Archive for May, 2012

The Ada Initiative Advisory Board Changes

May 25th, 2012

The Ada Initiative was founded early in 2011 when Val Aurora and Mary Gardiner decided to take the plunge, quit their jobs and found an organization dedicated to supporting women in open technology and culture. I had met Val a few months earlier and was very excited by their plans.  When asked, I was very pleased to join the Advisory Board.  It’s rare that I join advisory boards but in this case I was happy to do so.

Just over a year later  TAI will be holding its second major event AdaCamp in Washington DC shortly, has been very active in bringing an anti-harassment mentality to open technology and culture gatherings, and has provided consulting assistance to a number of organizations.  In the past few days TAI has been approved as a tax-exempt organization in the United States, an important marker in the start-up phase.  The visibility of TAI is growing, and the Advisory Board has grown to 19 people representing a broad range of open technology and culture expertise.   One of the additions is Lukas Blakk, also of Mozilla.    In addition, Caroline Simard recently joined The Ada Initiative’s Board of Directors.  I’m  quite familiar with Caroline’s work at the Anita Borg Institute and at Stanford.  She brings a great deal of expertise in both the research about women in the workplace and in the practice aspects of putting that research into practice.

TAI is growing in scope and in capabilities.   Given that the initial launch period has passed successfully, I’ll be stepping down from the Board of Advisors.  I continue to support TAI and its activities.  With Lukas on the Advisory Board we will continue to have a powerful connection between TAI and Mozilla, and Lukas will have a good sense of when I can provide some particular type of support.   It’s important to make room for new people.  I can continue to contribute effectively in other roles, so I feel it’s time for me  free up a space on the Advisory Board for someone  new to step up, in line with TAI’s approach to volunteer service.

I look forward to seeing new faces at TAI, at the Advisory Board, and in open technology and culture in general.

Upcoming: A Year in Europe

May 16th, 2012

Mozilla is an increasingly global community.  This is important to the success of our mission. If we hope to have a world of openness and opportunity for all we should be building centers of gravity in many different locales.  Silicon Valley in California is still the center of a big chunk of the Internet industry, but Mozilla’s commitment to the Internet as a global public resource means we in particular focus on building leaders in many other places.

With this in mind my family and I have decided to get ourselves out of California for a bit.    We’re planning to move to Barcelona next September for a year.  Barcelona is not only in the heart of Europe, it’s much closer to the middle east and Africa, and it’s no further from the east coast of Latin America than California.  (Although getting to Asia may be a longer trip.)  I expect to be able to spend much more time with many more local Mozilla communities.

This is a change of geography, not of commitment to Mozilla.  I expect to spend more time meeting Mozillians and more time focusing on project  dynamics.  I want to strengthen the ability for local leaders to become regional and global leaders in Mozilla.

I also expect to spend more time representing Mozilla to governments, policy-makers and other organizations interested in Mozilla and the Internet. By being located in Europe, we will be able to give more support to the critical issues being discussed in that region.  I will also stay involved in our product efforts, as these are so key to have we achieve our mission.    Perhaps I’ll find the time to do some of the writing that would be so helpful.

I’m not (yet???) a Spanish-speaker, so I will undoubtedly spend a bunch of time off-balance and trying to figure out how basic things work.

September will be here soon.   We’re excited!

ISOC Hall of Fame and Grad School Memories

May 14th, 2012

After I posted the ISOC piece, I got an unexpected message from an old, old friend.  Apparently he was part of the Internet Society Hall of Fame process.  This brings back so many memories. The person in question has been deep in IETF related topics for many years.  In addition, he was one of the most generous people I’ve ever known about sharing his understanding of technology and his resources.  Many years ago when I was in grad school he gave me keys to his office, set aside an old piece of technology for me to use and provided the basic support I needed.

As a result, my graduate school notes were all taken on an old, otherwise-decommissioned CP/M machine with 8″ floppy drives.  As it turned out, my preferred study partner in grad school was also using such an ancient machine, and it mean we could share notes.  My study partner was used to preparing “briefing books” for governor – level public officials, our our law school notes increasingly took on the look of briefing books as years went by.  He was also the only other person I knew in my class to took 4 years to complete law school, so we both started together and finished together.   (I spent the extra year living and traveling in China, he spent it getting an additional Master’s degree.)    That extra year was pivotal for me, changing by worldview in so many ways.

Today the near-ubiquity of the network means it’s hard to imagine being far, far way from global communications systems.  My time traveling in China (including Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong), Burma, Thailand, and Nepal, before cell phones and before the Internet is something I treasure.    I came back from my longest trip to find both of us in our 4th year of law school (imagine being proud of that 🙂 ).  And to find the greatest measure of success:  we had each learned each other’s most effective techniques.  When a question came up, we would find him reasoning from the principles he remembered, and me leafing through the briefing book to find the materials we had already prepared.  This was one of our finest moments: we had taught each other a whole new set of tools.

