Not Getting It

I have a lot to say about the recent announcement about Thunderbird. But before I talk about the substance of the proposal, the way it was decided and presented, the framing and all the other aspects, I want to talk about this.

That link is to a pastebin, posted on Friday, of a copy of an email that was circulated to all Mozilla employees and Mozillians about the upcoming changes. It begins:

On Monday Mitchell Baker will be posting on the future of Thunderbird.
We’d like you to be aware of it before it goes public. However, this
is *confidential* until the post is pushed live Monday afternoon PDT.
Please don’t tweet, blog or discuss on public mailing lists before
then.

Clearly, the poster decided not to respect that request. In a personal comment at the bottom, he explains why:

The fact that this message was marked “confidential” is part of a
deeply, deeply troubling trend. The biggest irony? Uninitiated
employees–those being discussed in .governance right now, and who
feel that there’s actually quite a lot at Mozilla that shouldn’t
happen in the public–will point to this incident to try to make their
point, in a tremendous display of Not … Getting It.

Recently, Harvey Anderson, MoCo’s General Counsel (chief lawyer), asked me to put together a document explaining Mozilla’s position on Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). With the rise of B2G, we are increasingly working with partner companies in the mobile space whose backgrounds are very different from ours. Mobile companies can be among the most closed companies you are ever likely to find. And, to some extent, this is OK. They have confidential product plans, feature lists, ship dates and so on, and they want to keep them quiet in a very competitive market. That’s their business, not ours.

However, it means that the first thing they want to do, before they tell you or show you anything, is to get you to sign a broad NDA. This presents a problem for Mozilla. We can sign NDAs – but the only people who are bound by them are the people we employ. That means that any information transmitted under the NDA will have to be restricted to employees only. If that became widespread, it would drive a wedge between employees and the community because only employees would be in the know about what’s going on. We could get all volunteers to sign NDAs with us – but that has a host of problems too. We can try and reduce the scope of the NDA – and we do – but that’s not a complete solution either.

NDAs are a problem. So I wrote this document, which is designed to be given to new partners to explain to them Mozilla’s position on the question. Among other things, it tries to convince them to delay the need to sign an NDA for as long as possible. Here’s an excerpt, from the section titled “Trust”:

Mozilla has a long reputation as a trustworthy partner. We have good relationships and business partnerships with major players such as Google, Microsoft and Twitter. On more than one occasion we have received information without an NDA which other companies can only see under NDA. This is because Mozilla people realise the importance to our partners and to our reputation of keeping appropriate confidentiality.

So we try and use this accumulated trust and good reputation to postpone or eliminate the point where an NDA becomes necessary in a relationship, relying instead on verbal agreements and making sure that involved community members are clear on any confidentiality assurances we have given.

In other words: “please don’t make us sign an NDA. You can trust us to keep our mouths shut about your private stuff.”

Can you imagine how I now feel, having written those words only a few weeks ago? I thought what I wrote was true, and that I could be proud of our community’s reputation for discretion. Seems like I was wrong. If we can’t keep our own private stuff private, how on earth is anyone ever going to believe we can keep theirs?

Note that this point is entirely independent of whether Mozilla needs to be more open, and whether the Thunderbird change-of-direction should have been handled in a different way. I may well write more about that later. I continually push for more openness at Mozilla – to the point where I’m sure at least a few MoCo people think I’m a pain in the arse on the subject. My work on NDAs is an example of me trying to prevent project openness dying the death of a thousand small cuts. No-one can accuse me of being part of the group who thinks “there’s actually quite a lot at Mozilla that shouldn’t happen in the public”. I’m an advocate of open-by-default. I’ve done presentations which have a slide “If there’s no reason for it to be private, it should be public.”

And this really does not help.

I really hope this leak is a one-off, isolated exception. Because if Mozilla’s open development of B2G (our attempt to open up the mobile market) gets closed up by us having to sign broad NDAs with all our partners, because none of them trust us any more with their confidential information, then I would suggest that it’s the person who thinks breaking a requested confidence is a great way to make the project more open who is Not … Getting It.

55 thoughts on “Not Getting It

  1. Sorry Gerv, but I don’t agree with you. IMHO you’re comparing apples with pears here.
    Some discretion on matters that involve a partner is a thing, but this is a 100% internal stuff. I haven’t leaked anything, but actually i agree with who did it. In this case.

    • So when I try and sell the idea of not signing an NDA to a partner, my line is “Er, yeah, we leak like a sieve about internal Mozilla stuff, but we promise to keep your information confidential”? That’s just not going to fly. People are either trustworthy or they aren’t. They either respect confidences or they don’t.

