Behind a Healthy Web, a Committed Community
A community spotlight on Yousef Alam
Yousef Alam knows a healthy internet needs a committed community.
For the web to thrive, it requires people and projects devoted to building it as an open, accessible platform.
In this spirit, Yousef has been a Mozilla volunteer contributor since 2012, lending his passion, skills, and experience to many projects — most notably MozFest and various Discourse forums.
We asked Yousef to tell us more about his journey with the open web. Here’s what he had to say:
What is your background with the web? With Mozilla?
I went to the Mozilla Festival back in 2012 because it was cheap for under-16s and seemed interesting. The enthusiasm, knowledge and pure passion for the open web was what got me started contributing to Mozilla. I started out answering questions and writing documentation about Firefox on the support website before moving onto Community Operations, a small team which maintains community websites and services, with some monthly newsletter coding and Firefox OS participation in between.
What is your most noteworthy open web accomplishment?
My most noteworthy open web accomplishment would have to be the Community Ops group I have helped build over the last 3 years. Together, we’ve proven that volunteer contribution in Operations can be beneficial to the project, impacted communications at Mozilla through Discourse and are currently working towards building better infrastructure for community websites and projects to live on.
Tell us about your Mozilla Festival experience and how it has impacted you.
Since 2013, I have been a volunteer at the Festival and while I’m running up and down the 9 floors of Ravensbourne, I get to speak with many of the attendees, all working on many different projects. I am always amazed at the energy when thinkers, makers and educators come together for the benefit of the web. The way I think about the web changes with each MozFest and I always look forward to the next one.
You help to maintain several Mozilla community forums on Discourse. Can you tell us about how you help and the value it has added to the community?
Back when I first started contributing to Mozilla, I put off contributing to some discussions which were happening over mailing lists as they seemed scary to someone who had never used a mailing list before, especially since the lists had hundreds of members. It was also difficult to find where the conversations were happening since some projects were using different tools to communicate. The Community Ops team experimented with Discourse as a solution to the communication problems in a single package: “Provide a public, approachable, asynchronous, multiple participant, written, archived, searchable, filterable, accessible communications mechanism for the Mozilla project.”
Community Discourse has since become a key communication tool for many teams and communities within the project, with 3,500+ users and 16,000+ posts. Other teams have also moved some communications onto their own Discourse forums, such as the Mozilla Learning Networks, Mozilla Advocacy, and Rust.
My main Discourse work is operations — making sure the forums stay live and updated no matter how much traffic hits them. I also help out on the organizational level as the “module owner” — figuring out what we can do to make the forums easier to use, more accessible to contributors, and working towards our goal to improve Mozilla communication. If that sounds like something you’d like to get involved with, let us know here and we’ll find something for you!
How are you inspiring others to teach the web/join in the Mozilla cause?
A key part of the web is its decentralized nature, which allows anyone to host a website, regardless of race/gender/views. Our team’s mission is to mentor and teach others with practical technical skills to host and run production-quality websites. I’ve mentored a handful of contributors who are working on various other services that Community Ops hosts and am also sharing my knowledge at the monthly London Mozilla Club, where I recently showed attendees how to set up a blog using WordPress and Let’s Encrypt.
Has your volunteer work helped you develop your skills as a leader — if so, how?
Volunteering at Mozilla has allowed me to build my communication, time management and problem solving skills along with the opportunities to plan real-world projects and mentor others to achieve the goals those projects require. I’ve also gained confidence through speaking at various Mozilla events such as MozFest volunteer socials and summits.
How has your involvement with Mozilla as a volunteer contributor added value to your life as a student/professional?
My contributions helped me to decide which career path I wanted to pursue. I am now studying Computer Systems and Networking at the University of Greenwich. I have gotten to work with some of the smartest people in their fields and made many good friends along the way.