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2013 Mozilla Summit

Earlier this month, I had the honor of being invited to attend the 2013 Mozilla Summit in Brussels, Belgium. It was an amazing experience and I wanted to share some of the highlights from my trip.

What is the Mozilla Summit?

Mozilla hosts triennial meetings in which Mozillians from all over the world come together. The 2013 Mozilla Summit was hosted in three cities: Brussels, Santa Clara and Toronto. Throughout the Summit, there were keynotes and breakout sessions that focused on varying parts of the organization and the cool things they are doing.

What cool things did you learn about?

There are a few things that Mozilla is up to that I found particularly interesting. Here are some of the highlights:

WebMaker

https://webmaker.org

Webmaker is a global community whose focus is promoting web literacy through making, teaching and remixing. Mozilla created this out of the desire to engage users not only to create content, but also to understand how the web works.

As many of you know, I am heavily involved with programming education on varying levels. It was great to see how Mozilla has created its own community and suite of tools to help expand the knowledge base for web literacy.

Here are a few brief explanations of each of the Webmaker tools, and what they do to help in this global effort.

Popcorn

https://popcorn.webmaker.org/

Popcorn Maker is an easy way to make your own web video, audio and images by remixing already existing media. By providing an easy-to-use editing browser interface, users can create customized mixes of their favorite media and share them with the world. The layout reminds me of a Flash timeline, where you can drag-and-drop your files and slice them together.

X-Ray Goggles

https://goggles.webmaker.org/

X-Ray Goggles is a simplified web page inspector for those looking to understand the elements that make up a page. After activating X-Ray Googles in your browser, users can hover over each element of the page to see what HTML tag creates that portion of it. You can then click, view and edit to create your own remix of that markup. I feel this could be an incredibly useful tool for folks to use to dig in and get a better understanding of how web pages are made up. It also makes it simpler for newer users to grasp the concept of a web inspector, which contains a multitude of other tools that could make things more confusing.

Thimble

https://thimble.webmaker.org/

Thimble is, by far, my favorite of all of the tools provided by Webmaker! It’s a simple way for users to create and share code they have been working on. It is paired up nicely with a mirrored output viewer, so you can see immediately how your page looks as you write it.

So what is so different about Thimble in comparison to something like Codepen or JSFiddle? For starters, the interface is amazingly simple and clean to work with. This helps newer users to move past any inhibitions they may have when starting to code.

Secondly is the “Show Hints” option. When selected, this activates hints to appear for any coding errors they see (e.g. missing closing tags). I definitely see this as a great tool for those looking to learn HTML/CSS, as well as to teach it to others.

Each one of these tools has its merits and I am really impressed by the effort Mozilla has put in to creating them. I definitely plan to try them out in my Girl Develop It RDU classes!

OpenNews

http://www.mozillaopennews.org/

OpenNews is a global network of developers, journalists, makers and hackers whose focus is the creation of tools journalism needs to thrive on the open web. It is an effort Mozilla has embarked on with the Knight Foundation and I had a chance to learn more about it during the Innovation Fair.

Every year, several fellows are selected to travel to a selected news outlet (e.g. The Guardian) for 10 months as an embedded part of the newsroom. Each fellow works at leveraging open source technologies, as well as assisting each establishment with integrating these practices into their business.

Having worked with Django for nearly six years now, I can’t help but be interested in anything related to making the news industry a happier place. It was great to meet some of the fellows and hear about the interesting things they are working on in their assigned destinations.

Shumway

http://mozilla.github.io/shumway/

If you have worked on the web at any capacity, you’ve probably worked somewhere in the realms of Flash. At times, it has been a pain point to work with, especially within the mobile space. Mozilla Labs has come out with a way to render SWF files using Javascript and the HTML5 canvas element.

So, why is this cool? Many mobile devices have little to no support to run SWF files. With Shumway, you can easily see a rendered version of the file on your device easily. With everything Mozilla is doing in the mobile space (e.g. Firefox OS), it is really cool to see what new innovations they are coming up with to strengthen the mobile platform.

Community

I’d have to say that the main thing I learned from attending the 2013 Mozilla Summit is the amazing community surrounding this global organization. Every Mozillian I met had an interesting story to tell about the projects they were working on and what they were up to in their local communities. It was a real joy to meet all of the amazing people and I am excited to see all of the new things to come!