    • So Mozilla needed a few more days to release that information in a controlled way and properly communicate what really happens. But they decided to inform contributors who supposedly have a better understanding of the project first and gather their feedback. One person on this group however thought that it was a great idea to release the email as it was, before Mozilla is prepared. And (surprise!) a huge FUD machine immediately sprang to life, with lots of people confused about what the announcement really meant.

      So, you are saying that this person is right? He encouraged Mozilla to be more open? Not quite my impression. The message that this person sent is rather: don’t trust anybody with controversial decisions. Publish when you are ready, don’t tell anybody before that.

  2. I really don’t know how anyone could think this leak was a good idea. I think it’s totally reasonable to ask (or demand) that staff keep quiet about a strategic decision for a week. This just makes MoCo look unreliable and gives the impression of organizational bickering. This leak/complaint should have been constructive criticism on a blog post.

  3. I don’t agree with whoever broke the confidentiality, but I’m not sure your comparison is completely accurate. The ‘here’s what’s going on, but please keep this quiet’ e-mails are an interesting approach, but I get them, and don’t remember signing up for confidentiality (if I did, feel free to point it out and let me know!).

    What’s perhaps more notable that this seems to have been done anonymously. It could have as easily been someone subject to an NDA – it’s not something particular to an open organisation.

    I’m still confident that Mozilla can get employee levels of trust and non-disclosure with a broad base of non-employees, but I think the process of people opting in to trusted circles is an important part of making it work.

    All organisations of a certain size are careful with sensitive information. I’d expect MoCo is careful with NDA information, and some of it won’t be available to all employees. Treating non-NDA information in a similar way is natural enough, though those smaller circles can cross company boundaries.

  4. I see two problems with this leak:

    1. Mozillians site currently is not a trusted mozillians directory. There are a lot of people that just got vouched and they are probably newcomers.
    2. We don’t know yet who leaked the document and we are assuming it was a volunteer.
    3. Some volunteers have signed confidential agreements, like Reps.
    4. All the Thunderbird situation could be handled different, maybe with an open discussion about the situation as soon as we realized we don’t have resources for having full time employees for the project.

    • 1) I entirely agree; that will be the subject of a follow-up post.
      2) I’m not assuming it was a volunteer, and I don’t think anyone inside MoCo is either.
      3) I didn’t know that; useful information.
      4) Perhaps – but as I said above, that’s a different question.

  5. The person who leaked the document sounds like someone who cares about Mozilla future. I hope we could have an opportunity to talk to them directly and hear their thoughts.

    • Nope, that person didn’t care enough to stop and to think. Mozilla asked to give them three more days before announcing a policy change. If one simply disagreed with the decision – waiting three days and voicing one’s opinion then isn’t too much to ask (you could also discuss the issue privately for now, Mitchell’s email address was listed at the bottom). This leak was rather an attempt to put Mozilla into an awkward position and produce a public outcry that might make Mozilla revert the decision. That was selfish and plainly stupid, like repeating “but I want a pony” without listening to the reasoning of the other side.

  6. @Gerv,

    First of all, personally I didn’t see the point of that email sent to mozillians (or maybe there was a good reason).
    The mail and topic where charged with a big emotional content (IMO, many people on that list are core contributors who care about the project and are emotionally involved in projects such as Thunderbird). Sending an email without previous open discussions / blog posts probably was shocking for some (although some people, eg. myself, we were assuming that this would happen soon or later).

    I’m not sure if this is a question of trust, maybe just a communication problem.

  7. If Mozilla are embarking on projects which require them to be counter to everything they’ve worked so hard for (i.e. openness), then perhaps the current directions are wrong.

    • Mobile is currently a very closed environment. We can let it stay that way, or we can try and bring some Mozilla to it. I think the mobile ecosystem needs us and our values, and I’m glad it’s a direction we are going in.

      We gain power in the market and in negotiations by having shipping, successful products and well-known brands. The new Firefox Mobile is a good start, but until we have that, we are not going to be able to persuade our partners to do everything our way rather than their way. So what do we do? We do the best we can. The NDA document is an example of that.

      • Mobile needs Mozilla and Mozilla needs Mobile. However as is being proved by Nokia and Research in Motion, Mobile doesn’t need nor even want another OS right now. Collaborations with far more resources than what Mozilla has have tried and failed almost habitually to create this need that doesn’t exist.

        What Mobile needs is for someone to stand up and fight for the average consumer whereby Apple should accept Gecko on iOS and Android apps shouldn’t use embedded browsers for authentication but should allow the user to choose which app to authenticate with.

        What Mozilla needs is another point of entry for relevance and an OS that no one really wants or needs isn’t going to be that. When all is said and done, Google are the advertising company of an age… Apple are just monolithic. Mozilla are for all intents and purposes, an alternative-to-stock-software company. The neglect of the platform in favour of focus on the product has led us down this blind alley whereby rather than grow products like Thunderbird for Android effortlessly, we’re now hoping for the impossible in B2G and are suffering the ill effects of bad forethought in Firefox.

