Posts Tagged with “travel”

Let’s speak up about Mozilla’s public benefit status

April 23rd, 2010

Last weekend I had an extra half day in San Diego while waiting for a gymnastics meet (entry level boys competition) to start. I had an experience that makes me feel even more strongly that we should be telling everyone we touch that Mozilla is a public benefit organization, existing to build the Internet as a global resource; open, accessible and “hackable” by all. I’d like to see most or all Mozilla websites make this clear, and I’d like to see our products make this very clear as well.

At the hotel I saw a brochure for “Quail Botanical Gardens” in a rack with brochures featuring San Diego’s many visitor attractions. I love gardens so I took a look. It sounded potentially interesting but I was also wary of finding a “tourist trap” where someone has planted a few basic plants and is trying to find newbies who will pay to see them. So I went poking around their web site.

The first thing I noticed after the photos was the statement, “The mission of the Garden is to inspire people of all ages to connect with plants and nature.”

“Hmm,” I thought, “that sounds a lot like a non-profit mission statement.” It soon became clear that this is the case – the garden is a non-profit organization. My worry about the tourist trap immediately decreased, and I felt better about the chances of something worthwhile coming of a visit. Non-profit organizations can make mistakes. They can be boring and ineffective just like anything else. But the chance that the whole thing was just something dumb designed to get people there to extract money felt much, much lower.

As it turns out, the garden is great. Lots of bamboo, subtropical fruit, cactus and other fun items, and I’ll go back next time I am in the San Diego area.

5 Years of Firefox in Amman, Jordan

December 1st, 2009

I was lucky enough to be in Amman near enough to the 5 year anniversary of Firefox to join in the 5 year celebration. 20 or 25 people got together in a art-house environment (old building for Amman, refurbished as art studio / hangout / gathering place) to celebrate.

The organizers talked a bit about the activities of the Mozilla Club and the Open Source Association at the Jordan University of Science and Technology. Then we had a discussion about Mozilla. I gave a brief intro for those who weren’t so familiar with Mozilla, or who are familiar with the products we build but not why we build them. Then we had lots of questions. The questions were fun and sophisticated and wide-ranging.


After cake and photos and mingling 5 or 6 people hung out for coffee and tea and we had a classic couple of hours of talking tech and getting to know each other. It was great fun to see some of this small group get to know others for the first time, and set about exchanging contact info and knowledge. I found a sense of humor that I understood completely. (For those in Amman, can you identify the source of this quote: “Can I talk about myself some more now?” )

Many thanks to everyone involved. I was honored and had great fun as well.

First trip to the Mid-East

November 24th, 2009

Last week I visited parts of the Middle East for the first time. I hope to get a summary and some photos up soon. For now I want to thank a few people of the amazing people who went far, far out of their way to host Mozilla and me.

First, Donatella Della Ratta of Creative Commons, who did an amazing amount of work to arrange a series of Creative Comments events in Amman, Damascus and Beirut and invited me along. I attended only a few of these at the beginning of the Creative Commons tour, but it was enough to see how much was involved and how much Dona pulled together stunningly diverse set of activities. Unfortunately, my involvement caused Dona to miss a pivotal event while she sat with me at a long (6 and 1/2 hour) wait at a border crossing, something I regret deeply.

Bassel Safadi, who showed immense hospitality, patience and flexibility. Bassel is the kind of person who makes it seems as if a large group of people are working on something, when in reality a lot of the work is just one person. And with an attitude that’s hard to match. My prolonged border crossing threw a wrench into Bassel’s day as well but he managed with grace and engineered a series of great gatherings.

Samer, who spent close to 7 hours with me at the border and remained gracious and professional and positive throughout.

Andre Salame, director-general of a publishing organization Al-Aous that gets “open.”

Eman, Issa, Rami and Ashraf of the Mozilla Club and Jordan Open Source Association, who arranged a Mozilla event in Amman, where I met a set of people interested in Mozilla, and to those — you know who you are — who stayed and spent a portion of their evening talking about software, open source, and life in general with me.

Everyone at the Queen Rania Center for Entrepreneurship and the Young Entrepreneurs’ Association in Amman, especially Mohammed Khawaja, Mohammed Kilani, Aya, Basel, Evelyn, Ayman Azzeh, Catherine and Habib, all of whom went out of their way to make a great trip. They organized a week’s full of activities for the celebration of Entrepreneurs’ Week in Jordan, including several that I participated in. And Samer for helping me get to the airport, and offering to pick me up from the border if I got turned back. This turned out to be unnecessary but it was very reassuring to know the offer was real if I needed it.

