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.

we appreciate your understanding in this matter

I’m back from my world tour, and I’m working to catch up on the backlog that resulted from — well, from working pretty hard for two weeks, but not in a way that correlated with staying on top of my email.

In order to assist me in getting caught up, I would appreciate it if people would not send email, post to newsgroups, file or amend bugs, post to forums, add entries to their blogs, or write documents for, oh, let’s say 3 days. That’d be great, thanks.

Arigatou gozaimasu

The Firefox Developers Conference here in Tokyo is, simply, amazing. We have more than 150 people here, it’s very well-organized, and the simultaneous translation is basically a form of black magic. They apparently even did a great job with my keynote, and since my speed-talking is the sort of thing that translators use to scare their children into bed at night, I think you can perhaps appreciate how impressed I am. I’m hungry and tired, but the presentations have been well worth the long day. Mark and Justin did great presentations, and there have been some excellent discussions about AMO, extension localization, documentation, FUEL, and many other topics.

Also: I started to use Flickr to gather my photos from this trip, including some pictures from our trip to Tsukiji. I’m pretty pleased with my new camera, which does a pretty good job of hiding photographic incompetence.

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!

targeting assistance

Gerv asked when I’d be in London, and a couple of other people have asked similar questions, so I thought I’d just publish here for the sake of posterity. When I’m in Japan I’m a day ahead, sort of, so all dates are local, or something.

  • June 10-11: Boston
  • June 11-13: Vancouver
  • June 14-18: Tokyo
  • June 18-21: Munich
  • June 21-24: Paris
  • June 24-26: London

Do with that information what you will.

taking it on the road

On Sunday morning — they have a 6 in the morning now, which is an innovation that I’m sure benefits someone — I left for the airport to embark on a 16-day, 6-city, 41-flight-hour, 30,000-kilometre world tour. What got me out of bed that early in the morning? The same thing that gets me out of bed most mornings these days: helping people understand, contribute to, and benefit from the incredible power of the open web.

So I’ll be literally travelling around the world, meeting with partners and co-conspirators, talking to the press and developers, telling people what the open web is all about, learning how to tell that story in a compelling and energizing way, and trying to remember to stretch every few hours. Along the way I hope to hear a lot of other stories about the open web: its successes, its challenges, its surprising consequences, its possible futures. The open web is bigger than Mozilla, and the challenge ahead of us is to frame the discussion in a way that is inclusive of other perspectives, while staying true to the strengths and values which make the web such an amazing thing. And, more specifically, ahead of me. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet with some of the people who help make Mozilla a force for good in the world of technology, and I’m going to try to share the experience through my blog.

I’m boarding for Vancouver now to meet with ActiveState — who have been members of the Greater Mozilla Community for many years — coming from a brief visit in Boston featuring, among others, Nicholas Reveille of the Miro project (nĂ© Democracy). Already I’m seeing new challenges and opportunities for the web in areas of participatory video and media, and I’ve barely started on my trip. I’ll be in Tokyo and Paris at the developer days, in Munich and London to meet with press and other interested folk, and stopping in Denver and Frankfurt only briefly to sample their airport amenities. If you’re in one of those places and are willing to try to juggle with my full and fluid schedule, let me know and I’ll do what I can to meet up. I’m always excited to meet more Mozilla and web folks, and I’m usually a soft touch for a drink or two.

As my wife knows only too well, I can talk about Mozilla and the web all day, every day, and never get tired of it. I’m emotionally invested in the web, I take threats to its integrity personally and seriously, and I think there’s a fight brewing over the future of how people use technology to communicate, collaborate, do business, and share experiences. I hope to infect some people with my passion on this trip, and come back with a more comprehensive sense of what makes the web special to everyone else.

sorry, how many characters remaining?

I am booking travel to California, where the meetings hang heavy and plump on every bough. Because life is unpredictable — please, wear a helmet — I have a few unused-ticket credits from previously cancelled or violently-adjusted travel of just this sort. My online travel agency frequently teases me, with their little “Unused ticket may apply!” annotations and sly winks when they think my corporate card isn’t watching.

It never works out. It’s always a few clicks of building anticipation, the prospect of fiscal redemption swelling in my impecunious breast, and then whammo. “No, it’s not for you.”

Tonight, though, I was told that I could apply the unused ticket, by calling and speaking to an agent. Ignoring the irrationality of sunk-cost economics, it would have made my ticket free! Joy!

So then I spent about an hour — yes, nearly sixty earth minutes — on the telephone waiting to have an agent talk to me. Never did a human enter the equation. After a while there started to be silent patches in the hold music, perhaps because they were afraid that they would run out before an agent accidentally answered my call, or I had to leave to catch my flight.

In the end, I booked my ticket without use of the credit, because it was nearly midnight and I have a hectic day of Apple Store repair-wrangling (yes, again. yes, I know) and travel preparation ahead of me — for an unrelated trip, natch. When I went to my mailbox to check my itinerary and put it into my calendar, I found an email invitation to a customer satisfaction survey that I had been sent last week. A cherry on top, if I were given to such haphazardly culinary metaphors.

see attached sheets

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