Engagement/Integrated Marketing/Getting Started/Communications

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Hooray! You're almost there. Now that you what you are doing, who is involved, and when it will happen, you need to define where the project team and contributors are going to communicate and collaborate. Given that Mozilla is an open-source organization and we plan, build, and communicate in the open, your project and all the artifacts should also be open by default. We understand that some project legally and technically cannot be open by default, but you should strive to be as transparent and open as possible. Start by being open and then if necessary, you can be less-open in some areas.

You should start by defining the communication channels and positing them to your project hub. The following are some communication channels with pros and cons to help you select which channels you should use for your project communications.

Probing questions on a communications platform

  • Does it support public and open communications?
  • Does it support real-time communications?
  • Can you have long-running threaded conversations?
  • Can you join in on a conversation or do you have to be manually invited in by someone else?
  • Do you legally have to keep your communications private?
  • Do you prefer platforms that seem familiar or do you like to learn something new?
  • Do you want to create a new island of communications or do you want to go where everyone else is at?

Optional Platforms


IRC is a chat-like communications platform for real-time discussions that is accessible by anyone in the world. You can chat privately with specific people or you can chat in rooms specific to a project or a team.

Pros: Open-by-default, free, real-time synchronous, private 1:1 communications, desktop+mobile.

Cons: Typically requires an additional program or application like Colloquy to run, understanding the commands to join a room or private message someone. Without additional technology or reviewing logs, old messages are not saved.

Bugzilla Comments

While Bugzilla is Mozilla's primary bug-tracking system, a "bug" can represent anything. A bug can be a collection of activities to perform, a specific requirement needed, a tracking bug, or pretty much anything else. Within each bug, you can conversations. You can reply to people, post questions/comments, and specifically ask for a comment from one or more people. If you don't like how Bugzilla looks, tt is also recommened that you install BugzillaJS and Bugzilla Tweaks add-ons that dramatically improve the user experience.

Pros: Open-by-default, private communications, integration with other tools, large existing population of users, notifications.

Cons: Some people find all of the features and options overwhelming. Comments have to exist within a bug itself and there is no generic project conversation forum.


Basecamp is a web-based communications and collaboration tool that is broken down into four main areas: conversations, content, files, and calendar entries. Basecamp is a service that Mozilla pays for and is mainly used by just the Engagement team.

Pros: Web-based, asynchronous communication as old messages are retained, simple to use.

Cons: Closed-by-default and someone on the project has to manually add additional people to collaborate, no version control on files.

Mailing List

Mozilla's mailman mailing list service provides Mozillians the ability to create public e-mail based mailing lists for their team and/or project.

Pros: Open-by-default, asynchronous communication, anyone can create a list, anyone can subscribe, admins can add/remove people from the list, no additional tools since everyone already uses emails.

Cons: You will need to use your email program or web-based e-mail to communication and you should set up filters to keep the messages self-contained.


Vidyo is the proprietary name video conferencing software that is on all of our laptops, mobile devices, and in nearly every conference room. Vidyo calls are the default way that we communicate when IRC/e-mail is not the most appropriate medium.

Pros: Face-to-face communication

Cons: Closed-by-default unless you put the room's public video link for external people to join, requires an installed application to view.


Yammer is very similar to basecamp in terms of functionality except that it has more of a Facebook-UI.

Pros: All Mozilla employees have an account, you can create custom groups to collaborate on a specific topic or project, easy-to-use, mobile app.

Cons: Closed-by-default.

Google Doc Comments

Google Docs have a commenting system built right into the product and allows people to have discussions about specific pieces of text and suggest changes. It is a great way to collaborate on the creation of documentation.

Pros: Collaborative, web-based, role based security.

Cons: Closed-by-default, but you can add anyone internally or externally to be able to view, edit, or comment.

Github Comments

Github is one of the main code repository tools that allows developers write code, collect feedback, keep track of all of the changes.

Pros: Open-by-default, collaborate on code changes, private repository option.

Cons: Target audience is developers and thus you need to understand how code repositories work to collaborate.


Box.com is the tool that is used to store sensitive documents or a collection of documents related to a specific program, initiative, or project.

Pros: Web-based, collaborate on documents, asset storage.

Cons: Closed-by-default, Sometimes confusing UX, Employees-only, and access is granted on a case-by-case basis.


  • Be open unless 100% necessary to be closed.
  • Platforms like Basecamp and Yammer do not easily support our contributors and our Million Mozillian organization goals. Consider open-by-default alternatives.
  • Limited the amount of communication channels that you use on your project or team. Mozilla already creates a lot of "noise" and it can be confusing on projects where to listen to.
  • Use Bugzilla for conversations on specific actions or deliverables and don't shy away from the tool because it looks confusing. Install the add-ons mentioned above.
  • Learn IRC since that is how the rest of the company communicates in real-time and helps unblock each other.
  • Don't start using a new communication tool unless you have evaluated it against the questions above and the pros/cons of each of the optional platforms.