Taking a Vacation

August 18th, 2009

I’m leaving tonight for a vacation, so I’ll be pretty quiet for the next couple of weeks. Maybe a few tweets here and there, but probably not a lot more.

When I return we’ll be close to Mozilla Service Week, which should be a fun and interesting way to kick off the fall season.

5 Days in Europe; Feb. 2008

February 29th, 2008

Here’s a brief report of my trip to Europe, which started on Saturday, February 9 and ended on Friday the 15th.

Leave Saturday evening. Lose most of a night’s sleep. Arrive in London Sunday afternoon. Do some work, walk around a bit try to work out the kinks from the plane trip. Get a decent night’s sleep.

Monday: Up at 6 to get some work done before meetings start at 8 a.m. Press meetings go until almost 7 p.m., with fortunately a break for lunch. We had four taped sessions, two video sessions and two sessions with photographers. One photographer literally took us walking around the streets and blocking sidewalks for photos. The questions ranged from introductory and general topics to a discussion of philosophical differences reflected in different open source and free software licenses. Jane Finette manages the logistics and keeps me where I’m supposed to be.

Tuesday: Up at 5:30 for a flight to Munich. On the way Jane and I learn that the local city airport has cancelled many, many flights — including ours — due to heavy fog. In the cab Jane manages to get a new flight for us from a different airport and we head in a different direction. I was pretty surprised — I can’t really imagine being in a cab and being able to change a canceled flight from San Francisco airport to a different flight from the San Jose airport, all with a single phone call to a number gleaned from the airline’s website, but Jane and Lufthansa managed it. By the time we get to the airport (Heathrow this time) the fog has moved around and our new flight is a couple of hours late leaving.

This would all be fine except that the journalists we’re meeting in Munich have flown in from other parts of Germany and have their own plane flights back. We arrive at the hotel in Munich to find one of the journalists on the hotel steps eager to get started so we have time to talk. I’m so tired I promptly spill a bunch of coffee all over the serving table. But I’m also clear that the hotel has seen this happen many times, so I blithely ignore the dismay of the organizer and plunge in. Mozilla’s market share in Germany is around 35% so this is not an introductory conversation. It’s pretty deep into the specifics of Mozilla and the kinds of questions that someone very familiar with Mozilla would ask. The most novel part of the discussion was a few questions on the interaction of Firefox 3’s offline capabilities with our Prism project. I love the chance to talk to journalists who have time to develop their own expertise and perspective — one never knows where the conversation will lead.

Tuesday’s press meetings went until 7 p.m. or so. Jane and I managed to get a nice meal (my first actual meal of the day) about 8:30 p.m. I spent the rest of the evening thinking about the talk I would give on Thursday morning at the Netxplorateur Forum. I spent a few hours during the middle of the night thinking about this as well, since I wasn’t satisfied with my progress. I seem to be unable to develop a talk or a slide show or a presentation and give it over and over. Or even to take the same presentation and tweak it. I am compelled to prepare a talk for the specific audience and event. This means I am rarely really prepared until I have a sense of the event and the people. In other words, I am almost never prepared when I get on the plane. It adds a lot of extra stress but I’ve been unable to change this pattern.

Wednesday I leave Munich and fly to Paris. Wednesday evening Tristan, Anne-Julie and I meet up for a bit. Then we enjoy a delightful dinner with a bunch of Mozilla contributors who have gathered in Paris. This is my first trip to Paris on behalf of Mozilla and thus my first time meeting a bunch of these folks. I know of them of course, and in many cases have long online working relationships but of course meeting people and seeing all these folks together is extraordinarily invigorating. I leave around 10 to get ready for the talk the next day.

Thursday- get up early to get to the Netxplorateur Forum before it starts. Again, I am compelled to attend the early parts of an event where I’m speaking. I like to hear the introductory remarks and absorb the tenor of the event so I can speak more clearly to the audience. In general I like to hear the keynotes for this purpose. But today I am the keynote, so I have to gather the sense of things from smaller clues.

