Author Archives: Kensie

Avast me hearties!

In the spirit of this most special of occasions, I assembled a crew of jolly tars and we’ve made some fancy riggin’ for you to add to yer ships!

If ye be captaining a Firefox vessel with 6 guns, and Windows or Mac at your sails, add this riggin’ to make your voyage on the virtual sees a mite more jaunty.

Step the first: install this fine langpack compiled by Captain Longbeard (aka Unfocused/Blair McBride)

Step the second: change general.useragent.locale to en-AR

Relaunch yer ship, and she’s good to go!

Fer more explanations of our efforts, and fer learnin how to join our crew see this here scrawl or find us on the ocean in port #yarr

Update: Courtesy o’ Capt Nigel, here be an image of the beauty!

You’re not alone

Mike Shaver recently posted about his issues with mental illness. Partly because it’s currently affecting his work, but also “because I think that people don’t talk about mental illness enough.” I think he’s right. I recently helped a friend of mine seek treatment and the factor that actually got him to go to a doctor was talking to mconnor about his own experiences seeking treatment for the same illness. After months of trying to get him to go, he made the appointment the very next day. While I haven’t ever received a diagnosis, or been given treatment specifically for mental illness I have had my own experiences with it. In support of Shaver, my friend and everyone else out there struggling, this is me, talking about it.

In childhood

I was separated from my mother at the age of 2. Her parents raised me, but home was never great. I didn’t actually find out until adulthood that she did raise me for the first 2 years of my life. A lot of my anger and loneliness as a child makes a lot more sense knowing that. I never really fit in anywhere. Not at home, not at school. At around age 9 or 10 it started really catching up with me. I didn’t want to go to school, which didn’t make sense because I’ve always loved school itself. I wasn’t brushing my hair. I used to lock myself in the bathroom so that my grandparents couldn’t make me go to school, but my grandfather would come and drag me out. Looking back I assume they’d been threatened with court by the school board if they didn’t make me go. I’m sure there were other symptoms, but I’m happy not to try too hard to remember those days.

One day while driving me to school my grandmother told me I had an appointment, but wouldn’t tell me what kind. At some point during the day I was called to the office and the principal and my guidance counselor were there to explain that I was being taken to a shrink. I was mad, betrayed, I didn’t want to go. The first few sessions I just sat there, I didn’t want to talk. After a little while though, I slowly started talking and OMG it felt great. See my grandparents are great people, they’ll do anything for a friend, very active in their church, highly regarded in many ways. But they were shit parents. My grandfather had a temper and if you tried to tell my grandmother she was doing something wrong she would just laugh at you. I finally had someone who would listen to me, who would advocate for me. I didn’t have to talk to them, she would bring things up in her sessions with them if I asked her to. She encouraged me to bring things up in a group meeting, but in the mean time, she was my safety. Then we moved. Ironically, I wanted to find a new therapist, but my grandparents, under the weight of all the things she was telling them they did wrong, weren’t so interested.

As a teenager

Oh my teens. My attitude towards relationships was seriously skewed because of my home life. Boyfriends were potential husbands which were escape routes. I always talked about marriage (even at 13), plots were hatched to run away somewhere or marry as soon as possible. Of course this also meant I lost a lot more in a break up and I never handled them well. I didn’t eat, my grades suffered, my friendships suffered because all I could focus on was analyzing what went wrong and hoping somehow I could get him back. I actually failed a math class because of a boy and had to take summer school to graduate the year I’d planned.

Oddly enough, I was an optimist. Looking back I can’t actually make the two selves compute, but while I dwelled so much on how bad things were, I always seemed to have an eye on how good things could be, and tried to make the best of things. I remember one day in high school two classmates commented that I wasn’t smiling that day, and that it was ruining their day because whatever else happened, they’d come to count on my mood in that class cheering them up. I’ve actually noticed the same thing in my sister. Just going off her mood you wouldn’t guess that she’s lonely or frustrated. It only comes out when you get her talking about certain subjects.