        B2G will go down as a nice experience that once was had, but will never offer anything to Mozilla as a whole. Mozilla’s focus should be on the abstraction of the platform in a bid to allow developers to create cross platform applications on a code foundation with minimal effort. The more people that use the platform, the larger the resource can grow. Who knows, Firefox may die, but the platform could be used for hundred or products that Mozilla never imagined. The more developers using the platform, the more contributors you get to the platform and that ensures the longevity of the organisational goal; Openness as a foundation!

        • Paul- what you said here “Google are the advertising company of an age… Apple are just monolithic.” is exactly why B2G is needed. RIM and Nokia’s failure have nothing to do with what B2G is trying to do.

          I can see why you might think that B2G “will never offer anything to Mozilla as a whole” but if you had used similar logic during the aftermath of Netscape’s demise, maybe the Mozilla project itself would never have been created?

          • Gen: The biggest problem with B2G is that Mozilla never went about trying to create the best free alternative for the masses. They instead went after a preference. That preference being that users would come around to preferring Web Apps over Native Apps and despite the failures of Meego and BlackberryOS coming pretty much down to a lack of traction in regards to apps. Mozilla have decided to just ignore that.

            B2G is a spare-time project, it was never viable enough to have actual resources dedicated to it. To further compound the failure of B2G, just how much has it given back to the platform? As things currently stand, should B2G fail, Mozilla becomes the Firefox company. When instead, when Twitter bought Tweetdeck, Mozilla should’ve stepped up with their own social dashboard. Imagine Mozilla as the primary avenue to access some of the biggest sites in the world (Facebook and Twitter). Also, it’d be more profitable to the longevity of Mozilla to get behind an initiative of the freedom of one’s own music.

            If we want to really talk about freedom in modern times. Where is Mozilla’s open condemnation of locked bootloaders? Where’s helping the modern person with real modern issues? To a lesser extent, where is the Evangelism team? You can’t claim to be about openness and freedom and yet seem to have lost a whole team? Who is actively pushing for web standards rather than webkit prefixes? Who is emailing Android app developers and telling them to stop using the embedded browser for things like authentication but give the user a choice? Surely this is where Sync is supposed to flourish?

            Even if B2G could work, Mozilla are not in a position to make it work. You don’t need things you can’t have. When consumers are sitting around with their friends and showing off phones. No one is going to screaming “WOW” about the thing with no apps and no name. Firefox browser users are already bombarded with Chrome advertising, it’s an uphill battle there. What exactly made anyone at Mozilla think that Google were going to present a red carpet to B2G to get into the Mobile OS market? Not to mention Apple. And let’s not go into the handset makers who are making huge profits thanks to Google.

            What consumers need are decent trustworthy apps to go about their daily lives with. And that’s where Mozilla or at least the Mozilla Platform is supposed to step up. Browser? Check. Email Client? Huh? Have you tried to receive mail on an Android. Gmail on ICS aside. On GB it’s horrid. What about Yahoo Mail? The official app is flaky and web-mail horrid. Oh and let’s not forget that the whole reason why companies want users to use webmail is so that those said users are products. Freeing users from that is supposed to be what Mozilla is about. You know giving them the choice.

            If the Mozilla Platform was working right now. We’d have the ability to have any of our apps available on desktop and mobile at the drop of a hat. But it isn’t working. Corners were cut as Firefox became the raw focus of Mozilla and yet, somehow the next logical step is an operating system. It’s ludicrous. Let’s fix the platform and make Mozilla the framework for organisations, startups and developers to interact with their consumers. It’s from there that you’re able to leverage passion projects like an operating system into relevance.

            • B2G is a spare-time project, it was never viable enough to have actual resources dedicated to it.

              This sentence basically stopped me reading the rest. I think it’s unlikely that it’s informed comment if this is your view. B2G is the #1 major strategic priority for Mozilla, it is not a “spare time project”. That should be obvious to anyone observing Mozilla even vaguely closely at the moment.

              • I’m not sure what to say to that Gerv. Especially given that you’ve taken something I’ve said _completely_ out of context and missed the crux of the post _completely_. That’s a little disappointing as I felt it was a good post.

  8. Mozilla didn’t need to share the email but chose to do so because we are an open organization. Sometimes internal emails should stay internal so that e.g. we can find a constructive and positive way to break the news to the community.

    In my view the sending of emails like the Thunderbird announcement let me know that Mozilla trusts it’s employees. The fact that somebody leaked this email shows that some people just can’t be trusted and that is a truly sad state of affairs … I want to be able to trust the people that I work with.