The event was “designed to enable key political and business figures to grasp how Internet culture will transform the way our institutions and our companies are managed.” The audience was described to me as “400 French political, business and media decision-makers . . .” So the audience is clearly educated, in leadership positions but not necessarily particularly familiar with the ins and out of Internet technology. Firefox market share in France is around 25%, so I expected most of the audience to know of Firefox, but not necessarily to know much about the way it is created or how Mozilla is organized, or why so many participate. I was asked to speak for about 45 minutes and then to answer a few questions. The event was held at the French Senate. It was an odd setting because the buildings themselves are spectacular but they are not set up for an event like this. There was no place to get water for example, which is hard during a day of talking.

I spoke about what Mozilla is, how we work, our public benefit basis, why we believe building public, civic and social benefit into the Internet is both important and possible, and about the techniques we have found that promote participation and individual motivation. These are topics that people are very interested in. A number of people stopped me afterward to say how encouraging and hopeful they find Mozilla and our ways of working. Many of these people are not remotely technical and are unlikely to build software. But they certainly understand the importance of the Internet, the desire to be able to participate, and the joys of an organization where doing things well relates clearly to one’s influence and leadership.

Thursday afternoon was a series of meetings with French press. These conversations were detailed and deep, with journalists who know a great deal about Mozilla, Firefox and Thunderbird. We finished about 7 p.m. or so. Anne-Julie worked some miracles to get water, juice and even a good space where we didn’t have to keep changing rooms.

Thursday night I had dinner with Tristan and we talked about Mozilla Europe and Mozilla in Europe and Europe’s influence on the Mozilla project in general. It was a funny evening. We realized that afternoon that Thursday was Valentine’s Day, and thus a bad day to try to find dinner without a reservation in Paris. We managed it at one place, but then learned that the meal was a special 4 course Valentine’s Day dinner, complete with Valentine’s Day decorations and wine and rose petals and such. So we ended up in the bar of my hotel where they said they could make some sort of vegetable soup. I was a bit distressed — it was another day where by 8:30 p.m. I hadn’t actually had a meal yet, just a lot of coffee and a snack here or there. But I forgot, I was in Paris, and even the makeshift vegetable soup was lovely. It wasn’t actually much of a meal for the day, but it certainly was tasty. Tristan and I managed to cover a lot of ground talking about Mozilla and making it even stronger and more effective at bringing openness and transparency to the Internet.

Friday morning I got up and went to the airport. Actually, I got up early to go to the gym after so many hours sitting in uncomfortable settings. But the hotel had forgotten to mention their gym was under renovation and not available. So much for trying to stay healthy! I made it home Friday night on the edge of a flu, but managed to shake it off by doing nothing Saturday but sit around feeling exhausted.

I was on vacation the week after the Europe trip, so haven’t had a chance to see the results of the various interviews. I’m feeling a bit out of touch still but hoping to get back into the swing of things in the next day or two.

45,146 Miles

February 27th, 2008

I’ve been feeling very behind on a bunch of things lately. This isn’t so unusual, but I’ve felt more fragmented than usual. This is both in work and in the rest of life- we’ve had a water and mud leak into our house for this entire rainy season and are still trying to get contractors and such together to stop the rains from leaking in.

So I looked at bit at my travel schedule. I sometimes say I don’t travel much, but I think that’s really a way of saying I don’t travel as much as I could, since Mozilla is an extraordinarily global project and I could spend all of my time traveling. In reality, I travel more than I realize. In December I was home for the weekends before and after Christmas, but I was sick for both of those. Really sick for one, which is rare for me. In January I was home for one weekend. I’ve been away for a bunch of February as well.

With some poking around my airline milage account, it looks like I’ve flown something like 45,000 miles since Nov 23 — close to 500 miles a day for 3 straight months. It makes me feel a little better about being so behind, but not a lot 🙂

So if I owe you a response, or it seems like I’ve started things and not finished them, I apologize. I think I’m traveling a bit less in the next couple of months and will turn to better follow-through.

Two Weeks of Talking

February 6th, 2008

The last couple of weeks have been highly unusual in the number of people I’ve met and new people I’ve talked with about Mozilla, technology and hybrid organizations trying to achieve socially-oriented missions.

I spent the last ten days of January in Switzerland, first at the gathering of the Schwab Social Entrepreneurs and then at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. I attended these events last year as well, and wrote a brief post about the entrepreneurs and the annual meeting. Mozilla attends the WEF Annual Meeting as a Technology Pioneer. We attend the Social Entrepreneurs event as an invited guest; Mozilla is not a Schwab Social Entrepreneur.