I think if you asked me at the time if I was happy I would have said “yes, except for…” this giant thing that took up a lot of my time and had me contemplating suicide. I don’t think I was ever really suicidal, just like I never really harmed myself though I would hurt myself sometimes to distract from the emotional pain. It’s a small distinction, but I’ve known women who have really really cut themselves and can’t wear short sleeves anymore. Nothing I ever did caused any lasting physical effects.

As an adult

I have some of the typical markers you’d expect from someone with my history – teen mother, married and divorced young, varied and exciting sexual history. I don’t want to get too much into my life at this point because it’s not just my story. I definitely had anxiety issues during my marriage. While I never believed aliens would attack earth or actually abducted people, thinking about it happening caused a lot of anxiety and fear. This started in childhood and continued into my 20s.

There was also a period in my 20s where I slept with a nightlight because of anxiety at night – I was fine during the day. I figured out that if I tried to go to bed before I was tired I would lie awake thinking about horrible things happening to my family that I wouldn’t be able to stop, including, but not limited to, alien abduction, kidnapping, homicide, war, it goes on. Laughing helped. I ended up with a nightly regimen of watching 2 hours of sitcoms followed by Conan O’Brien before bed. Then I could sleep. I also learned not to go to bed until I was ready to sleep, which sometimes meant some really late nights early mornings. I’m not actually sure when or why this anxiety went away, but thank god it did.

Every now and then I would feel anxiety for no reason. Nothing crushing, but it wouldn’t go away either. At the grocery store, in the middle of a TV show. It felt like when people talk about knowing something bad has happened to someone they love, right before they get the phone call, but calls never came and my immediate family was always fine. Watching TV I saw a commercial for a new birth control pill – actually it was an FDA required commercial clearing up a previous commercial for said pill. Two things struck me, first it’s a different type of hormone that doesn’t bind to the free testosterone in a women’s system. The second thing that caught my attention was the clarification that Yaz was not approved to treat PMS but rather PMDD.

I’d never heard of PMDD before, so I looked it up. It sounded a lot more like me than any other mental illness profile I’d read (we’ve all been there, almost every profile sounds a little like us). I saw my doctor and got a prescription. What a difference! The random anxiety stopped and many situations that used to make me nervous no longer did. My moods, and my hormones it seems, are on a much more even keel. While there are definitely positive changes in my life I could attribute this to, there has been more than one occasion that I’ve started getting anxious and then realized I’d forgotten my pill that day.

I’m doing much better. Looking back I’m not sure I’d say I had a diagnosable mental illness, maybe PMDD. I think a lot of my problems were situational, and now that I’m in control of my own life I’m so happy I can’t even begin to express it. It’s possible though that I do have something and through trial by fire learned to cope.

That’s what’s so tricky about diagnosing and treating mental illness. Are we depressed because we never learned to cope with certain situations, or are we unable to cope because we’re depressed? The first question many people ask me about my friend that’s getting help is “what is he depressed about?” In my situation, I was certainly depressed about things and learning to make better choices was a big part of my solution. In his case, he was just generally depressed. He has friends, a great job of his choosing. He’s not depressed about anything, he’s depressed. In his case drug treatment has come first and has allowed other positive changes in his life that he wouldn’t believe were possible.

What I hope you get out of this

You don’t have to have a debilitating mental illness to have a condition that would benefit from therapy or treatment.
You can’t tell by looking or casual interaction who’s suffering.
Talking about it helps.
Talking about it helps you.
Talking about it helps others.
Talking about it helps.
You’re not alone.

New twitter account for community participation

Hi all,

I’ve started a new twitter account, @MozOpenCalls to aggregate opportunities for community participation. Hopefully this account will make it easier for people who want to help out (like myself) to find the current activities looking for volunteers…with a small catch.

I know I get overwhelmed looking at Spread Firefox and given my limited amount of time to devote I want to put my efforts into projects I know will be successful. The focus of this twitter account will be to highlight only projects that are being run by, or are endorsed by, official MoCo or Mofo efforts. Hopefully this makes it easier for people to choose a place to get started, and once they find their area of interest they can explore those projects’ blogs and mailing lists for more opportunities.