  9. It’s a shame that this breach of trust happened in our community !
    The email content was expected by me sooner or later but it still made me really sad.
    Maybe someone who put years of work into TB was disappointed enough to leak this ?
    This seems to be the only reason i could imagine
    Anyway, you will never find the leak and that means that the whole Mozillians community is not trustworthy :-(

    • The sad thing is: anybody who put years of work into Thunderbird would have expected this announcement. That person was unlikely a Thunderbird contributor at all.

  10. The email should’ve been accompanied with a method to discuss it. Whether a password protected forum or something. But Thunderbird has fallen victim to the platform being broken and a lack of willingness to fix it. It’s a classic case of throwing all the eggs in one basket and hoping for the best.

  11. I’m shocked that anyone could think leaking this email was a good idea.

    The effect of this leak creates an overwhelming temptation to restrict distribution of information and thus make Mozilla more closed. I hope we resist that temptation but there it is. The idea that you can make Mozilla more open by leaking information is absurd. Especially, leaking this email a few days before it was going to be announced anyway achieves no useful openness. It can only be interpreted as an attack on the project in retaliation for perceived insufficient openness, for reducing investment in Thunderbird, or both. That is not how reasonable people deal with conflict.

    To the leaker, Iacchi, and anyone else who approves of this leak: I cannot trust you, which means (unless and until you change your mind) I wouldn’t want to work with you in the Mozilla community.

    • > The effect of this leak creates an overwhelming temptation to restrict distribution of information and thus make Mozilla more closed.

      And so be it. At least it’s honest.

      Trying to make mobile more open is a lost cause, and Mozilla historically never did maything that was understood to be a failure. (Like, um, trying to reveive Thunderbird.) All it would lead to more hypocrisy within Mozilla (“it’s secret for now for but we will open it up _eventually_, honest!”)

    • To clarify myself: “Here’s the decision we have made without open dicussion, but it’s ZOMG SECRET until Monday” (because you haven’t wrapped it in suitable weasel words yet? Yes, I know every company does that, but I’d expect more from a company proclaiming “openness”) it it is not openness. It’s a dishonest attempt to make recipients feel special.
      I’d say that the leak is fully justified. Honesty first, openness second.

      • It’s a dishonest attempt to make recipients feel special.

        If that’s your view of the motives of the Mozilla leadership, then it’s unlikely that you will ever trust them. Or they trust you.

    • To the leaker, Iacchi, and anyone else who approves of this leak: I cannot trust you, which means (unless and until you change your mind) I wouldn’t want to work with you in the Mozilla community.

      I don’t agree with the person who leaked this mail, even if I think that the whole thing was wrong on several levels (recipients, community involvement in the decision process, keep quiet for 3 days, etc.).

      Having clarified that, this sentence is one of the saddest things I read in a long time. You should try to understand why this person (people?) did it and think if things could have been managed differently, not starting to draw lines and separate good and bad people.

  12. roc: there’s a major difference between “agreeing with the one who leaked” and leaking information.

    Many people feel sad/upset/frustrated by the news, and, maybe even more, the way it has been handled. Many pointed out that the nature of Mozilla project and the social agreement that we hold expected better of us (MoFo) than an announcement.
    From what I read from Iacchi and others words is that they agree with the act of perceived whistleblowing that the leaker did, but it doesn’t mean that they would leak anything themselves (unless they said it)

    I surely agree with you and Gerv that such a leak is the most harming thing that can happen to our community. One that severely impacts our ability to operate in open, community dynamics and relation between the Foundation and its community.

    On the other hand, the next thing that gets close to this in the destructive potential is a slow decay of social norms that guard participative nature of our project. The sense that things can be decided behind the closed doors by a small group of employees and announced later on.
    I feel it’s inevitable that this trend will be there, it’s natural for any organization to organically move from open to closed as it grows and matures. I believe that it really works very similarly to bureaucracy.
    And I also believe that we need to do absolutely everything possible to prevent it from happening.
    It’s like Google holds an internal war on project conservatism trend or bureaucratic trend, we have to call and keep us in a state of war with the trend toward closeness and non-participative approach.

    Gerv is doing so, many of us, old-timers, are, but as with bureaucracy it’s harder each year, with each weave of new employees in the Foundation/MoCo, with each new project and with each new partnership so we need to be more focused and consistent in fighting it.

    Nobody calls for an unlimited openness, but the cases where the closeness happened without a reason and hit our community from within injecting information disparity and reducing sense of impact are getting more common despite our current efforts.

