blew bayou

Way back in the spring, I was invited by Dr. Andrew Schwarz to speak to some Information Systems & Decision Sciences students at Louisiana State University, after we were introduced by my AMO partner in crime (and his then-student) Justin “iFligtar” Scott.

It’s school season again, so after my Seedcamp trip, and 3.5 precious hours of sleep in a hotel by the Toronto airport, I flew down to Baton Rouge to do a pair of presentations, sample some Cajun cuisine, and generally feel old on campus. In point of fact, I flew to New Orleans and then drove to Baton Rouge, which meant that my arrival for the first presentation was a near thing, as I spent a few hours on the side of I-10 waiting for someone to come and repair a slight problem with my rental car:

Tire blowout

At least it was really humid and the car’s roof was black and I was out in the direct sun; otherwise it could have been really uncomfortable.

I spoke about building software at the scale of the web, and I described some of the defining characteristics of Mozilla’s product development: we build software, we build it at scale, and we build it for the web. I could put my slides up somewhere, but if you’ve seen me give a talk in the last few years you’ll know that my slides are really really bad at standing on their own.

I first spoke with to a small group of enthusiasts, who are part of an industry association for IT professionals. AITP, I think, but it’s sort of a blur. They were politely attentive during my talk, laughed indulgently at my Hasselhoff and Colbert jokes, and asked a range of good questions, on topics varying from how the company organizes itself geographically to, of course, the “10 f’n days” incident. Someone asked how they could get involved with testing of nightly builds, and Justin responded with a bolus load of flyers about the nascent Mozilla university programme. Well played, sir.

After a short, short break, I then went next door to give basically the same talk to around 150 undergraduates. The vast majority of people were Firefox users, though one guy who asked a handful of questions was careful to announce that he was an Opera user (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I didn’t have him removed by campus security or anything). The questions were again quite good, including one that I want to call out specifically, for what little it’s worth. Near the end of the question session, one young woman asked what she said “might be a dumb question”: how does Mozilla fund itself? Mitchell and others have covered that in some detail, so I won’t recap my answer here, but I was quick to point out that it’s not a dumb question at all, and that it’s the sort of thing that we get asked by high-powered execs at Harvard Business School too.

I wonder how many of the other industry speakers get asked such probing and thoughtful questions. Part of me hopes that they all do, because I think it makes the session much more valuable, but part of me also hopes that Mozilla gets more than the usual share because what we do resonates so much with so many people.

One low note: I was asked a few times for kooky Mozilla anecdotes, and I pretty much came up dry. I clearly need to work on my zaniness a bit.

(Oh, sure, now I see that fligtar has a post about this already. Damned kids.)