When I read a series of emails like this from “Dicky Moe” and “Devil White”, it’s clear that hurt and anger and resentment is being expressed. There are issues that need to be listened to and addressed, and questions that need to be asked. To simply wish these away is misguided.
But, I believe we must all firmly reject the approach of division, conflict and cynicism these emails represent. To paraphrase a speech by Barack Obama in 2008, this elevates what is wrong with Mozilla above all that we know is right with Mozilla.
My note below should not be interpreted as validating the approach taken by these emails in raising issues. Instead, I wanted to take the opportunity to elevate the values that I believe should guide how we, as leaders within Mozilla, should engage:
1) The enemy outside is much larger than the enemy within
Here’s a fact: Mozilla’s mission has never been more important than today. The forces seeking to centralize and build walled gardens on the web are stronger than ever. These are huge, rich organizations, with many employees and users and fans and products. Frankly, they are winning and we are not.
What they don’t have is Mozillians. All over the world. United in a common cause. Participation is our greatest asset.
But only if we make it so. If we spend all our energies on infighting, petty politics and circular debate, then we will not have any energy left for the fight that matters. And we also won’t have much of a community of Mozillians left, because people only have so much patience.
What’s more is that we have the opportunity to show the world a different kind of organization, one modeled on the values of the web we want. Open and accessible. Creative. Distributed leadership and voice. Self organizing and adaptive. Driven by purpose. Each accountable to each other and for the whole.
This is why I’ve chosen to be invest all of my energies in Mozilla, because there is no greater place in the world than Mozilla to create a different kind of organization and the web we want.
Creating the organization we want is hard work, just as creating the web we want is hard work. And so we should demand of each other – we hold each other accountable after all – nothing less than the following:
- Treating each other with care and respect, and ideally investing in one another’s abilities to be great champions of the open web.
- A spirit of building the community we want.
- Focusing the vast majority of our energies on actions that advance our mission – teaching, participating, advocating, coding, organizing … whatever is our passion and interest and skill, that’s where Mozilla needs our energy.
2) Things aren’t working as well as they need to, but we need to engage with courage, humility and optimism
Mitchell Baker and Mark Surman called out at the end of last year that the approach we were taking to supporting volunteer communities wasn’t effective - including the CBT. That was largely a fault of the organizational context rather than any one person.
The Participation Team was created as one of the responses to address these problems. It unifies a team of staff and volunteers from different parts of the organization who are incredibly dedicated to seeing participation succeed and have impact, and our communities thrive.
Nobody is claiming success: We’re still in the middle of a process of creating an approach to participation that will serve Mozilla, Mozillians, and our mission in the years ahead.
This isn’t about rolling back the clock and returning to the old ways. Instead, it’s about acknowledging the past, building on our experience, and using that to power a fresh approach that unleashes value we could not have imagined. An approach that will surprise the world, just as we did in 2004.
But we can only succeed if people openly participate.
As I said to begin this email, when I read a series of emails like the ones I’m responding to, it’s clear there’s hurt and anger and resentment. It’s clear there are issues that need to be listened to and addressed, and questions that need to be asked. To simply wish these away is misguided.
The question is: How do we address these concerns?
First, as I said above, I believe we must all firmly reject the approach of division, conflict and cynicism.
Second, we must engage. Courageously listening to what’s not working and what is. Calling out problems when we see them, while having the humility to realize that we might not have the full context and that we can never know someone else’s intentions. Bringing optimism and hope and vulnerability to put our ideas out there to be debated.
That is what will make us great.
3) The Participation Team is committed to working in the open and focusing on impact
The Participation Team is new and we certainly haven’t reached our aspirations of performance or service to Mozilla and Mozillians. But we are working differently.
Part of that has been to embrace an open, agile, scrum-like way of working – borrowed from Mozilla Foundation, it’s called Heartbeat. Every 3-weeks we collectively take on a series of projects and work in the open – GitHub is our platform, with a series of linked Google Docs and Etherpads. These all relate to a Q2 plan. These are all open and available for everyone to interrogate or contribute to.
I point this out because it signals who we are and how we aim to operate as a team. Open and accessible, just as we aim to see the web. We are deeply committed to Mozilla’s Community Participation Guidelines and having staff and volunteers work in an integrated way – we are all the community.
That goes for new contributors and old. And that goes for easy conversations and difficult ones.
While there are certainly situations in which I can imagine volunteers not wanting to reach out to our team (and we don’t yet have a solution for that), in the majority of cases I hope you’ll be comfortable to get in touch. We will listen with curiosity and creativity.
We each need to lead the change we want to see. This is a time when we need unity, not division.
That’s what I’ll be working toward. It’s what I know legion of Mozillians are working toward. And it’s what gives us a chance to win and see the web we want.