  13. It seemed pretty obvious why this notice (and many others in the past) was asked to be kept confidential for two days to mozillians, but seems that, as usual, obvious doesn’t exist:
    – it would have allowed to give feedback on the announcement and what else could have helped people better understand the message: for example, citing SeaMonkey as a successful example of what a volunteer + MoCo infrastructure can do, would have helped.
    – even when the decision was already taken my MoCo, it would have allowed time for people to argument on the subject and us, as a community, have a better informed opinion, whether in favor or against the decision
    – would have allowed local communities to prepare localized posts to better communicate the subject to other people

    I don’t expect this to hurt Mozilla openness. Really. Openness is sometimes also about taking risks. We take them. Sometimes we lose. A little.

    I don’t think the person who leaked this did it for openness, as it was going to be made public anyways. It wasn’t done for fame. So, I tend to think it was for money, or some other benefit. We’ll never know.

    • Surely a case could be made that this was done for openness. Yes, the Thunderbird announcement was going to be public, but it could be done to demonstrate how little Mozilla Corporation actually cares about Thunderbird and people that work on it. Especially voulnteers.

      • ” it could be done to demonstrate how little Mozilla Corporation actually cares about Thunderbird and people that work on it. Especially voulnteers.”

        I understand the need to voice an opinion. What I don’t get is what is the difference in making the point on Monday rather than Friday besides hurting the project?

  14. It’s unfortunate, because the leaking of the announcement seems to have been the cause of an awful lot of misunderstanding about what happened, spreading before the official communication went out. And I think that’s done quite a lot of harm…

  15. gandalf, I agree with almost everything you said except the first sentence: “there’s a major difference between “agreeing with the one who leaked” and leaking information.”

    I don’t think there is. If someone approves of the leak — if they think it was a good thing to do — then they should be willing to do it themselves if they have the opportunity. The only reasons not to would be ignoble, e.g. they lack courage.

  16. While I certainly wouldn’t have tried to redistribute that mail because it asked the recipients not to, I am confused (as a mozillians subscriber, since I’m not an all@mozilla.com recipient) about the magnitude of the response on it being leaked:

    – The initial mozillians signup/vouching instructions were pretty much “vouch for anybody that you’ve heard of, we’re trying to grow the network”. I do not recall clear instructions on the degree of involvement expected of the vouchee; indeed, I was vouched based on somebody who recalled seeing my name around…

    – The mozillians mailing list (or its equivalent) was used purely as a marketing list, going by past messages. It’s all about “we’re about to do X, go drum up buzz” and “go watch thing at time Y”; it’s one way (there’s no associated forum for intra-mozillian discussion). As such, “spread this as far as possible” would have fit with the previous messaging.

    – Everything on that list comes as fait accompli, including the Thunderbird announcement. It’s all things that have already been decided – at that point, the waiting isn’t even useful. There’s no participation, it’s just… being a minion, I guess.

    As for your discussions on NDAs: why would everything even be company-wide. much less to a group of people you can’t control? Most of the time, there’s no reason to actually name the company involved until you’re close to release / want to do cross-marketing. I wouldn’t mention partner names that are not ready for public consumption to everybody in a Mozilla-sized (i.e. a few hundred people) company, much less the internet at large; that’s too many people for everyone to feel close enough. This isn’t to say everything should be compartmentalized, of course – “we’re discussing with a large European carrier” is a good granularity, whereas “we’re talking with Telefónica” (before everything was ready) would have been too specific – particularly if the plan hasn’t been finalized. And this comparison was odd to begin with – there were no business relationships at stake with Thunderbird; Mozilla wouldn’t end up losing any deals (just a bit of face) with early announcement.

    • Your first point is a good one; I will post a follow-up post about that.

      I am not comparing the impact of a leak of the name or plans of a partner with the impact of the early leak of the plan for Thunderbird. The former, if it ever happened, would obviously be more damaging. But it’s about trustworthiness – are we trustworthy, or not?

      ““Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” (Luke 16:10)

  17. roc: “I don’t think there is. If someone approves of the leak — if they think it was a good thing to do — then they should be willing to do it themselves if they have the opportunity. The only reasons not to would be ignoble, e.g. they lack courage.”

    In principle, I think you’re right, if someone accepts a deed, it indicates that the person would be willing to act in a similar manner.

    But what I’m arguing is that they did not say that the act of leaking was good, but that they agree with the issue that the leak author has raised in his comment below the leak.

    • If they’re only agreeing with the motives of the leaker, and not the actual leak, great. I don’t read Iacchi’s comment that way — and obviously the leaker didn’t think that way.

  18. roc: Gandalf got it right, and I wouldn’t have leaked the information. You can tell it by the fact that I haven’t. People who know me, even in the Mozilla community, know that I have no problem voicing out things and discussing/complaining a lot about matters that I believe should be discussed; I’m sure I’m considered a thorn in the side by many oftentime. So again, believe me when I say that I wouldn’t leak things.

