Greg McVerry “When we hand off control of the web to private companies, we’re losing the democratizing power of the web.”

Greg is an Ed-Tech entrepreneur, teacher, and digital inclusion advocate. He works as an Associate Professor of Education at Southern Connecticut State University. He has been active in the internet health movement as a Club Captain and a technical contributor.

Greg drives the Internet health mission forward through his contributions as a participation lead, Mozilla Club Captain, curriculum tester, and Thimble champion. As a teacher, Greg naturally thinks about how tools and curriculum will be received by learners.


Greg’s Story

Tell me about your work, starting with a broad overview, then focusing on any specific projects that you’re working on now that you’re excited about.

In terms of the network, my work crosses a lot of different spaces. On the Mozilla Foundation side, I’ve been helping around Thimble and developing teaching kits. We started developing the teaching kits for Thimble, and when it launched, we were testing them out in my college level courses and providing feedback. That was about two years ago. What I’ve been doing this year has been trying to update those kits, because the UI changes a lot. I have been writing Q&A responses, in case it might eventually move over to SUMO, but right now it’s just in a GitHub wiki, because that’s a more logical place. Support chatbots would work even better.

That’s my most recent experience in terms of Thimble. I also provide feedback in issues and helping to onboard new open-source developers, because I’m more of a non-technical support person. That’s what I’ve been doing this year. I’m really excited with where Thimble’s going and watching how far the team has been taking it and where they’re going with it.

I have also been running a Mozilla club in New Haven for the last five or six years. I’ve been working with this cohort of students since seventh grade. I’ve been helping them, watching them, and teaching literacy skills to youth in New Haven through the Elm City Webmakers. That’s been really fun. They’re graduating this year, so that’s going to be winding down, which is kind of sad but I’m hoping to start a new club with a new cohort.

On the Mozilla Company side, last year I was helping to develop their coaching platform and I was frustrated that a leadership platform was also being built concurrently. I didn’t understand why two separate backbones were being built when we could have been focused on one solution.

I worked with Emma and her team all last year, writing coaching materials and curriculum. I worked with Guillermo before he left, but after All Hands, there was a shift in direction, and that project got shelved, so now I’m less involved. I’d best describe my role there as tooling around in Telegram, providing feedback to the folks who have taken over for Guillermo on developing the coaching platform and the leadership training kits, which seems to be Mozilla’s focus on leadership development.

Outside of that, I’ve been working on MozActivate, and the community outreach around Mozilla clubs and launching campus clubs is being reinvigorated with much more focus on the Activate side.

You are involved in so many areas. I love that you can give feedback about our inefficiencies because you see things from such a broad perspective, and you’re pointing out where we’re siloed. That’s really helpful. Can you talk a little bit about the classes you teach?

I teach a class called New Literacies: Digital Texts and Tools for Lifelong Learning. It’s a competency-based tech fluency class, what we used to call general ed, teaching the basic tech competencies that we want all students at Southern Connecticut State University to graduate with. I built that, using Mozilla’s earlier Webmaker experience, before it became the Mozilla Learning Networks.

I designed the class based on the principles from Webmaker, bringing in a lot of connected-learning and production-based learning concepts into the class. The design of the class was intended to encourage students to publish openly but also to give them privacy through data empowerment. I try to build a model where my students are in charge of their own data. I’m introducing the social networks, but I don’t feel like I have the right to say you have to sell your personal data to a third party, so it’s voluntary that they use those networks.

I’m also working with a lot of Mozillian alumni, trying to create a decentralized and federated LMS, supporting what’s in the Mozilla manifesto. We’re brainstorming what that could look like, what it involves, and testing it out in my classes. We’re nowhere near there, but there have been interesting changes lately in terms of the technology around open annotations, making them a standard, and the W3C standard group around web mentions. There are a lot of pieces that are making a truly federated LMS possible, such as the rise of Mastodon. I’m really trying to push them there, emphasizing that all learning is storytelling, and trying to encourage my students to express themselves, whether that’s through Instagram posts or private blogs or just a drawing that they do that doesn’t even have to be online, but recognizing that agency is at the center of literacy and that all words have power. For the future of web development, we have to teach folks how to use media as a tool for self-empowerment.

