Various points have been made in the mozilla.governance discussion about a possible Mozilla Code of Conduct and policy on Planet Mozilla, relating to what restrictions might be placed on appropriate topics of discussion within Mozilla. It has been suggested that “politics” or “religion” might be examples of topics which would be so restricted in some or all forums.

Graydon Hoare has also raised the question about what acts being a Christian does, or does not, ‘imply’.

This post is intended to be an explanation of where I’m coming from when approaching such questions.

Being a child of God is my identity. It’s not something I do, but something I am – or, more accurately, have been irrevocably made, by the undeserved kindness of God. It’s not an aspect of my personality and actions which I can expose or suppress at will. It can’t be laid aside. It’s not a tribal membership or a political affiliation. It’s a total transformation, and an all-encompassing worldview.

This is because the claims of Jesus Christ over the world are total. Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch politician and theologian, wrote: “There is not one square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry out, ‘Mine!'” This includes me (and, for that matter, you, whether you recognize it or not).

It’s not something that I do, but it does affect everything that I do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God“. My involvement in Mozilla is to the glory of God. (That’s where the name of my blog, Hacking for Christ, comes from.) There is no separation between “the things I do because I am a Christian, or for Christian reasons” and “other things”.

So I love my neighbour because I am a Christian. I work on Mozilla because I am a Christian. I enjoy a sunset because I am a Christian. All of these “because”s are equal. In evaluating what I do, the lordship of Jesus is never “not relevant”.

The following analogy is in no way meant to be inflammatory; I pick it because I think there’s a genuine parallel in thinking, in an attempt to help others understand my position. If I’m wrong, please be assured no offence is intended.

I am sure that many transgender people feel that their gender identity is core to who they are, in what I would suggest is a very similar way. So what would happen if we were to say to a trans person: “Being trans is a bit controversial. There aren’t many people here who are like that, and some people don’t agree with it. We’d rather you kept it to yourself. Sure, you can be trans outside the community, but please don’t discuss it or related issues here, or indicate that you are trans e.g. by your choice of gendered clothing[0], or take actions which are based on your gender-constructionalist worldview, or even show you have such a worldview”?

Such a suggestion would, I would have thought, be met with a polite explanation of how what was being requested was not only practically impossible but deeply hurtful. And perhaps some stronger words too!

My point for the discussion is: whatever we end up deciding, don’t ask me to do the equivalent.

[0] It could be that here, or elsewhere in this para, I’ve not used the right phrase; please be charitable, and focus on the overall point.

Free Kiva Microfinance Trial is a website which connects people with money to lend (like you or me) with recipients of microfinance in the developing world, via its Field Partners who actually make the loans.

If you join today, entrepreneur Reid Hofmann (who happens to be a member of the Board of Directors of Mozilla Corporation) is funding a free trial – everyone who joins gets a $25 loan to disburse for free. If you think this is a good way to help people, I’d encourage you to try it out :-)

Small print: although the join URL contains my public Kiva username, I don’t think I benefit if you use it. Also, you should not assess my level of involvement with Kiva via the stats on that username.

Coalition for Marriage Petition

[Update 2013-10-12: It seems that an anonymous resident of Chicago has added a link to this blog post to my (short) Wikipedia entry, thereby suggesting that my opposition to the redefinition of marriage is one of the most important things that people need to know about my life, work and opinions. I’m not sure why they think that, but I wonder whether their intent was that people would read that sentence and pigeonhole me without further consideration. If you came here from Wikipedia, I hope you will not make that mistake.

In addition, the following quotation from a letter sent out in July 2013 by the Prime Minister’s Office might be of interest:

The position in discrimination law is very clear. The belief that marriage is between a man and a woman is protected under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Equality Act 2010. Discriminating against someone simply because they hold that belief or express it in a reasonable way would be unlawful discrimination.

I’m sure that anyone who is an opponent of discrimination would not want to do such a thing.

The original blog post follows.]

For my UK readers: if you agree with the following statement:

I support the legal definition of marriage which is the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I oppose any attempt to redefine it.

then please sign the petition of the Coalition For Marriage.

Civil partnerships and marriages in the UK give exactly the same legal rights and operate under the same constrictions. This is not a question of “equality”. But because of the way marriage is defined in UK law, it is also not possible to redefine it in this way without changing what it means for heterosexual couples too. The soundbite “if you don’t like it, don’t get one” is an invalid argument.

The government does not have the power or authority to redefine words.

