At 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:
- Push & pull more web developers towards the "top" 20% which ...
- Flattens the head of web developer knowledge and skill, which ...
- 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.