Nov 10

PAMF is awesome.

For the past couple of months I’ve had this annoying wart on my face that wouldn’t go away.  Being impatient, I went to a for-profit clinic in Mountain View where I was promised quick service and an appointment the next day.  The next day comes, and after waiting an hour for a dermatologist, I got a perfunctory examination, doubt regarding whether or not the bump was a pimple or a wart, and a quick spritz with liquid nitrogen.

This didn’t really help, and I really felt like I was just a cash cow for a business.  Disillusioned, I tried a variety of over the counter remedies, and eventually arrived at the conclusion that I would need to see another professional, lest I inadvertently melt a hole in my face.  I booked an appointment with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation with the plea “I will see any available dermatologist!” and got an appointment for a couple weeks later.  I show up for my appointment and got amazing care- not only did I get an explanation for my skin condition, I was presented with a variety of treatment options as well as the pros and cons of each option.  I got a generous spritz of cryo-juice, a prescription for squaric acid (which apparently tricks your immune system into attacking the wart- cool!) and the ugly bumps are all but gone now. I can now go back to the eyebrow threading salon with my head held high.

Nov 10

Rain chain

Rain Chain

My rain chain at 1/1000 sec, clicky for the set

It rained a lot this weekend, and normally the first rain of the year involves clearing clogged drains from the roof of my flat-topped house.  On Monday morning, I cleared the drain for our rain chain, which led to some fun photography, experimenting with different exposures and compositions. It’s rare to have the rain chain going at full tilt in the middle of the sunny day, and the time change meant that 8 am was tantalizingly close to the “golden hour“.  These have been hectic times for me, so it’s nice to be able to take a break and just fool around with a camera for a while.

Nov 10

Goodbye, Mozilla

Almost two weeks ago, I had an emotional last day at Mozilla, the best place I’ve ever had the honor of calling “employer.”  The 22 months I’ve spent at Mozilla have been the most rewarding and challenging of my career.  I joined at a time of transition and had the great honor of working with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met, on a mission that has fundamentally changed the internet for everyone, regardless of the browser they happen to use.  Mozilla has a reach and influence that is the envy of many organizations in tech, and they will continue to grow and advance the state of the art in some obvious and surprising ways.

I’ve always told people that Mozilla was the last job I would ever have, and there was only one thing that would get me to leave- the opportunity to start something new that has the potential to change the world.  Of course, like many asterisks and related clauses, this one was fated to happen to me, and when Joshua Schachter asked me to start a company with him, I said no.  I couldn’t leave Mozilla, and I felt that my participation was vital to the company and the very future of the internet.

It took a while for me to realize that there would never be the perfect time for a person to leave an organization where they feel like they’re making a difference.  It took an even longer while to crank my ego down to the point where I realized that no one is irreplaceable, and in fact, learning how to delegate and give others the opportunity to grow is also an honorable way to make an exit.  Upon some reflection, I came to realize, perhaps self-servingly, that being indispensable is not always the reflection of a person’s true value- because it means that responsibility, vision, and leadership are not being shared in any meaningful way.  Fligtar, Myk, and Jorge all know their own jobs better than I do and are more than capable of writing the future of add-ons for Mozilla.

So, we know how this story ends.  I did an Ione Skye to Joshua’s John Cusack, and now I’m the VP of Product at a joint called Tasty Labs, with Joshua and Paul Rademacher, who invented Web 2.0 and will be inventing the next version of the web with us, which we plan on calling “Web 6.” Right now, my days are unpredictable and exciting, and I’ll try my best to talk more to you, all twelve of you, about my startup adventure.  TTFN!

Jul 10

London Add-ons Workshop

Firefox has a ton of users, and a growing proportion of them are in Europe.  Since we have so many excited add-ons developers there, we held the Mozilla Add-ons Workshop in London this year.  It was, all in all, a fantastic time.  I gave a talk about Firefox Add-ons, and how our commitment to new ideas and browser customization allows us to provide a deeply personal experience for the myriad needs of hundreds of millions of internet users worldwide.  Five browsers make up over 98% of worldwide usage, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that there are more than 5 different kinds of users out there.

Continue reading →

Apr 10

Rocking your Firefox

AMO is a great site for finding and sharing your favorite Firefox add-ons, but as we like to say, one size definitely doesn’t fit all.  While we made meaningful improvements for the millions of loyal add-ons fanatics out there, it was clear that the tens of thousands of available add-ons were overwhelming for many users new to add-ons.  Enter Rock Your Firefox- a blog we launched last month that tells folks about the great add-ons out there.

