Identity and process

March 16th, 2006

Last December we had a gathering of people who were critical to shipping Firefox 1.5. It was called the Firefox Summit and it was about 100 people. I think 10 or so came from Europe, and Roger Sidje came all the way from Australia. We had volunteers, Mozilla Foundation and Corporation employees, and employees of other organizations who are deeply involved in shipping Firefox. (It was an astonishing event for me. I spent most of the dinners looking around in amazement. )

We had a general session on Mozilla Project Dynamics and a discussion about keeping the identity and culture of the Mozilla project as we grow. We’re growing in user base, user needs, contributors, program needs, scale of infrastructure, industry stature, employees (both employees of Mozilla Foundation and Corporation, and employees of other organizations), and management. How do we keep the core identify of the project in the midst of this change?

Ben Goodger made a comment that stuck with me and has been connecting with some other thoughts lately. Ben noted that our identity is deeply tied up in how we build software. A continuing focus on openness, peer review, merit, leadership through reputation, influence through action in building software is fundamental to our continued health. In one sense this seems obvious, but I have found it very helpful. There’s a lot going on with Mozilla and Firefox these days; it is very helpful to focus on the fundamental thing we have done well for years and years, even before the world knew of it — we build software in an open, distributed manner where people choose to participate because the project is worthwhile and works at least well enough. I think of this often as I think about how to manage all the new things that are on our plate today. I also think about it in relation to a set of questions about management and an open management style — more on that later.

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