Posts Tagged with “engineering”

Engineering for People

November 20th, 2006

Something very interesting has been happening with this Firefox Summit. It’s something that started at the FOO camps as well. The first FOO camp or two were very focused on technology nuts and bolts — lots of languages issues, lots of programming tips and brainstorming. There were some non-programming sessions, but they were distinctly different from the engineering focused sessions -– licensing, let’s go disassemble a Prius, here’s my system for mentoring. Then things changed. There were still the hard core engineering sessions and the “other” sessions. But there was something new.

The “product” discussions and the “technology” discussions had a much greater social aspect. The rise of “social networking,” use of a “folksonomy” (decentralized cataloging capabilities based on individual actions) and collaborative tools (e.g., wikis) led to a new type of discussion. A large number of the product and technology discussions began to have a very strong focus on human beings.

This has happened at the Firefox Summit this year. We still have a large amount of deep technical discussions. We still have a set of different discussions -– integrating our international websites into a consistent whole, supporting and building community. But we’ve also had this new type of discussions. We had a series of product and technology discussions focused on what people might do with the Internet, and not at all focused on technical implementation.

This sounds simple, but I think it’s a big deal. People are doing –- and trying to do — all sorts of new things on the Internet. Bringing a focus on these attempted activities deep into engineering discussions is an important step in figuring out where our products should go. It’s important to figuring out what needs to happen to promote an open Internet. And it avoids an artificial distinction between “engineering” and “product/project managers.”

Many engineering — based organizations struggle to take this step. We’ve always had a very strong focus on how to make our technology the most useful for individual people. Now I’m also seeing the ability to think about people’s activities first, and technology second. We’re not in danger of losing our focus on effective technology — that’s deep in our DNA. Adding another perspective is a big step.

It’s great to see that this is happening in the Mozilla world.

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