    But, let me write some sparse thought.

    1. You should read Alina’s post again, because she got it quite right.
    That news has come as a bolt out of the blue (partially to be expected, but even so), as a decision made by the usual 5-6 suspects without consulting anyone on the matter or having a broader discussion first. It’s useless to have a discussion after the decision has been taken beause, well, it has been taken already and we all know that it won’t change no matter how many good arguments will be proposed.
    So, if it was already taken, why release this newsletter (which, being a newsletter, doesn’t leave space to discussion or to the possibility to voice one’s frustration) and not just write the blog post three days later? To have some early feedback? Let’s not be ridiculous.

    2. Gerv wrote this post to voice his frustration that this leakage half rouined his efforts to talk to the mobile companies and so on. What he doesn’t get is that it’s difficult to make choices when one doesn’t know what’s happening around.
    For example, I don’t remember reading anything on the planet (ok, it might have been said somewhere else, but one can’t read EVERYTHING) that we were making efforts to find a way to cope with mobile companies about the matters of NDA, so how could the leaker possibly knew that his behaviour would have inflicted this kind of damage?
    Again, it’s a matter of openness (internal openness) and talking about things.

    3. I still think Gerv is comparing apples with pears, and despite the fact that possible mobile partners could see it differently, THERE IS a difference between internal stuff and external stuff.

    4. That newsletter shouldn’t have existed in the first place. We always claim that we’re open, and we use words like project or community-driven, and we say that employees are really just volunteers that get paid so they can work on the Mozilla project full-time, but that they have the same spirit of all the volunteers in the world.
    And then, ALWAYS, and it’s getting more and more true every day, when we get to the point, we see that we’re not a community-driven project, but that we’re just like any other corporation, whose board take all (or at least the ones that count) the decisions unilaterally and without discussion.

    So in the end, I haven’t and won’t leak anything that would eventually come to my ears/eyes, but I consider it a loss on my side; because what really happened is that when I read that newsletter I got really angry, but instead of fighting against it and all the things it meant (not just the half-death of Thunderbird), I’ve just added one more weight on the scale labelled as “reasons not to me a mozillian anymore”, and this realisation is just… sad.

    • I don’t remember reading anything on the planet … that we were making efforts to find a way to cope with mobile companies about the matters of NDA, so how could the leaker possibly knew that his behaviour would have inflicted this kind of damage?

      I strongly suspect this particular leaker wouldn’t care, even if I had blogged about my (public) document about NDAs – which is still being tweaked. But regardless, breaking a confidence is a bad thing whether there’s a specific example of damage to point to or not. I mentioned the NDA thing because it’s an obvious and tangible example of damage, but even if that problem didn’t exist, breaking confidences breaks trust, and breaks a perception of trustworthiness – and that’s very hard to restore.

      but instead of fighting against it and all the things it meant (not just the half-death of Thunderbird), I’ve just added one more weight on the scale labelled as “reasons not to me a mozillian anymore”

      So you wouldn’t have added this to the list if the announcement had been done differently?

      Are you adding it to the list because of the way the announcement was done, or because it was the wrong decision? If you think it was the wrong decision, as in “no, we should continue to commit significant resources to Thunderbird, because doing so advances the Mozilla mission as much or more than other things those smart people could be doing”, then you need to explain how.

      • Gerv, trust is a 2-way thing. If Mozilla doesn’t trust its volunteer to take part of the decision-making progress and to trust their ideas and opinions, I don’t see why they should 100% be trusted in return. (btw, the only fact that we’re talking about “us” and “they”, should say something)
        Again, we see things differently here. To me, the leaker did what he/she did to shake consciences because he/she cares, not to inflict damage. He may have chosen the wrong course of action to do it, but I don’t question the reasons behind it.

        About your second question, yes, I would have added it anyway, but this way it weights double. One because of the wrong (according to me) decision and most importantly because of the way it has been decided and two because of the sole use of the word “confidential”.
        We’re an open project, and we proclaim openness as one of our values. Openness pretty much clash with “confidential”, and in this case in particular there was no need of confidentiality, the way it may be needed in partnership accords (on this, atm, we agree). What happened just hightlight the path that Mozilla has undertaken in the last few years, a path which imo is wrong and goes against, if not literally, the spirit of the Manifesto.

        About the explanation on why I think the decision is wrong, this require some time to write it down, time that I don’t have now because I’m quite busy this month.
        I may consider writing something down at the end of July, if it’s not too late already, but then maybe I don’t want to loose my time in this way, knowing (and I know it because I’ve seen it happen many times in the recent past) that it won’t change anything anyway. Or better: it could convince some more people to leave the project and this, yes, would be bad.

      • So you wouldn’t have added this to the list if the announcement had been done differently?

