A while back (in early January I think, but I can’t be sure) we hosted a writer for Time Magazine at the Mozilla Foundation office. He talked mostly (maybe exclusively) with Ben Goodger and me. would have preferred that this discussion included a set of other people who are central to the project, but we don’t make these decisions. We talked a bit about the community of people that makes the Mozilla project happen. (We try very hard to describe this community to the press, although this focus doesn’t always appear in the resulting stories.) This writer noted the importance of community and was clear that we wanted to know something about me as well.
This made the interview quite different from almost all others. (Esther Dyson is the only other person I can recall who has been quite so interested in the mindset and motivations of a non-programmer like me, and my discussions with Esther were several months after the Time Magazine interview.) The writer asked a set of questions about motivations, approach and leadership techniques that had not been asked before. Some were broad — I remember something about whether my participation in the project reflects a specific view of human nature — and some more specific. It was a thoughtful interview for me.
This made me very interested to see the piece, as I had no idea how it would turn out. But it never ran. The interview was midweek, the writer said he would have the piece done by Friday, and it would probably run the next week. But it didn’t, nor the week after. We never found out why, that’s just how things are.
Months later I was in the office during the early morning mail delivery time. First I open the door for a UPS delivery man with a package for a Mozilla Foundation employee. A few minutes later I did the same for a FedEx delivery. It is astonishing how much junk mail we receive at the Foundation. There appears to be an entire industry that scans some set of databases and does mass mailings to anything that looks like it might be a business and spend money. So a lot of dealing with mail involves sorting this stuff out from the legitimate mail. I looked at the FedEx package skeptically. It was addressed to me, from Time Magazine. “Right.” I thought. “What kind of attention-grabbing scheme is this?” Then I noticed that the return address had an intelligible name. (Of course FedEx requires this, but in the context of expecting advertisements it was a surprise.)
I opened the FedEx package. Inside was a red envelope with my name printed on it. Inside the envelope was an invitation to a dinner at Lincoln Center somehow related to something called the Time 100. That’s it. No explanation. Just the invitation. Browsing the Web I found information about last year’s Time 100 and the Time 100 for 2000. (Have I said before how much I love the Web?)
I thought “I’m on someone’s list of people to invite to fill tables.” Whose list could I possible by on? Rafael, our marketing guy, had a different take. “You’ve been nominated — I’ll bet you’ve been nominated.” I didn’t believe it in the slightest. So Rafael got the job of tracking down the person at Time Magazine and figuring out what was going on. A day or two later he came back to report that he was right, I had been nominated. The list would be announced in a couple of weeks.
Then the list appeared online. Blake Ross pointed me to it and yes, I was included. It’s a fine description (except for the late-40’s part, which seems an exaggeration to me, but that’s life). It’s not the interview from my first interaction with Time Magazine. I would still like to see that piece. But this brief description has a good focus on the Mozilla project and the value of the project, which is good to see.
In guiding the Mozilla project I find myself thinking about topics, organizational dynamics and goals in a way that is new and challenging. The existing analytic frameworks — how does one lead an organization to accomplish goal X — are helpful but do not fit our setting. The Mozilla project combines a set of passionately committed individuals with commercial and business players to produce great technology. Our goal is the health of the Web itself — the client side anyway (that’s ambitious enough). Choice on the client side, combined with innovative technology to bring the myriad possibilities of the Web to citizens and consumers everywhere. We achieve this goal partially by creating choice and great technology, and also by appealing to consumers so they take the extra steps to adopt it.
It’s a new and exciting task. The Mozilla project has always broken new ground, building on Open Source traditions, learning from our peers and bringing our own experiences, creativity and drive. The Web is still young. It’s a fundamental piece of the digital world, and something as seemingly mundane as one’s choice of Web browser software makes an enormous difference in the long term health of the Web. Mozilla Firefox gives people that choice, provides a Web browsing experience that people love, and demonstrates that the commitment and dedication people bring to the Mozilla project makes a difference.
It takes constant inventiveness to guide the Mozilla project. Fortunately that challenge is met by the enormous number of creative people within the project. At some point I assimilate the various needs and goals and try to create an over-arching framework in which people can be successful. This is always done in close collaboration with Brendan Eich, co-founder of mozilla.org, technical lead for the project and my anchor for making sure the project stays on course. That assimilation is a personal challenge as well, driven by the goals of the Mozilla project, the vitality and dedication of our community and the quality of people drawn to the project. Altogether it adds up to a sense of great responsibility, of enormous possibilities, and of great good fortune to be involved.