A Damn Good Day to be a Mozillian…

Skimming back through my Twitter stream, it turns out that yesterday was a pretty great day in the ol’ salt mine. Sometimes when you’re right in the thick of it, it’s hard to really notice all the awesome that’s going on around here, so here’s a quick roundup of some of it.

Zarro Boogs!

We hit zero blocking bugs for Firefox 4. This is a pretty big deal for anyone and everyone who has been working on this release, and means we’ll be rolling out a release candidate Very Very Soon…


We launched a demo site that includes this fully interactive HTML5 poster (grab a copy of the latest Firefox 4 beta to get the full effect). I’m biased, obviously, but this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the Web in a hell of a long time…

Web Apps!

We announced the availability of the first developer integration release of our Open Web Apps project (along with a neat video that explains what the heck we’re actually talking about when talk about “web apps”). ReadWriteWeb says that we make “a better case for web apps in minutes than Google did in months,” so if you’re still not sure what Web Apps are all about, you chould check out the post over on the Labs blog.

If you’re a web developer, there’s also a bunch of documentation over on the Mozilla Developer Network, and a gallery of apps that people have already built.

The best part? We’re just getting warmed up. 2011 is going to be a ridiculously amazing year.

Thinking about the Open Web

library books
library books :: timetrax23

Thinking about the Open Web

I’ve been thinking about how to talk to people about what the Open Web is, why it’s so important, and why they should care.

The Open Web as a global public resource

It struck me that the Open Web is analogous to some other fundamentally vital things in our society:

  • public libraries
  • public schools
  • public parks
  • public broadcasting
  • public roads
  • public art
  • public museums
  • public galleries
  • etc.

Many of these things are deemed so vital a part of our everyday lives and societal infrastructure that we support them through our tax dollars. Others are supported by concerned citizens who believe so deeply in their importance that they donate not only their hard-earned money, but also their time, skills, and creativity.

The Web is an increasingly important part of our lives, and it is absolutely essential that it remain free and open and accessible to all. If it doesn’t — if the Web becomes closed, restricted, controlled, and inaccessible to anyone who is disadvantaged or marginalized in some way — our whole, global society will suffer as a result. The Web cannot become something that further delineates the haves from the have-nots. It is already far too important for that, and it is still only in its infancy.

Mozilla exists to support the Open Web

Mozilla is an organization devoted to ensuring that the Web continue to develop as and remain a global public resource — akin to libraries, schools, parks, and roads — and everything we do, every resource at our disposal, is focused towards this end. This is the absolute core of our mission as outlined in the Mozilla Manifesto, and it is the heart of everything we strive towards.

Why Mozilla makes a browser

Making a browser is one of the most important things Mozilla currently does — not as an end unto itself, but rather in support of our larger mission and goals.

The browser is by far the most important tool we use to create and consume the Web. Without an open browser there is no Open Web. This is why we build Firefox, and why we’re pushing hard to get Firefox on to as many devices and desktops as we can. The Open Web is an increasingly crucial part of our lives and our society, and Firefox is one way we’re working to ensure that the Web remain open and available for everyone.

What do you think?

Is this a useful way to think about and talk about the Open Web to people who might not quite get what we’re so excited about? Not everyone is going to grok the analogy in the same way — and this certainly isn’t the only way to talk about it — but I think that most people understand that public works are a good thing, and that ensuring open and equitable access to fundamental resources and infrastructure — which now includes the Open Web — is an essential part of a just and civilised society.

Project Gutenberg Project (& Challenge!)

Like reading? Want to support a good cause? Welcome to the Project Gutenberg Project*!

If you’ve never heard of it, Project Gutenberg (Wikipedia page) is an almost entirely volunteer-driven effort to digitize, archive, and distribute “cultural works” (mostly books). It was established in 1971 and now includes over 30,000 free ebooks that you can read on a wide variety of devices including computers, cellphones, various mobile devices, and ebook readers.

Project Gutenberg contains some amazing, unparalleled works of literature and it is an incredibly valuable resource that just doesn’t seem to get the credit (and support) it deserves. This challenge has two purposes:

1) To inspire people to read some of these wonderful old classics, and
2) To support Project Gutenberg.

Here’s the challenge

1) Set a goal: Pick a number of Project Gutenberg books you think you could read over the next year. This can be anything from a conservative 2 or 3, a more ambitious one per month, or a hardcore no-holds-barred one per week. The number is entirely up to you. Post a quick comment here if you would like to make your goal public!

2) Make a donation: Donate a few dollars to Project Gutenberg. I’m going to donate $2 for each book in my goal, but that’s just a suggestion. Just try to send ’em a couple of bucks if you can.