I understand that’s a pretty American concept, putting agency at the center, putting the “I” at the center of literacy, but I do believe that words have power and that we need to look for ways to enrich them. The class begins each week with a Monday Maker challenge, which I copy to Amira’s Maker Parties, they walk in and there’s a challenge. I don’t really teach them, I just grab one of the Thimble starter projects or something some other club captain did and say, “Go do this,” and then I watch them provide support to each other. I teach them afterward. I let them learn to copy and paste and fail on their own, then offer support around their experience. It’s a hybrid course, both face-to-face and online. On Wednesdays there is drop-in studio time, “Hey, let’s hack together. It’s something that you’re interested in.”

There are a lot of projects. One person did a project raising money to get hats for kids with cancer. Another group got the whole campus together to do videos for a “Burpees for Bobby” fundraiser, which was a really cool project, because it benefitted my nephew, who had a terminal illness, and they did it as a surprise to me. It meant a lot. This semester the students have the right to choose to publish publicly or privately. The stream’s out there, and I share it on [Teach the Web].

It’s interesting to see the end of IRC. I’m sure there’s still some IRC holdouts, but the rise of Telegram over IRC over the last three years has been a fun transition to watch. I’m sure there’s some FOSS or die crowds that are pissed, but it’s been fun to watch the end of IRC, the rise of the chats, and the argument over whether Telegram or Discourse is the next generation.

We just have to follow where technology in the world is leading. We can’t force people.

No, you can’t.

That was a discussion of your college-level course. I hadn’t realized that your Mozilla Club was a longitudinal event where you follow a particular cohort of students. I imagine that gives you some unique insights. Can you share a little bit about the successes you’ve seen or what’s been challenging in that regard?

I’ve been with that group since they were in about seventh grade, when they were 12 to 13 years old. We would meet in the summers. You can’t require club membership, you have to recognize that members want to be there. You offer introductory classes and then identify the people, not just who had an affinity, but those who wanted to play with tech, expand their resources, and those who had a voice to find.

Sometimes it’s difficult. I was reading Amira’s post about her work in Kenya, talking about the lack of resources and connectivity, among other things. I experience some of the same challenges in New Haven. I have to do everything before data plans run out, and I do a lot through SMS messaging, because here in the United States, text messaging is often unlimited. I try to be as data-light as possible when reaching inner-city youth or at least to plan events at the beginning of the month, when data on their plans is still available, because a lot of them, even if they have a phone or their parents do, are on month-to-month prepaid plans.

Watching them grow over the years is an exciting difference from my college classes, because the college classes reset. I can never get to the advanced curriculum or the advance learning activities that Chad and I have been working on with my college class. With the Mozilla Club, I’ve had three or four who have moved on to the more complicated user-side JavaScript. It’s like a funnel. I started off with a lot more students and honed down as the skills get more and more specialized.

They’re self-selecting?

Yes, they’re self-selecting. Now they’re 18-year-olds, this is what they want to do, if they’re still involved. If they tried it for a few years and it wasn’t for them, I’m not going to force it on them. I’m not of the belief that every kid needs to learn to code. I think the concept of “computer science for all” is a stupid idea. I let them self-select and take charge. It has been fun to watch. I’ve been working hard over the last few years to connect MoFo with GEAR UP [Gaining Early Awareness Readiness through Undergraduate Programs] but it isn’t something that’s come to fruition yet. GEAR UP serves so many, with a mission of getting kids college and career ready. Personally, I care about civic and community ready before college and career ready, but this is supposed to be the year of ally building and looking for other ideas that align with our mission, so I’ve been looking there as a way to connect.

Starting this June, I’m going to do an experiment with Chad, leading a curriculum working group. We’ll be working on a copyright curriculum by forking what Alan Levine did with Creative Commons. There’s actually a really good training module for Creative Commons, but it might be over students’ heads or have serious localization issues, so we’re looking to use the comic strip maker in Thimble to make the concepts easier to localize. The comics that we’d use in writing a curriculum kit would be one to two lines and utilize a lot of visual information.

