A very Mozillian weekend

Despite having a rundown of each day’s activities in an evernote note, I am going to get this blog post written and published before I forget any details. This may be a long post, be warned.

Introduction

As some of you may know, I was recently invited to an in-person documentation sprint with Mozilla, in their California offices. We would be spending three days together working on Mozilla Developer Network (MDN), editing, revising, and creating documentation, demos, and examples for modern web technologies. For those of you who don’t know, MDN is Mozilla’s central location for documenting all of their projects as well as as much possible about the open web. I was thrilled to be invited, but was naturally hesitant because I was not sure how I would afford to make such a trip. However, Mozilla said that they were going to cover the costs of air travel, accomodations, and hotel. Once I realized that all of that was going to be taken care of, there was little that would manage to make me say no, and after confering with my parents, I happily accepted the invite, and started preparing for the trip.

I do not get to travel very much, and when I do, it’s usually not very far, so while I would be working on “web nerd” stuff majority of the time there, I always considered this to be a vacation for myself, in a state that I had never been to. As an added bonus, my good friend and sometimes work partner Amy Crook lived in the area and I knew I’d have the chance to meet her as well. I flew out from Sioux Falls in the early afternoon of Thursday, April 26th, and arrived in San Francisco around 4pm-4:30pm Pacific Standard time. This allowed me enough time to get to the hotel that I’d be staying at, get checked and settled in, and meet up with Amy at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. This building was within a block of the hotel, meaning I was very close to the San Francisco Bay for the duration of my visit. However, I did run into some small stumbling blocks in that my debit card was not liked by the hotel’s system, and I was not going to be able to use it anywhere inside the hotel. This proved to not be an issue at all as I avoided any charges the whole time, and I was able to get some money out of the ATM, just in case I needed some. After a wonderful meal and talk time with Amy, we parted and I spent the rest of the night in the hotel, waiting to hear of official plans for the next day. I didn’t want to go wandering around quite yet because I had just gotten there and knew no one. Finally Friday’s agenda showed up via email.

Friday

Friday’s agenda had us spending time in Mozilla’s main office, located in Mountain View California. In order to get there in time to put in a good hard day’s work, we needed to leave by about 7:15am. It was at this time that I started meeting everyone I’d be spending the weekend with, and getting to know them initially. We had a group of about 10 people, from as close as Los Angeles, and as far away as Bremen Germany. From here, we all proceeded towards the local subway station and made our way south. Once we reached the end of the subway system, we transferred to Caltrain to make the rest of the trip into Mountain View. Once we arrived, we had an initial discussion about what each of us wanted to work on and quick brainstorming for topics that people could choose from.

Firefox logo

This first day was a slow start for me, and I didn’t do any hugely significant contributions, but did stick to minor edits and rewrites to help make topics more clear for others. Lunch was eventually delivered and we all enjoyed some sandwiches by a local business, and was a nice break. Otherwise, beverages and snacks were available in the kitchen areas of the office. Towards the end of the day, I noticed a note in the collaborative etherpad holding the group’s notes, that there was a request for some work to be done on the “Firefox for Devs” section, and some help with docs relating to the new developer tools that are being built into Firefox. Since this is one area I have interest in, I noted that I would work on it more on Saturday. After we were done working for the day, we headed to The Cantankerous Fish for dinner. I am not a seafood fan by any means, but I was not going to make myself the sore thumb of the group, and made do with a Roasted Beet Salad. After dinner, we reversed our path and made our way back to San Francisco. If we all learned anything on our official first day, it’s to make sure that when passing out train tickets, you don’t pass out the receipt as a ticket, and leave the actual ticket behind. Thankfully the crew on the train were kind enough to not kick one of our group members off, and we were able to finish the trip. Finally we got back to the hotel and said our goodnights after working out when we were meeting the next morning. I wasn’t quite ready to retire to my room quite yet, and decided to spend an hour or so wandering around the immediate area and made it my mission to find my way to the San Francisco office a night early. I made a couple incorrect turns, but thanks to GPS, I was able to get back on the right path, and found the location before returning to the hotel for the night.

Saturday

Since we were staying in town on Saturday, we were able to sleep a bit more, and agreed to meet in the lobby around 8:30am before making our way to Mozilla’s San Francisco office. This day was much more productive for me, as I created and wrote up a lot of documentation on creating and managing Firefox profiles for various reasons including testing out Firefox’s multiple development channels. I also managed to get other quick edits in, much like I did on Friday. The work portion of the day was very much like Friday’s, and lunch was once again provided by a local company. To end the work day, we had a brief presentation showing accessability technology used on the MDN website. This proved to be surprisingly useful as together we discovered that a hidden area at the top of the page was the first thing that the tab key went to. This is not optimal for someone who is blind, and I’m sure a bug was filed. Due to our evening plans, the work day was scheduled to end an hour and a half earlier. These plans included a ferry ride up to Sausalito for dinner. This was a very exciting chance for me as I knew we would be riding past the famed Alcatraz prison as well as seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance(we’d be going over the GGB later to get home). Once we reached Sausalito, we had about an hour of time available before our reservation at Poggio, so we all went our separate ways to browse the local shops. This is really the first and only time I spent any money on something other than some coffee or airport food. However, what I did buy was candy, mostly salt water taffy, but also some other hard candies, including Atomic War Heads. Dinner at Poggio was extremely nice and easily the most expensive meal we had together. I went with a very tasty Margherita pizza and beer from Drake’s Brewery. After dinner and much non-business conversation, we took a taxi ride back to the hotel. Once again, we all agreed to meet in the lobby at 8:30am to make our way to the office for our last day together.

Sunday

The last day was pretty straightforward. We kept at it, doing what we could and getting stuff done. Lunch was pizza. Early in the afternoon our first person left, but the rest of us remained. We ended the work day with one last group discussion and thanks for all of the hard work that everyone put in. We originally didn’t have a set plan for that evening, but by the time sunday afternoon came around, we were all ready to find a bar and just kick back and relax together one last time. We made our way over to 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco, and had dinner and beverages. This location provided what ended up being my favorite beer the entire weekend. The name was “Monk’s Blood” and I found it extremely tasty. Sadly, it is not available in South Dakota, and 21st Amendment’s website mentioned that the brew will be going into hibernation in the near future. Finally we all made our way back to the hotel for the last time. I opted to stay in my room the rest of the night due to being tired from the long but productive weekend. My flight was scheduled for 10:50am the next morning. Due to three of our group having flights near the same time, and one of us having rented a car, we traveled to the airport in the morning together.

Conclusion

Overall, I am extremely happy with how everything went and enjoyed every minute of the trip. I am appreciative and thankful that Mozilla would be willing to provide the ability for their community members to get together and help make the internet a better place. Hopefully I can participate again in person in future doc sprints. If not, then there’s always remote help. If you are curious about details regarding who worked on what, you can read the official summary of the weekend at Mozilla Hacks.

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