The Internet storm-in-a-teacup surrounding Jono Xia’s post about his frustration with regard to the Firefox update system and UI changes (response from johnath) is another demonstration of why the Mozilla project needs a more-open-than-employees but less-open-than-public forum for people to talk, with entry gated on some form of “trusted” status.
We are a high-profile project, and everything we do is watched. This comes as an inevitable consequence of the fact that we changed the world once, and are lining up to do so again. I would much prefer this to irrelevance! However, in a situation where “public” is the only way a non-employee can communicate with the rest of the community, it has a dampening effect on our ability to converse freely.
Jono is a hard-working contributor and a great guy. He would clearly be one of those with this “trusted” status, were it to exist. And if there was a ‘trusted’ forum, he might well have chosen to express his frustration among his fellow Mozillians without the possibility of it appearing on Forbes, Reddit and HackerNews.
As a Mozillian blessed enough to be paid to work on Mozilla, I see the employees-only communications mechanisms (e.g. our Yammer instance, and the now-mostly-silent Intranet forums). They have been host to posts which are controversial like Jono’s, on other topics. For example, some people questioned our stance on H.264 (which subsequently changed), and the discussion may have included some choice words about the action or inaction of some of our partners. Can you imagine what would have happened if that had taken place in public? But a productive discussion was had, without attendant drama – but also without non-employed community members.
We need a forum for all our trusted contributors to communicate, question, and express their true feelings without their views becoming Internet famous.