Building the Mozilla we want: My response to the recent anonymous emails

Dear Mozillians,

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.



Adding my reply here:

I’m not saying those complaints do not have any basis, but subjecting the rest of the community to tirades and anonymous rants is just irresponsible and a gut-punch to what Mozilla community participation is all about.

I suggest having some sort of community space where people can just post their anonymous rants (of course privacy should be considered). That way, people who want to read them should be able to read them.

Your’s(@george) was quite a motivational and a positive post.
But that actually doesn’t provide much space for the discussion (since it is a self contained one).

If we need to discuss something about the mails then we actually have to delve into their claims, which might bring out more negativity than we probably are ready to handle right now.

I see @regnard has already started another thread and I will refrain from posting there for now since I want the discussion (or the lack of it) to be contained in this thread itself. But just to express my opinion. I don’t endorse his idea of banning anonymous mails altogether. @leo has already strung together an excellent argument in that thread. And I will pitch in only if it is ever needed.

I will be more interested to see how this thread goes and if we really go into discussing anything about these mails here. Or it generally just dies out like twice it happened last time :smile:

1 Like

On point #2, I think we need to revisit the Conductors group. It seems like it was originally created to help with internal conflict, and I guess the People team did a good job of putting things in place and it was no longer felt to be needed. However, messages like these, and other breakdowns in communities, highlight that this type of guidance, training, and support is needed for volunteers and communities who don’t have the benefit of a professional People team.

In my other response on Governance I mentioned the word facilitation. I think that applies here as well. Communities and volunteers need Mozilla to facilitate their ability to resolve conflicts, on the individual basis as well as at the community level. I think we also need to feel like those helping facilitate this don’t have any conflicting interests. Reps leadership is great, but if your conflict is related to a decision they’re making you can’t really feel like they’re unbiased and making sure your side is getting heard.

This already exists in part in the Participation team with the members tasked with Regional Community Health, but I think the framework of conductors - that it’s anyone in the community that people recognize and respect in helping resolve conflict is important. I think the mandate is important as well - that they aren’t mediators with the power to decide the conflict, but that they are advisers that coach you on how to get to a resolution. And of course the group needs to be diverse. If you have an issue in your local community you may wish to reach out to someone on the Reps leadership, but if you’re having an issue with Reps leadership, you may want to reach out to someone on the Participation team, and of course if you’re having an issue with the Participation team, you’ll want to reach out to someone on a completely different team.


Hi Kensie,

If we’re just looking at the Dicky Moe (DM) case, the person/people obviously has to go anonymous because the emails point to certain people and DM recognizes that if she/he is outed, that means a lot of repercussions in their local community.

I doubt that having a facilitator would fix this because DM has demonstrated that she/he is not willing to be a participant in any resolution process.

I think the reason DM feels she/he has any power is because of the anonymity. We have to take it away by banning anonymous emails.

I think the reason DM feels she/he has any power is because of the anonymity. We have to take it away by banning anonymous emails.

In that case it would feel oppressing to him even more. We will then be doing exactly the things he is accusing people of doing all the time. I really don’t think that is a very good idea.

1 Like

Your proposal isn’t just to look at the Dicky Moe case. Your proposal is for emails like this in general.

I wouldn’t be so uncharitable as you. I think it’s a very bad sign that a group of community members can only feel like they have power if they are anonymous. Your suggestion, to take what little power they have away, doesn’t solve the bigger problem. Community members should feel like they have power to improve Mozilla.

I was pertaining to the mailing list. I proposed to have an anonymous space for complaints where people want to take a look can act on them, not expose the whole community.

Well I actually have thought about having/proposing an anonymous space for complaints. Or c complaint box in that case.

But that actually will open a Pandora’s Box (or atleast that is what I am under the impression of). The amount of blame and reverse blame starts to pour in when you provide people a place where they can vent wearing a mask is often unthinkable (till it happens).

And on a hindsight, once that happens, we will either start completely ignoring that place. Or get too engrossed into them. None of which i think is a very healthy prospect.

Totally agree with this but why would I want to allow content what could be interpreted as defamation?

I would like to direct feedback like these to a better space, not to the rest of the community.

A complaints box place is present in a lot of organizations-- we would not be reinventing the wheel.

If progress comes out ot that, then that already has achieved its purpose.

We have been solving problems in the past with people that didn’t want their names to go public due the nature of the conflict and we have been able to solve these issues talking even 1:1 if needed. So if anonymity is the need, there are channels to reach out to leadership in this way.

Going back to @george message, yes we need to put our efforts in the important things and not in replying each random, anonymous email we can’t be sure if facts are real. If people have problems, reach out to Reps Council, Participation team, Reps mentors, or any other individual you trust.

If it’s not about anonymity and it’s just a matter of not feeling empowered to talk, reach out other mozillians to help you. This discourse instance is open to anyone to create a topic and talk in a polite way, if there are problems, let’s talk and resolve them.

1 Like

I totally agree that the Conductors framework should be revamped or scrapped. Many of the people on that list have moved on from Mozilla, and have not remained actively engaged. The Conductors group was a response to situations at a particular point in time, but it hasn’t been maintained. My vote would be to consider it a failed experiment, learn from it, and design a new solution that is more scalable and adaptable over time. Most important, the entry point should be public and easily found by any community member, whether you are having an issue, or are approached by someone having an issue, because they trust you.

I don’t think it was a failed experiment, I was told that there was no longer a need for it, so it sounds like it was successful and then abandoned.

Also, from the past, I think perhaps scrapping and starting new is potentially “dangerous” in that people like to spend a lot of time at the drawing board. I think if we are looking at what does and doesn’t work about the original conductors project we’re more likely to hit the ground running, re-evaluate, re-iterate etc. I don’t think there is a particular piece of the project that needs to be scrapped, it’s more that it needs building up.

Though yes I agree, that the team itself should start from scratch, it should be assumed that the old group are on longer interested and they can volunteer again if they’d still like to be involved.

P.S. @george - I can split out the conductors discussion to its own topic if there is interest in pursuing this idea, just let me know!

I agree with @jswisher’s point: Take the learnings from the Conductors and spin-off a new solution. I doubt Conductors would be able solve the DM-type problems.

This thread isn’t about dealing exclusively with Dicky Moe. For that I am replying in the topic you made and linked to.