3) Find some books and start reading. Each time you finish a book, blog a quick review of it, fire off a tweet about it, or post to Facebook about it. Encourage other folks to play along, donate a few dollars, and read some of these amazing pieces of literature. Project Gutenberg is a great and under-appreciated project that is doing some fantastic work, so let’s show ’em some love.

Not sure where to start?
Here’s a quick baker’s dozen of some of the fantastic books available through Project Gutenberg:


Here are some stickers you can put on your weblog if you decide to participate. Link the sticker to this blog post, and we’ll see how many people we can get reading some old classics and supporting Project Gutenberg.


* Disclaimers: I’m doing this just for fun. I am in no way associated with Project Gutenberg, and they have no idea I’m doing this. Having read their legalese I think I’m ok calling this the “Project Gutenberg Project”, but I didn’t ask for their permission (so the name may change!) If you decide to donate, please go to the Project Gutenberg site, and follow their directions.

Very cool original stamp graphic is from Wikipedia and is in the public domain.

Happy reading!

Testing WordPress2 for iphone

The good folks at Automattic have released a new WordPress app for the iPhone. Given that I am hoping to blog more, I figured I’d take it for a test run. If i can blog just as easily as I can tweet (which this app appears to make possible), I’m a lot more likely to do so.

Testing posting with an attached photo. Let’s see how this goes…

I’m also testing a new blog-feed twitterbot. Crazy times, indeed.

How I surf the firehose (a meme!)

Rob tagged me in an interesting — and very Mozilla-centric — meme, asking that I answer a handful of questions about how I deal with the massive amount of information generated by the Mozilla project, staying on top of it and staying sane. These are my answers (work-related reading only — non-work stuff is off-topic, I think). I tag 4 more folks at the bottom!

1. What is your reading schedule? Do you have a schedule?

When I first get up in the morning, I start reading through email while the coffee brews. Once I get a coffee, I finish email (flagging stuff for later response, not responding as I go), then move on to read Twitter scrollback (rarely all of it), then forums, then finally moving on to feeds.

Feeds are the bulk of incoming stuff, and I have them cordoned off into folders that are ordered by general relevance. High priority stuff (work-related, generally, and friends/smart people) I check in on several times a day, Mid priority stuff is once a day or once every couple of days, and Low priority is once/wk at best. Low priority stuff often gets dumped unread when I declare a “Mark All Read” day 🙂

I don’t have a formal schedule — I’m online more or less all day, every day (except for the gym and the pub) and I just dive in and out of various communications streams randomly.

2. What do you read daily, and how often?

  • Email: many times/day, usually flipping to that tab once or twice per hour.
  • IRC: Constantly. I realized the other day that except for vacations and whatnot, I’ve been on IRC more or less every day since sometime in 1993. And I’m OK with that. IRC is like Twitter — profoundly simple, and so much more than the sum of its parts.
  • Twitter: I am utterly fascinated by Twitter and I love it and I’m not sure why. Its immediacy and continual flow creates a sense of connectedness that strikes me as somewhat magical. I’ve been feeling these wires for a long time, and Twitter is something brand new that feels oldskool and important. The ambient awareness it enables is quite something. Very interested to see what develops there. Anyhow, I’m on Twitter all the damned time. Even out and about (but not at the gym).
  • IM: When they come in. IM is real time, and I wish people used it more. It’s basically private IRC.
  • Planet Mozilla + other Mozilla-related feeds: 4-5 times/day. I flag items for inclusion in the weekly about:mozilla newsletter throughout the week as I do this, compiling the final selection and writing it up every Monday.
  • “Friends”, “People”, “Smart”, and “Work stuff” folders: once or twice/day. “Friends” stuff I generally read then and there (and has a pretty deep overlap between ‘work’ and ‘non-work’), but other stuff I’ll flag for later reading in bulk. (“People” and “Smart” is stuff that isn’t directly work related, but that is peripherally so; “Work stuff” is non-Mozilla stuff that is relevant to my specific job.)
  • “Fun” folder: I’ll flip through my “Fun” folder if I have 5 mins to kill or need a break. It’s full of internet awesomeness like Cute Overload, I Can Has Cheeseburger, Overheard in NY, Passive-aggressive notes, etc. Pretty much guaranteed to make me laugh at least a few times/day, which is more valuable than gold.

3. What do you read more than once / week? How often?

  • Stuff I’ve flagged for later reading when skimming through feeds.
  • “Tech”, “Tech blogs”, “Web”, and “News” folders. There is way too damned much traffic in these to try to stay on top of them daily, but I usually skim through them a couple of times/wk. I skim pretty brutally, tho, and probably flag maybe 1 or 2 posts for every 50-100 that come in.

4. What blogs, feeds, and newsgroups do you read?
Blogs + feeds + newsgroups are all basically feeds for me, and I’m currently subscribed to over 200. My “Mozilla” folder contains:

Yes, I know it contains duplicates, I do that on purpose.

