[FM Discuss] moz community summit report part 1
adam at flossmanuals.net
Fri Jul 16 04:08:26 PDT 2010
Mozilla Community Summit Report part 1
I was invited to the Mozilla Community Summit which I understand is an
annual and sometimes bi-annual event. The Summit takes place over 3 days
and is a mix of Mozilla employees, mozilla community members
(volunteers) and mozilla friends (which is how we fit in).
FM has had a good relationship with Mozilla. We book sprinted the
Firefox manual with the Sumo (Moxilla support team) and Chris Hoffman
(Director of Engineering at moz) and Janet Swisher plus some technical
writers at the weird and whacky Palm Springs. Since then Chris Hoffman
has been a champion of FLOSS Manuals and Janet got a job at Moz! Also
Mark Surman (Moz CEO) seems also to be quite a fan.
On the otherhand, we proposed to Moz they support Booki development so
we could build Booki ontop of Gecko (the Moz rendering engine), but
unfortunately they declined despite initial positive sounds. No
problems / this may yet change since I had some great conversations at
the Mozilla summit in and around this topic (more on this later). In
anycase - its good they invited me and I was pleased to get the invite.
So...the Summit was 2 hours outside of Vancouver...14 hrs plane flight
from Berlin. Im trying not to travel so much these days so this wasn't
my first choice of activities especially since these north americans had
somehow neglected to realise they were scheduling the event during the
final stages of the World Cup...Whistler is the town the summit was at
and the hotel and everything is _super_ fancy. The kind of fancy where I
would buy the side salad for my main course if I had to pay the bills. I
shared a room with a german hacker so I could practice some of my (bad)
Deutsch on him and my bad english too (for some reason when nzers say
'bear' everyone thinks we say 'beer' which adds some confusion when
residing in bear country with a bunch of 'free as in beer' geeks).
Whistler is some kind of ski holiday town which doubles as a mountain
biking town in summer. Its very beautiful and I tried Mountain biking
through beer country...cool...somewhere I have a pic on a mountain bike
with 2 bears in the background...
So I arrived Tuesday night and the event was to start the next day. I
didnt know what to expect from the summit. Really no idea. I was
encouraged to enter proposals for lightning talks and for break out
sessions.I proposed 2 - both focused on Booki and emphasising that we
are hoping to use Gecko still for the rendering. However both were
turned down. Thats ok, but I was a bit disappointed, especially since
the Lightning talks has a captured audience of the entire conference
(600 people). But no worries. Onwards and upwards.
The first day of the conference was kicked off by keynotes. Now...this
is where (as I realise now, writing at the beginning of the third and
last day) things get interesting because things are changing at
Mozilla...there is a (relatively) new CEO - Mark Surman that seems to be
driving the push for Mozilla to change its game quite considerably. The
rationale is that the 'web is in danger' - closed apis, closed
standards, privacy trade-offs etc are closing the web up. This might be
so, and I think to a large degree it is, but I cant help but wonder if
the real motivation is that 'mozilla is in danger' largely because
Google pays the bills. Google pays something like 50 million a year to
Mozilla for putting the Google search bar as the default starting page
in Firefox. This deal is at least to 2011
(http://techcrunch.com/2008/08/28/mozilla-extends-lucrative-deal-with-google-for-3-years/) ...I'm not sure if it has been recently extended but regardless, it must be on everyones minds that Chrome (Googles browser) might eventually spell the end of the need for Google to keep this agreement going. As I understand it Mozilla can survive for 8 years at the moment, which would be time enough to embark on an ambitious new strategy...
So Moz has to ask itself - how can they be competitive when their
competition is paying the bills...tricky.
The answer seems to come down to three main factors:
While this is a bit of an over simplification ;) - its pretty obvious
that Firefox somehow has to differentiate itself from Chrome (and the
other browsers) while not attacking (specifically) Chrome, at least not
out in the open. Part of this solution it seems must also recognise that
while Firefox is pretty well known its parent company - Mozilla has no
brand recognition. Since, it seems, browsers derive their brand identity
largely from their parent company (Safari=apple, chrome=google, ie=ms,
ff=moz=??) the strategy must involve raising mozillas own profile.
The strategies seem to be diverse but in general comes down to one
single focus as far as I can see it ... turn Mozilla into a movement.
