Andy McKay

Sep 08, 2016

Mozilla is messy

Mozilla is very open about the stuff it does compared to many companies. It’s a perpetual worry for me that we are never open enough and could always be more open. But this has some interesting consequences. One of them is that we can be very messy in communciations.

Some examples:

  • “Person X said this, you said this. You don’t even agree with each other.”

  • “Person X said this and now you are saying this, who’s right.”

  • “Listen to the advice of your own people who don’t agree with you.”

Mozilla tries to be an open source organisation of contributors to the project, but we can’t ignore that there are about (currently) 1,000 people employed at the Mozilla Corporation and they are paid contributors to the project. Most of the time criticism like this is directed at the paid contributors.

But in an organisation where all the paid contributors are on IRC and mailing lists and blogs all day long, you have a scenario where any paid contributor can say whatever they want, when they want. If you work at Mozilla you likely care about the open web, the code area you work in, your colleagues, believe in open source and likely have strong opinions on things.

People care and are willing to talk about things openly. And because people are people, people disagree with each other. This isn’t a large secretive corporation where people can’t talk. This isn’t a place where answers to questions are ignored or funnelled through one or two people.

In fact I’ve seen some amazing things in meetings and mailing lists where lowly Engineers directly and openly question Directors and Vice Presidents in front of others.

But that’s important, because it ensures that good ideas are formulated by the most knowledgeable people and discussed openly. That’s the cost you pay dealing with the Mozilla community. You might get differing, conflicting or incoherent answers as you interact with it.

Would you rather have the alternative?