5. Lastly, name a guilty pleasure in your feedreader.
Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. She’s insanely awesome.

Bonus question: What do you use to read feeds?
Google reader, although I’d kill for something that would help me organize things better and deal gracefully with significantly more volume. I have to keep my feeds down to around 200, which is really a pain in the butt, since I’d like to follow hundreds (thousands?) more.


On being unplugged

rob, being totally intrepid

Spending a full two weeks offline turned out to be more interesting than I expected. Like many of my friends, I believed that I’d be itching for some connectivity or email or news or Twitters within a matter of days. But I wasn’t. I thought I’d end up feeling cut off and isolated having no access to Web feeds, news sites, email, or TV. But I didn’t. I thought that, by the end of my exile, I’d be relieved when I was finally able to get back online. But that didn’t happen either.

Instead what I discovered is that being online all the time is profoundly fragmenting, stressful, and distracting. It turns out that I really don’t need to be incessantly jacked into the Matrix, that having constant, up-to-date information about all the myriad details of global, economic, political, and technology news doesn’t make me better, stronger, faster, more knowledgeable, or better informed. What it does make me is more scattered, erratic, stressed, edgy, and flighty.

Yes, flighty.

During my two week exile from the Intarwebs, I rediscovered my ability to read long, complex pieces of writing in a single sitting. I regained a sense of calm and an ability to focus of which I had forgotten I was capable. Without the constant distraction of email and IM and IRC and Twitter and Growl and SMS and Web feeds and the telephone and everything else, I found myself more present than I have felt in a long, long time. By contrast, the constant barrage of interruptions and distractions feels very much like a system that appears stable only because all the subsystems are equally unstable. Let just one of those subsystems get out of whack and the whole mess comes crashing down. This, I’ve realized, is neither wise nor healthy.

I also discovered that the lack of a clear line between “work” and “not-work” makes me insane. Now that I have regained some tenuous grasp of my sanity (which I hadn’t realized I’d lost until I stumbled across it again), I’m going to try to hang on to and strengthen it by being very, very disciplined about establishing and maintaining work/not-work boundaries. I’ve been working from home for four years now so this could be a bit tricky, and I’m bound to backslide now and again (and crunch-times are fair game, of course), but it’s a worthy and necessary goal. So far it’s working out.

It’s just time to slow down. I’ve spent the past eleven years continually ramping up my information consumption and communications channels, while gradually blurring the lines between work and not-work to the point of invisibility. I’ve been boiling that frog so unbelieveably slowly that I really had no idea just how stressful it had become. But now I do, so now it’s time to start fixing it.

Vacation lesson #2: Slow isn’t just for food.

Feedly – Awesome feed reader add-on for Firefox

I read a lot of web feeds. Hundreds of feeds bring me thousands of stories on all manner of topics every day — Mozilla stuff, food and cooking, photography, gaming, news, technology, literature, writing, politics, business, innovation, design, etc. Feeds are how I get almost all of my news, whether it be local, national, or international. It’s how I view my friends’ blogs and my Flickr contacts’ photo streams. Feeds keep me up to date on most forums and newsgroups I follow, and they’re the first place I turn when I want to waste some time catching up on my entertainment news or to see what’s up at the renovation/interior design blogs I read. Feeds are, by and large, how I access the vast majority of the Web content I consume.

Until a few days ago I have been using the Vienna feed reader for Mac OS X. It’s a pretty decent workhorse of a reader with a standard email-client-like user interface, the ability to group feeds into folders and subfolders (and sub-subfolders), and all that. It has always frustrated me, however, that my feedreader — through which I consume the majority of my Web content — wasn’t part of Firefox. In fact, I could go so far as to say that Vienna was on close to equal footing to Firefox as my core tool for accessing the Web. This has always struck me as somewhat ridiculous, so I’ve played with all sorts of tools for reading feeds via Firefox, whether they be add-ons or web-applications or what have you. None have ever been compelling enough to switch me away from Vienna until now.

Feedly Screencap

I’ve discovered Feedly, you see, an incredibly slick Firefox 3 add-on that’s been in development for quite some time.

While I’ve only been using Feedly for just over a week now, it has already completely streamlined how I manage, view, and deal with my feeds. Brilliantly, Feedly leverages the existing Google Reader web application as its back end, and throws in added functionality, other service integration points, and a significantly improved UI for good measure. It installs as quickly and easily as any Firefox add-on, displays your feeds in their own tab, and essentially integrates your entire feed reading experience right into your Firefox. Feedly is almost exactly the sort of tool I was hoping to find, and while it does still have a few bugs and rough edges, it’s by far the best feed reader I’ve used to date.

Check it out: Feedly at Mozilla Add-ons.