December, 2007

Dec 07

“Firefox is …”

photo credit: Channy Yun

Gen’s already picked this up on his blog, but it’s worth writing about again — the Mozilla community in Korea had a dinner together — 50 people who care about Mozilla and Firefox and open source got together to break bread and talk. One of the fun exercises they did was to have these signs that say “For me, Firefox is <blank>” — then everyone filled in the blanks. The answers are amazing, of course — they include things like “vision” and “oxygen” and “freedom,” and even “means of livelihood.”

I had a really good time looking at the pictures that Channy posted — such a great glimpse into their community. He’s been tireless in promoting Mozilla and open source in Korea — a tough environment for these things. That this community exists at all in Korea is amazing.

And it’s helped me to articulate some of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately with respect to Mozilla around the world. Over the past couple of years I’ve spent a good bit of time working with Takita-san, Kaori and Gen (and many others) on Mozilla Japan, with Tristan and Peter and Pascal and Anne-Julie and Axel (and many others) on Mozilla Europe, and (lately), with Li and the Mozilla Online team on our efforts in China. Every single time I interact with any of these folks that I’ve mentioned (and many more who I haven’t, including contributors in places like Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand and Poland), I learn new things. I learn about new perspectives, about cultural and geographical and political influences on thinking, and more about the way the world works. It’s one of my very favorite things about working at Mozilla.

Lately I’ve noticed a problem with some of the language that I use — when we talk about Mozilla Japan, or Mozilla Europe, or Mozilla China, I think that there’s a tendency to think of these groups as similar, or at least to emphasize the sameness across each.

Not only is that a completely misleading view, it can cause serious errors in thought about how we do work with each other. Because here’s the key: while they share a similarity of name (Mozilla X), in almost all other respects, they’re wholly unique.

I’ve come to think of each of these organizations as essentially unique, authentic manifestations of Mozilla that are grounded both in the culture of Mozilla and the culture of the geographies that they’ve developed in.

Mozilla Japan spends a lot of time focusing on institutions — government, enterprises, device manufacturers, etc — because so much of the work around the Internet, and especially the PC-based Internet (as opposed to mobile) is centered around these institutions.

Mozilla China (known as Mozilla Online) is a little more commercial and consumer-oriented than Mozilla Japan — at present, they’re working on figuring out how the browser situation in China looks, and how to help more folks learn about Firefox. (To date, there’s less clear demand in China for a rich e-mail client like Thunderbird.)

Mozilla Europe is something different yet again — it has so many characteristics of a people’s movement — an uprising against the old order. In Europe, more than maybe anywhere else in the world, the Mozilla values seem to be as important or more important than the qualities of the actual Firefox and Thunderbird products. More than anywhere else in the world, when I talk with Europeans, they use Firefox because it’s the right thing to do, not just because they like how it works (although they also like how it works). Europe is more than a single place, of course — our communities in France and Germany and Poland are incredibly strong, each for their own idiosyncratic reasons.

And so I’ve been trying hard to break my mental model that previously had these three entities as similar, and have been thinking more and more about them as unique expressions. That means it’s more complicated to operate, to budget, to plan, and to coordinate, but it better reflects the way things are.

One other similarity bears emphasizing: these organizations each exist because of amazing, unbelievable efforts of amazing, unbelievable people who I admire quite a lot. I feel lucky to work with Tristan and Peter who willed Mozilla Europe into being, with Takita-san who’s made Mozilla Japan possible, and lately with Li, who first helped us establish the Mozilla Foundation in China  two years ago and is building something new there now.

Dec 07

How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman

I’ve been interested in the ways that doctors model their thinking for a while — super-interesting, and I think harder than software-style thinking, as you’re trying to work with subjects who are notoriously unreliable, changing all the time, and, you know, basically walking sacks of meat. So this was an interesting book, but I didn’t like it as much at Gawande’s Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, which is totally fantastic. Groopman has deeper credentials than Gawande, but I found him to be chattier and more anecdotal, and ultimately not as relevant.

Dec 07

The End of Faith, by Sam Harris

I got this book from a friend of mine who I’ve talked with religion about on and off for the past 15 years or so — while not super religious himself, he’s the son of a Baptist minister, and a very thoughtful guy (and one of my best friends), so I’ve been looking forward to reading this. This book is not for the faint of heart — it’s a scathing critique of religion’s basis in faith, and in particular of tenets of Islam that Harris believes make it unethical for Muslims not to wage war on non-Muslims.

He also argues that we’re in a period of extreme relativism, where moderate, tolerant positions are as effectively damaging as extreme positions. I don’t believe all the arguments here, and he clearly takes much out of context from the Koran and the Bible both. But I think it’s worth reading at least so that we can all talk about these ideas more in the open, with better critical thought than we have to date.

Anyway, I had some strong emotional reactions to this book; not sure I think it’s a great book, but interesting, anyway, and useful for tidbits of controversy to throw out at the dinner table. 🙂

Dec 07

Giving Notice, by Freada Klein

I’ve known Freada for a long time, and her thoughts and writings and advice and insights into issues of equitability in the workplace and the inherently unlevel playing field we complete on have had a strong influence in my own development as an entrepreneur and manager (and human being, really). I’m glad that she wrote this book, pulling together much of her experience in corporate environments, focusing on issues of fairness and appropriateness in the workplace. I particularly like the 2nd half of the book where, after making the impossible-to-refute case that people should care about these issues, she gives a lot of techniques to uncover implicit bias and address it. Very useful.

Dec 07

The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perrotta

Perrotta, author of Little Children and Election (basis of the great Matthew Broderick and Reese WItherspoon movie), is an excellent novelist who’s written several novels about the various dysfunctions of suburbia. I liked this one okay, but not as well as his others. Feels a little bit too much like ground he’s already covered before. Worth it if you like his work, but not the book I’d start with.