        I suspect this is the wrong question to ask, because it only considers the announcement, not what preceded it (the more important part). What I think people really want is input in the decision process that leads up to an announcement like this — to consider the possible choices that can be made, to evaluate ways to evolve a project that might not have strong drive behind it any more, and so on. An “announcement” out of the blue that “Thunderbird is kind of closing down” doesn’t satisfy that need to be part of the decision-making process — even if it reaches the same conclusions in the end.

        Probably there’d be a bit of drama no matter how the decision was reached, whether after more-public discussion or not. But a fait accompli announcement is only going to exacerbate things.

        (All this said: yeah, probably the Thunderbird move is the right one. Email clients just don’t matter that much given how people use email these days. And they certainly don’t matter like the web matters. Doesn’t mean I have to like it, or to like an ease-out of active, frequent Thunderbird development, but it’s true all the same.)

        • Also people — even people on the periphery — want to be able to look at the discussion that preceded such a decision, to evaluate the arguments for themselves. It’s probably not reasonable for non-Thunderbird-contributors to be all outraged about a decision on a project they weren’t involved in; this is a meritocracy where one’s opinion matters somewhat proportional to value of contributions. But it does seem reasonable for those people to ask to see the discussion that led up to it, to me, even if they’re not regular Thunderbird contributors.

  19. > why would everything even be company-wide… I
    > wouldn’t mention partner names that are not ready for
    > public consumption to everybody in a Mozilla-sized company,

    This.

    The normal way for a business to handle NDA-based collaboration with partners is to form a small team whose job it is to coordinate efforts, and everyone on that team signs the NDA. They do not reveal confidential information to anyone else in the company.

    This approach does place some restrictions on the degree of collaboration. You can’t make large changes in your company’s basic direction based on input from the small collaboration team (e.g., switch to an eleven-week release cycle to be in closer sync with the partner), because most of the people in your organization cannot be brought on board with the reasons for wanting the changes.

    However, I would argue that you *should not* be making large changes like that to meet the needs of a proprietary “partner” anyway. (I put the word “partner” in quotation marks because a proprietary business partner of the type we’re talking about is never really going to be partnered with Mozilla in the sense of working toward the same overall goals, unless something very unfortunate happens to Mozilla first.) Mozilla, like any organization that doesn’t exist purely to serve the needs of one customer, needs to maintain its own priorities in such overarching matters. Allowing mobile partners to alter Mozilla’s fundamental direction would be categorically a disaster, IMO. (This is not to say that Mozilla’s fundamental direction shouldn’t ever be altered; I just don’t thing proprietary business partners from the infamously horrible cellphone market should be driving said changes.)

    I do not for one minute believe that it is necessarily or desirable for mobile phone makers to trust that everyone in the entire Mozilla organization can be informed about their proprietary trade-secret product plans and keep them in confidence.

    As for Thunderbird, I lost interest aeons ago, when it became clear that it was never going to try to be usable as a mail reader for power users (by which I mean the kind of people who are unwilling to use webmail or Outlook because of their utter lack of advanced capabilities). Thunderbird apparently just wanted to be Yet Another Completely Unnecessary Outlook Clone, in an era when almost all end users have switched over to webmail anyway. The project is well canceled.

    We *could* use a better mail reader, but of a completely different kind, aimed at users who need functionality webmail cannot provide. I’m thinking the functionality of Gnus wrapped up in a GUI that looks a lot like Pegasus Mail (version 3, by preference, before pmail started changing to look more like Outlook), except not MDI, and with the filtering system from Pegasus instead of the one from Gnus, because it’s both easier to understand and also more powerful. The hard part of this would be implementing a sufficiently powerful text-editing component. (Gnus runs in Emacs, so it gets that for free; but it trades off the GUI in order to do so.)

  20. Why are people who aren’t Thunderbird contributors complaining that they weren’t included in the decision making? Mozilla is a lot of things, but it’s not a democracy, and never has been.

    • Well, then:

      1. It should be. Or at least, more than it’s now.

      2. We’re all Thunderbird contributors in a way. We may not be involved in the development, but we are involved in localisation, user support for the program and consequent bug reporting when necessary. So please, don’t even start with this tune.

      3. Thunderbird is a Mozilla product, so even if someone is not focalised in Thunderbird, but some other Mozilla project, he/she has all the rights to say something anyway.

      • I think you took it personally where you shouldn’t have.

        Kyle asked a valid question – why people who were not involved in Tb project at all complain?

        Jeff answered some part of this question, but I still can see Kyle’s POV.
        He did not indicate that you or anyone else is not involved and he surely knows that the number of people on the far edge of the visible universe of Tb (people who evangelize the product, QA it’s l10n etc.) are there and he may never heard of them, but they exist.

