Mozilla, Sugardaddies, Sustainability and Targets

There has been a massive uproar regarding John Lilly’s post about Apple’s dubious update/install process of Safari (follow up regarding competition). I don’t think it needs to be discussed, but John Gruber (Apple fanboy extraodinaire) has a great post regarding exactly why it is wrong. The hoo-haa has largely been largely focused on the idea that this move jeopardises Mozilla’s primary income source, that is searches performed on Google originating from Firefox. Mitchell Baker has extended the commentary writing about her experiences with people often taking this, protecting your income stream, angle on conversations.

Let me show you how I see Mozilla’s angle on this. I don’t think Mozilla gives a flying duck about earning $20 million or $60 million from Google. Looking at their most recent financials you will see that the money is clearly not an issue. They are sitting on a nest egg of almost $60 million, with outgoings of around $20million. In the coming year, I suppose we can estimate that outgoings may be around $30million and even assuming that this move from Apple does squeeze the income down (which I doubt very much) the Foundation will still be turning over a tidy profit. It’s also good to keep in mind, that we don’t need to even speculate for more than a year over Mozilla’s financial situation. The books will be published. 

A recurring theme throughout Mitchell Baker’s writing is sustainability and I have no doubt that even with a hypothetic 50% dive in earnings the Mozilla Foundation will remain self-sufficient.

Now before I cast some nasturtiums of my own and add a little bit of food to the fire let me say this. I have no doubt that what John has said as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation is exactly what he means. However something that hasn’t been disclosed are details of the position of CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. I’m certain that in the contract of CEO there are certain goals that must be met and if they are exceeded, certain bonuses will be paid. If this isn’t true, then by all means I will eat my words, however I think that for any person to perform there should be a carrot and there is no reason that the Mozilla Corporation should be any different. (Although after I’ve thought about this, it’s certainly possible that a bonus could be paid purely on a board decision rather than any particular metrics)

It certainly is possible that market share or revenue is a KPI for the CEO or at the very least taken into consideration when their bonus review comes around and comments such as John’s could be seen as influenced by this. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, it is always going to be a hard line to walk and I have no doubt that John, Mitchell and the Mozilla Corporation will continue take Mozilla’s mission forward.

Firefox 2.0 Features

The other day I recently downloaded the latest Firefox Alpha, Bon Echo Alpha 2 and I’m really stoked with the majority of the new features. Originally I thought that cutting the Places feature was a mistake and possibly letting the release date slip was a better option, but seeing the features actually working leads me to think that this is really going to be a good release.

The thing that the Mozilla Foundation (Corporation?) is really good at is incrementally improving the functionality of their products. This doesn’t involve rewriting the whole product but adding a few more awesome features and fixing the implementation of some of the existing features.

The major features or fixes that have caught my eye are

  • Feed handling. I love this. I can’t believe it has taken this long to get this into a mainstream browser. I can’t believe how long it has taken for any sort of a standard across feeds.
  • The search box. I’m sure that this is one of the improvements that nobody is going to think about but I’m so much happier with being able to “manage” them right there.
  • Spell Checker. What is there to say about this? It works a treat and is there when you need it. Perfect.
  • Tab Implementation. I’m not going to way in to heavily about the new tab implementation. It seems reasonably but I think it will be far more helpful to new users.

With all of these improvements I’m hoping that they avoid the stability and memory problems that plagued 1.5 from the outset and then quickly release a 2.1 with the removed places features or at least provide a plugin to add this functionality.

Menu-item Positioning

It’s not something I have read alot about, but I’m sure somewhere there are best practices regarding where is best to place a menu item. It’s pretty clear to me, that moving a menu’s order should be avoided, however I have just noticed an instance where the menu should have been reordered.

In Firefox and IE the last option in the Tools menu is, Options (or Internet Options), however after installing Greasemonkey 4 new menu options appear at the bottom of my Firefox Tools menu. I would suggest that Options is one of the most frequently used items in that menu (and all of the menus) but it has now been relegated to a more difficult place to find.

I’m not sure this should be hard coded into the browser, but it certainly should be discussed in a “Firefox Interface Guidelines” document.

Clubs and Open-source

Franck Hecker, Gervase Markham and Chris Blizzard have all been talking about ways to get more people involved in open-source. What I find interesting about what they are saying is how similar it is to any other sort of volunteer work. Sporting clubs and charities around the world have been asking these same questions for ever. How can we get our members, to be volunteers? or How can we get our users to become contributors?

To me, one of the best ways to get and keep people involved is to lower the barriers of entry. If someone comes along to Bugzilla and tries to find out exactly how people would like the bug fixed and can’t get an answer, then they may just move on to the next thing. The same as if you want someone to work the canteen at your football match and they have to fill out 3 insurance forms, they will most of the time, forget about it.

Being a good mentor doesn’t necessarily mean dumbing down the work, but providing a lot more support along the way. Mozilla is starting to do this with devMo, but sometimes someone doing a bit of personal hand-holding is the best way. This carries over to Frank’s sales metaphor perfectly, by working harder to close the deal.

Mentoring involves telling people what to do, the same way you would teach a new employee how to do things. This means, rather than telling them to just jump in there should be a list of bugs that are minor, lower priority, low risk changes that someone can learn the codebase from, and receive feedback. Feedback in the form of advice on how to tackle the problem, landing the patch, and review.

As far as I can tell, the current state of Review is false economy. I’m aware that there aren’t enough reviewers to manage the all of the incoming patches. However without them being reviewed, new reviewers or engineers aren’t getting the aformentioned feedback.

Firefox, Bookmarks and Tagging

Deb Richardson has posted a pretty comprehensive mock-up and concept of a new bookmarking system for Firefox. I think it looks really awesome, though one of the best thing about tagging is that it comes into it’s own when it is working at a scale bigger than on a personal level.

The centralised service also sounds really awesome. However I can see alot of problems with the learnability of this interface.

Anyhow, I hate to play the Devil’s Advocate all the time. It looks good, keep up the good work Deb.

Firefox and Camino on the Apple

Dave Winer has bought an so he can work on the OPML editor for it. He’s complaining about how much he hates using Safari. I’m not sure whether or not it’s because he hates Apple or because of the actual software. That’s his perogative. There are 2 extremely good options other than IE or Safari. You may have heard of Firefox and Camino is a Gecko based browser for the Apple. They are both worth a look.