On April 10th and 11th of 2014, the V Workshop Tocantinense de Sistemas de Informação took place in Palmas, Tocantins. The event was held by Faculdade Católica do Tocantins (FACTO) in partnership with other institutions such as UNITINS. The goal of the event is to stimulate entrepreneurship inside academic environment and to encourage the production of apps for mobile platforms.
Opened to the general public, the event was divided in two days. For the opening of the first, we had Alfredo Beckert talking about “How to build a startup and endeavor inside the academic environment”, followed by my talk “Firefox OS, The web is the platform!” in regards of Mozilla’s community.
From right to left, Alan Rincon, Galileu Guarenghi, Alfredo Beckert e Marcus Saad
How to build a startup and endeavor inside the academic environment, by Alfredo Beckert
Firefox OS, the web is the platform!
Conversation during our lecture
On day two, we had several mini courses happening concurrently and talking about development for mobile platforms. Professor Silvano Malfatti offered an Introduction to Objective-C (iOS). Taking place at the same event, an Introduction to Android Programming was being offered by Luiz Carvalho.
I was invited to demonstrate and talk more about our newly released mobile operating system, Firefox OS, to the crowd who was already familiar with mobile development. That being said, the event acted as entrance point to some of the biggest mobile platforms available, demonstrating their strength and weaknesses, pleasing either the crowd that was looking forward a more mature and stable platform or those looking for an exciting, innovative and filled with opportunities.
Attendees were then stimulated to group up and develop a fast yet useful application, so that they could be aware of common mistakes that happen during the development phase and how to validate and submit their apps to Marketplace.
Ideas presented vary from a BMI calculator, a GPS data collector, to a tourist app that showcases the most visited beaches in Palmas.
Firefox OS, the web is the platform!
Waiting people to arrive
One of the apps created – Palmas Beach
After the event was officially finished, Professor Silvano Malfatti invited me to go even further on Firefox OS to his post-graduate class, at Faculdade Católica do Tocantins (FACTO). The group was formed by already experienced app developers with apps published in both Apple Store and Google Play Store. Their biggest excitement about the platform is the ease of development and the facilitated process of getting it live on the Marketplace. However, some weaknesses were raised by them, such as commercializing their apps. They want to be able to sell their apps, which at the time of the talk, wasn’t possible yet. Another highly emphasized topic, is that the majority of WebAPIs they were interested in are unavailable for certified apps. (This is a vision that I personally share with them. Offering some of the most interesting APIs only to OEM and Mozilla apps, can be a shot to the feet in the future).
Talking about devices that are already available for the public.
Local Midia Coverage
Local media coverage was extremely exciting, the event had been extensively promoted by the involved institutions, hence the large number of attendees from different cities and educational institutions. Links collected on the internet are:
Metrics and Feedback
Because this event was supported by Mozilla through the Budget program for Reps, we had to define some metrics to be able to analyse whether or not it was a successful activity. Some of the metrics involve the amount of attendees and the return to Mozilla Brazil community. Let’s go ahead and talk further more about it so that we can measure how successful it was.
Metric 1 – 200 attendees on the opening event
Success! Event opening was a big blast, bringing more attendees than we expected. We had around 250 people at UNITINS’s auditorium, mixing people from several different backgrounds, just like Mozilla. As can be seen in the pictures, the crowd as excited and energetic, replying to questions and laughing on jokes.
Who believes that Firefox has been better in the past?
After my talk has ended, we opened some time for questions from the public, and some in specific caught my attention.
Marcus, how do you make a living with FLOSS? Is it possible to live mainly from free software/open source? How can Mozilla pay its bills if it “sells” a product?
This is a very common question, and that never should be ignored due to its importance. Unfortunately, I cannot make a living only contributing to open source projects (even though that is my dream [Mozilla, I'm unemployed!]). However, it is indeed possible. It is still very hard, but in some countries where the open source crowd has higher voice and money is being put on open source solutions it does happen. There is a noticeable growth in the Brazilian scenario, being the south and southeast the main area of FLOSS projects.
Mozilla Foundation is a not for profit organization that survives through some artifices. As many of you know, 90% of our income comes from a partnership between Google and Mozilla, where both benefits. Google pays Mozilla a millionaire contract so that Mozilla keeps offering Google’s search engine as the main service on Firefox. Therefore, we can easily realize that if Firefox’s popularity increases, Google’s search engine usage will follow, making billions
tracking ingenuous users, feeding them directed adds and stealing their privacy of dollars.
