Over the last few weeks at OSCON and the Summit, I’ve had a chance to talk with people about the platform side of the community. There’s a lot of interest and ethusiasm around this topic and hopefully we’ll see some increased activity around XULRunner soon.
In addition to talking about what we could do going forward, people had a lot of useful feedback about why the mozpad effort ran out of steam last year. Hopefully the following thoughts on mozpad will be viewed as constructive feedback and as a guide for any future efforts to build the community around the platform.
- The mozpad project had too many goals. Although many worthwhile projects were identified, the group never prioritized these efforts and instead tried to make progress on everything at the same time. For a new effort, it would probably work better to focus on just one thing first and then expand to other projects after making real progress on that initial project.
- There was not enough effort spent on bringing people into the process. The website was run on a wiki and the meetings were held in public on IRC, but many important XULRunner users never get involved. For a new effort, someone should go to each of the organizations building Mozilla-based applications and talk to them about their needs and explain why working with the community is worth their effort and how they can get involved.
- There was uncertainty about what the rest of the community felt about mozpad and XULRunner. Although there were encouraging words from Mitchell and others, people seemed reluctant to spend too much time without being given a green light to work on things. A green light wasn’t needed since anyone can contribute to an open source project, but I think there was a perception that nothing would end up being accomplished without some official approval. For a new effort, I think this perception can be fixed by clearly documenting how people outside of the core project can collaborate on Mozilla code and showing how Mozilla Corporation employees sometimes have a difficult time getting their changes accepted as well.
- The active mozpad members were too busy. The people coming to the meetings had their own products to ship (Firefox, Komodo, Songbird, AllPeers…) and they didn’t have much time to devote to fixing platform-related issues. For a new effort, we should look into ways to pool resources so that available volunteer time doesn’t become a bottleneck and so that fixing common platform issues doesn’t become the responsibility of any one organization.