For Test Pilot to be a success, we need to recruit a group of volunteer test subjects who accurately represent Web users as a whole. In order to figure out what sort of people are downloading and installing Test Pilot, we included a survey with the first version. (Note: In order to preserve user anonymity, user’s answers to this survey are not correlated with any data submissions they make through Test Pilot.)

Here are the survey results

Hmmm. 96% male, 4% female. Google Chrome as popular as Internet Explorer. More Linux users than Mac users.

What we have here seems to be a slice of the “early adopter” demographic. It doesn’t look like a representative sample of Firefox users as a whole, and certainly not of Internet users as a whole.

That’s to be expected, of course. Test Pilot was announced on the Mozilla Labs blog, so the initial Test Pilot user base is probably drawn heavily from Labs blog readers and other people who closely follow what Mozilla is doing. Those tend to be people who are interested in the cutting edge of technology.

So there’s nothing wrong with having a lot of early adopters in the Test Pilot pool. But I daresay that if we make Firefox UI decisions based on a sample like this one, we’d be doing a disservice to the majority of our users who don’t fit the early-adopter profile.

How can we reach out to a wider and more representative sample of users? One that includes more women, more internet newbies, and more people who are used to IE? This is really two questions: First, how can we let these people know that Test Pilot exists; and second, how do we make participation appealing to them? I don’t know the answers to these questions yet. Here are a few ideas that we’ve been kicking around:

  • Promote Test Pilot through Facebook (duh).
  • Have a checkbox on the main Firefox download page that someone can check to opt-in to Test Pilot — it would bundle the extension with the download.
  • Offer cool features that are only accessible to users with Test Pilot installed, as an incentive to join. (But these would probably be experimental features, thus appealing mainly to the early-adopters.)
  • Appeal to people’s natural curiosity about themselves and people they know, by positioning Test Pilot as a way for users to learn about their own internet habits, and those of their friends, with an option to send that data to Mozilla.

How else can we help Test Pilot reach beyond the early-adopters and find a wider, more accurate sample of humanity? I would love to hear your ideas on this question.