I’m a bit of a n00b to these things, but an added benefit of this is that it’s a simple enough project and hopefully I’ll learn on the way about the different ways to use twitter for aggregating and promoting. That said, if anyone has any tips for me, or wants to help out that would be fine, too! I wouldn’t mind an image of one of the foxes with a megaphone. For now I’m using an image of Foxkeh from Holi, which I think works ok, Foxkeh’s getting his hands dirty helping out! Also a background might be nice, I’ve seen some cool things out there.

Other than that, please RT and also tweet any open calls that I’ve missed! Both @MozOpenCalls and my personal twitter/email will work.


Activity on the SUMO blog

Was pleasantly surprised today to see a new post on the SUMO blog – Michael Verdi has not only posted Monday’s meeting minutes to it (yay!) he’s also attempted a video diary of the key points of the meeting. It’s a little rough, but there are some great sneak peeks of the new knowledge base software as well as a call to test it out.

Everyone should head on over and check it out. Remember, communication is a two-way street. If you appreciate the video and having the meeting minutes in the blog then please give Michael a big thanks and let the team know. It may seem silly to simply post “thanks” but it really means something to people who take time out of their day.

It can be really easy for folks at Mozilla to get busy with work, but openness and communication are so important to its core mission. If it feels like no one is looking it’s really easy for people to choose not to blog, to tweet, whatever. Whenever you see great outreach like this reward it and you’ll be doing more than you think towards preserving these values.

The trouble with SUMO

First a bit of a disclaimer – this post is in no way meant to belittle the hard work people have put into SUMO, still put into SUMO, or the successes it has had. However, as indicated from the title, this post is going to focus pretty heavily on the negative.

SUMO – SUpport dot Mozilla dot Org [Thanks to Tanner for the catch. SUMO became a dot com site, but the O can still come from Mozilla.]- has a pretty interesting history. Sought after for years among the community, Mozilla finally decided to take user support seriously. Kinda. At the time, the commitment from Moco was pretty small and there were rumblings that SUMO still had to prove user support was actually helpful before it was sure to stick around. – which it certainly has by now.

The shape SUMO was meant to take changed quite a bit. There was talk about a web-based help viewer for Firefox on a separate thread from the discussions for forming a real support offering. In fact, Mozillazine, already running a user forum and a knowledge base was vetted as a possible solution – simply endorse the site that already exists. For several reasons, some of which I was in on, some of which were discussed privately, it was decided that a Mozilla run solution would be best.

At first, SUMO was meant to be a quiet, community run project. People already active in the support community, including myself, were brought in to grow our areas of expertise and form, well, a community. A full time team-lead was hired and we had a manager to guide us all. However, the nature of the project changed really quickly. Our manager left for a start up and wasn’t replaced. Our team lead became the manager and for the most part the team didn’t interact with Mozilla outside of itself. – Excluding the team lead/manager, I can’t speak for him.

Pretty early on we adopted the ambitious goal to be the full support system for Firefox 3, which meant a full set of KB docs in a minimum number of locales. The point of SUMO as communicated to me at this point was to be the BEST Firefox support there is. Along the lines of ambitious goals not only was the KB to be up and running, but the forums and live chat were targeted to go live by the end of the year, and they did. Now I have no idea where the goals came from. Did our manager believe in us? Was he being pushed by his manager to make SUMO relevant as quickly as possible? So I’m not going to comment on whether or not I think they were good goals. We certainly achieved them.

But that’s the problem. SUMO is constantly being judged on what it does do, but as this is Mozilla’s first venture into user support there’s no other internal baseline. What could SUMO be? How does SUMO measure up, especially to the passed over Mozillazine which, as far as I can tell, is still thriving? Most importantly to me, is SUMO avoiding the mistakes that made us pass over Mozillazine in the first place?