William Joseph Markham

I am pleased to announce the birth of William Joseph Markham at 8.28am on the morning of 1st February 2012, weighing 9lb 4.5oz. Mother, father and baby are all well :-)

He is called William after:

  • William Tyndale, who risked his life to bring the word of God to people in a language they could understand, and whose work underpins much of the King James version and later translations;
  • William Carey, who risked his life to bring the gospel to the people of India, including what is now Bangladesh;
  • William Wilberforce, who spent his life trying to persuade this country to live out the gospel truth that God created all men equal in status before Him; and
  • various Markham family Williams from whom he is descended, including William Markham, Archbishop of York.

We pray this William be a devoted follower of the Lord Jesus also, and shed as much of His light into the world as these men.

He’s spent the first 12 hours of his life mostly asleep, but we expect that to change…

How I Got Involved With Mozilla (And Why That Might Not Work Today)

[Another response to David Boswell’s post.]

I got involved with Mozilla in January 2000. The previous October, I had switched courses at university from Chemistry to Computation (now called Computer Science), straight into the second year of a 3-year course. (This is practically unheard-of; it was a real work of God that it was possible.) After taking a term to get up to speed, I decided I wanted to get involved in a real software project. As I was thinking this, I read this comment from Mozilla UX contributor ‘mpt’ on Slashdot, which said in part:

Join the Mozilla effort. Do it now. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know C++. It doesn’t matter if you’re stuck on Windows. It doesn’t matter if you only have two hours a week to spare. Just join in. Download binaries. Report bugs. Suggest enhancements.

I’d like to think that the Slashdot readership were actually interested in the future of both Linux and the Internet. I don’t want Linux to be a second-class end-user operating system, simply because it doesn’t have the world standard Web browser on it. And I don’t want Microsoft, or any company for that matter, to control the Internet.

Do you?

I decided I didn’t want Microsoft, or any other company, to control the Internet – so I followed the links and signed up to help. (And at the time, I was still ‘stuck on Windows’ – Windows 95 OSR 2, because I thought Windows 98 was too unstable. Not long after, I switched to Linux.)

My first point of contact was the BugAThon – which still lives on today, I believe. Why was it appealing? It was a simple idea – make reduced testcases for layout bugs – with clear instructions on what to do, and a reward at the end :-) I still have one of the two stuffed green Mozilla lizards (some lizards were green, way back then) that I earned. At a later point, I ended up running the BugAThon for a while.

After a month or two’s involvement, I felt part of a community – with Asa and Eli and others – and before long, I was recruiting people and running the daily smoketesting of the previous night’s build. This was way before automated testing – we ran through a list of 60 tests to check things like “pages load correctly”, “email downloads correctly” and so on. I felt part of something bigger than myself, something important, and I was hooked.

Asa got hired, and then arranged a post-university internship for me in the group at Netscape in the autumn of 2001. That’s when I became part of the ‘staff’, and the rest is history. Although apart from that internship, I didn’t start getting paid to be involved in Mozilla until 2004/2005 or so. As the Corporation and Foundation split, Mitchell asked me to be part of the Foundation side and be the watch-over-the-whole-community guy, while most other people focussed on Firefox.

Why wouldn’t this work today? Well, it might – but it seems unlikely in today’s setup that a new community member, after only a few weeks, could acquire such significant responsibility. And it’s trusting people and giving them responsibility which gives them a stake and binds them into a community. Also, I don’t think we are as good at loudly articulating publicly the threats to the Internet which might inspire people to participate. Mozilla itself as an organization has never been awesome at that, although various Mozillians have been.

On the other hand, until recently, we were short on ways to get involved as simple and as well-defined as the BugAThon – but the great work of Contributor Engagement seems to be changing that, which is awesome. I look forward to seeing what the Mozilla Stewards program achieves in this area.

Being Knitted Together…

12-week baby scan

For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
Your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me
were written in Your book
before one of them came to be. — Psalm 139, 13-16

He or she is expected to emerge at the end of January 2012. :-)

Against Anonymous Feedback

Some people in Mozilla use Rypple, which is a system which allows (among many other things) the giving of anonymous feedback on people’s job performance. (I’ve never used it – this post is not me grinding an axe, or based on a bad experience.)

Given that people are normally happy giving positive feedback face-to-face, the primary use case here must be negative or constructive feedback.