  21. The system of using the community directory to share confidential information with it’s volunteers relies on trust.

    In my experience, Mozilla is, and always has been a very open organization – everything that can be shared with the community and the public is shared, even meetings that would be internal-only closed door meetings in any other company are open to the public. I have a great deal of trust that Mozilla will share everything it’s able to share, as soon as it’s able to share it.

    Let’s face it, Mozilla’s most important partners are the community that it as built – much of the work that goes into the various projects comes from the community – over all of Mozilla I’d guess well less than half of all the important work Mozilla does comes from employees. The rest comes from volunteers.

    There are important relationships of trust between Mozilla and the public, and between Mozilla and it’s community. Because the people in it’s volunteer community are often as much a part of the team as any paid employee, Mozilla has tried to extend much of the same trust it has in it’s employees to it’s volunteers. The leak here endangers that trust, something that I fear will harm that openness in the future if it’s repeated. The email came out July 6th. The community members that recieved it were asked to sit on it for 3 days. 3 WHOLE DAYS so that input could be gathered from all of the people personally invested in the project, rather than just the ones on the payroll.

    Thanks to the leak, instead of those 3 days being used to gather input from the non-employee contributors that are a very large part of the Thunderbird team and refine the proposal, it was spent on damage control.

    I hope that this doesn’t create a chilling effect on open and frank commnications between employees and community members, but I have fear that there will be a lot of second guessing about what can and cannot be shared with the community now. Whoever you were, you hurt everyone with that leak, and for what, the thrill of being the first to break a story?

    Thank you for this post on the matter Gerv, I wholeheartedly agree, and I really hope that this doesn’t damage future efforts at openness.

    • Thanks to the leak, instead of those 3 days being used to gather input from the non-employee contributors that are a very large part of the Thunderbird team and refine the proposal, it was spent on damage control.

      Can’t you really see what’s wrong in this sentence? You say that many of the work on any of the Mozilla projects comes from the volunteers, and that volunteers are the strength of Mozilla.
      Well, if that’s true, then those 3 days wouldn’t have been necessary, because the volunteers would have taken part in the discussion that led to that announcement, and not have given them 3 days to say something completely unimportant because the decision had been taken already.

      • On Mozilla’s side, this could have came out with a bit more warning and a bit more community comment, but I think it still would have been leaked just the same and probably just as fast – no matter how you word it, this is the sort of thing that is hard to keep under wraps. It’s a challenge that needs to be addressed – how do we keep Mozillians in the loop without feeding the rumor mills before we even know what’s going on.

        Back to the leak though, There were much more professional ways to respond than leaking information that was shared in confidence. As the community members who got the email were invited to do, they could have written privately to register their disagreement – it’s even possible with this one that enough people could have written “SAVE THUNDERBIRD!!!!” in 3 days that the proposal would have been delayed, retracted or substantially changed before Monday. Instead, the public announcement was rushed out and made that same day, without any changes from the community feedback, because the tone of the leaked email would lead an outsider to believe Thundebird was being canceled entirely, which with the community around it, couldn’t be farther from the truth.

        Also, even though people were asked not to post on the subject until the official announcement, a 3 day lead time is a long time to write a passionate, convincing blog post about why you think it’s a bad idea, and have it ready to counter the official announcement point by point the moment it’s made public, and I fully expect that at least a few people that got the internal email were preparing to do just that. There’s nothing in “please keep this quiet until we make the public announcement in 3 days” that says you can’t use that time to prepare to hit the ground running when it does see the light of day. A seemingly coordinated backlash from a number of outspoken community members right around the time of the official anouncement would have had much more effect than the leak, which created nothing more than the panic and sensationalism that forced Mozilla into damage control mode Friday.

        If you don’t think the latter approach could have changed things, I remind you that ESR probably would not have happened, or would have taken much longer to happen if not for a combination of Asa’s tongue biting and massive public backlash from affected enterprises via the blogsphere.

        • As i said, I agree with you that the method chosen by this person to raise the protest hasn’t been a good one.

          But I’m 100% sure that no blog post or anything would have changed a bit of the decision. We’re talking about the child of a minor god Thunderbird here, not the little precious Firefox.

  22. The short version: somebody felt aggrieved, so they retaliated in the most aggressive way they could. Not cool.

    • This isn’t the same email. The one you are linking to is one which was sent out after the announcement; it doesn’t contain a request for confidentiality.

  23. I guess what I still don’t understand was what was even the pointing of sending the notice to Mozillians so many days ahead of the official announcement.

    It couldn’t really accomplish anything.

    There was no avenue for discussion.

    All it could do is frustrate people that didn’t know about the decision while removing their ability to talk about the decision.

    What was the point?

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