Now again, SUMO has been doing great stuff. We did great things with tikiwiki and the new custom software looks pretty cool, too. Except is SUMO innovating? The new forums end up working a lot like Get Satisfaction. There’s been talk of a web based Live Chat client (on the helper’s end) for literally years now. Meanwhile the Spark client was the only part of the live chat software that still had active maintainers and yet no changes were pursued in favor of the in house client that’s been around the corner this whole time. The Army of Awesome is pretty cool, I’m not familiar with what already exists for this kind of thing so I have no idea of it’s innovative, but it’s definitely progress so I won’t knock it.

There’s also no real innovation in document writing. Obviously the hire of Michael Verdi is meant to change that, but for now it hasn’t happened yet. The guidelines for how to write an article haven’t changed much since SUMO was launched, and there’s no template on how an article should be layed out. SUMO has been collecting survey data on its articles from the beginning – a handy feature of tikiwiki – to find out which articles are working and which need help. By now, having chosen a consistent format would be a reasonable expectation. –I checked out SUMO’s Best Practices guide just to make sure my bold claim was accurate, well you can see when that article was updated.

There’s also no contributor training outside of the old docs, more specifically the one I wrote for live chat helpers on how to troubleshoot an unfamiliar issue. The top issues and how to solve them are not clearly communicated, and certainly not outside of the team. Support Firefox Days haven’t happened in a long time. There was apparently a SUMO newsletter, but I can’t find any editions to prove it existed, just the old sign-up form. The SUMO blog basically gets news, but nothing practical that will help someone provide better user support.

Openness has been an issue, as well. Some things are better than they were, some things are worse. The team goals appear to be public now, but as far as I can tell are not published to the community (I found them linked in one of the meeting minutes). Meeting minutes used to be published to the newsgroup (no longer used), the blog and the contributor forum (stopped in both due to undesired “noise”) which isn’t such a big deal as the bulk of the planning discussion moved to the sumodev meeting which was not promoted to the rest of the community. Now there’s a private moderator’s only forum, which I only found because I looked at the forum lists (and I’m still in the moderator group, apparently). The discussion about why it’s private is quite lively, I’d suggest reading it but I’d have to leak it for you to do so, which, in spite of this posting, I’m not prepared to do.

Is SUMO doing the best it can do? I don’t know. I think people are certainly working hard and deserve credit. I think, though, that not enough people are involved. Not enough people are asking tough questions (though I can understand why, the Flash vs Ogg bug didn’t go very well). I also think that there’s been too much focus on sending data inward rather than out. There’s also been way too much focus on cultivating the software in relation to cultivating the community. With the new hires, and with Kitsune almost done, it looks like that will change, however if people aren’t asking the right questions, using the right measures, then in the end it won’t be any different from where it started.

The Cost of Diversity

The big question I got in response to a recent blog post of mine is “how could diversity possibly have a cost?” here’s my attempt to answer it in clearer terms…

Change always has a price

There’s no getting around this. It’s near impossible to change something solely for the better. In the end the change may be a net positive, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t costs, and that for some people affected the change is a net loss.

Ignorance has a cost

It’s not that I don’t think change isn’t needed, it’s that most people I see talking loudly about women in OS are blindly ignorant or apathetic to the cost of their proposals. Because they are blind, their ideas and solutions have no plan for minimizing the cost while maximizing the benefit. Working simply towards the goal of more women can lead to alienating another group that is dear to my heart.

Many people respond that people engage in sexism even when they think they aren’t, and that this sexism by ignorance is just as damaging. This is basically the flipside of that argument. Enlightenment doesn’t work one way, or it’s not really enlightened.

So what’s the bill?

Like the U.N. club in my high school, the cost of “diversity” without concern for preserving what’s already good about something will no doubt mean that you lose it. There are things about OS that make it better than other projects, and not just in the basic principles of open vs. proprietary.

Some of you probably want a concrete example right now, so here’s one: right now, because of the demands of OS projects, you really have to love it to stick with it. Yes, in some ways that’s bad, and those ways should be changed, but one of the best things about OS is that you get to work with people who love what they’re doing as much as you do. With the wrong tactics and the wrong incentives we might get more diversity, but not because those people love it, too.