As geeks, we might think that this is a good technical solution to the social problem that people often tie up the feedback with the giver, start attributing motives, and its gets personal. “Let’s get the human out of the loop”, we think, “and then the pure feedback stands alone.” But it has taken me 10 or more years to learn (and some may say I’ve still not learned) that people are not machines. You can’t tell people to “listen to what I say and ignore the way I say it”. Emotional context matters.

Negative anonymous feedback is a shot from the darkness, rather than the start of a conversation. If you receive some, you might want to discuss it with the person. “What if I did this instead? OK, but I think you misunderstood my motivation… No, you’ve got the wrong end of the stick there.” But if the feedback is anonymous, you can’t. They’ve got it off their chest and are satisfied; you are left hanging.

Furthermore, you know that someone’s upset with you, but you don’t know who, and your options for repairing the relationship are very limited. That could lead to paranoia and insecurity.

So next time you are considering giving someone anonymous feedback, why not give them the normal sort instead? You may be pleasantly surprised at how well they take it, you might learn something about them and the way they do things, and if it gets fraught, then it’s a chance for both of you to grow in grace and learn how to forgive.

Some God-given wisdom for those giving feedback:

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2)

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. (Proverbs 10:12)

And for those receiving it:

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1)

A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool. (Proverbs 17:10)

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

Christmas Is Really For The Children

Christmas is really
for the children.
Especially for children
who like animals, stables,
stars and babies wrapped
in swaddling clothes.
Then there are wise men,
kings in fine robes,
humble shepherds and a
hint of rich perfume.

Easter is not really
for the children
unless accompanied by
a cream filled egg.
It has whips, blood, nails,
a spear and allegations
of body snatching.
It involves politics, God
and the sins of the world.
It is not good for people
of a nervous disposition.
They would do better to
think on rabbits, chickens
and the first snowdrop
of spring.

Or they’d do better to
wait for a re-run of
Christmas without asking
too many questions about
what Jesus did when he grew up
or whether there’s any connection.

— Steve Turner

Jesus came into the world, lived, died and rose from the dead – good news of great joy for all people :-)) A Happy Christmas to everyone!

Closed App Stores Bad

Another example, if another were needed, of why walled garden software ecosystems are a bad idea, and how the controllers of those ecosystems can use that control to promote their social and political views to the detriment of their customers.

Whether you agree with the Manhattan Declaration or not (it’s a statement defending traditional marriage, the sanctity of human life, and religious liberty), it’s not right that Apple, or any company, should be able to say whether or not you should have their app on your mobile phone, just as it’s not right that they should be able to say whether or not you should have their app on your desktop computer.

Wedding Present Thanks

Recently, as you may know, I got married to the lovely Ruth. We had a wedding list, and from it, “Your colleagues at Mozilla” gave us a Samsonite suitcase, saying:

Dear Gerv, a suitcase for when we’re pulling you away from Ruth. We hope it won’t be much.

As it happens, the suitcase was for her, not for me! (And I am going to assume that the possibly double-edged nature of that last sentence was due to terseness brought on by limitations of space ;-)

We have just finally finished writing the 150 thank-you letters to all the kind people who helped at the wedding or bought us something. But of course, as I don’t know who specifically to thank for this generous present, we couldn’t send a letter – and so this blog post will have to do :-) Thank you very much!

She will be coming with me to the All Hands in December (and may well be using the suitcase), and so you will get to meet her then :-)

Intermittent Gerv

I will be around only very intermittently for at least the next six weeks, because I will be doing the following things:

So, if you are hoping for me to do something, please expect highly delayed service. We thank you for your patience. See you in September :-)

Kidneying Around

(Background reading all this is new to you.)

A few weeks ago I had one of my regular six-monthly CT scans. It showed that the metastases in my lungs have grown a bit each, although not a great deal (2.2 up to maybe 2.8cm across). However, it also showed up a 3-4cm lump in my left kidney which needed further analysis. I had an appointment this week about that. Basically, there are three options:

  1. Metastasis (spread) of my existing cancer
  2. Benign lump
  3. New kidney cancer

3) is apparently very unlikely, both because of how it looks on the scan and because of how relatively slowly it’s growing. So they want to do a biopsy to distinguish between 1) (leading to an operation) and 2) (which would require no operation).

If surgery is required, they hope to do a partial (rather than full) nephrectomy (kidney removal), and it’ll probably be in September or October, after my wedding and honeymoon :-). The fact that a partial nephrectomy is possible is very encouraging, because it means if it turned up in the other one in a few years in the same way, I’d have two half-kidneys, rather than no kidneys! But I continue to be amazed by the carefully-designed redundancy in the human body.