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Mozilla is setting out to build the next generation of webmakers and we’re pushing forward with this effort in a big way this year

Critical to this is to empower folks to learn webmaking skills and then in turn teach what they’ve learned to others. We’re providing support to anyone interested with a series of tools including event platforms

The idea is to provide how-to guidelines on hosting events, big and small, around webmaking. 

We started with the most intimate event, the kitchen table, intended to be a smallish gathering of friends and family around your kitchen table, hanging out, learning how to hack and making cool things on the web. 

In the past couple weeks, I’ve conducted 2 of these largely out of the same demographic and with similar webmaking skills. 

Here’s the summary of session 1:

Participants:

  • 2 close friends from college
  • Very active consumers of the web
  • One has an active social media presence from Fb, twitter, pinterest, foursquare, tumblr, you name it, the other Fb primarily. 
  • No tangible knowledge of coding, it’s all a black box for both

Setting:

  • Marriott hotel lobby in San Francisco

Background:

  • I sort of crashed this party. We had planned Easter Sunday brunch weeks in advance. Day prior to brunch, I realized I could test out the kitchen table beta with these two and asked if I could. Friends were totally supportive. 

Takeaways:

  • Keep it casual: When I first mentioned it, both friends were concerned that this will be didactic and homework-y. I said there was little required of them other than a laptop and an open attitude. Both got the bigger vision of Mozilla Foundation and completely agreed that curiosity to look under the hood needs to be fostered among web consumers. They lamented that they don’t know more themselves. 
  • Ok to crash the party: I totally crashed this party with the kitchen table beta testing. I was initially concerned my friends would be a little reluctant but they really were open to it and engaged during the event. I think it’s important to read the crowd and room first. If you think they’re a receptive group, feel free to crash the party. I think the goal is to make learning as accessible, easy, spontaneous and flexible as possible. If there’s a window, then these tools should be flexible enough to allow you to seize that moment. 
  • Have a set of easy and hackable websites queued up: To get the exercise started, it was helpful to have several, pretty simple websites to flex the utility of the goggles. If you are so inclined, you can gauge the interests of your learners beforehand and queue up sites accordingly. 

Feedback: Overall feedback was very positive. We used the goggles currently available on hackasaurus site rather than the work-in-progress labs one Atul has been working on. The main feedback was that they would appreciate a dictionary to parse all the elements. They figured img was image, but didn’t know src was source, etc. They wanted the elements to be parsed into human readable and comprehensible text. 

Here’s the summary of session 2:

Participants:

  • 2 close friends from college
  • For all intents and purposes level of engagement and consumption of web is similar to that of participants from session 1

Soph & Tash

Setting:

  • Friend’s living room

Background:

  • I was in Portland, Oregon for my friend, Sophie’s baby shower. I thought it would be fun to utilize Jess’ Kitchen Party invite template to create baby shower invitations, a relevant and simple task and ask. 

Takeaways:

  • I found my friends caught in a copy paste auto pilot state. They were simply taking the image elements and replacing them with something found on the web. In the process, similar to what Lainie encountered, my friends had trouble with image placement and I couldn’t figure out how to help them. 
  • Be flexible: Once I noticed they were simply taking out Jess’ default images and replacing them, without looking at the code around the image url or absorbing the bigger picture, I figured there wasn’t much learning happening. I suggested they take a look at a site they frequent and utilize the goggles to change things out. This led to more active feedback and commentary.
  • Don’t interrupt if they’re concentrating but ask questions to get their thoughts while they are remixing: I discreetly asked them to tell me what they were doing, what they thought the goggles were presenting, etc. This was helpful for me to gauge their level of interest and comprehension. 
  • In both instances I accidentally ended up sitting between the 2 learners but I think it might have been better for the learners to have been positioned next to each other. This is speculation but I think having the learners look over each other’s shoulders, see what the other is doing and talking amongst themselves could have been useful. 

Feedback: Similar to session 1, my friends got the idea of the goggles and the intent of promoting curiosity for webmaking and web literacy. But they too said they would appreciate a dictionary to parse the different html tags into human comprehensible format. They also wondered what else could they have done besides switch out images and text. The wondered how they could remix a website by adding or changing colors, changing font size, etc. They felt limited in their remixing abilities from the goggles tool.

Tash hacking

In summary, I felt all my friends learned a little something and we all ended up having fun. My friends from session 1 said they’ll definitely hit the goggles from the bookmark bar from time to time to check out what lies underneath. Everyone agreed on the importance of looking under the hood and web literacy. 

On a personal level, it was exciting to be a part of this mini test bed for the maker movement we are initiating at Mozilla. It was fun to look at the blog posts coming through about the kitchen table beta testing. I’m looking forward to all the events planned for the summer and beyond.