Mozilla Italia since the first steps of Common Voice project by Mozilla is involved to promote it and get contributions for the Italian language.
At Fosdem 2020 I had a talk about how this project helped our community to grow (based on this article), but during the Covid-19 pandemia we still worked in this project.
We did also in 2020 a Developer contest for open source projects using our Italian language model to test the promotional idea.
We just changed our approach to Common Voice as we weren’t getting the support as we wanted in a few things to promote it better based on our experience. The idea was to ignore the Common Voice website/web portal and create various workaround around the limits that the platform has still today. Also, because with the various Mozilla layoffs and the changes inside Mozilla (now CV is under the Mozilla Foundation) the future of the project is still not clear.
Let me just do a list of tickets that explain some of the needs that as Mozilla community (we are not only a Common Voice community) we had:
- It is not easy to track the progress of a language, so usually I every 2 days I open the website, scroll and change the language from all to see the Italian stats
- The portal doesn’t have CORS, so it is not possible to use the API in another website or in a browser extension
- It is not possible to suggest a fixed sentence in the case is wrong (for various reason), since the latest CV dataset release instead is possible to have the full list of reported sentences, so now we can at least see what are the common issues that the sentences have. Now we will work on a new sentences batch based on this information and updates from the tool used to generate that in meanwhile got some interesting updates.
- It is not possible to show messages by language to the users on the portal, we have our Italian rules (also because they are in Italian language) based also on the community discussions that are not enforced outside the community:
- It is not possible to reach the users to report their wrong sentences, so they will always do the same errors. We usually recognize the voice of contributors during our monthly call, but you can understand that is not a viable solution
- It is not possible to reach the community or the people that is following a specific language without asking in the international discourse forum that is for all the Mozilla stuff. Basically is not very friendly asks a newbie to Mozilla to do that, it is just enough a link to the community or a person for example. We often miss the discussions on the forum about Italian but thanks to some external volunteers that follows more that part we receive a ping in those cases
- Personally I proposed in the years to do a contest with swag to CV contributors based on their contributions to various Mozilla employee that followed the project during the years
- Mobile support was problematic. Many users reported various issues with the website version with various Android phones, because of the various animations and microphone use it is not so stable and fluid with cheap devices
With all this issues our community started, to be right a volunteer, did an Android mobile application for the Common Voice portal (with reverse engineering).
Of course, it is open source has more statistics helpful for the contributors, dark/light theme, notifications by language, daily goals, offline support and doesn’t have lag.
The issue is that is not official and is acting as middleware. I mean we have stats just for the user using it so only for Android and not from all the CV contributions.
We chose that it was time to do a contest with swag as an award for Italian, so Saverio implemented in the app and in the stats portal a way to associate users to their contributions with a random and unique string that the participant will share with us as organizers.
To test the platform we did 2 things:
- We produced our first Mozilla Italia stickers with the new logo (by Saverio), sponsored by Mozilla itself as community. The plan was/is to ship them to the participant but also to our volunteers, we had priority of course to ship before to our long time mozillians (already done also to other volunteers and friends).
- Did an experimental contest to test the app and the website, contest rules etc. We have an English report for this.
This experimental contest showed that it is possible to do it and get results.
The definitive contest
We chose April 2021 as a full month for the contest (we had some question if it was an April fool joke), prepared a press release and social posts and asked various Italian website also some influencers on Twitter to reshare the contest.
We didn’t know how many people could join the contest as it was the first time with such organization for us.
Saverio wrote an Italian report, but I will recap the various other facts:
- 87+ hours record for Italian in a month, usually we have this amount in a year!
- 45 participants, 12 were already part of the community (we know this because we asked the participants):
- 5 by me from my podcasts or from my twitter and 3 from others influencers
- Seems that influencers are important to get also people interested and that want to be engaged inside the community
- 15 from websites and other communities
- In some cases they asked some questions before publish to have a better overview about the topic but 1-2 cases
- 4 from Mozilla Italia social posts
- 5 by me from my podcasts or from my twitter and 3 from others influencers
- We got 13 websites and communities that shared officially the news. Not so much, but it was just volunteers work, find a contact form and asks without offering money to share that news. You don’t believe it, but as there is “Mozilla” the tech websites often think that you are asking for a promotional post also if it is coming from a community. Also, we don’t have contacts for big national websites as we are volunteers with their life, working or studying.
- From the 20 swag winners 2 people don’t wanted it, they just joined for fun (and we moved this awards to the other people in list)
- Our telegram groups got a lot of new people, but we don’t have numbers for that, anyway they were more than usual
- Participants preferred equally to record or review the recordings (the points were different for the ranking)
We got a lot of them, from creating an invitation system to gain points for new participants to track contributions also from the official portal itself (as not everyone has Android or want to use a smartphone).
- It was clear that reach new people is important as we cannot do it alone (I mean just the FOSS Italian community world), but we don’t know people in IT journalism (as Italian and Information Technology topic) to promote what we do
- We need to improve the quality of the sentences that contributors read, and we are already thinking about it with the various feedback and improvement already explained in the top of this report
- There are various issues with the recordings like the user start speaking before pressing the button, but you cannot reach them to report it
- Improve the subscription to the contest with something automatic and not manually, like as it is now with reaching personally one of the organizers
- We did an open video call for the participants to gather those ideas, it is important to listen to the issues and needs from contributors also from other contributors like us
- As we have people not interested in swag we are thinking other kind of contest “random” but we will share in the future this idea
- We launched also the new Mozilla Italia website after 11 years
This was a work of various people: Saverio the mind behind like everything and also the developer, Damiano supporting Saverio in a lot of things, Me for shipping/produce the swag and the review of various things.
And all the contributors that discussed, shared the contest but just to not forget that the topic…. contributing to Common Voice!