posted on Tue, Jan 21 '20 under tag: mozilla

I had been a mozilla fan-boy for years. But last year, I gave up. This is an explanation post. It is also a semi-rant. So, please apply discretion.

Mozilla’s mission is really really important. Mozilla’s mission is this:

Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

I love the internet and it is extremely important to me that it remains a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Yet, I stepped down from being a community leader of Mozilla last month.

The biggest reason is that Mozilla does not care about community (any more).

About 5 years ago, they were big on something called “radical participation”. The idea was that mozilla will grow through people’s increased participation.

But, now, there is no talk about any kind of participation. In fact, the team that was called “Participation” has been renamed to community development and now comes under a team called “Open Innovation”.

The “community development” strategy of Mozilla is one that has no insight into the way hacker/free-software/open-source/open-internet communities have been organizing themselves. There are structures built like “Mozilla Reps” that resemble similar outreach advocate programmes of resource-rich capitalistic companies like Microsoft. Even as these corporates realize the weaknesses of and shutdown these programs, Mozilla holds on to it.

The problem with the existence of such an official structure is that it disallows any other kind of development of the community. And in that scenario, the strength of the structure and capability of the structure to grow the community will determine how strong the community can be. As for reps program, it is an absolute waste of resources, at least in India.

I have tried engaging with the top-level and mid-level management to change these structures. But there is immense resistance. Mozilla has become like a traditional corporate with bureaucracies that move at the pace of snail. And that is sad.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was me reporting a rep’s misbehaviour. There was a rep who came into a community discussion group asking for help in building a website (their private business website). In private conversation I could lead the rep to offer me swags from Mozilla in return of my effort. These kinds of side-businesses are very common in the reps program. And I reported this one with screenshots of the entire conversation. The reps leadership gave a warning to the rep. And they also gave me a warning that I “deliberately deceived this individual, to trust you as a community leader”. Suddenly, I was a community leader and the rep was an innocent victim of my deliberate deception.

I could not find any reason to continue in a community where I was considered a “community leader”, but had no say in how the community development strategy should be. And so I ended it.

Weeks later, there was this hacker news thread which gave me schadenfreude and then I knew that the love story was over.