Official Mozilla Corporation Weblog in the Works
Friday May 11th, 2007
A post on Spread Firefox has announced that an official Mozilla Corporation weblog will soon be launched. A project of the Mozilla marketing team, the new weblog will present the official Mozilla Corporation line on news and developments in the Mozilla ecosystem. The target audience for the weblog will be broad, encompassing users, community members, journalists and weblog authors. It is expected to launch by the end of May.
According to the announcement, the weblog, which does not yet have a name, will include Mozilla news, announcements and commentary. Official Mozilla Corporation position statements and responses to media coverage will also be included. Some weblog entries from Mozilla community members will be cross-posted to the official weblog. There will also be tips and tricks for users.
The announcement states that the weblog will be "authentic, yet humorous" and that "we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously nor be too watered down". When addressing serious issues (security and privacy are explicitly mentioned), the weblog will "temper its voice in accordance with the subject matter". This suggests that the weblog will attempt to emulate the carefully-controlled informality exhibited by many official corporate weblogs.
The content on the weblog will be created by the Mozilla Corporation's Vice President of Marketing and Product Management Chris Beard, Director of Product Marketing Paul Kim, public relations representative Mary Colvig, Public Relations Manager Melissa Shapiro, community coordinator Asa Dotzler and others. Some posts will be attributed to particular authors but official statements will be credited to just "Mozilla". Contributions will be invited from readers but the management team will have the final say on what appears on the weblog.
Though the Mozilla Corporation occasionally issues press releases, it has never had a single, official source of news before. When the Mozilla project first began in 1998, there was virtually no formal public relations effort and important announcements were typically posted to a small audience on newsgroups or MozillaZine (which, contrary to popular belief, has never been an official mouthpiece of the Mozilla project). More recently, major news has increasingly been disseminated by the growing number of weblogs maintained by Mozilla community members. However, this has sometimes led to confusion over whether a weblog post represents an official statement or just one individual's opinion, frustrating both journalists and members of the Mozilla community alike.
By creating an official weblog, the Mozilla Corporation will have the opportunity to improve communication with both its own sprawling community (which has grown to be one of the largest in the open source sphere) and the wider world. However, it will primarily be a marketing and public relations tool, attempting to ensure that news relating to the Mozilla project is seen through a prism favourable to the position of the Mozilla Corporation. "Ultimately," the announcement says, "the blog needs to support the communication of both the Mozilla and Firefox brand story in ways that align with our orientation as an open source project and public benefit organization."
#8 Re: Style points
Thursday May 17th, 2007 5:46 PM
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Hi - Alex Bishop from MozillaZine here.
"The tone suggestion you excerpted ('authentic, yet humorous') above reflects what we see as the current reality of how we already communicate amongst ourselves in public meetings, in individual Mozilla community blogs, in newsgroups and forums. '...the weblog will attempt to emulate the carefully-controlled informality exhibited by many official corporate weblogs' implies we're trying to fake people out with some tightly scripted casual attitude."
I don't doubt that the tone will reflect that of your existing communications. However, the fact that it's mentioned in the Spread Firefox announcement at all suggests that the tone has been considered and will therefore be regulated to some extent. Clearly the posts on the weblog won't be drunken 3:00am ramblings; there will be some control. Obviously, you know more about the final voice than I do but it looks like it's heading for the middle ground of being friendly rather than stuffy to engage the community but not so casual that it appears unprofessional. Many other corporate weblogs also go for that medium; it seems to work well. However, I'm not suggesting that every communication is going to be scrutinised by three levels of management, two language experts and a focus group - though this probably isn't far off what happens with some corporate weblogs (mostly the ones that miss the point and think a weblog is just a page of press releases with an RSS feed).
"This makes us sound like we don't want to hear or share criticism, and that the whole point of this blog is to spin the news."
I doubt that the weblog is going to become a major mechanism for receiving feedback from the community - there are plenty of other channels for that already. I imagine it's primarily going to be a read-only affair from the point of view of most readers. I can't imagine that there will be many bare factual statements; they will surely be backed up with justifications intended to present a particular interpretation of the facts to readers. For example, I imagine announcements of any changes will be accompanied by briefings of the benefits stemming from these changes. I expect criticisms will either be rebuffed or accepted with a "here's what we're going to do to make it better" line. Basically, I don't anticipate that the weblog will contain any bad news (that is, news that damages the reputation of the Mozilla Corporation) without some attempt to present a positive angle.
"It's a lot more accurate to say that we want to be able to put out information that we think is going to be useful to advance the broader Mozilla Manifesto, to help new users better understand the Mozilla project, and to provide a central point for the press to refer to as the need arises."
That's a clear agenda there: it's about getting a particular message across to others. Particularly, the press, whose importance you note.
I await the launch of the weblog with interest. I believe in the basic integrity of the Mozilla Corporation and I don't think you're out to intentionally mislead. I think it's a positive sign that you've admitted up front that the weblog will be run by the marketing team; many other companies would attempt to present such a venture as a purely grassroots from-the-ranks effort. Companies can foster such weblogs (the Mozilla Corporation has some) but most will not risk making their primary high-profile weblog so transparent.