Social Entrepreneurs Summit

This year the Social Entrepreneurs event was quite different from last year. At the request of the social entrepreneurs, the large sessions where people came to speak to the social entrepreneurs were eliminated. The days were spent in a series of discussion groups. The intent was to get the people who are doing things together to learn from each other, and to stop thinking that outside experts were more valuable that the practicioners.

I noticed that the discussions were also different than last year. There is a growing group of entrepreneurs that have found some way to use the market to promote their missions. This includes the Fair Trade groups — coffee, chocolate, handicrafts, the Rubicon folks in the San Francisco bay area, who are known for their bakery and landscape services, but whose goal is to provide jobs and eliminate poverty, to the Homeless World Cup, to the financing and provision of solar energy sources in rural India. A set of the discussions focused on how to build an operation at scale; how to develop depth in leadership so that the organization is bigger than the founder, how to ensure the mission remains paramount as the activities grow, and so on. These are all issues we think about at Mozilla. Mozilla is still a bit out of the mainstream as we are rooted in the ultra-modern technology world. Nevertheless, it is exciting to find a group of people solving a set of organizational topics that are so closely related to our own. The discussion groups were able to touch on these topics, not to delve in depth. Even two or three days is not enough time for in-depth solutions. So there is a constant feeling of starting to gain traction and then needing to stop. I see that as a mark of success though, indicating that good ideas have come out and there is far more to be done.

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

The Social Entrepreneurs event is in Zurich and ends on a Tuesday afternoon. From there one gets on a train to the mountain town of Davos. The WEF Annual Meeting starts Tuesday evening and goes through Sunday. It’s an utterly exhausting week. The official events go from 8 or 9 am until 10pm. Then the unofficial events start, and go on into the morning.

Mozilla was invited last year and this year as a Technology Pioneer program, which identifies organizations “that develop and apply the most innovative and transformational technologies in the fields of information technology, renewable energy and biotechnology / health.”

We are a bit unusual as a Tech Pioneer though because we are so well known and our impact is so large. We’re not exactly like either the Social Entrepreneurs or the Tech Pioneers, although we are closely related to each.

The main impressions I had this year include:

  • Mozilla Firefox is simply taken for granted as part of the Internet. There was barely any discussion of who we are, why we matter. Last year almost everyone recognized Mozilla Firefox, but there was still a sense of surprise about our place in the world. There was no surprise this time. Of course, this is Europe, where Firefox market share reaches 30 and 40% on a country by country level so this is not surprising.
  • Many people don’t know we’re a public benefit organization, but have high attachment to the product.
  • The general theme for this year’s Annual Meeting was Innovation in Collaboration. Mozilla has a lot to say here, we are among the very innovation forces here.
  • The Mobile Web is exploding. Last year there were discussions of things like “the Connected Life.” This year the discussions were more focused on mobile connections, and what that means.
  • Global Climate Change is a given at the Annual Meeting, the tenor of the discussion is still quite different from that I hear in the United States.
  • The concern that the sub-prime mortgage and general credit woes in the United States will lead to a world-wide recession were palpable.

One of the main activities at Davos is meeting new people. It’s constant — at the coffee table, on the stairs, through introductions, at the events, on the shuttle from the convention center to the hotels, at the lunch and dinner discussions. The event is amazingly successful at getting people to open up, have varied discussions and share ideas. It’s valuable for Mozilla to have a presence and be represented as this sort of event.

Mozilla Work Week

I got back from Switzerland just in time for the Work Week in California, when a bunch of Mozilla folks had come to town for a chance to work face to face. Behind though I was, I took the opportunity to talk with a bunch of people I normally don’t see face to face. I spent a couple hours in the morning opening the door for out-of-town folks who don’t have a card key to get in. It seemed the best way to meet people — it’s pretty hard to let someone in the door and pretend we know each other. I met some of the people who’ve joined Mozilla recently, plus some people who have been active for quite a while but whom I had never met.

Work week was also the freeze for Firefox 3 Beta 3, which was very exciting. Both because a bunch of work is coming to fruition and showing up in the code. And also because this freeze was a demonstration of how far we can come on our automated testing tools and infrastructure. This is an area — like automated builds — where we’re seeing significant progress after years on waiting and wanting. The Mozilla project is so big it’s hard to keep an eye on everything that’s happening. But wherever one looks, it’s exciting.

