Archive for September, 2007

ED Search Interviews

September 24th, 2007

Last Wednesday (September 19) Dan Mosedale did a brief segment about the Mozilla Foundation’s search for an executive director on that day’s Air Mozilla episode. In that interview (available via a multitude of sources, check out the options are Air Mozilla) Dan described how the Search Committee is looking for input to form our questions and frame our initial discussions with candidates. The current working sets of questions / discussion topics for both first and second round interviews can be found linked from the Executive Director summary page, as can the notes describing the interview process from our kick-off meeting with our recruiter. The second round of interview is where we’ll really start to dig into how a candidate might interact with Mozilla.

The search committee will do a better job if we know your hopes and goals for the Mozilla Foundation. Please take a few minutes to read through our topics so far and let us know your hopes and goals, and suggest types of discussions you would find valuable to have with candidates.


September 19th, 2007

As those of you who read know, last weekend was the Mozilla24 event. A lot of people have written about Mozilla 24 and I won’t repeat a general description. The thing that struck me was the power that the infrastructure can bring, and how the infrastructure really can bring people closer. Typically in the Mozilla world we’re focused on software (obviously!). We recognize the critical nature of the underlying infrastructure that we live on but don’t spend our days building it as we do the software layer. And so the proposal for Mozilla 24 seemed daunting to me, given the massive amounts of infrastructure needed to provide real-time video conferencing across multiple continents. But Mozilla 24 was spear-headed by Mozilla Japan with the significant assistance Dr. Jun Morai. Dr. Morai is known as the “father of the Internet” of Japan, is a VP of Keio University, a member of ICANN and the Internet Society, and a long time friend of Mozilla Japan.

Dr. Morai is also the chairperson of the WIDE project which seeks to put this infrastructure to use for social benefit. I found Mozilla24 to be an eye-opening example of how powerful an idea this is. I attended the Mozilla24 event at Stanford University. It was a very nice facility — thank you Stanford! The room had 3 large screens. Generally one showed the presentation, another showed the audiences in other areas and the third often showed the Mozilla 24 photo stream. What surprised me was how strong the feeling was of “touching” and “seeing” the people in other locations. The images were good enough, the audio was good, and the transmission lag was so small as to be unnoticeable for much of the time. I participated in the last segment, which was the Kids” Summit, followed by a discussion with Dr. Morai and Dr. Cerf. It really was possible to have a discussion, to watch Dr. Morai, the discussion leader and feel as if he was “right there.” At one point Dr. Moral was speaking to the Kids’ Summit participants, suggesting we’d kept them long enough and it was fine for them to go home. After the children from Japan left he turned to the children from Thailand and suggested they were free to go as well. I thought to myself “Wow, I didn’t know the participants from Thailand had gone to Japan; I thought they were all at the University in Thailand.” But of course, they *were* in Thailand. Dr. Morai is simply so comfortable with this technology that it’s impossible to tell from watching him whether he’s talking to people in the same room or someone thousands of miles away.

Of course, Mozilla24 was an enormous amount of work. The Mozilla Japan team showed once again that they are masters of organization, and of bringing Mozilla DNA to well-organized, professional quality events. And the rest of the Mozilla world jumped in to make a rich program.

Mozilla24 has made it clear to me once again how Mozilla is part of a much larger effort to bring openness and participation to *all* levels of the Internet stack. It made me realize once again all the different things that the Mozilla community is and does.

Mozilla’s New Focus on Thunderbird and Internet Communications

September 17th, 2007

Mozilla has been investing in email since the Foundation was created. We have a good, solid client in Thunderbird, and we have aspirations to do more. We’ve spent the last few months working on how to meet those aspirations. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the discussions.

The result is that Mozilla is launching a new effort to improve email and internet communications. We will increase our investment and focus on our current email client — Thunderbird — and on innovations in the email and communications areas. We are doing so by creating a new organization with this as its sole focus and committing resources to this organization. The new organization doesn’t have a name yet, so I’ll call it MailCo here. MailCo will be part of the Mozilla Foundation and will serve the public benefit mission of the Mozilla Foundation. (Technically, it will be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, just like the Mozilla Corporation.)

