Get Involved with Add-ons

I recently posted about the current status of the review queues. When I started writing this post, there were 241 pending updates to already-public add-ons and 479 nominated add-ons waiting review to become public for the first time. 24 hours later, the queue is now 169 pending updates and 467 nominated add-ons, a difference of over 100 versions processed (taking into account the new versions submitted today). Great job, editors!

I’d like to explain a bit about what Add-on Editors do so that developers waiting desperately for an email from AMO know what happens during this process, and also to encourage people to consider becoming an editor. If you’re thinking about getting involved more directly with the Mozilla community or are an existing contributor looking for a new way to help out, reviewing add-ons is a great way to do that. You might even meet new people, learn something, discover an add-on that you start using every day, or occasionally have a tiny bit of fun while doing it.

What do editors do?
The primary function of editors — and the thing we need help with the most — is to guard the quality bar of public add-ons. This means reviewing add-ons to ensure that they:

For most editors, this involves a couple minutes of downloading the extension, installing it, verifying everything works in the browser, and briefly reviewing the source code. There are some existing tools to help with this, and we’re hoping to add some new tools to the Editors’ area to speed up the process. If the version is only an update to an already-public add-on, the process is much shorter and is just making sure the changes made from the previous version didn’t break anything.

Updates to existing add-ons are given priority over brand new nominated add-ons, however there may still be a delay as not every editor can test every add-on because of hardware/software requirements. Add-ons that require an account or are for a specific website often take much longer to be reviewed than add-ons that are for general consumption.

For a detailed explanation of how the review process works, see the Editor’s Reviewing Guide.

How much technical knowledge is required to be an editor?
Most, if not all, of the editors currently helping out are extension developers themselves. As we do look over extension code as part of reviews, I wouldn’t recommend that someone not familiar with JavaScript and the basics of extension packaging apply to become a traditional editor. Having said that, we definitely encourage specialization and would love to see more editors of diverse backgrounds.

For example, we’d love to have a theme developer who wants to review themes, or someone from SeaMonkey background that wants to review SeaMonkey add-ons. We even have a Japanese editor who only reviews Japanese add-ons and moderates Japanese reviews. If you’d like to help out but aren’t sure if you have the skills, get in touch with us (below) and we can find a good fit for your talents. As an example of non-technical help, we’d love to have an editor that spends his/her time looking through already-public add-ons to make sure they’re in the right categories and everything about their display pages is correct.

Do editors do anything besides review add-ons?
Editors help out in more ways than just reviewing add-ons, such as:

  • Editors recommend add-ons to be trusted or featured. Trusted add-ons are those that can submit updates without editor review. Add-ons become trusted when an editor recommends that an add-on, based on its excellent previous review experience and trust in the author, should no longer need reviews for new versions. Featured/recommended add-ons are those that have a green background on the site and are highlighted in a number of areas, including the home page. Editors are invited to recommend add-ons to be added to this list.
  • Editors read flagged review comments and determine whether they are appropriate for the site. Previously, all reviews were moderated before they could appear on the site. This queue was always a huge number, often times in the thousands, and we had trouble keeping up with it. Recently, this was changed to where all reviews automatically show up, but can be flagged as inappropriate. When a review is flagged, it goes into a queue for an editor to determine whether it should be deleted.
  • Editors respond to developer concerns. Many times if a developer is unsure of something — whether about their new version being held in the sandbox or a question about the site — they will email the editors’ mailing list, which currently serves as a primary support contact for AMO.
  • Many editors assist with AMO’s ongoing site improvements and bug fixes by filing and commenting on bugs that affect editors, developers, and end users alike.

Where do I sign up?
If you’re interested in becoming an editor, check out the application information. It boils down to writing a few reviews for sandbox add-ons you’ve tried out, knowing the basics of how add-ons work, and sending the application email. Even if you can only review 5-10 add-ons a week, it would help us out greatly. You can even try it out and if you hate it, never do it again. If you have any questions about becoming an editor or what an editor does, please email amo-editors at mozilla dot org or comment here.

And, lastly, if you know of someone who might be interested in making this type of contribution, please share this post with them.