It was great to attend the WEF and Social Entrepreneurs events. It’s also great to be back in the heart of Mozilla work. Talking and meeting people is fascinating. But doing things — building the Internet we want to see — is even better.

A demographic moment

October 14th, 2005

Every once in a while I realize that I am unquestionably part of a particular demographic group. This happens periodically as I look at our late 1990’s vintage Subaru Outback Wagon and realize how many gazillions of people in our area drive this car. I had another, odder moment a while back. In this case I’d call the demographic group “Silicon Valley Family.” My husband, son and I were returning from Calgary. At the Calgary airport, one goes through US Customs before getting on the airplane rather than when one lands. This particular day the airport was quite empty, there were no lines and we walked right up to the Customs Officer. My son is under 10 and so I was explaining that in some places crossing a national boundary is a very big deal, and talking to the customs officer can be very tense. Who knows, maybe he’ll be in a tense border crossing some day and understanding the value of behaving appropriately will be important.

The three of us arrive at the customs officer. He fiddles with our passports for a bit, then asks “Are you related?” What an odd question. After a moment I answer “Yes, we’re married and this is our son.” He looks at us for a moment and then asks our son “How old are you?” A moment of hesitation occurs, part shyness and part testing out a new idea since this is the first person to ask my son his age since his birthday a day or two before. A rather long series of questions follow, which my son manages to answer. It’s not threatening, but it’s odd. And it’s long.

Then the customs officer turns to my husband and asks “What do you do?” It’s a formal tone of voice, an Official question, not chatty at all. My husband answers ” I write software for Stanford University.” The customs officer turns to me and asks the same question. I start to answer “I run a . . .” I hesitate, as I used to say “I run a non-profit organization that makes software” and that response is not accurate enough for me now. So I end up saying “I run a . . . software company.” Now I feel strange.

The officer turns to my son and says “And what do you do?” He adds, in an iroinic tone of voice, “And are you working already?” My son thinks hard. He’s been following the conversation carefully and knows some answer is expected. After a moment he gets it, thinking I suppose to the educational games he’s been playing during vacation. His face brightens, his voice grows confident, and he announces “I USE the software!”

The Customs Officer has met his match. He almost even laughs, then ends the interview and waves us on. And there we have it. The Silicon Valley family — software everywhere.

Adventures in Beijing

March 2nd, 2005

I’m in Beijing again, after a hiatus of 10 (actually 11 years). I’m here for the Fifth Asia Open Source Software Symposium and for another event which I’ll describe later. The Symposium is quite interesting, it is an update on what some 20 countries in the Asian region are doing to promote the adoption and development of open source software. I came because both the Symposium and the other event coincidentally happened to be scheduled for the same week, which made the trip seem worthwhile despite the costs of being away from the office for a week. I have some Internet access, which is wildly different than Beijing in 1994. But there are still a series of problems that make working from here difficult — the internet cable in my room doesn’t like my computer, so I have to go to the business center and try to work when it is open. For some reason I time out when trying to connect to the IRC servers, even when I can successfully connect with websites. And mail is truly wacky. Sometimes I can receive mail but not send. Sometimes I can send mail but not receive. I think the problem is with my provider, since something like this happened once before. But it’s a hard problem to fix from here.

So, if you’ve tried to contact me and haven’t gotten a response please give me a few days to get all this sorted out.

Being in Beijing has brought back many memories. I was actually in Beijing in the fall of 1994 when I accepted a job offer from Jim Clark to join Netscape. At that time I was astonished to be able to send and receive faxes from my hotel. I had lived in Beijing a few years before when I was an exchange student at Peking University. During that era the idea of sending a fax was beyond comprehension. There were a few foreign law firms downtown that maintained fax machines. But exchange students never saw these! And besides, we were at least an hour bus ride away from downtown. In those days the only way to make an international phone call was to go to a PT&T (Post, Telephone and Telegraph) office, wait your turn, and have an operator place the call. We were very lucky that the dormitory for foreign students had such an office, but it could still take 45 minutes to make a call. So in 1994 sending faxes was a novelty. Today there is a fax machine in my hotel room and my problems relate to imperfect internet access. Quite a change.

The hotel where I’m staying is in a neighborhood where I used to spend a reasonable amount of time. During my student days in Beijing this neighborhood was the transfer point between the two halves of the bus trip required to get from the University to downtown. I can hardly wait for a chance to get outside the hotel and walk around.

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