Getting to Know Telemetry and Data Privacy at Mozilla (Non-Geeks Only)

WHILE on his travel around some parts of South East Asia, Georg Fritsche doesn’t forget to share the virtue of his organization, Mozilla. Having worked for the entity for the recent six years, the German-born geek sat down with us at Mozilla Community Space Jakarta at Tifa Building , Annex Suite, Kuningan Barat, Jakarta.

For audience familiar with data and web, what Georg exposed here is perhaps very brief and superficial. Yet, to most of people like me and some of you who mostly use computers as a tool to browse the web and process and save multiple types of content such as words, images and videos, the discussion is so technical I can’t even recall the gist of the talks. At all.

But do NOT blame it all on George, because I know how hard it is to simplify the highly complicated issue within one single meetup. I can tell you the same feeling when your grandparents demand you a simple and easily-understood explanation on questions such as “what is internet?”. Analogies may work but it also betrays you on some occasions like a pet snake. It bites you when you least expect it.

Despite all the gaps of knowledge and expertise lying so wide between us, here are several takeaways I can offer you as a complete and utter layman in the realm of internet.

  • Telemetry which is what Goerg does at Mozilla is actually a series of efforts to collect data of users conducted on daily basis. But what separates Mozilla and the others is the commitment to its mission, i.e. to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. That also means they also collect data from users but at the same time they give us as users more openness, transparency and freedom as to what they do with data and how they collect these data. Though it is set as default, any users can simply turn  it off or opt out of the telemetry by unchecking a box in the tab on Privacy. For Mozilla Firefox which I gues is the most popular product of Mozilla, to opt out of Telemetry, you type “about:preferences#privacy” in the address bar and locate “Firefox Data Collection and Use”. Uncheck the box that preceedes “Allow Firefox to send technical and interaction data to Mozilla” as well as “Allow Firefox to install and run studies”. In brief, users have more control over their data.
  • No data of users will be sold whatsoever. This is guaranteed by Mozilla. Because privacy really matters, unlike other internet giants, user data collected by Mozilla are never about your identity, such as your name and your whereabouts.
  • There is no surprises. And by surprises, I assume it is “unsolicited” surprises that no one will be happy with.
  • Even Mozilla collects data, they limit data. They only collect  data they require to improve the performance of products. Mozilla, said Georg, doesn’t collect data that are deemed unnecessary and too private by nature. It makes sense because the company doesn’t sell data and make profits of them.

As the discussion went deeper, I came to the conclusion that Mozilla products collect our data, too, just like other products on the web. The difference is you know your data is in the right hand. Not in the greasy hands of ‘big brothers’ who abuse and exploit you for their own interests once they get tired of spoiling you with great ease and comfort of exchanging information and data.

For further study, kindly visit https://telemetry.mozilla.org (if you can read and interpret the data displayed there). In case you are curious, click about:telemetry. But if you already give up, tweet Georg at @georgfritsche or @moztelemetry. Good luck! (*/)

 

Firefox Support Sprint 2018

WE had much fun today as we concluded our “Firefox Support Sprint“. I happened to take part actively in the event and I can say it was a blast.

So what is cool about joining this?

As a volunteer, I was assigned to respond to as many reviews as possible.  Though you are authorized to write a response, you have to comply with some guidance, which is as follows:

  • Share the love, be kind. It’s not your job to defend yourself, others, or even Mozilla. Users may just be venting because their problems are frustrating. The best thing to do is to help the user get his or her answer. If you feel that a post has crossed the line, skip it.
  • If you get stuck on a difficult support question, you can use the Support Forum Contributors Advanced Troubleshooting forum to discuss difficult questions or to see if other contributors are able to help. The #sumo IRC channel (accessible here via Mibbit or via Kiwi) is another place to ask for help and you can ping @guigs for staff support. On Telegram you can also join Support Mozilla (SUMO) and reach out to @rtanglao if you’re really stuck.

First thing first, you have to identify some common issues types such as speed, crashes, hatred, problems with latest updates, compatibility, keyboard, video capability, app file size, etc.

