hearts on sleeves

It’s been an interesting week in the Mozilla blogosphere. So much conversation, explanation, accusation, retraction, questioning, talking, talking, talking. One of the clear examples of the leverage that I spent a while writing about on Sunday. It’s one of the brilliances of what mozilla.org set up around a decade ago — conversations are happening in a highly decentralized way, around the whole world (and at every hour of the day, it seems to me). The two most active conversations, of course, are about XULRunner investment and reactions to Chris’ provocative video.

Everyone I know involved with Mozilla has taken both of these conversations very seriously. I think we’ve addressed much of the issue with XULRunner (at least the miscommunication issue, although there are clearly differences of opinion that can & should be discussed more in online forums, in blogs, at Developer Days, etc). But the other issue, I think, not so much.

I believe there are two basic set of issues here: (1) the content & the questions, and (2) the way the conversation is happening. This post is about the second set of issues: the way the conversation is happening.

First, here’s what I know from my experience with Mozilla: everyone I know who’s involved at any level, in any language, in any country, is extremely aware of the place Mozilla sits on the Web. Everyone is incredibly sensitive to what developers think about what’s happening, what users think about what’s happening, and what other voices on the web think about what’s happening. And it’s a very populist movement: everyone I know here wants the web to be open, uncontrolled & free. For the moment that fight is in the browser window, but everybody knows that the edges are moving around.

So when prominent voices put up thoughts about direction, details, intent — most everyone pays attention. Everyone’s first reaction is “I wonder if I did something wrong here. Wonder what I need to fix.”

Tara posted yesterday that one of the first rules of responding to criticism is to try not to take it personally. Obviously a correct point of view, but here’s the rub: Mozilla exists because everyone takes criticisms exceptionally personally, irrespective of whether they’re fair or not, based on fact or not, reasonable or not.

And I’ll assert that that type of personal accountability & reaction is what the world needs, actually. It’s companies that don’t take criticism personally. It’s organizations. It’s individuals who don’t care. But that’s not Mozilla. In the 2 years that I’ve been here, I’ve observed hundreds or thousands of people around the world who take it personally that the web’s not open to everyone, that companies think it can be controlled. And it’s caused a whole lot of people to do unnatural acts to remedy that. Working for days straight to get builds done. Flying halfway around the world to help someone start a community in Taipei or Beijing or Prague. Being available pretty much 24-7 on IRC/IM/forums/…

So in my view what’s happened over the last week or so is a large set of frustrated, personal reaction to some assertions that were almost framed as questions. But the tone of accusation is getting in the way of the conversation.

For example, we should talk more about what’s happening in cities around the world and what’s happening on university campuses, because there’s an incredible amount of activity. But the point was put this way: “dump spreadfirefox; get your focus back. power to the people — not more centralization. where’s the college teams? run it like a presidential but stop asking for donations. events, mash pits… MozCamps… whatever… I know something is happening in Japan with Joi Ito… but that’s about all I know about.” Stuff like this (and more, like professors writing curriculum on open source) is happening! The implication that’s being made (explicitly) is that it isn’t. Posing it differently: “What’s happening on campuses? In other countries?” elicits a completely different response. It should make Mozilla folks reflect on what parts they thought were clearly communicated (but obviously aren’t) and how to make that better.

Anyway, all I know is this: taking things personally is what motivates people to work harder, to make things better. Mozilla people all wear their hearts on their sleeves, and I think that’s the engine for both being proud of where things are and wanting to become more.

Having said that, I’d like to see if we can get moved past that, and focus on the content for a while. I can pick out some questions in Chris’ post and others — questions like “What’s Mozilla’s position/response on Silverlight/Flash/Java FX?”, “What does Moz spend most of its time on now?”, “What’s happening internationally?”, and “What about XULRunner?” Those are all good questions to be clearer on, help get better understanding of everyone’s position on.

But there are a lot more. What are they?

11 Replies to “hearts on sleeves”

  1. Great post. You’re going to hate me but my question is what’s happening with Thunderbird? A decision for it is taking quite long and really want to see what a full team around it could do.

  2. Great post. You’re going to hate me but my question is what’s happening with Thunderbird? A decision for it is taking quite long and really want to see what a full team around it could do.

  3. hey rafael — it’s a good question, no problem. we’ve released thunderbird 2 last month, and there’s no current roadmap going forward. mitchell’s going to blog about this, i think, in the next few days, and hopefully we’ll be able to get some renewed momentum & direction — thunderbird can & should be a more lively project…

  4. hey rafael — it’s a good question, no problem. we’ve released thunderbird 2 last month, and there’s no current roadmap going forward. mitchell’s going to blog about this, i think, in the next few days, and hopefully we’ll be able to get some renewed momentum & direction — thunderbird can & should be a more lively project…

  5. Hey John, I think you’re right — for the most part. I certainly could have framed my thoughts in a more productive, less accusatory manner; for better or worse, as I said in the video, I tend to be harshest on the things I care about most. I also threw that video together in those 50 minutes — no prep beyond the IM conversation I’d had earlier in the day… and I’m glad that I got it out there, “ums” and all since I’ve been working on a follow-up post and I’m about a week late on that because I’m trying to actually self-edit and be a little more reflective. Ppff. Oh well.As for folks taking things personally — I think that’s okay as long as they can detach their ego from the feedback. It’s not helpful when folks lash out because they don’t want to hear the feedback, whether true or not, simply because they have a weak ego. Many folks actually responded directly, in very open, honest and constructive ways, and I was thrilled to have that kind of feedback. It’s really changed my thinking and alerted me to things that were invisible to me.At the same time, now that these issues are out there, I’m still having a hard time tracking the conversation. It’s like I feel like a lot of people have been talking about this stuff, but besides a couple dozen posts from a small subset of authors, I’ve not seen the widespread discussions that I’ve seen mentioned a number of times. That suggests to me that there is still an underground current of conversation that is not being aired and could be put out there more prominently. So, I’ll attempt to get my post out there sooner than later; the longer I wait, the more stale it gets. And I appreciate all that you’ve added to the discussion so far; it’s certainly been helpful and refreshing.

