05
Jun 08

Party Planning Tips

Y’all.

It is time for us to be planning up some parties.  Firefox 3 is just around the corner and we have thusly undertaken to begin populating Mozilla Party Central.  I invite you to do likewise – join an existing one, or start your own!

If it helps you in your planning, the Firefox search bar knows things.  Important things.

1 keg in pints


01
Apr 08

New Digs! (Correction)

After publication, I was made aware of some errors in my original post. I have included a corrected version below.

As of today, the Mozilla Toronto office has moved from our building at 20 Richmond to this little out-of-the-way place:

720 Spadina

The CN Tower! 720 Spadina Avenue!

We didn’t want to talk about it until everything was fully settled, but we are now residents of an architectural icon building with a pretty ridiculously excellent view door. Full props to beltzner for scouting out office space, and to ben for orchestrating the move; it’s been a crazy pretty smooth couple of weeks!

Some information about the new office, since it’s a little more noteworthy different than the old one. 🙂

Suite 12811

Q: What is the actual new address?

A: We’re now accepting mail at

Mozilla
301 Front Street, Suite 12811
Toronto, ON
M5V 2T6

Mozilla
720 Spadina Avenue, Suite 218
Toronto, ON
M5S 2T9

Q: Did that say 12811 218?

A: Yep. We’re a loooong way up.

Q: How do I get there?

A: There’s a stairwell. 🙂

Seriously, this can be a bit of a trick the first time is quite straightforward. If you come in through the usual entrance, you’ll be sort of pipelined into the “tourist” sections elevators of the tower. Those elevators won’t will go where you want them to, and the visit will end up costing you significantly more nothing.

Q. Do we get discounts for the tourist areas?

A. We do! As tenants we get basically a pad of discount coupons. Visit us first, and we’ll tear you off a few. No.

Q. What about the view?

A. Oh there’s a view. Of a brick wall. Unfortunately, we only have some cameraphone pictures from our move-in day right now, but we’ll get better ones up soon. In the meantime, here’s a taste.

Gavin checking out a conference room (and missing the view wall):

Closer view through some of the NorthSouth-facing windows (you’ll notice not care that these windows don’t open):

Ahh, April 1.  We really did move, and the new, second floor office in a normal office building really is a big improvement.  The rest though, is a big fat lie (and full credit to madhava for the photo work).  “720 Spadina”, “CN Tower” — the keys are right next to each other.

We regret the error.


01
Apr 08

New Digs!

[This post contained certain errors not caught at press time. Please see the corrected post here.]

As of today, the Mozilla Toronto office has moved from our building at 20 Richmond to this little out-of-the-way place:

CN Tower

The CN Tower!

We didn’t want to talk about it until everything was fully settled, but we are now residents of an architectural icon with a pretty ridiculously excellent view.  Full props to beltzner for scouting out office space, and to ben for orchestrating the move; it’s been a crazy couple of weeks!

Some information about the new office, since it’s a little more noteworthy than the old one.  🙂

Suite 12811

Q: What is the actual new address?

A: We’re now accepting mail at

Mozilla
301 Front Street, Suite 12811
Toronto, ON
M5V 2T6

Q: Did that say 12811?

A: Yep.  We’re a loooong way up.

Q: How do I get there?

A: There’s a stairwell.  🙂

Seriously, this can be a bit of a trick the first time.  If you come in through the usual entrance, you’ll be sort of pipelined into the “tourist” sections of the tower.  Those elevators won’t go where you want them to, and the visit will end up costing you significantly more.

Instead you want to take a hard left when you get in, and follow the signs for “Tower Offices.”  If you get lost, ask one of the tourist reps, they are (unsurprisingly) used to this confusion.  From the office elevators, it’s about a 70 second trip to 128, and we’re the 5th door on the right.

Q. Do we get discounts for the tourist areas?

A. We do!  As tenants we get basically a pad of discount coupons.  Visit us first, and we’ll tear you off a few.

Q. What about the view?

A. Oh there’s a view.  Unfortunately, we only have some cameraphone pictures from our move-in day right now, but we’ll get better ones up soon.  In the meantime, here’s a taste.

Gavin checking out a conference room (and missing the view):
New Office 1

Closer view through some of the North-facing window (you’ll notice these windows don’t open):
New Office 2


08
Dec 07

NSID

Johnath on NSID Day 7A couple years ago, when I still worked for IBM, there came a point – about a week into December – when I realised that I had no more user lab sessions, no more customer travel – that I had no particular reason to keep myself presentable.  This was an opportunity not to be ignored.

I tend to shave pretty regularly, and I think people tend to prefer it that way, for the most part.  I do too, really.  But sometimes you need a chance to stretch your follicles and see what you’d look like if only.  And so, NSID was born:

No Shaving In December

I have been delinquent in not introducing the concept sooner, but in truth, the first NSID was not a full month long anyhow, and we keepers of the faith welcome late arrivals in any case.  Don’t view it as a contest, or a strict discipline, view it as an opportunity.

If you have to shave early because of some social function – so be it – consider resuming your hobo look afterwards if there’s still time.  If you have to shave it because it itches like an unholy FIRE, that’s okay.  NSID is not about judgement.  It’s about self-actualization which, unless I am sorely mistaken, and I’m not, is right at the tippy-top of the god damned pyramid.  It’s the gift you give yourself.

Know too that you are not alone.  I am here.  Robcee is here.  Beltzner and bhearsum and claire are here too.  Shaver defied the destiny of his very name to join our motley crew, and mconnor is a member by default.

We have a flickr pool.  You know what to do.


14
Nov 07

Self-documenting

I know I’m weird, but I’ve always really liked the way roads combine with badly maintained trucks to create emergent topographical self-documentation.  Pictures are easier:

self documenting road

Notice the dark spots?  That particular stretch of road always drives the point home for me – every time the trucks in front of me hit a bump or dip in the road, it shakes some grease loose from their chassis, and darkens the road a little bit.  Like ants finding efficient routings, it’s always just sort of made me happy.

[Note: The embedded google map got very very broken in RSS, so I’ve replaced it with a static graphic.  Still I suspect the RSS damage is done.]


11
Sep 07

Mozilla24

FoxKeh!  On the world!I don’t normally blog about my work travel here, because what are you gonna do, come with me?  This one’s different though.

I’m flying out to SFO tomorrow morning (oh AC757, we’ve really gotten to know each other, haven’t we?) in anticipation of Mozilla24, a 24-hour all-mozilla, all-the-time conference at which I will be speaking amongst a group of shockinglymoreawesome people.  I will be talking about security UI, natch, and I would love to see all your smiling faces (though I’ll forgive the folks who saw the OSCON version for having their laptops open).

One of the many cool things about Mozilla24 is that it’s global – California, Tokyo, Thailand, and Paris, sure, but also online – so that if you are interested in the open web, and the directions we can take it, or if you’re just getting your feet wet, you can get involved.

Go sign up!  Why not get into the thick of it?  I’ll wait here.

PS – The blog photo here, Foxkeh, and indeed the whole Mozilla24 shebang, comes from Mozilla Japan.  They’re trying to make the rest of us look bad, bringing their A game.  Their A++++ OMG WOULD DO BUSINESS AGAIN WOW game.


07
Sep 07

Gaming

Dice by OlivanderWhen I was coding at IBM, we had pretty clear quality metrics that had to be met before a product went out the door.  We had to execute all of our tests, and pass 95%, for instance.  No, not 100%, because good developers ought to write tests even if they know the current code won’t be able to pass them – that’s far better than not writing the test, and someone at IBM got that.  We also couldn’t ship with any P1 defects, and all P2 defects had to have a “disposition” – a workaround, or at least clear documentation on alternatives.  We were, after all, IBM.

I remember one product cycle where things were particularly tight.  Maybe they’re all “particularly tight.”  In this case anyhow, some teams had fallen far behind, to the point that our team was being brought in to do triage and QA on their code as well.  It was a stressful time for the product managers, for the whole department.

We were also not meeting our quality goals.  There were significant P1s that still didn’t have fixes, and our pass rate on tests was mid-80s.  We were asked to “focus.”

Whether it was encouraging “focus” per se, or just competent, dedicated people trying to do their job, we made some headway.  Tests-passed got into the high-80s, not many P1s got fixed but a couple more P2s had workarounds written.  Not enough, but better.  Still, we were about to run out of time.  That’s when we got an email.

“We test our code to make sure that the intended functionality succeeds,” it started (or words to that effect.)  “Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense to test functionality we never expected to have.  If we were releasing a word processor, and wanted to get inline spellcheck in, but just couldn’t do it, well then it would hardly be sensible to wring our hands about failing the inline spellcheck tests, would it?”

Oh…kaaaaay… we thought, all of us together.

“So if there are tests failing that we know we can’t fix in time, then that’s functionality we don’t intend to ship.  So it doesn’t make sense to include those in our tests.”

With those tests removed, of course, our pass rate went way up.  Ahem.

There was still the matter of the wayward P1s and P2s, but every developer in the room knows how those were fixed.  One morning we all came in to a bunch of bugmail saying that our P2s were now, coincidentally and en masse, P3s; our P1s were all either P2s or P3s depending on how plausibly a workaround could be written.

And the product shipped.  And customers complained.  And tech sales wept.  And a year after shipping we had no active, deployed, reference customers.  And we did that thing, where we taught our customers not to trust our X.0 software, to wait for at least two service packs before trusting us.  I hate doing that thing.

This isn’t about me throwing stones at IBM, it’s about underscoring how hard metrics are to get right, and how prone people are to gaming them when their incentives are misaligned.  I bet the product managers got congratulated for shipping Another On-Time Release. I’m sure, too, that the blame for the market failures was spread broadly enough to be much less impactful, so it’s hardly surprising that PMs would act this way.  I know that’s not novel insight, but I’ve always held on to that story as one of my own favourite examples.

The Mozilla community has amazed and impressed me with its active awareness of, and resistance to, these kinds of games, but it’s a never-ending battle.  We, too, will second-guess our decision to mark some feature as P1 when we get down to it, or our decision to mark some bug as blocking.  But I feel like there’s a cultural difference in game-awareness that’s important; those decisions generally seem to have “Are we gaming things here?” as part of the discussion.  Can anyone tell me how we get there?  IBM is not full of idiots nor of self-serving cycnics.  If someone can tell me how to bottle that awareness, and cultivate it in software companies, and make it stick, I’ll write the book and give you a cut.


14
Jun 07

Blatant Self-Promotion

PeacockThe Society of Technical Communication has published my latest article in the June edition of Intercom. I wrote it back at IBM, with my coworker Rick Goldberg, and it’s a pretty short piece, but because of the timing of submission and my job change, it’s the first article in print that identifies me as a Mozilla employee. Which is sort of cool.

As a happy coincidence, it happens to be one of the articles they chose for free online distribution, so you can get a full copy of the text in PDF format, if you’re interested.

Kicking and Screaming: Modernizing Today’s Help Systems

Please note, we had no role in choosing the photo to accompany the article. What’s the deal there? Two small CRTs, and a television? With an optical wheel mouse? Aroo?

Also, while trumpeting, I wanted to mention to anyone visiting OSCON 2007 that I (or a person with a similar, but misspelled version of my name) will be giving a talk on Wednesday the 25th about Security UI in general, and Firefox 3 security UI in particular. It would be really keen if I had an audience! Astute readers will note that phrases like “rogues’ gallery” are outside of my normal lexicon. The description was written by Gerv who, in addition to being British and using phrases like “spend the readies” as though they have semantic content, was going to give the talk before I showed up, but graciously bowed out so that I could sink or swim on my own two feet, as it were.

[Photo Courtesy of Billy Brown]