Me and Mozilla

July 21, 2008 § 4 Comments

Over the past few months, I’ve been musing a fair bit about Mozilla. The main reason for this is now widely known: I’m hoping to take on the role of Executive Director at the Mozilla Foundation. On Wednesday, Mitchell, Asa and I will be on Air Mozilla to meet the community and get advice on what a successful future for the Foundation would look like.


This conversation started with a simple itch to contribute. Reading a post by Mitchell back in March, it struck me that Mozilla was facing many of the same questions I’ve been struggling with for years. I wasn’t yet thinking ‘I want to be executive director’ … just that there was some interesting intersections here. I wrote this mail:


A few days back, I read your post about the ED hiring process. I haven’t stopped thinking about the Mozilla Foundation since. I’m convinced I’ve got something to offer Mozilla as it charts it’s future.

For the past four years, I’ve been asking: how do you build an effective foundation, NGO network or social movement with open source thinking built right into its DNA?

In 2005, I started and led a $26 million initiative that mixed grantmaking and community building to connect grassroots technology activists in emerging economies. After passing that off last year, I joined the Shuttleworth Foundation in South Africa to help integrate transparency, networks and iterative learning more deeply into their day-to-day work.

In both cases, I’ve really struggled with the right balance of organizational models: vibrant open source project; catalytic social investor; bottom-up mass movement. From the little I’ve read online, it seems like the Mozilla Foundation is currently grappling with this same question.

This question is an important one. We have the chance to weave the values of openness, innovation and opportunity not only into the Internet, but also into our economy and society as whole. Promoting and protecting these values requires a completely new kind of organization, fueled by emergence, community and creativity.

Building this new kind of organization is what I am committed to and driven by. And, to a great degree, it’s what I’ve been working on for a while now

I believe my experience so far can help the Mozilla Foundation. This help might simply be a conversation. It might be a link between our work at Shuttleworth and the next iteration of Mozilla Foundation. Or, it might mean me stepping up as a Mozilla executive director candidate. I’m not sure yet.

What I know is we’ve got enough in common that it’s worth a chat. I LOVE the work I’m already doing with the Shuttleworth Foundation, and I am not really in job search mode. But, there’s an itch here. It’s worth scratching.

Cheers … MS

The dozens of conversations I have had since have been both inspiring and humbling. Not only have the Mozillians I’ve met so far achieved a great deal, but they’ve done it with a mix of feet-on-the-ground practicality and big picture vision that I’ve rarely seen. At the same time, they’re constantly asking tough questions like ‘how could this be better’? It is quite amazing.

These conversations have left no doubt in my mind: I could contribute — and learn — a great deal as Mozilla Foundation executive director. I want to do this. With all my heart.

Of course, these conversations have also left me with many questions. What role should the Foundation play within the broader Mozilla Project? What do existing Mozilla communities need from the Foundation? And how can the Foundation build on and leverage Mozilla technology to reach a broader community of people who want to keep the internet open? I’ve already asked alot of people these questions and started reflecting on my blog. I am hoping that Wednesday’s Air Mozilla will provide a chance to dig deeper and learn what more people think.

In the meantime, I plan to share a few more thoughts on concrete things the Foundation might be doing in each of the ‘community circles’ mentioned in previous posts. I will post on this tomorrow.

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