  6. hi chris — you’re right, the conversation is tough to track. it’s happening in several places that i know of, only some syndicated to planet, some on places like peer pressure, some on places like dave eaves’ site. i suspect that it’s much like anything else where there’s a 90/10 proportion of readers to writers. but there are lots of conversations that happen in the space between blogs, of course. some from xul developers, some not. joost, for example, is mostly heads down doing work on the platform and not getting too involved in this discussion. conversations are happening every single day in japanese (check mozillagumi) and chinese and polish, but they’re not getting centralized, either. there are a ton of voices that i know of — the folks that are most in the echo chamber here tend to be English-speaking, Silicon Valley-oriented, engineering types — one of our most important groups of people (and i’m one of them), but i’m not too sure how to be both completely decentralized and wholly knowable. it’s something we struggle some with.

  7. Hey John, I think you’re right — for the most part. I certainly could have framed my thoughts in a more productive, less accusatory manner; for better or worse, as I said in the video, I tend to be harshest on the things I care about most. I also threw that video together in those 50 minutes — no prep beyond the IM conversation I’d had earlier in the day… and I’m glad that I got it out there, “ums” and all since I’ve been working on a follow-up post and I’m about a week late on that because I’m trying to actually self-edit and be a little more reflective. Ppff. Oh well.

    As for folks taking things personally — I think that’s okay as long as they can detach their ego from the feedback. It’s not helpful when folks lash out because they don’t want to hear the feedback, whether true or not, simply because they have a weak ego. Many folks actually responded directly, in very open, honest and constructive ways, and I was thrilled to have that kind of feedback. It’s really changed my thinking and alerted me to things that were invisible to me.

    At the same time, now that these issues are out there, I’m still having a hard time tracking the conversation. It’s like I feel like a lot of people have been talking about this stuff, but besides a couple dozen posts from a small subset of authors, I’ve not seen the widespread discussions that I’ve seen mentioned a number of times. That suggests to me that there is still an underground current of conversation that is not being aired and could be put out there more prominently.

    So, I’ll attempt to get my post out there sooner than later; the longer I wait, the more stale it gets. And I appreciate all that you’ve added to the discussion so far; it’s certainly been helpful and refreshing.

  8. hi chris — you’re right, the conversation is tough to track. it’s happening in several places that i know of, only some syndicated to planet, some on places like peer pressure, some on places like dave eaves’ site. i suspect that it’s much like anything else where there’s a 90/10 proportion of readers to writers.

    but there are lots of conversations that happen in the space between blogs, of course. some from xul developers, some not. joost, for example, is mostly heads down doing work on the platform and not getting too involved in this discussion.

    conversations are happening every single day in japanese (check mozillagumi) and chinese and polish, but they’re not getting centralized, either.

    there are a ton of voices that i know of — the folks that are most in the echo chamber here tend to be English-speaking, Silicon Valley-oriented, engineering types — one of our most important groups of people (and i’m one of them), but i’m not too sure how to be both completely decentralized and wholly knowable. it’s something we struggle some with.

  9. “i’m not too sure how to be both completely decentralized and wholly knowable. it’s something we struggle some with.”Indeed. But I think you could get a lot closer in one jump if Mozilla made a loud noise for a while asking mozillans to add at least two tags, ‘mozilla’ plus at least one more of their choosing, to any new thread of discussion appearing anywhere online.In combination with Yahoo pipes that output one unified feed that merges all the various outputs (a feed from del.icio.us, a feed from technorati, etc.), you’d get decentralized discourse with centralized visibility.If you wanted to monitor worldwide discussion of, say, ‘mozilla’ + ‘platform’, just click on the pipe…love, raiphMozilla Foundation”What Would You Do?”(No, I’m not a MoFo staffer. Just pitching a slogan idea…)

  10. “i’m not too sure how to be both completely decentralized and wholly knowable. it’s something we struggle some with.”

    Indeed. But I think you could get a lot closer in one jump if Mozilla made a loud noise for a while asking mozillans to add at least two tags, ‘mozilla’ plus at least one more of their choosing, to any new thread of discussion appearing anywhere online.

    In combination with Yahoo pipes that output one unified feed that merges all the various outputs (a feed from del.icio.us, a feed from technorati, etc.), you’d get decentralized discourse with centralized visibility.

    If you wanted to monitor worldwide discussion of, say, ‘mozilla’ + ‘platform’, just click on the pipe…

    love, raiph

    Mozilla Foundation
    “What Would You Do?”

    (No, I’m not a MoFo staffer. Just pitching a slogan idea…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: