I'm not sure if you recall, but a couple of months back, I wrote a post entitled How To: Receiving Customer Feedback. Some of my favourite points in that list, such as, "Try not to take negative feedback personally" and "Ego doesn't belong here", run rampant in organizations where the employees spend too much time looking inwards and getting self-congratulatory. The higher the eagle is flying, the more likely there will be knee-jerk defensive responses to criticism and an outright dismissal of ideas that aren't yours.
We've spent loads of time talking to Chris Beard of Mozilla and I find that he's a pretty open guy, has a good dose of humility and enjoys a good debate from time to time. That's why I was quite surprised to see the responses by other Mozilla employees & core community members (and especially those who run the 'community' site, SpreadFirefox) to Chris' latest post. Responses like:
- What's your point dude? ... Are you bored? (Ian - community member)
- "So itâ€™s great that you can mouth off but if youâ€™re not willing to help out, file bugs, be active in spreadfirefox, what you say doesnâ€™t really matter." (Rafael - ex-Mozilla employee, now community member)
- "Ian, Iâ€™m sure you all would love a free lunch, (Flock did too,) but that ainâ€™t how Open Source works or what being a member of the community means." (Asa, mozilla employee)
- "Chris Messina, as I said to Ian, no free lunches here. If you think Mozillaâ€™s mission is important, then put something on the line for it." (Asa, mozilla employee)
Whoah. Out of the 47 some-odd responses, many from the Mozilla volunteer developer community, the defensive ones came from Mozilla core people, some who are paid to interact with community members/issues.
Now, some background about Chris himself...he's never been a paid employee of Mozilla. He moved to SF 3 years ago, a bright-eyed hopeful and heard a call for volunteers on this Open Source browser called Firefox, which he enthusiastically answered and subsequently spent many late nights and weekends donating his time for the launch and early growth of the SpreadFirefox campaign. From what he tells me, he didn't realize that the people he was working alongside, like Asa and Rafael, were actually being paid for their work. But that isn't really the point. The point is that Chris was dedicated then and continues to be dedicated to a bright future of Firefox - without any ulterior motives other than he believes in the original stated mission of creating source on the net.
After finding out that Mozilla was hiring for the team, he interviewed with people. For whatever reason, they passed him over and, needing to actually pay the rent, he was coaxed into working at a company called Round Two that would become Flock...but only under the condition that Flock would work with Firefox and not in competition to Firefox. (and, although he hasn't stated it, I believe that Flock's lack of playing nice in the OS sphere had a lot to do with his leaving - his heart wasn't in creating a MySpace browser)
I'm often frustrated with Chris because we have clients and bills to pay of our own, but he continues to spend a great deal of 'mind space' and energy on Firefox (as well as his disappointment with Flock). Each hour he spends thinking about this stuff is an hour we can't bill for. So, to Asa and Rafael, who have told him to put his money where his mouth is...he does. Too much of it IMO. So much of it that I worry about his inevitable broken heart on this subject.
He gives a damn, which is the greatest gift a project (and especially one that makes good money) could hope for. You should be so lucky as to having people that still give a damn after leaving scathing comments like that on someone's blog post. Man, maybe I should talk smack to him so that he cares more about the projects I want him to give a damn about. ;)
[p.s. yes, of course I'm biased. But I think I know a bit of the inside track and can 'translate' Chris' rants into the passion they represent. As a positive and, generally, thoughtful - as in paused in thought - guy, he only spends this kind of time on the projects he loves]