The rest of the money is raised through user donations, private initiative and companies that incorporate Mozilla’s products or services somehow.
Marcus, what is the share percentage that Mozilla keeps from Apps that are sold in the Marketplace?
Yet another very good question. We know that Apple and Google keeps 30% of the price you sell your app on their store. While I was giving the talk, I wasn’t 100% sure of this information, so I ended up passing along incorrect data, and I, hereby apologize for such a mistake. There is a quite complicated table available here.
The percentage that Mozilla keeps is also 30%,
unlike 0% that I said before. From those 30%, only between 5 to 7.5% stays with Mozilla, the rest is passed along to pay taxes and administrative fees from our payment service provider. We utilize Bango as a payment intermediate. For more information on how to charge for an app, take a look at this post.
Metric 2 – To have 5 apps published to the marketplace in the next 20 days that follows the event
- Great debugging tools
- Easy development process
- Marketplace is simpler than its competitors
- No need to learn new languages/technologies
- Most of the interesting WebAPIs are reserved for certified apps
- Simulator is instable, with a few bugs and problems that bothers developers (For example, basic HTML isn’t displayed correctly in v1.2 but in v1.3 it works)
- Lack of motivation for paid apps (Payment WebAPI documentation is hard to find for developers that aren’t mozillians or know how to search for information in our several tools).
- Marketplace doesn’t have paid apps
- There is no way to filter paid / free apps.
APP 1 – GPS Coordinates
APP 2 – Palmas Beaches
- Awaiting marketplace submission
Metric 3 – 20 people joining community-brazil mailling list or IRC
Unfortunately, this metric was not achieved, and I’ll leave my personal insight of why not. I believe that the fact of using IRC and mailing lists as tools for mass communication isn’t as effective in places where people don’t know the power of these tools or cannot value it properly. We had only 2 participants joining #mozilla-br and are interested somehow.
It’s worth noting that most of the buzz happened around social medias such as Facebook and Twitter, were I registered 12 friendship requests and 4 followers. It has also been registered a few twits with #Mozilla and #FirefoxOS. Shamefully, social media are the most widely used communication channel for those who aren’t yet involved with free software / open source.
I would go even further and state that the lack of knowledge on what is free software or how to get involved. Moreover, they are extremely fond of the idea of commercializing their apps. All that together, is why my judgment of why we failed this metric.
Scores and Misses as a Mozillian
We know that it’s impossible to have a flawless event, and it couldn’t be different now. Budget process started on full speed, but it took some precious time that we did not have for uncertainty. (Although I deeply appreciate all the effort put onto it).
The lack of confirmation on the budget made me hurry with the presentation, giving me about 10 running days to produce everything I need for the event. Unfortunately, I do have to work to make ends meet. Thankfully, I was able to complete everything and make good use of the money from our contributors!
As a lecturer, there is always room for improvement. I believe that I could have brought more content and better knowledge on how the simulator guts works. Apparently, gnomes were on duty that night. As soon I arrived at the Hotel, everything worked perfectly.
Our swag request didn’t make in time, which was a little sad, because everyone asked for stickers.
I’ve also learned to be a little more conservative with metrics. It’s always better to be surprised and overcome then, than to fail badly. There is that feeling of failure, that you have not done everything that was possible.
The seed of open source has been spread over the North of Brazil. I hope that everyone who attended the event like our “conversation”. In the name of Mozilla I thanks everyone who made part of this event and I hope that everyone learned more about our misson. We are working for all of you, for an open web!
Special thanks to
- Ricardo Panaggio e Bruno Villar, for having indicated me to this event and always being around
- Thatiane Rosa, for all the rides, talks and shared meals!
- André Rincon, Silvano Malfatti and all the crew that organized the event. Thanks for the structure, for the good moments and for the professional experience acquired.
- To everyone who attented and those who made it happen directly or indirectly.
- Konstantina Papadea, Ricardo Pontes, Ioana Chiorean, William Quiviger and everyone at Mozilla involved with this budget Request. I have no words to thanks everyone.
Not everything was hard work. I’ll include some pictures for the sake of showing local culture.
This post considers free software and open source to be the same thing due to simplicity. Learn more about the difference between Free Software and Open source here.