I have been spending the last 2 weeks in the office in Mountain View (going home Saturday. Yeah!) and have had some really interesting meetings and thoughts that I think I should talk about. And I am going to start with one that occurred today as I think it’s going to end up possibly changing some of the thinking on other topics.
So I decided to attend the bi-weekly Contribute Group Meeting, which is an open forum where we discuss how we can better engage the Mozilla community in our particular areas of focus. I went into the meeting with the idea that we (the product security) team needed to do more or do something different to engage the community to participate more in the things we are trying to accomplish. I know people care about security here and I have been talking about it on my blog, on the official security blog, on mailing lists, on twitter; but results have not really been evident. We have shared a public calendar so people can see when the meetings are, and the how to attend details; and I talk about each weeks upcoming meetings in several venues. We make the notes of these reviews public on our security wiki and try to encourage discussion on our open IRC channel #security. But still the best I’ve seen to date is one person who labeled themselves as “lurker” on an etherpad, they did not speak on the call (if they were there), did not participate in the IRC channel and did not type anything in the etherpad. Other than the paid Mozillians who have been invited directly to the meetings no-one else has really been participating. I really do want more participants in our meetings to help give their cognitive power to improving Firefox security.
The meeting turned out to be very impact-full, not only in ideas but how I perceive the company, the community and my role in all of it. The best quotable for me (and this is from memory) came from David Boswell; “Mozilla is a community that has an organization that supports it, not an organization with a community around it“, in essence the company exists to allow some people to be full time community contributors. It is not above or below or separate from the community but an integral part of it. For me this is a shift in thinking, this is my first experience in open source community development and being unused to the idea I had been thinking of Mozilla as more of a paid guiding hand. That we were here to make decisions that others maybe could not make and in some way apart from the community. In the end that change was realizing that I am part of the community, the community is part of Mozilla; they are inseparable and we need to remember this as we do what we do on a daily basis.
David and I continued our discussion for a bit after the meeting as I was still sort of grasping at this concept and the last key that brought it home for me is the other passion in my life. When I am not working I volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, my son is a Cub Scout, I am an Eagle Scout and I want to pay back all the great skills and experiences I had as a young man being a Scout. Much like Mozilla the BSA is a non-profit and has a paid staff, many of whom also have children who are or were at some point Scouts. We sometimes don’t treat these paid Scouts as we would the full volunteers there is a mental block of “they are paid so they must be different“, and to be effective in our missions (both BSA and Mozilla) we have to drop this thinking. The paid BSA/Mozilla members are as much the BSA/Mozilla as any of us. We are a community with a goal, we have roles to play in that community that are based on our talents and desires. This sometimes means that decisions are made by people who are paid and sometimes are made by people who are not, but they are all the same community and we all need to show respect for all sides in these decisions.
So thanks to all Mozillians and the Contribute Group, you’ve given me something that goes beyond just my work. You’ve given me a mindset that will help me be more successful in communities that drive my passions. And hopefully I can use what I have learned to engage all of my communities more effectively and in a way that helps others have value too.