Who We Are And How We Should Be

“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” — Jesus

It has been said that “Mozilla has a long history of gathering people with a wide diversity of political, social, and religious beliefs to work with Mozilla.” This is very true (although perhaps not all beliefs are represented in the proportions they are in the wider world). And so, like any collection of people who agree on some things and disagree on others, we have historically needed to figure out how that works in practice, and how we can avoid being a “kingdom divided”.

Our most recent attempt to write this down was the Community Participation Guidelines. As I see it, the principle behind the CPGs was, in regard to non-mission things: leave it outside. We agreed to agree on the mission, and agreed to disagree on everything else. And, the hope was, that created a safe space for everyone to collaborate on what we agreed on, and put our combined efforts into keeping the Internet open and free.

That principle has taken a few knocks recently, and from more than one direction.

I suggest that, to move forward, we need to again figure out, as Debbie Cohen describes it, “how we are going to be, together”. In TRIBE terms, we need a Designed Alliance. And we need to understand its consequences, commit to it as a united community, and back it up forcefully when challenged. Is that CPG principle still the right one? Are the CPGs the best expression of it?

But before we figure out how to be, we need to figure out who we are. What is the mission around which we are uniting? What’s included, and what’s excluded? Does Mozilla have a strict or expansive interpretation of the Mozilla Manifesto? I have read many articles over the past few weeks which simply assume the answer to this question – and go on to draw quite far-reaching conclusions. But the assumptions made in various quarters have been significantly different, and therefore so have the conclusions.

Now everyone has had a chance to take a breath after recent events, and with an interim MoCo CEO in place and Mozilla moving forward, I think it’s time to start this conversation. I hope to post more over the next few days about who I think we are and how I think we should be, and I encourage others to do the same.

11 thoughts on “Who We Are And How We Should Be

  1. I am aware that Mozilla’s executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker issued this official statement on April 3rd: “Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”

    For what is she apologizing, precisely? To whom is she apologizing?

    Who are you trying to kid? Two days before Brendan resigned he vowed to never resign! It is obvious to all that his views are not tolerated. Mozilla allowed a small and intolerant crowd to “fire” him. Mozilla has no back bone and statements by key leaders clearly demonstrate opposition to Brendan. How about Mitchel’s comments that Brendan should never have been hired?

    Mitchel and the board must go if you want us back. If I am not good enough to work for Mozilla than Mozilla is not good enough for our family and friends.

    I am proud to have uninstalled Firefox from all our families computers including my parents etc… Plus we went through and made sure we had no Mozilla products on any PC’s utilized by our small business.

    • In a reflective message circulated to Mozillians, Mitchell wrote:

      “The initial paragraphs in the post about Brendan’s resignation have been read by some as an apology for Brendan staying in the CEO role as long as he did. That is not what was intended.

      Mozilla is an organization that lives in the open. We work very hard to engage actively, and sometimes continuously, in public discussions about important topics. That did not happen during this period. We saw a huge outcry for comment and in particular for Brendan to engage. I personally saw an outcry for me to stop speaking for myself, and for our CEO to engage publicly. The call for engagement by our CEO increased after the our initial blog posts on inclusion. I made a brief post about marriage equality on March 29th, and Brendan spoke to the media three days later. This long break and the degree of public engagement is not what people expected or needed. This wasn’t consistent with how we want Mozilla to operate, and this is the reason for the apology.”

      • Gervase, I may be wrong but from here it seems you are missing the point.

        Mozilla is not some sort of mental health care organization or support group whose mission is to make people with any sort of personality disorder to feel and live better.
        Once we take for granted that everybody obeys the Law, in theory Mozilla should make software, plain and simple. And Mozilla should be judged only by the quality and nature of the software.

        I don’t care if people who design, code, test, debug, build and release some software is tall, short, male, female, fat, thin, if they work wearing a Star Trek or Star Wars costume or they are naked, if they are fans of some football team or another, if they believe some god, etc. They “engage” with me through their work and their work is the only thing we can discuss and evaluate.

        Now, all this speaking of “who we are” pretty much shows that for some reason Mozilla does not think in terms of “making software” any more. There are other priorities, there are other values, there are other expectations and then there is the need to “organize” and “manage” all this. Even worse, there is the need to “sell” all this.

        And here come the troubles: the priorities, values and expectations Mozilla is trying to sell can appeal somebody and annoy somebody else. And above some point, when the selling some idea comes close to impose some idea, it demands an active reaction.

        In the recent “case” the idea of “equality” has been sold and then enforced inside Mozilla and on the whole world while setting a precedent.

      • That is enlightening, thank you for sharing it.

        When very generic and ambiguous language is used, more is left open to interpretation. Those opposed to Eich could easily read Ms. Baker’s statement as an apology for not acting faster to get Eich out (incidentally, many supporters of Eich have also read it that way, as evidenced in the comments here and elsewhere). On the other hand, one could also have read her comments to have meant she was sorry they didn’t do more to stand with Eich in the face of opposition.

        Given this explanation of her meaning, I can better relate to what she (and perhaps you) were saying. If transparency is the key, then clear language must be used. As an outsider who shares your view of marriage, I can’t help but feel uneasy about now joining Mozilla in any capacity (something I had been dreaming about for some time now), but I’m trying to keep an open mind.

        Thanks for your continued engagement on this topic.

        • So basically M.Baker was apologizing for Mozilla being obscure with an ambiguous message? It sounds like a joke, it is difficult to fail so badly even when you plan for it.
          Mozilla should organize a world race of backpedaling.

  2. If Mozilla cannot keep itself open and free, how does it have any claim or hope on doing that on the much larger Internet?

  3. This does seem to be highly relevant to the .planning thread :) I guess Mozilla, whatever that is, needs to do some soul-searching indeed.

    Reminds me of the “what is a Mozillian” sessions at the summit. Unfortunately, all my thoughts at the moment are uninsightful.

    • Again, the question “what is a mozillian” is scaring.

      In theory a “mozillian” is anybody who can and want to contribute in designing/developing/testing/releasing/promoting Mozilla’s software.

      There is not need to define what a “mozillian” is, then to proceed testing people to see if they match the given definition of “mozillian” and get rid of those who don’t fit the definition. Which ironically is exactly the opposite of what Mozilla keeps telling.

    • One does not search for something they never had or haven’t realized is lost or stolen. Therefore I doubt Mozilla will engage in any soul searching.

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