This will be the first time where we’re going to see if an outsider, non-paid staff, could run one of these working groups. I tried launching the working group earlier in the year, but most of the people on the working group are higher ed, and they requested that we start up in May or June. We’re going to get that up and running again to see if we can drive in new contributors. The Mozilla Foundation has such a small staff that onboarding and handling new contributors can sometimes be taxing. I’d like to find ways that staff might work more independently versus working within the community and find new ways to empower new communities. For example, Arko, who’s spreading the Hello Web campaign, was looking for help with lesson plans, so I’ve been meeting with him occasionally, offline, reviewing his plans and curriculum activities. He asked to join the group to see how we were able to do this together, and I’ve been trying to reach out with him, because I really like the Hello Web campaign and the relaunch of the Mozilla India space that he’s involved with.

You’ve got so many balls in the air, Greg. I can’t believe how many things you’re working on.

Didn’t say I do them well.

No, I know you do, though. By my count, you’ve actually already mentioned all of the five internet health issue areas that Mozilla has addressed. You’ve talked about web literacy, in terms of the education work you’re doing and digital inclusion. You’ve talked about access. You’ve talked about privacy and security and the adjacent space there of decentralization, and you’ve also mentioned copyright, which we put under the open innovation space. You’ve already hit on all of these things, but I do want to ask you, outside of your largely education-focused framework, what does internet health mean to you and why is it important, if it is?

I frame it this way. If we go back to the early ‘90s, the internet was kind of built by the “others” — the freaks and the geeks. We were doing our own identity work, building the web together. Now what is happening is that sense of agency and identity work, as the web became more mainstream, is now sold back to us. Instead of us building the webs and ourselves at the same time, it’s the web marketing ourselves back to us and marketing us to each other.

Not to say that you can’t use anything that has third-party data, but I think we have to understand how our data is being shaped and used, and I also think it is how we read, write, and participate now. When we hand off control of the web to private companies, we’re losing the democratizing power of the web. If you think about it, the book really democratized reading, and that took 800 years to spread across the globe, and didn’t even reach really good saturation. The web, in about a decade, reached just as far, and in two decades, far surpassed the reach of the book. That really democratized writing, in a sense. It opened up that ability for anybody to become a reader and a writer. Now I feel that is being threatened, in a sense, because we are watching the networks and the people who provide the pipes gaining much more control over the users, and we’re losing that democratic heart and nature of what the web used to be.

To me, the healthy web is one that has a user-first approach driving us forward and where we have options around privacy. In terms of my learning environments, I think privacy should be default. It’s actually a law, not really my position. But in terms of the web, being open as a default is a decent place to start. I think that is what I mean by a healthy web, is one that is accessible to all, one that doesn’t prioritize different kinds of data over others and one where, while it’s open to all, it still allows a level of privacy that allows the user control who gets to see and share their data. When you choose to join a social network, you know that they are selling your data. That’s the Faustian choice you make, but when your internet service providers can legally sell your data without your consent, that, by definition, is not a healthy web. A healthy web has be a much more democratizing place.

Yeah, I agree. Unfortunately, all these things — the specific things you mentioned — are under threat, right?

Very much so.

I don’t believe you’ve mentioned the role of web literacy.

I should have. I figured that was going to be the next question.

I’m curious, because it seems to me that’s where you spend a lot of your energy and effort, but obviously that’s to benefit your students. Do you also see it as a way to shape the web, itself?

I see it as a way to shape the web and the world. That’s why I do so much outreach with the projects in India, because I believe, when we think about the historical democratizing forces in human history, you have the Reformation, the Enlightenment. Birth control empowered women to control their bodies, which I think may have been one of the largest economic forces in democratization. Some might argue markets are democratizing, but I don’t mean to get into a debate over whether markets are good are bad. I consider the web to be that next big launch, if we provide the other nations of the world where the internet has not yet exploded with the space to have a healthy and open internet; I really do think it can change the way that we learn, fundamentally.