Some of you may know Rock Your Firefox as a Facebook application, originaly created by Justin Scott to help add-ons users share their add-ons on Facebook.  While the original Rock Your Firefox has been retired with fond memories, we decided to resurrect and reinvigorate the brand for the new Rock Your Firefox- where we shine the spotlight on a single add-on while telling a compelling story about how an add-on can make your life better.  We’ve made an effort to try and make these stories fun as well; and we’re actively looking for new guest bloggers to help us tell the story of great add-ons.

If you’re reading this, chance are you’re a big add-ons fan, and some of you have wondered about the reason for a new site.  Rest assured that AMO will continue to evolve in useful and delightful ways, and Rock Your Firefox is intended to complement AMO by offering a low impact and easy way to discover add-ons, whether you’re a new user or a seasoned veteran.  Also- since it’s a catchy URL- we hope that you’ll tell interested strangers to check it out, we’ll do the rest with our witty prose and slickly produced videos. 🙂

Editor’s note: Patricia Clausnitzer has translated this post into Belorussian!

Mar 10

Book review: Twilight

Reading Twilight on the rooftop deck of a boat in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

I bought Twilight when rushing onto an airplane to Vietnam.  I didn’t have a lot of time to think and I wanted a quick, casual read that I could follow when tired, drunk, bored, or any combination thereof.  Twilight delivered in spades- but not for the reasons I expected.  I was hoping for another Harry Potter- a well written and inventive story that uses allegory to tell big stories about the world we live in.  I didn’t get that- but I found the book interesting for an entirely different reason.

If Stephenie Meyer was looking for a job as a product manager, I would hire her in a heartbeat- while not a paragon of creative writing, it is a slickly produced product.  Everything about the book, from its familiar use of teen vernacular, theme of teen chastity, and made-for-the-big-screen Vampire Baseball shows an intent that is razor sharp in its focus.

I’d say that if you have more than a passing interest in pop culture, give Twilight a chance.  At the very least, you’ll be able to keep up whenever Twilight comes up in casual conversation.

Jan 10

Thoughts on Vietnam, technology, and THE FUTURE

My parents took me to Vietnam for the very first time last December, and I’ve been thinking a lot about technology, the world, and the incredible times that we live in.  When my parents left South Vietnam 34 years ago, they were not only leaving a country that was dissolving around them, but also lives of comfort and prestige to start all over again as a factory worker and short-order cook at a truck stop.  As a child growing up in Ohio, I had this impression that Vietnam was a faraway and fuzzy land, one that, truthfully, was no more real to me than Middle Earth.

From the moment I arrived, this impression evaporated, replaced by the reality of what I experienced.  I saw a place where 65% of the population was under 30, where education is perceived as the path to upward mobility, and a society where the past 30 years of economic development has been compressed into 10 years.  Vietnam is a place of unsurprisingly delicious foods and amazing vistas, but it’s also a place where many people live without plumbing and sanitation, and the average person earns less than $100 a month.  Vietnam is definitely a developing country- one with a vast gulf between the Bentley-driving elite and the average person, and it’s also a country that’s getting its first music television channel and 3G broadband at the same time.

This was a significant trip for me- I saw the birthplace of my parents, heard stories of their escape in 1975, and met family members I didn’t know I had.  We slept on a boat in Ha Long Bay, visited the thousand-year-old capital of Hanoi, heard government music every morning at 5am for daily calisthenics, toured the former Independence Palace in Saigon, saw the floating markets of Can Tho, and saw the imperial villa in the mountain city of Da Lat.  While my parents were patient and generous tour guides, it was clear that today’s Vietnam was almost as new to them as it was to me and my wife.  Even the language had evolved after 35 years of reunification and modernization.

As a Mozilla employee, I work on making the internet better for everyone.  As the Director of Add-ons, I want to empower people to change not only the world but their own lives with open and free technologies.  I get constant reminders of how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to focus my professional energies on such a noble pursuit, but nowhere has this been more poignant than Vietnam.  Over there, I saw idealistic young people who were empowered and determined to not only change their own destinies, but also the destiny of their entire country.  The Internet remains a new and wondrous thing there, and throngs of aspirational young Vietnamese spend their entire savings on computers and internet access.  Free distance learning programs empower the motivated with the technology skills to become programmers and make a transformational change to the quality of their lives.

This is amazing.  When someone has the potential to increase their income tenfold from free lessons on the internet, it underscores how vital it is that the basic technologies for creating and browsing content on the Internet remain free and open.  First-world software economics here are patently ludicrous- the iPhone developer program costs the equivalent of an entire month’s salary.  The fundamental web technologies that drive innovation on the web and browser should continue to be free without a tax on innovation, and many of these free technologies form the building blocks of commercial services and software.  There is no irony in earning a living with Open Source.

