Version française

Lots of things are happening at the moment in Mozilla galaxy. I could of course tell a word about recent controversial debates around the rapid release cycle, or about dropping the http protocol and version number display, but even though I find these propositions treating the final user as a child and opposed to my perception of the Manifesto, this is not the point here. I would rather deal about erratic relationship between Mozilla Corporation (let’s call it governance since the word is trendy), decision-makers, employees and volunteer contributors (whether they are localizers, codehackers or evangelists).

Describing these relationships just now as confrontational would be quite an understatement. Let me illustrate my point with recent defections of talented and enthusiast contributors.

Cédric, for example, in a recent blog post announced his decision to stop contributing to the Firefox localization. It’s a hard blow to our team, but I fully understand his position. For those who don’t know, Cédric is not only a simple contributor, it’s basically thanks to him that you can download Firefox in French. He’s previously translated in real time all the last Firefox versions, as well as many promotional web pages or release notes on the Mozilla websites. He’s also the only translator for Bugzilla and managing KompoZer’s localization.

There has been many crises in the past, one can remember the though process of dropping the Mozilla suite, or the fact that we’re not anymore allowed to choose default bookmarks, but these are only examples. There has always been a part of defiance from some active communities facing Mozilla’s governance. For instance, this very blog is totally independent from Mozilla, which allows us to speak freely. That only reinforces our choice.

As contributors, we’ve never really been totally heard by Mozilla, and I’m not talking about specific cases here (there really is a good relationship between us and some people from the organization), but more like a general feeling. In the past, we’ve let things go, because there was a fair tradeoff between unsatisfying choices and other advantages.

I personally was also on the verge of dropping out, which I did not for several reasons, a prominent one being excellent partnership and friendship between local communities. But I gradually took some distance with products localization efforts (professional and family life being also at stake), focusing on admin tasks and some translation help tools, which is probably the reason why I am still here.

But right now there is a widening gap between volunteers contributors and Mozilla. We enjoy reading Mitchell’s recent posts, we share her vision and agree with Mozilla Manifesto, but some other choices, decisions or behaviours do not give us strength and courage to go on.

We are not Calimero™-like people but I feel that we volunteer contributors should deserve more respect. For that matter and without ludicrous pretention, if Mozilla is still alive and well and its products are used worldwide, it ows very much to our work. I will not refer to some employees considering us as sidekicks on their strategy and treating us with disdain (this already happened for real) , because this was only a specific occasion — I am afraid things are more serious.

Just for giving one example, when we say that an LTS version is necessary, we’re saying it for several reasons. Not only is the localization work more demanding, but we’re also getting users complaints by email. What’s the answer to that? More or less nothing, mostly “that’s the way it is, but we’ll set up a discussion group and we’ll see what happens”…

So, yes, maybe a change of relationship is necessary, at least some consideration. We too can sometimes be right and give informed advice. We’re not only Mozilla fanboys that can be bought for a t-shirt (nor numbers).

I can understand that a Debian-style governance involving elections isn’t necessarily the best choice for the Mozilla project, but what about some communities representation in the Foundation or the Corporation? In any non-profit/school/faculty/business in France there are elected representatives for the students, teachers or employees, why couldn’t it be the case inside the Mozilla project? I’m not talking about a nice-looking seat, but someone (mmmh why not several) who really is a member of one of the comunities and who would be giving informed advice coming from other contributors.

Of course, I can imagine it’s not so easy to think about and set up, but why not having, besides the Manifesto, a Constitution discussed and written by all contributors, employees, managers and volunteers alike. (All together ?)