(It’s the weekend, I’m off the clock; if I catch this attributed to “Mozilla”, as I saw people referring to my previous post, I will probably be quite cross. There is irony in that, but you shouldn’t feel compelled to comment on that.)
If people don’t stop link-dropping me Chris Messina’s performance art, I think I might have to hole up in a mountain cabin with automated weaponry and an ever-declining respect for personal hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I think Chris is a pretty clever guy, and I’ve quite enjoyed the handful of real conversations I’ve had with him. He dances with the camera in a way that makes me a fair bit self-conscious, and he has Fortune Cookie 2.0 down so pat that I expect to open the BBC one day and find out that Venezuela is going to bust his patent and start making generics.
And I have a little of the manic in me too, so I can imagine how awesome it would feel to just Go like that: ranting into a recording for most of an hour, railing against enemies of the revolution; tossing half-formed ideas into the void (where they might contact the half-formed anti-ideas you threw in there 30 minutes prior — so much light); rubbing up against acceptable heresies until they’re polished and gleaming.
But if people are so starved for rah-rah web hope, if they so badly need something to Engage them, to let them feel like they’re glimpsing part of the Web Conversation, like they’re hiding under the tablecloth at the Cool Web Kids club holding their breath so nobody hears them over the gentle hum of pingback high-fiving and literary appropriation that they will spend THREE THOUSAND CONSECUTIVE SECONDS staring at Chris in a looking glass, taste buds a-tingle in anticipation of the next bon mot…. Well, damn, people. There’s work to be done. (Though, in all honesty, we’ve all sat through longer conference presentations that I’m sure were less thought-provoking and interesting. I haven’t even found time to watch Chris’ opus, but I’m pretty confident in this position.)
“Mozilla” can and probably will do many of the things I’ve read in people’s emailed excerpts of the FLV that Chris wanted to nail to the door of the church, because “Mozilla” is all the people who want to be part of it. People who agree that the Web needs a champion that isn’t going to try to slip something in their drink, a champion that isn’t going to ask you to pay to register once your free trial expires, a champion that tries every day to be a living expression of the web and sometimes succeeds. “Mozilla” is the people who build Spread Firefox and the people who dump it when they want to do something else. “Mozilla” is the people who write add-ons for Firefox and the people who will go to their grave improving SeaMonkey long after it was “supposed to be” gone. “Mozilla” is the people who help their friends and co-workers not only use Firefox but understand what that choice means. “Mozilla” is the people who mix their pronouns and metaphors because they’re terrified and proud and excited and can’t make all the things they feel about the web fit into text. “Mozilla” is the people who understand that telling Mozilla what it should be doing is like saying “nobody in my neighbourhood cares about the litter” but not picking up a piece. Chris didn’t need permission from a centralized authority to drive Spread Firefox, even ignoring the odd dichotomy of “you should make a centralized decision to drop SF so that you’re…not acting as a centralized decision making body”, he just needed to be willing to take action that might not succeed, and that would put his beliefs and goals out, in a concrete way, where people could see and judge them. He just needed to be willing to make the hard economic (scarcity, not prime rate) decisions about where to spend his time even if people were telling him he should spend it somewhere else, and I’m pretty glad he was willing. It’s scary as hell at times, and it’s a ton easier to tell people what they should do than to do what you think should be done — I speak from decades of experience here — but talk can’t change the web, can’t protect the web. And the web needs changing and protecting, make no mistake about it.
So if there are other aspirants to Ze Frank’s throne out there who want to spend an hour energizing the blogeratisphere and getting fitted for a pulpit — and I’ll be honest, you’re almost certainly not going to do it as well as Chris, unless you are actually Ze Frank — I encourage you instead to make a screencast showing someone how to use a part of Firefox, improve a document for a web developer near you, test an add-on from the sandbox, help someone make their web site work better with Firefox and SeaMonkey and Opera and Camino and Safari and all the other standards-oriented browsers out there, test a nightly, participate in any of the bazillion discussions about where the browser and platform could and should go. Do something that you think “Mozilla” should be doing, because if you’re on the web, and you care about the web, and you’re afraid that we might yet again have a monoculture of stagnation on the Internet, you’re “Mozilla” — even if you don’t know it yet.