Once the type is identified, you may supply an appropriate response to it. But if you find it ambiguous or you feel reluctant to respond to such a review (not all review is nice to read for your information), just skip it for another to handle. That is pretty much how you can respond to a Mozilla Firefox review on Google Play.

That also means you need to develop extraordinary level of patience and vast range of vocabulary so that you will find it easy to select right words to address an issue without harassing or insulting others. Here chances are you will discover impolite reviews which you think are as derogatory and insulting as you have ever heard in your life time. But still, you have to maintain decorum while responding to it. Never lose temper because you have to focus on addressing issues.

The next step to take after responding to many reviews is taking a role of moderator. Here you are dealing with a collection of responses (that you and other fellow have previously posted). To be qualified and publishable, a response has to be positive, to address issues, and personalized.

This might look simple but at the end of the day, it proves to be useful for users of Mozilla Firefox. (*/)

From “Global Sprint 2018” at Mozilla Indonesia

“Global sprint” may sound too foreign to most people. It in fact refers to a global online event run in many countries by Mozilla. In Indonesia, Mozilla Community held it today (May 10, 2018). It aims to spur people’s contribution to many Mozilla’s nonprofit beneficial projects.

One of its open source and nonprofit projects is Common Voice, whose goal is to teach machines how humans speak. Another product that may share similar functions is Google Voice. But Common Voice is different in that the data gathered here is NOT intended for commercial, forprofit purpose.

Here we contributed by collecting a huge amount of written texts in a certain language. In my case, my team was working on Common Voice in Bahasa Indonesia [Bahasais the improper way to refer to the language, for your information] or Indonesian.

Why does our contribution matter?

Because we all know that Internet is dominated by English-speaking, Anglosaxon-cultured audience. How about other Internet users who don’t speak or write the language? Did we notice that English content on the web is so easily found but in Indonesian less content can be found?

Mozilla is focusing on how to include these marginalized people while still giving control of their data. And because it is nonprofit by nature, they rely on volunteers.

Speaking of Indonesian representation in Common Voice, there is hardly data stored there. To fix the situation, Mozilla allows anyone to contribute by donating their sentences to the database.

“Wait, why should I do this?” you may ask yourself.

So here is the advantage. You may not help yourself directly but if you contribute, the database may help those who plan to do research on a limited budget for educational, nonprofit purposes (such as for their academic final project, thesis or dissertation research) to make their dream come true.

We read some texts and later our voice can be changed into texts by means of STT (speech to text) feature. The more sources provide texts and feedbacks, machines would distiguish voices better and more accurately. If there is any error, it is correctable.

In this Global Sprint 2018, contributors present in Jakarta’s Mozilla Community Space were sitting together to store as many sentences as possible on the database of Common Voice to improve the machines’ performance in recognizing various human voices.

Below are important and informative links you can click in case you need more resources on this Global Sprint:

  • about Mozilla Global Sprint: https://mzl.la/global-sprint
  • about Mozilla Common Voice Project: https://voice.mozilla.org/id
  • about Mozilla Community Voice Sprint: https://voice-sprint.mozilla.community/contributing/
  • Where to upload your sentences: https://voice-sprint.mozilla.community/upload/

4 Benefits of Volunteering at Mozilla Community Space

Just a brief caveat, I’m not going to say anything here about the free-flow snacks and drinks and free internet connection available at anytime (though they’re two of the benefits to lure more people into coming more often and spend nights there).

Here I give you four of so many benefits of volunteering as a keyholder at Mozilla Community Space.

BETTER MENTAL HEALTH

Certainly Mozilla Community Space is no place to go to cure your mental disorder or illness but I’m serious about this. According to Harvard Health Publishing (a publishing section of Harvard Medical School), people who volunteer have a better mental health condition. Stephanie Watson of Harvard Women’s Health Watch elaborates on this point, saying:

Studies have shown that volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. (source: healthharvard.edu)

It’s an inconceivable benefit that I’m sure everyone wants to reap from volunteering for any social causes, including Mozilla which is a non-profit organization.

