Mozilla Campus Clubs @ Grace Hopper Open Source Day

Open Source Day at Grace Hopper was my absolute, most favourite, ‘conference thing’ I did last year, and it was with little hesitation that I got involved again for the 2016 version.

Before I say anymore I want to acknowledge the amazing work of two volunteers in making our day successful.

  • Semirah Dolan, who joined me in Houston to run a session that build a VR activity for Campus Clubs, and who truly leads by example — student leadership and activism in open source.
  • Safwan Rahman, who (no exaggeration) saved my day, by pulled together a Python project, working with me to the last minute to get it right.

Also thanks to my colleague Larissa Shapiro for bringing her wisdom and empathy into the discussion & brainstorming portion of the program.

This year we brought Campus Clubs for contribution. Unlike last year, where we jumped right into code, we spent time talking about Mozilla, our mission and Campus Clubs — and introduced three problem statements for the day.

  • Opportunities & Barriers: What makes a good open source experience?
  • How do we design a program that is inclusive of technical AND non-technical people?
  • What incentivizes students on Campus to engage in clubs at the intersection of technology and activism?

As a group, we did some rapid brainstorming to identify who on campus would be interested in FOSS participation. We were fortunate with this group , to have mostly students and also a professor who includes Mozilla participation in her curriculum!

What emerged where 5 distinct audiences: Wide-eyed Freshman (not spoken for yet), Professors /Lab Techs, Other Clubs, Non-technical majors(business, language-arts, journalism, bio-medical engineer) and of course computer science students.

Next — we did some rapid brainstorming on motive, and incentive for getting and saying involved in Open Source.

Employment and ‘Doing Good’ surfaced as the primary motivation with some interesting considerations like ‘Connecting with like-minded people’, fun and skill building surfaced by many. Swag(t-shirts) received only one mention.

We did the same exercise — this time thinking about barriers, and deterrents for FOSS participation.

Lack of invitation, opportunity, familiarity and clarity in HOW to get involved — topped the list of barriers. ‘Lack of Confidence’ (shy, scared, intimidation) was identified by the majority of participants.

Another trend focused on poor response times, limited diversity, and unwelcome channels .

I suspected many women were speaking of their own experiences. I have no doubt that young women do feel scared, and intimidated just stepping through the front door.

Getting involved in clubs with goals intersecting both technology and advocacy seems to resonate on a number of levels : skill building, ‘trying something new’, innovation, mentorship and fun.

I put a heart around a ‘ship it’ postit — not knowing exactly the context — loved the idea of getting things done as a motivation for joining clubs!

What did we build?

We asked people to join in one of two groups: The first focused on building our Personas into a Python/Django framework (for the coders in the room). I kept this project super simple, given the codeathon only given the limited time, and the majority of work was setting up Python locally, and updating Python code for the template we created.

The second, non-technical activity focused on building a VR activity for Campus Clubs using Mozilla’s AFrame. The group identified a Person (Dr. Database), and a VR project they might want to build: ‘Wire your iOven before it explodes’. They documented the opportunities, barriers and workshops that might form a VR activity for clubs and submitted their work as a PR.

The VR activity led by Semirah was a hit, probably more for how excited people were to learn about AFrame — one participant pledging excitement to home and learn and play more with VR. I think that was the win of the day — seeing participants recognize the potential of the technology they were working with — a signal that bringing AFrame VR activities to Campus will inspire creativity and innovation for the open web.

Overall, I think the day went well. Although the ‘timing’ of the event could have been better — scheduled exactly at the same time as the Open Source track was problematic for many (myself included) who would have liked to attend or chaired those sessions. Many participants did leave for sessions, or for interviews setup in the career fair. I was happy to see everyone return as well though.

As with last year, the most compelling part of the day was meeting, and working along side a group of smart, smart women — this time on the cause of mobilizing students on campus for the open web.

Originally published at on Emma’s blog