There is no such thing as a self-taught learner. Auto-didacticism doesn’t work. Communities create learners, and if we have a healthy and open web, we can connect communities across the globe. Again, I go back to the opinion that it’s not important that every kid learn how to code, but knowing how the web works, knowing how to shape, knowing how to participate and search for information, I think, is hugely important. I’m looking forward to the day when I can just call it literacy, not web literacy, when I don’t have to make the distinction between the book and the web. I’d like to see a symbiotic system that we use to encapture meaning, a way that we encode and decode meaning around the world, and a day when it’s just considered to be literacy, and doesn’t need the additional modifier of “web” or “digital.”

It certainly seems like that’s coming with this generation of what’s called digital natives not knowing any other world.

I hate the term digital natives. First, I think it makes immigrants look bad. Natives are smart. Second, it’s just fundamentally not true. I know, working with 18-year-olds, that many people don’t understand what they are using and how it works. For example, it takes me almost two weeks to teach my students how to identify their URL once they publish a blog and what to do with that URL. There’s a false dichotomy between using social media and being web literate.

I’m so glad you said that. That’s really, really clarifying.

I want to go back to something else you said. You talked about working open. You model this. You’re a power-user of GitHub, and you talked about open-source projects. I know you blog, as well, so you’re really modeling working open. Can you talk about how working open has impacted you in your work in any positive or negative ways?

I really believe in the open science movement. Mostly, these are all skills I learned by being a Mozilla contributor. I didn’t know one line of HTML or CSS until I went to my first Hackasaurus meeting, I think it was 2011, and now I have one of the largest ed-tech startups in Connecticut. I have learned how to do this based on watching project managers such as yourself, Laura, Doug, and Jess Klein running events, and I was able to do that because of the openness. I remember starting off when Hackasaurus, which was Webmaker, which is now something else, was simply a tool, and Erin Knight, myself, and a couple of other people in Google groups were talking about X-Ray Goggles, among other things. That was my evolution in working open, because of my involvement in the Mozilla network.

The reason I continue to work openly now is because I’m in a taxpayer-funded position. Why should libraries have to pay twice to see my work? Taxpayers have already paid for it, so I don’t believe it should be hidden and siloed off in a private journal so that taxpayers have to pay for it a second time. That’s pretty scammy, and it’s also bad science.

Open science with open peer review can help out academics. We would be able to publish quicker, and our data would be able to be reviewed more easily. The peer-review process could be more supportive versus an opaque blindness. Working in the open, I call it “learning out loud,” gets my name out there, so it’s self-serving, in a sense. You can go to the GitHub report of a developer working under an NDA, and you have no idea what work they have done, and they don’t get credit. It hurts them, career-wise.

I think working open, no matter your career, whether you’re in science or journalism or in academics or as a developer, really, truly helps you grow and it helps out the community. It provides avenues for mentoring, because you never know how many people are reading your work. I didn’t even realize that until I went to MozFest and everybody was coming up to say, “Oh, I’ve been following you forever.” It’s not that I have a massive following. It’s only a few thousand people that read my stuff, but you didn’t realize you had an impact until you put a face to that following and hear what others are doing around your work. It’s very powerful and self-rewarding.

Now I’m looking to try to push other people into working open. I’m on the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology, and we just set our three goals. One of those goals is equitable access to digital tools, I don’t want to call it OER, because it’s about people, not resources, with a focus on equitable access to digital text. I think if we support everybody and think about moving in a more open way that still protects privacy, I call it privacy through data empowerment, we could really, fundamentally, change the way we teach and how we learn.

If we had some kind of federated social network where schools could connect to other schools, and then, on top of that, where everybody had a domain of their own, we could network our schools. I’ve been thinking of this project as one that evolves into thinking about students with an API that follows them around, connected back to the network, with a lot of work around open badges. The new specifications with the endorsements, I think, could really shape learning in the next five to 10 years, but most importantly, I think what’s going to matter, for learning and open, is having the open knowledge graph.