David Ascher is joining Mozilla to lead MailCo. David has been an active participant in the Mozilla project for many years, both in his role as CTO of ActiveState and personally through participation in our governance discussions. In fact it was one if David’s comments on an early draft of the Mozilla Manifesto that helped crystallize its structure. David also has deep experience in the open source world and is a member of the board of directors of the Python Foundation. David also brings familiarity with Mozilla technology and the Mozilla community through years of using Mozilla technology to build ActiveState products, including the new Open Komodo project. We are very fortunate to have David join us to lead this effort.

Mozilla will provide an initial $3 million dollars in seed funding to launch MailCo. This is expected to be spent mostly on building a small team of people who are passionate about email and Internet communications. As MailCo develops it and the Mozilla Foundation will evaluate what’s the best model for long-term sustainability. Mozilla may well invest additional funds; we also hope that there are other paths for sustainability.

We’ll be setting up MailCo in the coming weeks. Part of this is forming the team of people, part is developing a transition plan to move Thunderbird into MailCo gracefully while supporting the Thunderbird users. That will take some time. We’re on the path now though and that’s a great thing.

The goals for the new company are:

  • Take care of Thunderbird users
  • Move Thunderbird forward to provide better, deeper email solutions
  • Create a better user experience for a range of Internet communications — how does / should email work with IM, RSS, VoIP, SMS, site-specific email, etc?
  • Spark the types of community involvement and innovation that we’ve seen around web “browsing” and Firefox.

One of the things I find most exciting about the Firefox work is the way people use Firefox to dream up what the web could be, and then go out and so something to make it happen.We can spark the same kind of excitement and energy level and innovation in the email/communications space. And when we do, Internet life will get much, much better and much more interesting.

Help us make it happen.

Falling Again

September 6th, 2007

(I started writing this to write about the return to flying well rather than the fall. But this part came out long enough as is, and I’ll put the rest into another post.)

I few months ago I hurt my shoulder on the trapeze. Well, falling off the trapeze, actually. And it’s probably more like 4 months ago, but who’s counting? It wasn’t a bad fall or a bad injury. My rotator cuff muscles complained and my arm ached for weeks. But still it counted as an irritating setback rather than a scary or serious injury.

In hindsight, I can see that this fall was exactly like the last time I did something scary and fell to the net. In both cases the underlying problem had been identified by the instructors repeatedly. In both cases I understood I should fix the problem. But in neither case did I understand that fixing the problem was a safety issue.

In this case the manoeuver is known as an “uprise.” it’s a move where one starts out hanging on to and below the trapeze bar and ends up with one’s hips resting on top of the bar. The clearest video of an uprise I found of an uprise is actually a woman I fly with, although this video was taken in sunny outdoor southern California and not in the old warehouse where I fly. Here’s a dark, harder to see video of an uprise by a classmate of mine in the facility where I fly. In both these videos the flyer is wearing safety lines; these allow the instructor to help the flyer if something goes wrong.

I’ve done many uprises without any problem and stopped using safety lines for this trick a while back. Recently my instructor has been telling me that I’ve been too upright on the bar. The correct position has one’s shoulders in front of the trapeze bar, and one’s feet behind. It’s obvious to me now — the correct posture distributes the weight so that the flyer stays put on the bar as the trapeze moves through the arc of its swing. But since I had never had problems with the uprise I had never really understood the mechanics of what can go wrong.

Then one evening I do an uprise. I feel the lift I’m accustomed to as one floats up over the bar and I think to myself “great.” Then suddenly, unexpected, I am falling off the back of the bar. I’m still holding on with my hands. But I’m no longer a fulcrum balanced on the bar — I’m a weight still attached by my hands but otherwise sliding off the back of the bar. I don’t think even the strongest person can hold on in this setting. The physics make it tough. I’ve never done this before though, so I don’t realize this. My left hand slides off the bar. The right hand holds on for a while longer, still hoping to recover my grip. There’s a lot of stress on the right shoulder and rotator cuff muscles at this point. Lots of forces, pulling in different directions. The force of coming off the back of trapeze bar badly, the force of swinging through the air with my body out of position, the twisting forces from one hand sliding off first. Eventually the right hand peels off near the bottom of the swing and I careen downwards into the net.

