October 13, 2010

Prelude To Barcelona

I recently wrote about a talk I gave at the Mozilla Summit on What Mozilla Can Learn From 826 National. Shortly after my presentation, Mark Surman dared me to teach a class on Web hacking for non-techies at the Peer 2 Peer University School of Webcraft, which got me thinking about how I’d teach a class in such a distance-learning environment. My favorite kind of teaching is face-to-face, one-on-one mentoring. I think it works well because teacher and student have easy access to each others’ “state”: they can see what each other are working on, and infer how they’re feeling based on body language and other non-verbal cues. ... Read more

October 4, 2010

Reviewer Dashboards

As I mentioned in my post on The Social Constraints of Bettering The Web, finding a code reviewer can be difficult in Mozilla projects. At least, it’s definitely the case with the Jetpack SDK, which I’m actively involved in as both a reviewer and contributor. Last week, on casual observation, it seemed like Myk Melez had been getting a lion’s share of code review demands placed on him. While I had some theories on why this might be the case, I also realized that I had no idea what the big picture was as far as code reviews were concerned. ... Read more

October 3, 2010

What Mozilla Can Learn From 826 National

At the Mozilla Summit in early July, I gave a short presentation on what Mozilla could learn from an awesome non-profit family of writing centers called 826 National. One of the many things that really impresses me about this organization is that their chapters ooze with a love for writing and creativity, and encourage and showcase it everywhere. For example, their San Francisco chapter, 826 Valencia, masquerades as a pirate supply store that’s filled with products like kitten and hamster planks, beard extensions, and scurvy remedies—all with hilariously-written labels and instructions for use, and whose proceeds go directly to the writing center’s many tutoring programs. ... Read more

September 30, 2010


Over the past few years, I’ve made a number of little Web applications that are actually just HTML pages. Building things this way is really fun and really simple. It’s easy to understand and remix because there’s no custom server-side infrastructure to complicate matters. In some ways, it’s just like writing my first Web pages in the 1990’s, only now I can use JavaScript for more than just image rollovers. ... Read more

September 15, 2010

Good Customers

Here’s something I read in a blog post by Esther Dyson, where she describes a visit to Russia in which she was asked for advice on how to spur innovation in the country: In fact, I started my discussion with Russia's government leaders by talking about my experiences as chair of NASA's Innovation and Technology advisory committee. The issue, I said, was not really about funding technology innovation; it is how to create a culture that rewards thoughtful innovation and considers mistakes the price of learning. ... Read more

September 2, 2010

Participatory, Scalable, Transparent Competitions

I’ve been involved in the judging pipeline for three competitions now. Today, I judged for an inspiring competition called Node Knockout, held by Joyent and Fortnight Labs. The first two competitions I participated in didn’t scale. I wasn’t even a judge for the first one—we had a tiny handful of celebrity judges who couldn’t possibly review all of the submissions, so me and some colleagues furiously attempted to cull the list down for them. ... Read more

August 31, 2010

The Social Constraints of Bettering The Web, Part I

I’ve recently been proud and inspired to see two new features land in the latest Firefox 4 betas: Web developers can now access the raw audio data in <audio> and <video> elements, and Firefox Panorama helps users manage their tabs. In his excellent post Experiments with audio, conclusion, Dave Humphrey mentions the following Tweet from Joe Hewitt: Bottom line: we can currently only move as fast as employees of browser makers can go, and our imagination is limited by theirs. ... Read more

August 29, 2010

My First CrisisCamp

On Friday I attended CrisisCamp Silicon Valley. I didn’t really know what to expect, since I was unfamiliar with the nascent field of internet-facilitated crisis response and was unable to find a high-level overview of how people—both techies and non-techies—can really make an impact. The Bird's Eye View As I understand it, this is the big picture of internet-facilitated crisis response: People on the ground in a disaster are told, through various channels, to report what they're seeing to the public through a variety of media: SMS, Twitter, Facebook, whatever's easiest and most understandable for them. ... Read more

August 26, 2010


The New York Times recently wrote that The Web Means The End of Forgetting. I never kept a copy of my first public software project with me—yet because I put it on the internet, it eventually made its way into an FTP archive, many mirrors of which still host the files sixteen years later, when a casual conversation with a friend prompted me to search for them. In 1994, I didn’t like Macintosh computers, so I decided to replace the explosive barrels in DOOM with them. ... Read more

August 24, 2010

A Dashboard for Bugs

Early this year, I had to start using Mozilla’s Bugzilla, an issue tracker that, while incredibly powerful, nonetheless confused and intimidated me to no small degree. One of my most basic needs was to have a simple display containing bugs of interest to me. I couldn’t find a page in the product that satisfied me, so I used Gervase Markham’s excellent Bugzilla REST API to create an HTML page that fetched the information I needed and displayed it. ... Read more

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