Archive for August, 2004

Localization Teams and Trademarks

August 20th, 2004

I know there is angst and unhappiness about potential new localization plans and trademark limits. I knew this somewhat before, but I really know it now. That’s because Tristan, Peter, Axel, Gerv and others have made it a point to bring these concerns to the Mozilla Foundation and make sure we understand how important a topic this is. They’ve also made it clear that we haven’t done a good enough job at working with the localization teams. So we’re going to do a few things.

First, we’ve made the localization issues a regular topic of discussion with the Mozilla Europe folks. This way the topic won’t get dropped, and we’ll make sure that the Mozilla Foundation does a better job of both listening and communication. It also gives those in Europe an easier, effective way to raise your concerns — talk to the Mozilla Europe folks and they’ll make sure we get the message. We’ll do the same thing with Mozilla Japan. We’ll continue the regular IRC discussions with the localization groups with Mozilla Foundation participation. We’ll try to do a better job of explaining what’s going on and the constraints within which the Mozilla Foundation operates. That’s what I’ll try to do in the rest of this message.

The Mozilla Foundation believes it is important to make sure that product names such as Firefox are protected as trademarks. If this is not done, then the names can be used by projects and companies that are doing quite different things. For example, we would be very unhappy to see a new browser plugin named Firefox appear that is unrelated to the Mozilla project. We don’t want to see browsers with different technology underpinnings called Firefox. A browser that doesn’t have XUL for example, isn’t Firefox and we don’t want one to appear called Firefox. This would cause immense confusion.

So having “Firefox” be a trademark is important. This isn’t something I say lightly because having a trademark means that the owner is required to do certain things to keep a trademark viable. A trademark is used to identify the “source of origin” of the item bearing the trademark and to indicate quality. If the trademark is used in ways that don’t reflect the source of origin and quality level, then the trademark is weakened. If weakened enough, a trademark can be lost entirely. This is what happened to former trademarks such as “elevator” which started out as a trademark and become a general purpose noun through lack of enforcement.

I’m personally not a fan of much of trademark law, as it requires the trademark owner to do things that seem unfriendly to partners and associates. Nevertheless the Mozilla Foundation is going to comply with the requirements of trademark law to protect Firefox, Thunderbird, and other product names. We will do so in as flexible a manner as we can.

I recognize the effort, commitment and personal investment the localization teams have made to the Mozilla project. I also recognize that the localization teams take a great deal of pride in the releases that result and it is undoubtedly distasteful to think that the Mozilla Foundation many timezones away may somehow suddenly be involved.

We are currently working with trademark lawyers to determine the core set of trademark requirements, and to identify those things that trademark lawyers like but which aren’t actually absolutely necessary. We want to give the localization teams flexibility. So we’re working to take the legal requirements necessary for trademark protection and figure out implementation policies consistent with our enormous desire to recognize both the importance and the commitment of the localization teams. It’s actually been harder to get a clear picture of this from the trademark experts than I would have thought, and it’s taken more time than I would like as well.

We’ve spent a lot of time trying to sort this out and talking with folks from Mozilla Europe and the Mozilla Localization Project. We believe we’re getting close to circulating a draft policy. I imagine no one will think it’s perfect (well, maybe someone will, but I’m not counting on that) but hopefully it will be a good, workable balance.

We hope to have something posted for comment within the next week or so.

Welcome Mozilla Japan

August 19th, 2004

I am thrilled that Mozilla Japan has been launched. Mozilla Japan reflects the vibrancy of the Mozilla-gumi volunteer community that has been active since the early days of the Mozilla project. Several of the Mozilla-Gumi folks are involved with Mozilla Japan so we have a bridge between the project to date and the work of Mozilla Japan. Mozilla Japan also has some new and active participants. Nobua Kita, CEO of Ten Art-ni Corporation is active in open source matters in Japan in general, and has provided invaluable leadership in the formation and vitality of the new organization.

Mozilla Japan is the second International Affiliate of the Mozilla Foundation; the first was Mozilla-Europe. International Affiliates are independent legal organizations, preferably with nonprofit status. They are not subsidiaries of the Mozilla Foundation. Each Affiliate is run by an independent Board of Directors. The Mozilla Foundation needs to agree on the directors and the scope of activities before we allow the Mozilla name to be used; once this is done we look to the Affiliate to provide leadership for the Mozilla project in their geographical areas.

Mozilla Europe and Mozilla Japan came into being because Tristan and Peter in Europe and the Steering Committee in Japan (Nobuo Kita, Katsuhiko Momoi, Satoko TakitaYamaguchi and Motohiro Egota) were determined to see something happen. Actually Tristan and Peter came to us early in the life of the Foundation with their plans. It was a frantic time and figuring out how to make an Affiliate program was not at the top of my list. It became the top of my list because Peter and Tristan made it so, because their determination to give the Mozilla project a real voice in Europe was unstoppable.

The Mozilla project is successful because of the enormous energy people bring, the ways to contribute people dream up and the drive and leadership they provide. Welcome Mozilla-Japan!

Odd One Out

August 10th, 2004

One of the first open source gatherings I attended was a group of 30 or so hosted by Tim O’Reilly in a San Jose Museum sometime in 1999. I had only recently joined full time, was unknown to most people in the group, am not from a technical background, and am a woman to boot. It was hard not to feel out of place.