That’s why I’m very excited that Mozilla bought Pocket, so we can get more knowledge out. I think the public knowledge graph will help out with open artificial intelligence engines and things of that nature. I think the future of learning will involve a lot of AI and machine scoring bots and a mixture of products, people and tools coming together in a very fun way. I’m excited for the future of learning, despite the current sentiment of doom and gloom.

I appreciate your optimism. I love how wide-ranging this conversation is. I feel like you’ve touched on the history of literacy, economics, civics. This is really wide-ranging for you, and that’s exciting. Because you have such a wide, broad view of Mozilla, you’ve touched on every corner of the organization, I was wondering if you could provide a critique on what could be done better.

It is a different perspective, because now I’m also around older people in tech. When you are talking to people who have been around the web for 20 to 30 years, you have to be careful talking about Mozilla. For a lot of those people, Mozilla has left a bad taste in their mouth at some point, whether it was Firefox not working or through their experiences as a Mozilla contributor. Many of them have issues that I don’t have personal experience with, they go back to web history when I was in high school and college. My experience is more in the second wave. I don’t think I had a GeoCities page. I did have an AOL account.

I started middle school checking Usenet and Prodigy. Prodigy was the start of my Internet experience, but I probably didn’t build a webpage or register a domain until late ‘90s, early 2000s. People seem to be excited and they love the current goals, but there’s also a history within the Mozilla culture. For me, even I didn’t get involved with Mozilla until you guys screwed something up. I think it was around the time Mozilla was talking about the sunsetting of Webmaker, Appmaker and Popcorn. I was like, “What the hell? This is stupid.” I thought Webmaker was a great name and a great brand, but it has become a fairly useless Android app. I recently went and checked on Webmaker in the Google Play store, but it looks like it’s not getting any more love or updates.

I understand the need for rebranding, with the mobile-first approach between the Firefox OS and trying to get Firefox on Android and trying to build an app for the rest of the world. I believe it may have been a Dave Ascher thing, because he was big on empowerment issues.

Local content.

Yeah, local content, empowering, trying to create these businesses. I still have my Firefox OS phone. I can see the beta version of Webmaker and then the live version of Webmaker, and they’re two totally different things, but I really like the Webmaker branding. It’s been a hard couple of years. It’s funny that we’re talking about centralization now, because for contributors, it feels like a decentralization. I say it tongue-in-cheekily, but at first, especially on the MoFo side, it felt like it was being built by the community, and now we’re building more for the community. That was a shift. It was a strategic shift by the board. It has settled down a little bit.

It used to be that, as a volunteer, you’d be working on a project, and then the board meeting’s coming up, so you know that the project’s not going to be around in a couple of days. That was always a risk. MoFo has a small staff. You guys are basically a startup, with a handful of people running massive programs, always having to chase to find revenue and support and grants. You could always tell when something had to happen a particular way because that’s what the funders wanted. You’re told, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. You’re the community. You get to control everything,” and, “If you don’t like it, shout louder, and eventually it will change,” but you come to realize that the way it actually works is that Mozilla’s the board of directors, and they are the main bosses, and they get to make the final say and they also have funders, who may not be the main bosses, but who also get a large say.”

That was an interesting balance, but I’ve been really liking the direction. I think the clubs program makes sense. There’s a lot of repetition. I don’t know how things really work. I don’t know if maybe you guys are told to try side projects to see if they take off but then, if they don’t, to let them go. The communication’s a little rough. I was really excited about the fork of the WordPress project you guys were doing, and then it disappeared. There was no communication like, “We tried it, but it didn’t really work well, so we stopped.”

Higher-level communications get hidden. I think a lot more is getting done behind the scenes in Google Suite and email that isn’t made public anymore. That might be good, because maybe uppity ups didn’t want us folks reading what they’re doing and the decision-making process behind it all, because open isn’t always faster. The concept of faster being better became a thing for a while, and sometimes faster is better means keeping things internal a lot more, because we can move quicker if we don’t involve strangers.

