The REAL Truth About Mozilla

[ music | Foo Fighters – Disenchanted Lullaby ]

Recently someone ran over to WordPress and started a blog about Mozilla stuff. Now, I might have linked to that blog a while ago, but the latest post (as of this date) is nothing more than a personal screed against Mitchell. I never met her personally, but I’ve hung around long enough to feel comfortable enough to say that I doubt she has any significant personal ambitions of wealth here. If she did she’d have left long ago. Have you read this woman’s bio?

But he (or she) did make a few good points, but never got down to the root problems. Mozilla is full of brilliant people. sure, there are some rotten apples, but find me a single organization without them. No one at the top got there by being stupid. However, I think one issue still plaguing Mozilla to this day is management. But there’s another old saying that comes into play here, never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

Mozilla was founded by some people who had less than stellar social skills to start with, and they came from Netscape. Netscape was the golden child for a long time. Then MS came along and abused their position and ground Netscape down to nothing more than a sticker on the wall. A lot of the spirit of NS survived though, and that’s mostly good. But one thing I think that came along that shouldn’t have, and has survived like a virus, is an idea that once a decision has been made, it’s the right one. Arrogance, that used to be called. It is a phenomenon I am somewhat acquainted with. Humility doesn’t always seem to be in sufficient supply at Lizard Central.

Worse, this arrogance had a tendency to make Mozilla look aloof and smug to the community that supports it. The way Seamonkey was handled is a good example. Regardless of how the upper echelon actually felt, they came across as seeing Seamonkey as a bane, a ball and chain, an annoyance best shot and buried. I don’t actually think this is what they intended, but that’s how many people received the news. the Firebird name fiasco is an even clearer example. It wouldn’t have broken anyone’s back to say, “Hey, you know what, you’re right, we made a mistake, and while we can’t change it today, we assure you all that we’re working on the issue and it WILL be resolved within a few months.” The recent transition of Thunderbird was another example, although was handled a little better. But it was still handled poorly enough to give more fodder to trolls like Truthboy over at his WordPress blog.

However, I think there’s a glimmer of hope. They realized, were convinced, or planned all along and just really don’t know how to manage public relations, that Thunderbird is a very valuable property for both Mozilla and the world at large. A property with a lot of promise and potential if handled right. And they’re making some really good moves to help give that promise a chance to come true. I’m not sure this kind of thing would have happened 5 years ago. It shows that the success of Firefox, both in users, visibility, respect, and maybe even financially, has had a positive effect on the culture inside Mozilla.

So, what’s the real truth about Mozilla? They need more education about managing people, not developers. Some good old fashioned person-to-person human interaction across the board. I think that’s really the biggest issue anymore. Now, I know some will say, “Hey, anyone can speak their minds here.” The ability to do so, and feeling like one can are two different things. And I think they need someone to help temper some of the language in communications with the community. A little diplomacy goes a long way, internally and externally.

Take it from me. I’ve never said anything that could be construed as offensive or arrogant.


  1. Callek had this to say,

    November 3, 2007 @ 1:18 am

    Nice post, but just for sake of "devils advocate" saying "Take it from me. I’ve never said anything that could be construed as offensive or arrogant."

    Could itself be construed as arrogant 🙂 (though I just felt like nitpicking a tiny portion of what to me was a very well thought out and worded post)

  2. ancestor had this to say,

    November 3, 2007 @ 7:53 am

    Callek, I am pretty sure it was sarcastic. 🙂

    Even though I can’t say I agree with every single line, I think that the post makes an important point and I hope it sparks a larger debate.

  3. Mardeg had this to say,

    November 3, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    Humility via self-deprecating sarcasm FTW 🙂
    Being humble is certainly not a subject taught in schools these days. Perhaps it should be.

  4. Chris Cunningham had this to say,

    November 3, 2007 @ 11:36 pm

    The Seamonkey comment is bizarre. Seamonkey’s notable defenders (i.e. those who actually contribute, as opposed to whining on mozillazine) are aligned behind the exact same suite-atop-toolkit concept put forth by the old m.o in the very first realignment message. The controversy surrounding seamonkey was *nothing* more than a collection of bruised egos from people lower down the list of people who understood good UI.

    I’ll give you Firebird, the idiotic trademark policy and Thunderbird though. The first two could have been avaoided by appointing someone who had any experience whatsoever in the relevant areas in the first place, as opposed to having to bring them in months later. The last is just closed-doors ineptitude of an inexcusable level for a flagship free software company.

    – Chris

  5. Grey had this to say,

    November 4, 2007 @ 1:02 am

    Hi Chris, apparently you missed most of what was at issue with Seamonkey. It wasn’t just the UI, it was the concept of the suite as a whole.

  6. John had this to say,

    November 5, 2007 @ 9:42 pm

    Seems like she’s making TONS. $500K to run a nonprofit, wha wha?

  7. Lucy had this to say,

    November 8, 2007 @ 4:18 pm

    Non-profits have some requirements regarding pay and market value. Market value for Mitchell in a for-profit is anywhere upwards of $700k. Search for CEO in Mountain View on