Before long there was talk of encouraging an open source culture that values contributions other than code. This was reassuring. It’s one thing to spend my time knowing that I’ll never be deep in the mainstream activity of programming; it’s another to make that effort assuming I would be a complete outsider forever.

At last year’s OSCON Eric Raymond announced that the Open Source Initiative and ZDNet were launching the Open Source Awards, intended to “to reward and encourage excellence in open-source software.” The Gold (“Grand Master”) and Bronze (“Merit”) awards are for those who write code. ilver (“Special”) Awards ” . . .offer a way to experiment, and will be expected to occasionally lead to the development of new “regular” categories to go with the Merit and Grand Master awards.”

This year Eric announced the first winners of the Grand Master and Special Awards. Larry Wall was the winner of the Grand Master award — who could argue with that? To my surprise, I was the winner of the “experimental” Silver Award. So surprised that when people began to congratulate me “on the award” I could only think that Firefox or Thunderbird had won another award and I had somehow missed it. When he gave me the award Eric told me it is for authoring the Mozilla Public License and subsequent leadership of the Mozilla project. Only the latter appears on the OSI website. But it’s impossible to talk about leadership in the Mozilla project without talking about Brendan Eich, and so the combination Eric described has to be the correct rationale.

The chance of me becoming a primo hacker is just about nil. Well, maybe less than that. The Mozilla Public License shows up in the Mozilla code, but nothing else I write ever will. It’s definitely rewarding to learn that my eclectic, code-free contributions are seen as valuable by people other than staff. It’s also another data point that suggests that the elusive “community management” concepts I mentioned in my last post are becoming generally recognized as an important element of the open source world. Maybe this experimental award will become a regular part of recognizing contributors to the open source community.

“Community Building” surfaces at OSCON

August 9th, 2004

“Community” in the open source world is one of those words that seems obvious at first, but is actually pretty elusive. For those folks who saw r0ml’s talk at OSCON, community doesn’t mean what you think it does. “Building” and “managing” communities are even more elusive concepts. What is it? Who does it? Does it have value? If so, who does it benefit? Is it simply overhead?

I’ve been thinking about community building and management for a while now, and have had periodic and unstructured talks with folks such as Danese Cooper at Sun, Louis Suarez-Potts of OpenOffice, Brian Behlendorf and Ted Leung of Apache, David Axmark of MySQL, Chao Lam of OSAF, and of course staff. Lots of talk, but nothing organized. And to date, there hasn’t been a good way for discussing issues of interest to all of us. We’ve talked about organizing something related to community building, but never gotten to it.

Then this year at OSCON, something surprising happened. Two separate activities related to understanding “community” occurred. First, Zak Grant of MySQL came to talk to me as part of a survey MySQL is conducting about community-building. I’m always glad when I see the MySQL folks get involved in something I care about. To date, they’ve been organized, gracious, diligent and effective in the areas where I see them in action. It was late when Zak and I found a chance to talk so I can’t recall the specific questions, but I do recall an interest in both learning and communicating what other projects have tried, what works and what doesn’t.

Then on Thursday evening there was a Birds of a Feather session on “Managing Community.” It was quite astonishing to see this on the agenda. I was late so didn’t hear exactly how it came to be, but I know that Karim Lakhami, a graduate student at MIT’s Sloan school, was instrumental in getting this set up. Karim’s listing of academic studies relating to open source is a great resource. I think some combination of Chris DeBono, Michael Tiemann and Stefano Mazzocchi may also have been involved in organizing this. There were probably about 25 people for the 2 hour BOF, and we covered a lot of ground.

We started out comparing projects which are driven by individual developers doing what is of interest to them with projects like the Mozilla project where there is an overall roadmap and some degree of project-wide planning and prioritization which affects (or at least informs) what developers work on. The choice of the Mozilla project was not mine; I believe it was Michael Tiemann who suggested it. As a sidenote, I would say that the response to the Mozilla project was very different this year. In the past, we’ve been accepted as important, but not the focus of much real excitement as OSCON. This year was different. Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird are changing the way people think about the Mozilla project, and that change was palpable. Perhaps some of the change may be that we are no longer in the shadow of a corporate sponsor. Stefano may this case clearly when he noted that now he sees some reason to think about fixing the bugs that bother him rather than wait for someone else to do it.

There was a discussion about corporate involvement, and the difference between companies paying employees who work on open source projects as individual contributors (think IBM and Apache) and companies who have corporate teams chartered to work on open source project through the management structure (think Sun and IBM with the Mozilla project). This in turn lead to an eloquent description from Stefano of the Apache view of collaborative development, and how the need for working together trumps hot-shot hackers. The more people I meet at Apache the more I am struck by the degree of focus on work-style, community building and management. Someone, I believe Sam Ruby noted that sometimes an active community does not develop until the original developer steps back, citing Gump and Cocoon as examples.

We also talked about how important a name can be for a project. Sam Ruby noted this, the Jabber folks agreed, and I had to grimace and note how the Mozilla project learned the same thing through our iterative renaming process that finally resulted in Firefox.

One topic we didn’t discuss much is a sort of historical record. I would love to hear people describe the early phases of their projects, who the first people were to get involved, what the early community looked like, how it grow, what made it grow and so on. Maybe next time.

Skip past the sidebar