Diversity and the need for mentors

This isn’t the follow-up to my last post that I was promising. It’s still coming but needs more time to stew in my brain. Though this does follow-up on some of the ideas and concerns I mentioned.

After my post I decided to start following the WoMoz mailing list. It’s actually been quite interesting and I was grateful to find the women there are tolerant, and even agree with some of my less than “feminist” views on the issue.

The group is actually having a difficult time finding first projects as really the issue of gender is a slippery one. It’s based on a generalization and I know many of you agree that generalization can be the first step to failure. However, I think that if you don’t start somewhere you never get started. Gender (in the traditional binary sense, which doesn’t reflect my views on the subject, btw) is really easy to measure. If there is a very high representation of one gender over the other I agree it’s worth exploring, though I remain skeptical on whether it requires action just for the sake of making the numbers match.

That all said, one of the main goals the group has undertaken has started to resonate with me. It’s the idea that to attract more women you need more women. At first I was skeptical. If we believe that women and men are equal then shouldn’t women be able to use a male role model? Well, personally I believe that men and women are equal, but we’re not the same. If nothing else would have convinced me, the experience of pregnancy and motherhood has certainly shown me that our basic make-up (read: hormones) really does affect our personalities and how we experience life.

One way I prefer to experience life is with a little bit of caution. I’d prefer to do things right, and I’d much rather have someone walk me through something than try and fail several times over on my own. Once I know how to do something, or I at least understand the principles behind it, I’m pretty fearless and will explore, alter and experiment on my own. It’s that first time though. I think the best way to explain it is that I want to make sure my information is correct that first time. I don’t want to start, and go on, doing something the wrong way if better information is out there.

This quirk of mine explains partially why I’ve never been very domestic. My grandmother doesn’t like teaching, she likes showing. Instead of teaching me how to do something hands-on she expected me to pick it up by watching her. That’s just not how I work. And so I was 18 before I did my first load of laundry. I don’t cook, but I do bake – the one thing she did walk me through, as that’s basically what a recipe does. I can read a map like nobody’s business, though. My grandfather taught me how.

The same goes for everything else in my life. I’d much rather learn something with a mentor, who can alert me when I’m starting to go wrong, than to just invest a whole bunch of unknowns to come up with an unknown result. Mozilla is actually quite unfriendly to this learning style, though for good reason. With limited resources, especially in the early years, their best bet was to invest in people who could hit the ground running themselves. It’s much easier to get a response on a specific question about a specific piece of code, it also takes less time away from the already stressed developers working on their own bugs.

How do we solve the problem? Women (and men) need to be more visible with their success stories. Women need to be more visible at all. It’s not just about appearances. It’s about giving potential contributors a face and a story that they can identify with. For better or worse we have our own baggage. Some people who have experienced sexism in their lives will see a male-centric group and assume sexism is at play. They shouldn’t be faulted for this, they’re just going by what they know. Also, the sexism isn’t always travelling from the inside out. Sometimes it travels from the outside inwards. I think a woman interested in computers is a lot more likely to be discouraged by her peers outside of her chosen project. Why should we expect her to take the risk if we don’t show her that it will pay off?

Diversity at what cost?

When I was in high school one of the first clubs I joined was a mock United Nations club. A friend and I checked it out because we thought it was funny that the name read as one word became “unclub.” We wanted to be part of an “unclub.”

The U.N. Assemblies were some of the best times I had. Students from all over the county would get together and debate history and politics, and we loved it. We followed the same guidelines including points of order, which led to a very funny moment where a U.S. delegate, pretending to be Nancy Kerrigan, responded “Why me?! Why anyone!?!” when told he was speaking out of order (Tonya Harding had originally taken the floor). You probably don’t see the humor in it, but we all did.

My last year in high school our history teachers did a horrible thing. They saw how much fun we were having, how much we enjoyed history and politics, and they forced all their students of a certain year to join. They didn’t love it, and so they made their own fun. They didn’t represent their countries accurately, and unfortunately they weren’t relegated to secondary countries either. The teachers wanted them to participate!

