Mozilla Study Groups

Running a Mozilla Study Group

In this chapter, we present some ideas for how to manage your Study Group, suggest events your Group can throw, and outline a suggested program for your first few events.

Made by the Mozilla Science Lab

Managing Your Group

In what follows, we discuss how to plan and run your Study Group, and describe some possible event types. A few key points to begin with:

  • Let the community lead. At every opportunity, ask the attendees what they'd like to see at a future event - and invite them to lead. The more people have a hand in designing and throwing events, the more diverse, useful and community-driven your Study Group will be.
  • Plan a few months at a time. Choose a natural rhythm for your group - semesters, terms, or quarters - and try to sketch out a rough plan at the beginning of the period by asking for input from your community, and spreading ideas out.
  • Communicate clearly. This means making sure all event listing and emails include time, place (with link to a map) and a short description of what the event is about, and reminding people a couple of times to come on out.
  • Use your Code of Conduct. Your Code is there to make sure people feel welcome and are included; don't be afraid to emphasize it and enforce it when the need arises.
  • Stick to it! It might take an event or two for people to tell their friends and word to spread; don't be discouraged if only a few people come to your first couple of events. Stick to it, and you'll have a thriving community soon enough.

Planning Events

Now that you have a team assembled and a few mailing lists in your community to help spread the word, it's time to start planning and throwing events! Here are a few ideas to keep things running as smoothly as possible.

Pace Yourself

Many Study Groups enjoy a ton of excitement and energy when they first get going - events happen every week, attendance is high, and lots of people step up to lead sessions. But, after burning hot and bright for a few months, it can get hard to find a steady stream of content to keep momentum going. Follow these steps to keep a steady pace that's easy to maintain and manage.

  • Choose a natural rhythm for your community - terms, semesters, or quarters.
  • Do a big advertising push at the beginning of each of these periods, letting people know about Study Group, and asking them what sessions they'd like to see or lead. Here are two template emails and surveys to send out: an an initial push, and a reminder & request for session leaders.
  • Take the most popular suggestions from your advertising push, and spread them out evenly over the term, one every two weeks.
  • In the free weeks, book events like coworking sessions, or other ideas that come up through the term.
  • Throw in a hacky hour once a month.
  • End the period with a get together for the whole community, to thank them for participating and ask them what they'd like to do next term; this can be as simple as another hacky hour, with a particularly loud advertising push. Also take this opportunity to discuss with the organizing team what worked this term, and what needs improvement.

Communicating Events

Nobody will come to your events if you don't let people know about them! Follow these steps to effectively communicate about each individual event.

  • As early as possible and at least one week in advance, list your event on your website. Detailed instructions are in the in your repo - basically, make an issue that includes the time, date, place (with a map), topic, and preparation instructions, and add a listing on your website.
  • Focus on the issue tracker. There can be a lot of links and information for an event - location, lesson notes, examples to download - stay organized by putting all the relevant information in the first post for the issue in the issue tracker, and direct all attention to this issue in subsequent communications.
  • At the start of the week, send a reminder email to all the mailing lists you have access to, pointing out the events happening that week (remember to include links to the issues describing the events, as well as a link to your Code of Conduct, and tell people to bring their friends!).
  • The morning of the event, comment on the issue describing the event - even a simple 'Looking forward to this today!' is enough, since that will send a notification to everyone watching your repo.
  • Consider webcasting your demos, so people can participate remotely. The easiest way to go about this is using Google Hangouts on Air, which directly streams your webcast to YouTube.

Also, don't forget to ask people to watch your github repo - that way, they'll get updates about everything your Study Group is doing.

Reporting Back

By starting a Study Group, you are joining a worldwide community of like-minded folks, trying to bring their local communities together. The next step, is to help plug your Study Group into the rest of this worldwide network by taking a few simple steps:

  • Ask your demo leaders to post their notes in their own GitHub repo. Then, send us an email so we can add that lesson to our collection of lessons from around the world. Of course, this collection flows both ways - feel free to grab lessons from here to deliver at your own group! Also, add a link to the notes repo to the issue created for the corresponding event, and add a stub in your '/lessons' directory in your main Study Group repo.
  • Let us know about your webcasts by opening an issue in the lessons repo. We'll add it to the playlist for everyone to see.
  • Get in touch with the Science Lab by emailing us, and letting us know what you're up to - we'd love to schedule a monthly catch-up video call with you, to find out what you're up to and answer any questions you may have.
  • Join in the Study Group Leader's Call: once a month, we'll be hosting a google hangout for Study Group organizers to share what they've been up to and trade ideas for events and strategies; get in touch with the Science Lab above, and we'll send you the details to join in.

A note on Licensing

In order to share our lesson notes and webcasts most effectively, it's important to license them correctly. The easiest way to do this for a lesson on GitHub is to include a CC-0 or CC-BY license in a file called LICENSE in the repository; if the repository is mostly example code, consider an MIT license. Other open licenses are acceptable, but these are the simplest, and in our opinion, the most effective.

For webcasts on YouTube, it's best if the speaker records & distributes their own webcast on their own YouTube channel. If you want to record webcasts of others on your own channel, you will need the presenter to sign a recording release form, which the Science Lab can help you with. Never distribute a recording of another person without their written consent.

You're good to go!

After working through the setup and planning in the last two chapters, you are all set to start running a Mozilla Study Group! Remember, this group is for your community - always feel free to remix, reimagine and reinvent anything you like in order to make Study Group what your community wants it to be. The only rule is to always try to include as many different people as possible. Remember to email us as you get started, and never hesitate to make suggestions or ask for help; we look forward to hearing from you!

In the appendices of this Handbook, you'll find a list of event ideas, and a collection of links to lessons you can reuse in your own Study Group; as always, please feel free to suggest additions and new ideas!