In Mozilla Community Space, you’ll meet not only friends you’re already familiar with but also an endless supply of new acquaintances who can bring you a lot of new perspectives in life.

LONGER HEALTH SPAN

It’s useless to live a long life but bedridden, too il to wake up and enjoy the world and all things in it. That’s why I pick the ‘health span’ term instead of ‘life span’.

Great news for you who are too worried about your physical health, and most specifically your blood pressure. Now, you can get less dependent on your anti-hypertension medication by spending more time to volunteer in Mozilla Community Space.

More on this, read on below:

Those who had volunteered at least 200 hr in the 12 months prior to baseline were less likely to develop hypertension (OR = 0.60; 95% CI [0.40, 0.90]) than nonvolunteers. There was no association between volunteerism and hypertension risk at lower levels of volunteer participation. Volunteering at least 200 hr was also associated with greater increases in psychological well-being (source: here).

BUILD WIDER NETWORKS

If you’re under 40 years old like me, volunteering does nothing to boost your wellbeing but hey, let me tell you that the benefit is not always about health. Volunteering can be impactful even if you’re a lot younger, especially when it comes to networking. Volunteering at young age  especially allows you to get exposed to people and worlds outside of your comfort zone. For young people, that comfort zone may be your school, your family and immediate relatives maybe. But if you volunteer, you’ll discover so many unknown worlds other than people you’ve known since your childhood.

In Mozilla Community Space, I can meet with younger people, lots of them actually (I’m the eldest newly-appointed keyholder). And seeing these youths who are as old as my younger siblings pretty much gives me a great deal of youthful spirit. Besides, more acquaintances means more opportunities in fact.

ADD MEANING TO LIFE

Life is a lot more boring if you only focus on your personal life goals. You want this and that and when you have it all, only you can enjoy it. Life can be more meaningful than that by volunteering your time and energy to a specific cause you prefer.

So what’s my cause?

Freedom!

For the sake of freedom in the virtual world, I want to be more actively involved in Mozilla Indonesia.

Why Mozilla?

Because nowadays our freedom as internet users have been ‘robbed’ by all tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. We are made to trade our privacy and private details with convenience, a bait too tempting to refuse. They shape our lives and our future as human civilization, too. So we need an alternative which is free from business, commercial interests.

The keyword is FREEDOM.

Freedom to make choices, whether we willingly swap our privacy for convenience or hold tightly that last shred of privacy and explore the web without being herded like a bunch of dumb sheeps and being fed by grass decided by algorithms.  (*/)

Mozilla Team at Pesta Blogger 2010: IS THE WEB DEAD?

Gen Kanai - the Director of Asia Business Development for Mozilla - served as the first speaker presenting "Is the Web Dead?".
Fifteen minutes prior to starting off the class discussion, Gen Kanai, William Quiviger and Dietrich Ayala were already preparing the equipment. Some bright yellow (Mozilla’s dominant logo color) souvenirs were distributed for anyone taking part in the discussion. Gen was spotted trying to adjust the colors produced by the projector but he seemed desperate (so there may be a better quality LCD projectorin the future provided for each and every room).The one-hour break passed by so quickly, which meant very few participants entered the room in time. William whispered something to Dietrich telling him some other rooms were even worse than ours (having fewer number of audience in the room) . Most of the participants are Muslims so the break time wouldn’t only be needed to have their lunch but also to pray. It worsened as the participants weren’t reminded of the break time (which was supposed to be at 12 pm sharp). They were glued to the performance on the main stage instead of rushing to the caterer for lunch.

So the presentation started a bit late. Gen Kanai spoke first. Soon the room with scarce audience got filled quite fast. It was perhaps because of some Mozilla community members entering the room, I guess. Cameras were taking pictures occasionally before and during the presentation.
Continue reading “Mozilla Team at Pesta Blogger 2010: IS THE WEB DEAD?”