I land fine in the net. This is nice and a bit surprising. My first reaction is shock — what happened? The next is fear, and the knowledge I have to get back up and do it again. Then the realization that my shoulder isn’t quite right. I ignore that long enough to do another uprise or two that night. Then I have to admit it, especially when I need both ice and ibuprofen to be able to sleep.

Then I had to admit that the warning signs had been there. My instructor had told me more than once to fix my upright posture. I had not understood the importance of this, but I hadn’t asked her to explain it either. She’s a great instructor. She doesn’t say things without a reason. I simply didn’t ask why being upright mattered. All the clues were there. I just didn’t focus enough to put them together.

It’s really a blessing in life to get warning signals. It’s really dumb to ignore them. Now I’m paying very focused attention to anything that sounds like it’s a safety warning. And looking at other aspects of life to see what signals I see there as well!

Open Tools for a Better Web

September 5th, 2007

Good tools are a developer’s dream. I’ve been hearing the lament for better open source tools for open technology stacks ever since I started working with Mozilla. Today ActiveState is announcing the Open Komodo Project, bringing new open source tools for web developers into the Mozilla world.

ActiveState has been a participant in the Mozilla project for many years. Its award-winning Komodo IDE is build on Mozilla technology. ActiveState has been continuously building non-browser applications based on the Mozilla platform longer than almost anyone.

One of the goals of the Mozilla project is to create a world in which commercial organizations can and do make rational business decisions to promote open software and the open web. Today ActiveState takes another step on that path. And web developers have the promise of better open source tools to make their work easier. That makes today a good day indeed.

Activities: Mid July & Aug 2007

September 4th, 2007

In doing some blog maintenance i realized that the last summary of what I’ve been working on — which seems so recent in my mind — was from mid July. So here’s a summary of specific projects I’ve been working on since then.

  • Lots of work on describing the Mozilla project, our goals and how we achieve them, why we are different than commercial enterprises, and what the nest few years are likely to bring. I gave a talk at OSCON on this topic. I then put together and presented shorter, simpler, more text-and-fewer-pictures version at the Internet as a Public Good seminar. More recently I’ve been thinking about how to take the work on identity, combine it with the initiatives we have underway and describe what to look for in the next few years. When I get this a bit more cohesive I’ll start distributing it for comment.
  • Lots of time working on the mail / Thunderbird questions. The possibilities aren’t quite far enough along to describe yet, but I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do so soon. I’m also quite optimistic we’ll end up with a good solution.
  • Mozilla Foundation executive director search. Created the search committee. Had a first meeting where our recruiter Eunice gave the search committee general information about how to think about candidates. The notes from this meeting are posted on the mozilla wiki. A bunch of us were at OSCON during this meeting, so we didn’t get to figuring out logistics for making this meeting generally accessible. Had a second meeting to talk about interviewing candidates and what types of questions to ask. The recommendation is that in a first interview, the candidate should do most of the talking. And the questions should be open-ended, not specific to Mozilla or Mozilla knowledge. The goal here is to get to know the candidate. If that goes well, then a second interview would delve much more into Mozilla specific questions. The questions should be posted at the preceding link shortly. We’re starting to generate a good set of candidates, but there’s more work to be done here. Asa will be organizing an Air Mozilla broadcast on the ED search.
  • Mozilla Foundation organizational work. We hope to have our audited financial statements for 2006 ready shortly. I’ve also spent some time reviewing requirements and regulations for 501(c)(3) public benefit corporations, which is how the Mozilla Foundation is classified. There’s a bunch of ongoing work related to tax-exempt status that requires attention.
  • Brainstorming about the page of the website. The website in general has been on my mind, and I’m very glad to see there are a bunch of people actively working on this now through bug 345664. Right now my personal particular focus is on the foundation page. I want to make that a page that speaks to people whether or not they are programmers. I’d like it to describe the scope and potential of the Mozilla project. I’ve got a bunch of ideas now, am hoping to get them implemented for review shortly.
  • Participated in Mellon Foundation grant selection process for the Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration. Worked in conjunction with other members of the Award Committee. The awards will be announced in December.
  • General management, product, organizational and recruiting topics (this covers a lot of ground but is also true constantly).
  • 3 days of vacation. Short, but very relaxing.

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