7 Lessons from Mozilla – John Lilly, WordCamp 2009

Watch video here: https://air.mozilla.org/7-lessons-from-mozilla/

What follows are the notes I took during John Lilly’s talk. I left them unedited and for now will let them be, without drawing conclusions.

7 insights, 9 problems

Mozilla Mission:

“internet to be better and people to patriciate”

“take an interest, act, and make the world the way they want”

Not so insightful insights..

1. Superior products matter

-produces that don’t suck

-without excellent experience & utility, the rest is meaningless –

2. Push (most) decision-making to the edges

-let the people who code make decisions

-chords “half chaos, half order:”

1. distributed decision-making

2. nodal authority

3. ways to route around

lots of decision making, notes with authority to make the decisions

highly robust and scaleable, don’t need central leaders

Mozilla Chaord:

1. high agreement on core values – make internet good and participatory

2. decision-making rests with module owners –

3. groups have distinct ways of working

4. many decisions-makers outside the “official” organization

5. communication is central

3. Communication will happen in every possible way (so make sure it’s reusable)

-people will communicate in useful ways and ignore non useful

-product plans in wikis, blogs, other peoples’ blogs

-where is the conversation? all over

-buzilla, irc, newsgroups, videoconference

-without face-to-face it’s hard to build relationships

-how do you make conversation reusable?

-how do you make video reusable?

4. Make it easy for your community to do the important things

-Spread Firefox, QMO, Support Mozilla


-How compete with other companies. Not be them (apple, google), be us. Somethings are really hard for us, like changing a menu item, some things are really easy for us, like shipping in 73 languages – we know how to do it

^Walt Mossberg: Why volunteers not experts?

Mitchell Baker: How much software in the world do you think is outstanding?

Mossberg: Not very much, most of it is crap

Mitchell: All of that is done by paid experts of big companies

^Later, We do have experts, just because not paid doesn’t mean they are not experts. Clear and deep expertise that is priceless – can’t pay any amount of money for.

-make it easy to help others do more

5. surprise is overrated

-surprise is the opposite of engagement

^get people to change their own web, not sit back and be surprised by it

-goal: increase surfaces of engagement circles

^growing inner circle, everyone should feel included

6. Communities are not markets: members are citizens

-citizens are more than consumers, more than bystanders, more than stakeholders

-They are us. We are them.

– there isn’t employees, not employees > think of everyone as citizens

^fewer decisions based on employment more decisions based on merit

– the best citizens challenge the status quo, propose improvements and make the conversation richer

^pain in the asses and bug you on things that suck and know what has to change

-they don’t just make the product better. They make them what they are.

7. The key is the art of figuring out whether & how to apply each of these ideas

-generic rules, figure out which is important to your community

-experiments, measure things you can


1. Engaged citizens are noisy

-they have a lot of opinions, everyone thinks different things

-contributor: third stuff we are already doing but he didn’t know, third who cares, third spot on!

-they help products & technology & organization make hard decisions in the right way

2. At scale, there are no maps

-aren’t many people to ask at scale

-key is defining what you care about, and how to measure it and how to communicate litmus tests

Projected web/technology problems

-everyone is trying to build a closed stack

Glory of web/technology

-on the web, you don’t have to ask permission


commercial vs nonprofit open source

-leave it to market vs leave it to the people

-don’t care if you use our products, just want you to make your own decision

-Chrome reactions Sept 3rd (2009?) on blog

^Chrome made us better


-we rely on nerd phenomenon to educate people

-make a great product that people decide to use and throw of the chains off the other stuff

answer to Matt Mullenweg’s question at the end

-people in authority should ask what to do more often

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