On a more personal note, my father spent the first 61 years of his life without the ability to type in Vietnamese- until a Firefox extension made it trivially easy for him to do so.  A tiny piece of software written by a Vietnamese-American college student gave him the gift of written communication in his native language.  Add-ons are often written by people who are trying to meet their own needs.  The fact that our needs are so similar is a reminder that we are more alike than we are different.

Nov 09

Contributions in the press

Saw this blog post on CNET about Contributions in AMO, and it was great to see the positive response from the Add-ons developer community.  Nate Weiner, the author of Read It Later, mentioned that we were going about the problem ‘backwards’, an assertion I wholeheartedly agree with acheter cialis en ligne.  We’re talking to the Firefox team about redesigning the Extensions Manager in a future version, and Contributions are definitely something we want to support.

Don’t worry, Nate- we won’t be annoying with it.  🙂

Sep 09

netbooks are the new notebooks

I have two netbooks, a Dell Mini 9 and an HP 5101.  One is my personal machine, purchased back when the netbook segment started to appear, and the other is a machine on loan from Mozilla, as we’re always striving to better understand our users by using hardware that represents what’s being purchased today.

There have been three generations of netbooks since the Asus Eee first appeared in late 2007.  That machine had a repurposed portable DVD player screen and a flexy white chassis.  The Dell was one of the first Intel Atom machines, a computer that packed early 2000’s processing power into a very low power package.  Build quality was markedly better than the Eee, and the screen retained a 16×9 aspect ratio (belying a portable AV device origin) but with a web-usable 1024×600 screen.  Still, with a small keyboard and plastic construction, the machine feels more like a casual device than a real computer.  The HP, recently released only a month ago, has a magnesium chassis and a much larger keyboard.  Its six cell battery and 80GB ssd make it a perfectly usable Vista machine with an 8-9 hour battery life.  The 1366×768 display packs more pixels than a 13 inch macbook on a 10 inch screen.  The entire machine is about 2 lbs and a base configuration is $400.  The machine I’d buy would have the HD display for $25 and the standard 160gb 7200 rpm drive, as the SSD almost doubles the cost of the machine.  I’d go to Fry’s and get a 2GB SO-DIMM for another $20.  I might go with the standard battery for the slim form factor.

If nothing else, the usability of my netbook (even with Vista!) illustrates that there is no Moore’s law analogue in software.  Firefox 3.5 runs faster than Firefox 1.5 does on older hardware, and even operating systems are doing more with less these days.  Windows 7, when it goes on the HP, will be a nice performance upgrade for a machine that seems perfectly fine for everything my parents would use a computer for.

If anything, my netbook experience has shown me that for general purpose computing- the facebooking, twittering, blogging, sharing that most people do- a netbook is a full computer running a full “desktop” operating system.  While I like the room and power of my Macbook Pro, I’ll probably use the netbook for travel, especially once I get a 3G SIM card for it.  My prediction- the netbook/notebook divide is going to disappear as people will be able to do more with less.  I think phone capability will increase, and once they get to the point where they can run cloud based productivity apps, that’s when you’ll start to see netbook form-factor sleeves that add keyboards and better displays to your phone.  In other words- the phone becomes the new netbook.

Aug 09

don’t be so jaded

For those of us in the business of making technology for the People of the Internet, it’s easy to get jaded by the mainstreaming of technology which we once found new and exciting.  Americans in particular seem to be a little guilty of this, particularly if they live near a coast.  While Twitter, Facebook and Firefox move further into the homes of our friends and parents, it’s good to see this as an opportunity and not a sign that the end has come.

I’ve had the good fortune of meeting fellow nerds from all over the world, and I’ve noticed the ones who don’t come from Silicon Valley remain enchanted by technology and its promise to make the world better.  They’re the ones hacking away on Twitter and Firefox and really pushing the envelope on the future for those products.  Many of  top Firefox add-on developers come from Europe and Asia, and Brazil’s wholesale adoption of open source and social software is a phenomenon to behold.  Korea’s obsession with Starcraft shows no signs of waning eleven years after that game’s release.

While our short attention spans compel us to keep creating and trying new things, does our eagerness to invent prevent us from honing our craft?  Does great software evolve through people who lose their otaku sense of wonder?  Seesmic relocated to San Francisco in an attempt to secure respect in the startup world, but I wonder if Silicon Valley, with its populace of short-attention-span inhabitants, will continue to be the epicenter of technology moving forward.

I’m not terribly worried about America- I still see that twinkle in the eyes of my friends and colleagues from other parts of the country, but I do think that we should get over ourselves and try to remember that technology that makes the lives of people better is something that we want in the hands of as many folks as possible.