (Sorry guys). My session had about 40-50 attendees - maybe 1/3 of the entire conference!

I'm smart enough to know that I'm NOT smart enough to attract that many developers on my own merit. The simple fact is putting "Mozilla" next to a speaker's name in Tulsa, Oklahoma attracts relatively more developers than it does at High-Profile-Town Tech Conference 2.0. In Portland, at Open Source Bridge with 480 attendees, where more knowledgeable and more adept Mozilla Webdevs spoke; they attracted roughly the same 40-50 number of attendees at each of their talks - including those of us in Webdev!

What if Mozilla leveraged our remote employees' clout to reach out specifically to their local web developer communities - the "bottom" 80% of web developers like me? What would that do? I would hope a few very cool and important things:

  1. Push & pull more web developers towards the "top" 20% which ...
  2. Flattens the head of web developer knowledge and skill, which ...
  3. Raises the overall level of web developers

I've read the Long Tail. I agree power laws are natural and healthy distributions. We need the top 1% and the top 0.1% who are pushing development limits at the razor's edge. At the same time, Mozilla is about flattening power for the benefit of the individual and the betterment of the web. We could do really well if we purposely reach further outside the "top" 20% of web developers.

But what would it look like? Does Mozilla send staff to smaller local events where we already have remote employees? Do we sponsor these events? Do we bring some developers from small communities to Mozilla HQ for a work-week? I don't know - I'm asking.

The Long Local Tail of Web Developers / groovecoder by groovecoder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA
  1. Awesome post, couldn’t agree more, particularly around Mozilla’s ability to reach outside of bubbles and bring Mozilla’s values with us. ;)

  2. it would be awesome if they could send a dev to PHP’n Rio late this year

  3. I’ve learned a lot of stuff. But, it’s to the point where I know how much *I* don’t know, so I feel like I don’t know much.

    But, conversely, I don’t know much about what others don’t know :) My usual problem is that I don’t know what anyone wants to learn about that I might know.

  4. This seems very US-centric. In other parts of the world, the community does this. They go to a lot of events, organize some.

    For France, I can name Ubuntu release parties, RMLL events, JDLL events, Les vieilles charrues (a music festival), Paris Web, Solutions Linux. That’s for the recurring events where you’re almost sure to find a Mozilla contributor (either staff or community).

    Personally I try to go to a lot of small events in Paris like ParisJS or AperoWeb.

    And when you look at the market share in Europe, I think this human presence has a real value.

  5. Great, great post. We definitely need to put more pressure on our in-the-trenches webdevs (in addition to our great dev evangelist team) to be active community members, especially remoties where we have a lot of free cachet, and communities that are growing but not known as the hotbeds of this stuff.

    I think we should help the community of web devs, so we should absolutely go to local events, and sponsor them when we can. (Maybe webdev needs our own budget for that.) Bringing people to MV (or a closer “Space”) could be cool, but doesn’t do as much, I think, to bolster the local community as a whole. Only if the people we bring go back and become more active in building the community.

  6. Wow, sorry I’ve neglected approving these comments.

    @Igor there’s less PHP at Mozilla these days ;)

    @l.m.orchard Totally. http://www.hanselman.com/blog/ImAPhonyAreYou.aspx

    @Anthony One factor might be the distance between communities in the U.S. combined with poor mass transit infrastructure? The closest medium-sized group to me is in Dallas, TX – a 4 hour drive at least. :(

    It’s all relative. ParisJS has 148 members according to Google Groups?! That’s hardly “small” – our Tulsa Web Devs group combining PHP, Python, Ruby, Javascript, and designers has a total of 80 members!

    @James some webdev budget for local community building would be cool. I pay for Tulsa Web Devs drinks (soda & beer) out of my own pocket for every event. I’ve got Mozilla sponsoring our Tulsa Hackathon (http://tulsahackathon.com) but it’s a bit clumsy since we’re not an official organization.

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The Long Local Tail of Web Developers / groovecoder by groovecoder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA