Lizard Wrangling: Mitchell on Mozilla & More

Mozilla

State of Mozilla and 2012 Financial Statements

November 26th, 2013

Mozilla is a global, non-profit community dedicated to the mission of building an Internet that is “knowable,” interoperable and open to everyone.  When the Internet is knowable it is transparent, we can see it and understand it; we can know more. When the Internet is interoperable we have more opportunity to try new things; we can do more. When it is open to everyone it becomes “ours,” and we can build things that support the full range of human life, from economic to social to public to individual; we can do better.

When we use the word “open” we mean all of these things. We expect these traits in all aspects of online life. We work to represent these traits in how we organize and operate as Mozilla. We are organized as a non-profit so we can put these elements first, always. We seek to influence the Web as a whole towards user-control, towards the openness that builds accountability and trustworthiness, and individual choice and empowerment.

We build products, such as Firefox and Firefox OS, to make our values concrete and part of daily online life. We empower global communities, so more of the people who share our mission have the knowledge and experience and credibility to move the mission forward. We do this by deepening our volunteer engagement in our core products, and by encouraging them to develop their own projects. We teach and learn, both through our product development and through dedicated teaching and learning programs such as Webmaker. Ultimately we aim to shape environments, from the consumer Internet experience to public policy to learning environments.

Mozilla’s direction and decisions are based on our mission of making the Internet understandable, interoperable and open to all, while moving the Web forward as a platform for creation and consumption. We recently released our State of Mozilla and audited financial statements for 2012. That generally sparks comments on our finances, which of course makes sense. The finances are important, they are what allows us to support our work at the scale at which we need to operate and to advocate for the Web and the billions of people online. For us, however, financial return is not our main organizing principle. Our stakeholders are our global communities, the people who use our projects and ultimately all those interested in the health and openness of the Internet. The key return on investment for these stakeholders is the degree to which we move Internet life towards being knowable, interoperable and open to everyone.

UC Berkeley, Mozilla, me

November 12th, 2013

Friday I attended the inauguration of the new Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley.  I spent a lot of time at UC Berkeley (or “Cal” as it is known among students and alums).  I got my undergraduate degree (in Asian Studies, an interdisciplinary degree) from Berkeley.  I worked as a staff member at the Center for Chinese Studies Library for a few years, where I was generally the only non-native Chinese speaker in the Library.  In an odd turn of fate I returned to Berkeley for my graduate degree (in law).

Berkeley is part of the much larger system of public education in the state of California.  “Public” higher education may seem obvious to some, if you come from a part of the world where this is standard.  In the US, many universities (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, Yale) are private organizations, and so the public nature of the University of California is a big part of its identity.  The entire system includes a set of 2-year Community Colleges, almost 25 California State University campuses and 10 University of California campuses.  I was very fortunate because during my college and graduate years the State of California provided immense support to public education, and I was one of the many beneficiaries.  I benefited from a world-class education without the kind of crushing debt that colors one’s choices for years afterwards.  I see my work at Mozilla as possible in part because the State of California invested in me.

I have always found UC Berkeley to be a funny mix of radical, innovative, and traditional.  The student body is politically active at Berkeley.  The Free Speech Movement in the early 1960′s established the right of students to engage in political speech on campus, something I took for granted.  The faculty at Berkeley is active.  In the 1920′s a “faculty revolt” resulted in the faculty (through the Academic Senate) obtaining a much-extended role in shared governance of UC Berkeley.  The staff at Berkeley is active as well, demanding respect as part of what makes Berkeley great.  (I was staff at UC Berkeley for a few years before graduate school, so I remember this aspect as well.)

Both of these elements were present at the inauguration.  The event started with a student protest about Janet Napolitano, ex head of US Homeland Security and recently appointed as the President of the UC system.  It’s a controversial appointment since her background is in security and immigration/ deportation rather than education.  The protest was actually quite moderate.  The students sat up in the balcony, stood up as soon as the event started and chanted their position.  This took maybe a couple of minutes.  Then they left.  No on-going heckling, no need to be tossed out.

A few things I noticed about the content of the event.  During the procession (classes, faculty, other institutions, staff), I felt myself perk up at one point.  I wondered why, especially as the law school classmate I went with didn’t seem to notice.  Then I realized — the orchestra was playing the UC Berkeley  “fight song”.  I’ve heard this a million times — it’s like hearing your name.  The song refers to the UC Berkeley mascot — the Golden Bear. It includes a verse:

From his Lair he fiercely growls.
What’s he say? He says:
From his Lair he fiercely growls.
What’s he say? He says:
Grrrrrah, Grrrrrrah!
Grrrr, Rrrr, Rrrrrah!

So, after the first Processional there was a very quiet sound from the hall:

Grrrrrah, Grrrrrrah!
Grrrr, Rrrr, Rrrrrah!

After each Processional group the Golden Bear got louder.  Never as loud as at a football game, but still it felt like Berkeley.  Funny tradition of activism and chants.  Similarly, many of the speakers at the inauguration ended their remarks with the classic call “Go Bears!”  You can hear it at the end of the Men’s Octet rendition of the fight song.

More seriously, the remarks made by all speakers reinforced a few key concepts:

  • Cal seeks to be the world’s pre-eminent public research university, promoting both excellence and education as an important element of democratic societies, not just economic benefit of individual students.Cal aims for excellence, affordability, and diversity of students.
    Calls for social justice, both for working people and for undocumented students.  For those not familiar with US immigration issues, “undocumented students” refers to people who hold neither a US passport nor a visa to remain in the United States.

There were also many references to the difficulties the UC System faces.  Finances are tight, the State of California has reduced its support dramatically and tuition rates have gone up. Undergraduate education vs  graduate and research efforts are a topic.  The value of studying humanity (“liberal arts”) as well as technology is a topic.

The new chancellor described all of these, plus the plans to move forward.  This part of the talk was a bit long for me.  It was a speech, rather than the short remarks of the other participants. This makes sense to me.  But I have to admit that my working life is mostly focused around very short attention spans — like 15 seconds.  :-)  Seriously, that’s advice I give people who are dealing with executives for the first time.  You have about 15 seconds to get someone’s attention, especially via email.  So even though I was a bit itchy during the end of this talk, I was still able to focus enough to appreciate the core content.

Since I moved to Silicon Valley, I’ve come to appreciate how amazing Stanford University is.  It’s a key component of the innovation and intelligence and excellence that the Valley produces.  I didn’t understand its important until I lived here a while.  I’ve always found Stanford very difficult to develop any relationship with as a non-alum, but I have come to be awed by it as well.

I have to say though, it was wonderful to be at UC Berkeley, where I felt at home — utterly, totally, and completely at home.

Getting Ready for Summit 2013; Fun Already!

September 27th, 2013

In just a week Mozillians will gather for the Mozilla Summit 2013.  I’ve been working with a number of the facilitators and the “track leads” and I have to say, it is really rewarding.

The Summit will have 4 or 5 “plenary sessions” with pretty carefully planned content.  We also have identified some key ideas and topics that the plenary talks will raise, and planned session to address some of these. These are known as “Supporting Sessions.” We expect to have the same Supporting Sessions in each of the 3 locations, facilitated by people in each location.  (There will also be a big chunk of time for Open Sessions –anyone proposes a session — and for spontaneous groups to gather.)  The topics for the Supporting Sessions were determined by the 60 or so Assembly Delegates and the rest of the summit organizing team.  These groups did not determine the actual content of the Supporting Sessions.  Instead, we gave a topical statement to guide the facilitators in developing an approach to the session.   The Track Leads have the roles of looking at all the supporting Sessions for a particular theme — product and technology, people and process, purpose and strategy.  They also assist the facilitators stay connected with the overall picture.

I’ll give one of plenary talks, focused on the nature of Mozilla, who we are, why we exist, how we work, the attributes of success, and the connections to our products and communities.  So far I’ve talked with the facilitators of 3 the Supporting Sessions that relate to these themes:

what does “mozillian” mean? ”
“practicing Open;” and
“distributed leadership and decision-making.”

Wow!  In each case I was impressed with the sophistication of the work the facilitators and track leads are doing.  These are complex topics, selected to represent some key elements of Mozilla that are different from most organizations.   That means it’s really important to develop a shared understanding of our goals, and yet we can’t simply do what everyone else does.

I’m looking forward to the Summit more than ever!

Success and Competition

July 11th, 2013

Last week one of the regular browser competitive “bake-offs” named Firefox “speed king”, which highlights how much competition has improved Firefox.  This time we beat Chrome in performance areas where Google once had a significant lead. This has caused me to think a bit about competition, why it matters, when it goes bad, and how we think about it.

First of course, it’s fun to excel and I’m very proud of the Mozilla teams that made this happen. Competing with Google is no easy task –Google’s resources are immense and their employees are talented. Kudos to everyone involved.

Second, competition in “our” space is one aspect of success.  When we started building Firefox, no one believed a browser mattered on the desktop, and a lot of people didn’t know what a browser was.  Today that’s not the case.  The introduction of Firefox spurred the browser into prominence, and generated competition first from Microsoft, and then from Google. This competition has validated our message from long ago that creating the product through which people access the Internet has immense impact.  Google will undoubtedly surge ahead on some aspects of performance before too long, we should expect this, rise to meet the challenge and view it as success.

Third, we need to make sure we’re competing in things that matter. A neck-and-neck competition in an area that doesn’t provide value to consumers isn’t a great use of resources. We should periodically evaluate if the thing we’re competing about is worth the focus. Today raw speed is a key competitive area. That makes sense. It’s worth asking if at some point if improvements in raw speed will become overshadowed by needed improvements in other areas, but right now raw speed is important to users.

We’re also working on performance in new areas.  With Firefox  we are also bringing things like high performance 3D games and video calls to the Web. These rich activities like games and video calls were some of the last remaining challenges to prove that the Web is a capable and powerful platform for complex tasks. Addressing these challenges is another step in Mozilla’s mission to advance the Web as the platform for openness, innovation and opportunity for all.

Fourth, great products are key at Mozilla.  Firefox on the desktop allows us to enhance the key aspects of online life we care about.  It will help us connect “the desktop” to “mobile” and provide a unified online experience based on the freedoms and openness that drive us.

Serendipity

July 9th, 2013

Barcelona has a couple of large music festivals in the spring.  The largest is Sonar, which takes over *both* of the FIRAs, including the gigantic one that Mobile World Congress just moved to in 2013.  It includes a range of activities.  Another is “Primavera Sound,”  a multi-stage, multi-day event that covers an immense area of renovated waterfront on the northern end of Barcelona.  The day we went to Primavera the shows started at noon or so and continued until 5:30 am the next morning.  This being Barcelona, there are tons of shows schedule for 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 am.  This being an odd and cold winter, it was jackets and fleeces and hats to fend off the cold wind from the water and prepare for the threat of rain.

Sometime while waiting for the 4am shows to start my husband and I wandered through the vendor stalls.  It was odd — other than food, drink and a huge number of cigarettes (it is still very surprising to me, still a Californian at heart, to see how much smoking is a part of daily life here), the only item for purchase were all small print runs of posters, mostly band and venue posters.  It was fun to see: there were no mass produced items, and so we saw the return of serious, low-volume speciality printing.

One set of prints caught our eye — it was a set of eyes, not a musical print but interesting.  Here they are:eyes For those of you who are familiar with Terri Prachett’s “Only You Can Save Mankind” these remind me of the captain, although her color palate is different.

We ended up in an instant, totally comfortable conversation with the proprietor of this stall.   As we talk I am repeatedly drawn to a particular poster, very ornate, for some reason I couldn’t quite place. Here’s what it looks like:

JohnHoward

After a while we learn the proprietor of the stall is from Berkeley, CA.    That explains it — I was born in Berkeley, grew up in the town next door, went to college and grad  school in Berkeley, understand the vibe and often like the people.

Eventually it’s time for our show to start and so he, his wife, my husband and I say our “we’ll-come-by-and-visit-you-once-we-move-back-to-California” good-buys. We get along so well he pulls out his good, special business card.  Immediately I see it says “monkey.”    I say “there’s a lot of monkeys in the world.”

He responds “Yes, I made a JaegerMonkey t-shirt for Mozilla a while back.”  My husband and I stop, stunned.  Our son wears his JaegerMonkey t-shirt regularly  (actually, it started off as my t-shirt but we both realized  immediately it would become his.) There is JaegerMonkey inspired artwork, album covers and even music floating around our house, thanks to the kids  who have been drawn to the JaegerMonkey t-shirt.  On a recent trip to the coast one of my son’s friends spent the trip making an 8-bit, mine-craft like JaegerMonkey image ….

My husband points to the small Firefox button he has pinned to his jacket and describes my role.  The print-maker shows off the t-shirt he’s wearing, which is the test print for the new Mozilla shirt he’s driving down to our offices when he gets back to California.  We all stand around stunned for a bit.  I don’t  have the new Mozilla t-shirt, but thanks to this odd meeting we’ve not the copies of the prints above.  You can find the prints at the monkeyink website.

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