So lets get a brief on how the idea came about and then ease straight into the proposal with explanations of rationale and thinking.
A few nights ago I attended an event which was called MozPub. It was a small gathering of Mozillians and Geeks from across Brighton and surrounding areas. I have now had the pleasure to attend a couple of these. You can end up talking about literally anything, with anyone!
Well… on this particular MozPub I met up with an old friend of mine known as William Quiviger. I had not seen him since my fun in Canada, but we did what we do best… Talk about engagement. More specifically about Mozilla UK and about getting Mozilla and the open web into colleges here in the UK. This is a topic that I have a good perspective on being a student at a college, here in the UK.
It had been a disappointment of mine being a
Campus Student Rep, that I had not managed to get the college I attend to switch (however it did just at the end of last week. It only took them two years!). It had occurred to me though that, (in my college and those of some of my friends,) student choice is second and business is first on the list of priorities.
This lead William and I (this could get confusing… two Williams here…) into thinking about adding another layer to the existing student reps program to get these business oriented colleges (and while we are at it why not businesses as well,) to convert and use Mozilla and the open web in the workplace.
There is one big problem however. In the UK the IT department in most educational institutions get free/dirt cheap Microsoft applications, including, Internet Explorer. This means that they have little to do in the way of installation across the network as Microsoft have spent a large sum of money into making this work from a central point (from what I can tell… more research is to be done and is needed before making this a 100% statement).
Another contributing factor to the issue of getting Mozilla and the open web into enterprise is that a lot of the time the IT guys in the workplace (I am using this to reference both education and business), can’t be bothered to do something that might take a little time. Sure they have a network to maintain but surely making it so that it is going to be less work to maintain is better?!
So, I say we need an enterprise solution to the problem. This way we can take the enterprise model, make a few tweaks and get educational institutes as well! So time for a bit of a list here with some ideas on what this model should include. Please be aware that this is a first draft and will need some research, work, time, and effort before it is polished.
We will likely need to create and modify existing resources to aid in this as we need something that can target not just one group of people but something that can target many groups within an organisation, and interlink the information they receive.
This means that we will have to create an information pack that will have separate information for the IT guys who are going to be implementing this across the network, a pack for the staff that are going to be using it, and a pack for the people who are going to be making the decisions. Each pack should be sent off as one to the people in charge, and then split out from the top down. The packs should not just be about apply Mozilla and the open web to the organisation but also how it can benefit the individuals as well outside the workplace. This means that even if the organisation does not switch to Mozilla, the individuals might.
Each pack should also relate to the targets. I.E. they should relate to them. Show empathy (I think that is the correct word), and be in their shoes. So there is no point going into the overly techy side of the solution in the pack for the management, but rather go into the direct, and indirect benefits that the organisation will experience as a part of the solution being put in place.
Customisation and Lock Down
We need to be aware that these target organisations are going to want to restrict control to websites and Firefox functionality. We need to help them do this, in a way that still allows a good degree of freedom wherever possible. We need to show clear and easy ways to stop access to about:config and other features. The best way I can see this is by using an add-on to put Firefox into some form of workstation mode that locks features and prevents access to about:config as well as provide admin options to turn addon (un)installation and enable/disable, as well as themes. This brings me nicely onto point two of this section. Customisation!
We should provide a template for a persona or a theme wizard, that allows the organisation to apply their branding to the browser. This should help them feel better about using Firefox as it would allow them to keep some form of unity in the workplace that reflects the company line. This may however mean that we need to turn off personas and themes as part of the lock down options.
By targeting enterprise we will encounter different types of support issues which will need to be solved. We can achieve this with ease though by providing links off to useful knowledge base articles and ensuring there is more information available to the guys who help with SUMO about the common/likely problems and how they can be fixed/worked around.
Support does not just cover Firefox support though. It covers other applications proving support for Firefox as a web browser for website filtering, or maybe the other way around and us providing addons that support applications that do web filtering.
One example of this is in education. My college uses an application called LanSchool to block access to websites and applications in certain areas of the college. This has resulted in Firefox being installed on all computers but being blocked in some areas due to a lack of support for LanSchool and visa-versa. This may be a problem we can solve but taking the LanSchool website blocklist and implementing it in Firefox via an addon. We may just need to provide a little help to the people who make LanSchool so they can make Firefox work with their product without an add-on. There is support for Firefox 3.5 and below so maybe they just need more information about how to update their product to work with 3.6 and start thinking about Firefox 4 as well (what with launch fast approaching).
For Education Specifically
When thinking about taking this and moving it to the education institutes, we need to tackle more groups such as teachers and how this will help them in lessons, as well as the students, and how this can make them more productive, and make doing homework/coursework easier, but don’t forget about the fun side of it for when they are at home!
We could also introduce the idea of Mozilla Education helping the IT and Computing courses. Maybe not by providing a curiculum, but by providing resources to aid their current ones. These resource could include incomplete applications that require a controller (say a link list controller) to be made, and contacts/places to get in touch with for project work that requires real world results.
All these things again need to be noted at least, in all the information packs. This would also mean that Campus Student Reps would be a great help here in providing a point of contact for the organisation and the wider Mozilla Enterprise project, as well as getting the student level really hyped up and excited about using Mozilla and the open web in the educational institute.
We can also use the Campus Student Reps to help distribute the information packs. We also need to provide information packs for the Reps as well, as they need to have all the information as well as their own contacts.
That is all I have for now however feedback and ideas are very much wanted! This proposal is also available on the Mozilla Wiki so feel free top make changes there as well, but add reasoning behind ideas/changes if you do.