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.)

a seedcamp fly-by

A quirk of scheduling led to a mixed blessing of travel last week. On the bright side, I got to be Mozilla’s representative at Seedcamp, where I acted as a mentor and spoke on a panel about using APIs to build products and businesses. On the less bright side, I was only to be there for a single day (13 hours on the ground in London, as it were) — during a Tube strike — as I was scheduled to be in Baton Rouge the next afternoon for a pair of speaking engagements.

I had an excellent time, and found the mentoring format and conversations to be especially engaging. The businesses aren’t all ones that I’d be interested in working on, but some were very much up my alley, and the entrepreneurs’ energy was quite infectious. They seemed to be making the most of a fantastic opportunity, and it was both a pleasure and honour to participate. Maybe they’ll invite me back for the whole event next year!

twenty four f’n hours

(Everyone else makes that joke, so I figure I might as well help ride it into the ground.)

This Saturday, I have the considerable honour of being the least interesting speaker at the California installment of Mozilla 24, a worldwide 24-hour online conference connecting people from all over the Mozilla world. If you’re in the area, you should run-don’t-walk to find out more, sign up, and prepare yourself emotionally for an onslaught of Mozilla. If you’re in Tokyo, Thailand, or Paris, you can participate in person in one of those locations as well. Or you can join in online through any of a number of interesting activities. Whether you’ve been a part of the Mozilla phenomenon for almost a decade or you only heard of Firefox yesterday, there’s something here for you — and you have something to contribute!

Mozilla 24 is the brainchild of the incredible team at Mozilla Japan, and I’m thrilled to be part of it. As it happens, this will likely be the last plane trip I take this calendar year, and it’s going to be a great note on which to finish.

vegas, baby

Back at the Boston DevDay in March, Window asked me if I’d be interested in speaking with her at Black Hat. Just as I would if Tony Hawk asked if I’d like to hit the half-pipe with him, I agreed enthusiastically, and the fruit of that agreement — and Window’s patience as co-speaker and designated grown-up — will be available this Thursday, when we present Building and Breaking the Browser at this year’s Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas. Window will be talking about how process, product design and tools all help us build a more secure product, and how those techniques and strategies can help others make their own software more secure. Jesse will, I believe, be demonstrating one of his killer tools. I’ll be wondering why I stayed at our most chill party until the early morning when I knew I had to be on stage at 10AM, and trying to not make it totally obvious that I’m the dumbest guy in the room.

my hovercraft is entirely full of eels

I arrived in Tokyo yesterday afternoon, as did Mark and Justin, and while I can’t speak for them, I have been spending most of my waking time just absorbing the sheer awesomeness of the place. I’ve never been anywhere before where I didn’t have at least a basic, grasping-for-comprehension ability to decipher the language, so it’s an entirely new level of foreign, and I’m loving it. It’s sort of like being in Star Wars, so far.

Yesterday we deciphered the train system and the multi-terminal nature of Narita to get to the hotel, and were then treated to some most righteous shabu-shabu by Gen and Kaori, so the visit is definitely off on the right foot. I mostly travel with my stomach, as some better writer than me once said, and Japanese cuisine is one of my favourites in the world.

In about 10 minutes, which is to say at a mere five and quarter hours after midnight, Justin and Gen and I will be departing to Tsukiji, to look at a huge amount of fish and the commerce that surrounds them. I’m already a little hungry, so things could get a bit grisly! (Vanity Fair has a good article about Tsukiji if you find the Wikipedia one a little dry.)

Once we’re done at Tsukiji, and have changed and showered and perhaps breakfasted, we have a pretty wild day ahead of us of meeting journalists and partners, and preparing for tomorrow’s highly-anticipated Developer Conference, at which I will try to morph my metaphor-heavy, rapid-fire style of presentation into something that will not cause the translators and/or audience to strangle me on stage. I’m excited!

No title could be snappy enough

I’m headed home from Madhava and Kate’s ridiculously lovely wedding now, and I’ll freely confess that there’s some basking going on.

It was a tremendously lovely ceremony, followed by a reception that expressed their warmth and style perfectly. And through some colossal lapse in combined judgement, I was invited to be near the centre of it — blessed am I, truly.

I think I may have given the best extemporaneous speech of my life, after discarding most of my prepared thoughts on the way to the mic, and I can’t imagine when I’d have rather played that card. I hope the guests enjoyed listening to it even half as much as I enjoyed giving it, and especially Madhava and Kate themselves. They deserve nothing less than a wedding perfect in execution and sentiment, and as long as I didn’t detract from that I will take some small pride in my small role.

And now I think I’m going to sleep for a week. Hopefully the DJ will stop playing boppy 80s numbers early enough that my wife can join me at brunch tomorrow morning… [tags]madhava, kate, wedding, speech, friends[/tags]

keynote video available

The video of my Seneca keynote is up now, in both regular and wide formats, it seems. They are somewhat large (394 and 270 megabytes respectively), so govern yourself accordingly.

You’ll need DivX (at least the codec) to view them, I believe.

Show time

I’m waiting in the audience in the gym at Seneca right now, for people to finish registering and the introductory ceremonies to start — then I get to give my keynote, and put everyone back to sleep.

I’ve written this talk 3 times now in the last few days, trying to find a balance between talking about the things I want to talk about, and not being too philosophical for a 9AM keynote. I don’t know that I’ve succeeded, really, but my laptop’s up on stage now so I’ve run out of time to tweak it. I hope people don’t all boo and leave halfway through — especially my friends.

Oop, intros are done. Here we go!

[tags]speaking, seneca, mozilla[/tags]

the kids are alright

[Because I am a big dork, this has been sitting in my drafts for a long time, since apparently I clicked "Save" instead of "Publish" or something. What fun!]

A little less than a year ago, beltzner and I met with a few people at Seneca College about a project that some students were about to undertake. The details of the project are themselves pretty interesting, but the really valuable takeaway for me turned out to be a connection with Prof. Dave Humphrey and others at Seneca who are interested in really baking open source work, technology, communities and principles into the educational experience.

Since that fateful day, we’ve embarked on a number of pretty exciting projects with Seneca, such as their hosting of hardware for development of MDC and AMO work, test environments, some pretty awesome buildbot hacking, multi-compiler support for distcc, and APNG support.

And, of course, the most excellently righteous “Topics in Open Source” course, which Dave is teaching for the first time this term, and in which I have been joined by several Mozilla compatriots in miseducating eager students about topics many and varied. As with most interesting things, it has not been all flowers and roses — entering our community can be daunting for even the most intrepid of newbies — but I think that some great stuff has and will come of it. The amount of energy and enthusiasm there is just ridiculous, and as a wiser man would have predicted I’m having a hard time keeping up with the students. Ah, to be young again.

A little more than a week from now, on October 26th and 27th, Mozilla is co-sponsoring Seneca’s Free Software and Open Source Symposium. A generous handful of Mozillians will be in attendance or speaking, and I predict ample opportunity to talk with Dave and his fellow crazy people about what they’re doing, what’s working so far, what we could try next, and how to get involved in whatever way strikes your fancy. The lineup of speakers looks pretty great, present company excepted of course, and it’s hard to imagine a better way to spend $20 of your open-source-self-education budget. Hope to see you there!