Sounds whacky I know, but after 2 days of sessions on this with one more
day to come I think its a very interesting strategy and also one which
we should pay close attention to and also one we could learn a lot from
(more on this later)...
So the evening of day 0 (the day before the event) there was drinkies on
the roof of the hotel and I met some old friends - Gunner from
Aspiration, Dwayne from http://translate.org.za/, Chris Hofmann, Janet
Swisher and a few others. So it was chill out time, a brief opening
hello from Mark Surman and that was it really...
Day one...up early (jet lag early) and coffee...day 1 session 1 was
about celebrating Mozillas achievements and getting people excited.
There was a long roll call of key notes...starting with..Tristan Nitot
[president of Mozilla Europe]. All these key notes were intended to be
inspirational and aspirational. They took a sort of friendly Jobsian (as
in Steve) approach - informal, minimalist graphics, and chatty. In
addition, all the keynotes were curated with a flow, one building on
another and Tristans job it seems was to lay down the basics, and that
was 'software influences people'. That is the starting point from which
you can argue that 'bad software badly influences people' and that is, I
think, underpinning their argument to 'save the web' and to open up the
possibility of being able to claim that mozilla influences people and
that influence is good. Tristan focused on repeating that software
embeds the interests of the companies and developers that make the
software and that every developer and company involved in software has
an agenda. He used the ipod to illustrate a bad agenda that badly
influences people (Google is presumably off bounds for criticism
although it got a light ribbing from time to time over the next two days
by presenters not so well coached in the company line). Mozilla was of
course the example of a good agenda that is 'for the people'. High on
his list of Mozillas 'good agenda' was the control of private data and
identity. His final point really is that Mozilla should build software
to embed interests - the interests of the users.
He ended with an inspirational call that fell a bit flat by using
Winston Churchills "Never have some many owed so much to so few" quote
to draw a parallel between a small squadron of ww2 fighter pilots
protecting england and the mozilla community protecting the online
interests of its users. I felt it was a bit silly but thankfully I think
most people didnt take it too earnestly and laughed along with good
Next was Mitchell Baker [Chair of Mozilla Foundation]. I think Mitchell
is a mainstay speaker of the mozilla events. Her presentation was very
flat at the beginning, a kind of motherly ponder about the open web.
Later it got more interesting when she seemed to relax a bit and talk
more freely. Repeated many many times in her and other presentations was
the term 'open web platform'. They very much want to be seen as the
champions and protectors of the 'open web platform' and Mitchell
laboured this point reasonably heavily. Also clear is that Mozilla wants
to stop talking about software and talk about the user. It is the user
that is now most important to them - "trust, mind share, market share"
to paraphrase Mitchell.
Mitchell also started to talk about 'keeping the ideal as the
manifestations of that ideal will need to change'. She worked more on
this point on the next day, but more on that later.
her talk didnt come interesting to me until she talked about a 'dark
time' when Mozilla was seen as the poster child for the failure of open
source. Her point was that mozilla has been through hard times and come
out and that hard times ('dark holes') should be anticipated. I dont
think this was about revenues etc, it was an interesting appeal to the
community to realise that the mission and ideals of Mozilla means that
it will be necessity have to tackle tough issues that no one else wants
to tackle (which is a commendable point). Also Mitchel emphasised that
to be creative 'you cant build from the center'. She also mentioned
'mozilla values' as applying to the creation of 'open web products'. All
very interesting backgrounding material for the days to come...
So...Next up was jay Sullivan the MC. He talked briefly about 'building
technology to deliver ideas', and, to my surprise used the term 'rich
media' which is a term I have not heard being so freely used since the
video and audio .com days, almost 10 years ago. It seems rich media is
back...he also talked about 'when apps become points of control that
push users and developers away from the open web'. The 1 tonne elephant
in the room here is Google of course. No names used however. Users must
have 'choice and control' and devs the 'freedom to hack'...
Next up was a series of technical demos that were impressive. Mainly the
video and rendering capabilities of test versions of Firefox. Some live
coding using 'Jet Pack' to develop plugins quickly, and some speed demos
Well, what can I say. I love Firefox :)
more in part 2....
Founder FLOSS Manuals
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Email : adam at flossmanuals.net
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