All of that to say, I got involved with Mozilla when something made me mad. I still think that getting rid of Popcorn was a dumb idea. I think video is a very underserved. Zeega, which was my Popcorn replacement, was bought by Buzzfeed and shut down. There’s no HTML video remix machine out there anymore. That is the major entry point for many people on the web. It’s not HTML. It’s not websites, it’s video. People want to be the Instagram and YouTube video stars. There’s a lot of open source content video out there. I think Popcorn was a pretty cool remix tool. I do understand why they had to shut it down. It wasn’t getting support. You guys don’t have the engineering teams to run it all, and there’s the licensing issues. YouTube changes their APIs — it wasn’t even APIs then, it was just deep embeds — but if somebody changes their embed, it breaks. You can’t support it.

Now I’m begging everybody to come up with an alternative. I think Fog Creek Software has filled the gap left by Appmaker with Glitch. That’s a wonderful program that the clubs should start using when they want to up their game from the web to web responsive apps. Glitch is a phenomenal tool. We have to find those kinds of networks now.

I couldn’t make it to the last All Hands, and I don’t think I will this year, either, but I was excited about the talk around decentralization because I think the technology is getting there, too, around a new, decentralized web. I think the whole idea of decentralized networks supporting Mozilla is huge.

My other big gripe would be the redundancies between MoFo and MoCo. I don’t know the legal reasons or the staffing issues, but I think it’s a waste of time and resources of which we don’t have very much. It’s getting to be less, but I still feel like we have a lot of people doing the same things in different places. Something I have thought about, in terms of feedback, is the need to get on the same page, even if it’s something as simple as agreeing on the overall information architecture. Even if you’re not combining the systems now, if you guys were doing read-write-participate, and they’re doing protect-build, I forget the third one, if we could look at them both as being three, and build together, but they push back on, “Well, we just want to use plain HTML CSS, and they want to use something crazy that nobody can read.” It’s an interesting difference between the two parts of Mozilla. The FOSS or die crowd is much stronger internationally and on the MoCo side versus the MoFo side. The fact that StoryEngine is written on a Google forum is going to probably make people gasp.

People are still trying to rehash that, why we are using Google Suite, not Thunderbird. I feel like, “Just let that be a loss. That fight’s over.” It’s because it works. When you’re dealing with people new to web literacy, we can onboard them more easily. I notice that with my web curriculum. I can’t start off in GitHub when I’m onboarding new people to writing curriculum. I have to start in Google Docs and then slowly ease them into GitHub. GitHub’s getting better. I even just use the web interface instead of the command line, and people make fun of me for that. It’s getting better, and onboarding is getting easier for people.

There’s definite reasons for those cultural differences, but they’re interesting. Another difficulty is that most people don’t stay in a job for more than five years, now, in any industry. As a contributor, I’m on my third cycle of MoFo employees, and there’s not a good handoff process. When Doug left, he had cultivated a huge team of volunteer contributors, and because of issues between himself and the membership or something, or maybe just not enough staff, the whole team got dropped.

When you read the new web literacy whitepaper, it doesn’t even mention a sentence of, “And then we released version 1.5.” It was like they completely wiped it from the history of Mozilla, was a year’s worth of work for this team of contributors, because they didn’t like the way that the 1.5 version came out. I have been trying to rebuild that team and reengage a lot of the people, but there’s a number of them that have said, “No, I’m done. I tried, and they didn’t value my work.” I think there needs to be a better handoff process when staff leave. I understand that they wanted An-Me to take lead of the map and build her own team and not get pushed around by people who’d been working on a project for three years, but they should had something for us to go to next, or at least a thank you note.

Better communication. This is all such good feedback. Again, you’re so uniquely positioned to have all this insight. You’ve been talking about contributors. This will be my last question, unless you have additional things to say. I’m curious about what you think the best use of contributors is at Mozilla and what we should be doing better to support, appreciate, and value contributors.

I had been a volunteer for five years before I learned about and created an account. I didn’t even know about it. Michael Kohler is building a participation dashboard, and I think that’s a step in the right direction. There’s a need for an updated org chart. You guys switch jobs like every 10 minutes. Why don’t I get an email or see blog posts about these changes? Communicating staff changes better would help out contributors. I think the best way to use contributors is to have them be your storytellers and have them be your ambassadors. I think we’ve learned that a lot of projects can sometimes move quicker.