And then I’d bicycle through Berkeley back to “my” office.  Sometimes I’d be alone there.  Sometimes my friend would have given a set of keys to others and I’d find new people there.  (If you happen to know “gumby” you’ll know what I mean.)    We were above the pizza parlor and the California Girls massage studio, where bats appeared each  evening off the fire-escape.    I saw my first Mac in this office.   I first came across email here (gumby, again!).  I first encountered the IETF (long before the Web) here.  I learned what an extraordinary place MIT is, especially at night during finals.  At some point the office moved to slightly more upscale setting (no pizza, no massage).    People came and went though, each bringing something.

I’m still not as generous as this friend with my personal space.  I need more privacy that he did.    But office space, and sharing resources, and connecting people, and wanting people to build on whatever resources I can bring to the party — I learned a lot about this from the friend in question.    It’s not what people think of as a “law school education.”

I went to grad school at Berkeley Law (known as Boalt Hall School of Law in my day); one of the great legal institutions in the US.  I was fortunate; the University and the State of California invested in me.   I’m proud of being a UC Berkeley grad.  I’m a little stunned by what I’ve been able to achieve with it.    And there, generally unseen but critical nonetheless, I learned to share.  In some ways this is the most rewarding.

I’ve found that sharing — sharing wildly, sharing boldly, and reveling in what others do with the sparks I send their way — is liberating.  It’s powerful.  And it makes me part of a community of people that gives me hope for the future.

Internet Society Hall of Fame

May 13th, 2012

A couple of weeks ago the Internet Society started a Hall of Fame at its 20th anniversary gathering.

The best part of the event for me occurred at the Gala dinner.  That’s when they got the groups of Hall of Fame members on stage.  Most importantly, they started with the Pioneers group. A few of the pioneers are no longer with us, Bob Kahn couldn’t make it, and there were undoubtedly a few people who could have been included but weren’t. Even so, it was a visceral moment for me.  There, on stage together, was the greatest concentration of the designers and creators of the Internet that we’re likely to see together.

The Internet has proved to be a revolutionary technology.  And everything we’ve built with the web sits on top of the Internet.   The principles of decentralization, freedom at the edges, the ability to innovate, leadership by action rather than status are all reflected in the early work of this pioneer group.  Not to mention the development of the key technologies.    I feel very fortunate to have been in the audience at that moment.  I’m very grateful to Walda Roseman of the Internet Society for not letting me miss the event.

The Hall of Fall Induction Ceremony was also fun.  I am of course very honored to be included in the initial class of people included in the Hall of Fame.  It’s a great honor and reflects all that we’ve achieved with Mozilla as well as whatever particular talents I bring.    The Hall of Fame induction ceremony was invitation-only I believe, and much smaller than the dinner.   Not every member of this class of Hall of Fame members was there, but a bunch of us were.  (Here’s a photo of most of us who were at the event.) Each of us was asked to give 1 to 2 minutes of comments.  Most spoke for longer.  I think Brewster gets the award for the closest to 1  minute 🙂  I don’t know if these comments were recorded. I’ve looked a bit online but haven’t found these.  I did find a set of pictures of most of us as we made our remarks (scroll down a few rows to find these).   Many of the speakers described what it was like in the early days and how they came up with their inventions.  Steve Crocker talked about the RFP process and its relationship to the development of standards.  Randy Bush talked about the people — in particular the women of Africa and Asia — who weren’t represented in this class.    Tim Berners Lee and Vint Cerf talked about the organic nature of the web and the internet, respectively.  Vint told some jokes as well.

Nancy Hafkin and Elizabeth Feinler both accepted the award only on behalf of groups they had worked with, identifying the women they though should be there with them.    This interested me a great deal.  There were 3 women in the Hall of Fame group; I’m the third.  I had thought about accepting the award not solely for myself but ended up talking about the Web and our goals for building openness and opportunity instead.  (For some reason I was the first of the Hall of Famers to speak at the ceremony.)  I spoke  about how the Internet was always there — available, decentralized, open to exploration and innovation — as we began to build the World Wide Web.  Both the other women were quite explicit that they were accepting on behalf of a group.

I almost didn’t get to these events.  I first heard about the event in February, when Walda asked to speak at the event opening on Monday morning.  I declined because I was at MozCamp LatAm for the weekend before and that was too important to miss, even for something else very special.    In February I also heard about the Internet Society’s planned Hall of Fame.  I had missed the public call for nominations, so I immediately started lobbying for someone (not me) to be included.    Eventually I was told it was too late for this year, I should submit my nomination during next year’s process.   The Internet Society folks suggested I speak at the closing event on Tuesday, and we managed to make that schedule work.  It was only later that I learned that I had been included in the Hall of Fame and that the ceremony as well as the talk would be so special.

I gave a 15 minute closing keynote. I followed Francis Gurry, the director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization.  In turn, I was followed by Vint Cerf, who closed the entire event.

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