Imagine trying to debate sanctions against Cuba when neither the US nor Cuba gives a shit. The students representing the President and Vice-president stopped trying to maintain order, sometimes even abusing their power, and the page system (passing of notes between countries), which used to be the best part, was used to continue the regular hallway harassment that so many of us had at least escaped when at U.N.

We couldn’t love it anymore. The worst part about it was that they didn’t love it either, they were just making the most of it to get a better grade.

I can’t help but think about this whenever the issue of Women in Open Source comes up. I haven’t heard proponents say much more than there just should be more women. Sometimes someone mentions pay; there should be more women in technology and open source because it pays well. This worries me. I’ve heard this tune since elementary school. As a girl gifted in math there were endless field trips and career nights encouraging me to pursue a career in technology. It was really interesting to hear from women who did these jobs, but when I think back I don’t remember whether any of them really loved their jobs.

The message that did get through was that I should want these jobs because women are just as smart as men and they pay well. There was a pressure, as if in not pursuing these fields I was letting my gender down. That wanting to be a dancer or a mother, with my brainpower, was perpetuating a stereotype that would continue to crush my less gifted “sisters.” I wasn’t being freed of gender roles, I was having a new one thrust upon me.

I still don’t know what I want to be, but as I’m approaching 30 there are two things I love in this world beyond anything else: being a mother and dancing. Math is still up there, too. I tear up when I realize I’ve forgotten how to do calculus. Coding, however, has just never drawn me in. Maybe it’s backlash against the old pressure, but I just don’t love it and no one yet has been able to tell me why I should and I think my anatomy is neither here nor there on the matter.

The men that I know who work in open source, especially the successful ones, they love it. They love what they’re doing and they love it even more because the people they work with love it just as much. I’m not sure the politics of open vs. proprietary come into play directly, so much as that in open source you’re given more freedom and greater trust to make some great code. It’s like pulling Iran out of the country hat right after the “elections.”

Here’s what I think we should be asking before we start making assumptions: Who loves coding? Why? What do they have in common? Are there women out there who love it but are locked out of the industry? What about men? What about the disabled, or other races? I’ve seen statistics on women in software development vs women in open source. How about statistics on people who are in software development because they love it and people who are in it for the money? Dream job or desk job?

I don’t think the popular kids secretly yearned for a forum to discuss how much of a country’s GDP is already going to U.N. efforts, but just didn’t have the courage to join up. One thing’s for sure though, paying them to show up just because we think they should be there is going to have more negative effects than positive.

We need to reach people who will love it and treasure it for what it is, and maybe we’ll need to accept that it just isn’t appealing to a wide range of people. There are so many important roles in open source, I have a hard time believing that we must have diversity in each area to have a diverse voice in the product. I’m not saying that I think we shouldn’t try, I’m just not comfortable making an assumption based solely on gender, and afraid of what will happen if we do.

Happy Firefox 3.5!

By now of course you’ve downloaded Firefox 3.5 and enjoyed the best browser update yet! It’s very exciting, and there are so many great improvements to discover. If you can handle any more excitement, we have some bad news. We’ve lost our pandas! We’ve been spending so much time getting our Firefoxes (aka red pandas) ready for their new homes, that they all managed to sneak out when we weren’t looking. We need your help to find them and bring them home.

They can’t have gotten too far, look for them wandering around the Mozilla websphere. Don’t forget to sign up for the hunt so we can get you set up with the tools you’ll need to catch them. You can also follow @mozhunt on twitter for updates on how many pandas we’ve lost, and clues about where they might like to hide.

Oh! I think I just saw one go by now!

Exploration Panda

P.S. If you have a Mozilla related website or blog that you think might be a cozy spot for a panda to hide, please contact me via email/IM/IRC etc!

Happy Easter!

Some of you may have seen or received one of the Mozilla Community driven ecards that went around for Valentine’s Day or Holi. Well, we’ve struck again, and this time I helped! Hidden Egg

Easter Foxkeh

Why not send an Easter message to your friends telling them how great Firefox is, all with the help of Foxkeh and his delicious Easter egg?