I hope you guys are doing a good case study on the Thimble contributors and the open-source project around that, because it’s going to be a good model in seeing how we can onboard to technical projects, identifying the difference between technical and non-technical contributors, and finding a role for those technical contributors and maybe elevating volunteer roles. You do a decent job of that through the clubs, but recognizing contributors earlier through some kind of, I could give a crap if it’s a badge or an email, but just some kind of thank you. I still don’t know where to go, if I wanted to go right now and get a directory of how many active contributors are there to Mozilla. Even though we’re working on the dashboard over on MoCo, we don’t have those metrics yet. As a volunteer organization, how do you not have good metrics on the volunteer contributors?

I don’t know if maybe we use as the platform and add in some kind of credentialing system through that. The explosion of Telegram groups in the last five years has been very interesting, but that’s a non-Mozilla platform, so it’s harder to track the analytics on that. I think using a Mozilla platform would help with contributors in a sense. In the United States and Western Europe, new contributors come through partner organizations. I came through the National Writing Project. Other people come through Different allies bring you into Mozilla. Outside of the United States and Western Europe, being closely identified with Mozilla and Firefox helps build an identity, career-wise. It’s a very regional approach, and I’m noticing the KPIs for membership for relaunching North America and India, I think, are getting better.

I think George Roter’s doing a good job, is really trying to communicate out the KPIs so that volunteer contributors know them, but one thing that could be done differently is to have a website where I can track the different heartbeats, or sprints, or whatever you want to call them. They can all be on different schedules, but why is there not one place where I can go to see a list of all the different projects? I can’t find that anywhere. Those are the kinds of things that might help Mozilla a little more, but again, that takes engineering and time from you folks, and you have to focus on Firefox and you have to focus on Mozilla as a foundation, on reaching the goals in the manifesto.

This is such good feedback, though. You’re right. We are a volunteer organization, so we’ve got to get those ducks in a row, for sure.

No, it’s been great. I’ve learned so much. Literally, it’s taught me enough to launch a startup. I’ve had websites since 2000, but they were all done through CMSs. I’d never coded a site until I got involved with Mozilla, and now I’m teaching around the world. I’ve had opportunities, with Mozilla, to travel the world, even when I couldn’t do as much travel as you guys wanted me to do. The travel gets hard, and I feel like if you don’t make it to All Hands, then you’re not in the “in” for that next cycle of projects. That’s kind of difficult. It’s like, “These are the two people that we identified as our team.” There’s a group called Virtually Connecting that Maha Bali started. I’ve been trying so hard to get involved, because I think they’ve done a great way of doing remote support at conferences. Robert Friedman did a better job at the last MozFest. I didn’t get to go, but I was able to watch a little bit more.

I understand that the whole point of All Hands is a face-to-face, shut your computers and let’s get work together event, because we’re a remote organization year-round, but there’s still a good group of volunteer contributors who would like to help out as much as possible but who are not able to attend. It’s hard, because everyone’s at these large working room tables, and you can’t hear. Even a remote working space at All Hands for teams to reserve for teams if they have key contributors who are not able to attend might help.

It’s been fun. I do it because I believe in the mission. I stick to it because I think the web needs some kind of group that’s helping to fight, whether that’s a decentralized group or a network of allies. I’m big into reading “The Expanse” series right now, or watching that TV show. It’s like the OPA, they all have a common goal, but it’s a bunch of tiny groups of tinier, little goals, and I think that decentralized approach to protecting an open web is a smart play for Mozilla. I was excited at the last All Hands by the keynotes, but that can change. That can change by the next board meeting.

I’m glad you’ve said that you feel you’ve gotten value from Mozilla, because certainly Mozilla’s gotten value from your participation. I definitely want to thank you for that and also thank you for your time today. This is great stuff. There’s so much here for us to learn from, and I’m excited to have your story shared more broadly, because these broad ranging insights from a multidisciplinary, wide-ranging conversation will be really useful to our people.