The roads I take...

KaiRo's weBlog

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Displaying recent entries tagged with "future". Back to all recent entries

Popular tags: Mozilla, SeaMonkey, L10n, Status, Firefox

Used languages: English, German


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April 4th, 2013

15, 14, 13, 8, 7, 2 years ago, and the future? My Web Story

It all started on March 31, 1998. Just a few days off from 15 years ago.

Netscape open-sourced the code to its "Communicator" Internet suite, using its own long-standing internal code name as a label for that project: Mozilla.

I always liked the sub-line of a lot of the marketing material for this time - under the Mozilla star/lizard logo and a huge-font "hack", the material said "This technology could fall into the right hands". And so it did, even if that took time. You can learn a lot about that time by watching the Code Rush movie, which is available under a Creative Commons license nowadays. And our "Chief Lizard Wrangler" and project leader Mitchell Baker also summarized a lot of the following history of Mozilla in a talk that was recorded a couple of years ago.

Just about a year later, in May 1999, so 14 years ago, I filed my first bug after I had downloaded one of the early experimental builds of the Mozilla suite, building on the brand-new Gecko rendering engine. This one and most I filed back then were rendering issues with that new engine, mostly with my pretty new and primitive first personal homepage I had set up on my university account. After some experiments with CSS-based theming of the Mozilla suite, I did some playing around with exchanging strings in the UI and translating them to German, just to see how this new "XUL" stuff worked. This ended up in my first contribution contact and me providing a first completely German-language build on January 1, 2000.

A few months after that, in May, I submitted my first patch to the Mozilla project, which was a website change, actually. But only weeks later, I created a bug and patch against the actual Mozilla code - in June of 2000, 13 years ago. And it would by far not be the last one, even though my contributions the that code were small for years, a fix for a UI file here, a build fix for L10n stuff there. My main contributions stayed in doing the German localization for the suite and in general L10n-related issues. Even when Firefox came along in 2004, I helped that 1.0 release with some localization-related issues, esp. around localized snippets for its Google-based and -hosted start page - and stayed with L10n for the full suite otherwise (while Kadir would do the German Firefox L10n). I wrote a post in 2007 about how I stumbled into my Mozilla career.

As Firefox became rapidly successful and took an increasingly large standing in the project and community, I stuck with the suite as I liked a more integrated experience of email and browser - and I liked the richer feature set that the suite had to offer (Firefox did cut out a lot of functionality in the beginning to be able to found its new, leaner and more consumer-friendly UI). When in March of 2005, it became clear that the suite was going into strict maintenance mode and be abandoned by the "official" Mozilla project, I joined the team that took over maintenance and development of that suite - once again using a long-standing internal code name for that: SeaMonkey. In all that project-forming process 8 years ago, I took over a lot of the organizational roles, so that the coders in our group could focus at the actual code, and eventually was credited as "project coordinator" within the project management group we call the "SeaMonkey Council".

When I founded my own business 7 years ago, in January of 2006, I was earning money in surprising ways, and trying to lead the SeaMonkey project into the future. We were just about to release SeaMonkey 1.0 and convince the first round of naysayers that we actually could have the suite running as a community project. In the next years, we did quite some interesting and good work on that software, and a lot of people were finally realizing that "we made it" when we could release a 2.0 version that was based on the same "new" toolkit that Firefox and Thunderbird were built upon, removing a lot of old, cruft code and replacing it with newer stuff, including the now common-place add-ons system and automated updates among a ton of other things. I would end up doing a number of the major porting jobs from Firefox to SeaMonkey, including the places-based history and bookmarks systems, the download manager (including a UI that was similar to the earlier suite style), and the OpenSearch system. With the Data Manager, I even contributed a completely new and (IMHO) pretty innovative component into SeaMonkey. In those times, I think I did more coding work (in JS, mostly) than ever before, perhaps with the exception of the PHP-based CBSM community and content management platform I had done before that.

The longer I was in the SeaMonkey project, the more I realized, though, that the innovation I would like to have seen around the suite wasn't really happening - all the innovation to the suite came from porting Firefox and Thunderbird features and/or code, and that often with significant delay. Not sure if anything other than the Data Manager actually was a genuine SeaMonkey innovation, and I only came up with that when trying to finally get some innovation going, back in 2010. I was more and more unsatisfied with the lack of progress and innovation and the incredible push-back we got on the mailing list on every try to actually do something new. In October of 2010, I took a flight to Mountain View, California, to meet up with Mitchell Baker and talk about the future of SeaMonkey - and I also mentioned how I wanted to be more on the front of innovation even though I seem to not manage to get the SeaMonkey community there. Not sure if it came out of this or was in the back of her head before, in one of those conversations I had with her, she asked me if I would like to work for Mozilla and Firefox. I said that this caught me by surprise but we should definitely keep that conversation going. Just after that I met then-Mozilla-CEO John Lilly, and he asked if Mitchell had offered me a job - just to make sure. As you can imagine, that got me thinking a lot more about that, and gave me the freedom to think outside SeaMonkey for my future. I was at the liberty to think about my personal priorities in more depth, and it became clear that the winds of change were clearly blowing through my life.

After some conversations with people at Mozilla, I decided I wanted to try a job there, and Chris Hofmann proposed my working on tracking crashes and stability, so I started contracting for Mozilla on the CrashKill team in February 2011, first half-time, finally full-time. So, 2 years ago, I opened a completely new chapter in my personal web story. Tracking crash statistics for our products - Firefox desktop, Firefox from Android, and now Firefox OS - and working with our employees and community to improve stability has turned out to be a more interesting job than I expected when I started. Knowing that my work actually helps thousands or even millions of people, who have a more stable Firefox because of what I do, is a quite high award. And I'm growing into a more managerial role, which is something I really appreciate. And I'm connected to all kinds of innovation going on at Mozilla: A lot of the new features landing (like new JIT compilers for JavaScript, WebRTC, etc.) need stability testing and we're tracking the crash reports from those, Firefox for Android needed a lot of stability work to become the best mobile browser out there - and with Firefox OS, I was even involved in how the crash reporting features and user experience flow were implemented. I'm also involved in a lot of strategic meetings on what we release and when - an interesting experience by itself.

Where this all will lead me in the future? No idea. I'm interested in moving to the USA and working there at least for some time - not just because it would make my day cycle sane and having most or all my meetings within the confines of the actual work days in the region I'm living in, but also because I learned to like a lot that country has to offer, from Country Music to Football and many other things (not to mention Louisiana-style Cajun cuisine). I'm also interested in working from an office with other Mozillians for a change, and in possibly becoming even more of a manager. Of course, I'd like to help moving the Mozilla mission forward where I can, openness, innovation and opportunities on the web are something I stand behind nowadays more than ever - and Firefox OS as well as associated technologies promise to really make a huge impact on the web of the future. I'm looking forward to quite exciting times! :)

By KaiRo, at 00:13 | Tags: CrashKill, Firefox, future, history, L10n, Mozilla, SeaMonkey | 6 comments | TrackBack: 0

January 4th, 2012

The Winds Of Change

The winds of change continue blowing
And they just carry me away. -- Albert Hammond

Like many others, I've been thinking quite a bit these days about what went on last year and what will or might come up in 2012. (And I figure I should bring in a bit more from my overall personality into my future blog posts and mention or quote songs I have in my mind on a particular topic, so I'll start with that here).

One topic that has been with me throughout the year and will probably also continue to be with me is change. A lot of it started with my visit to Mozilla headquarters in Mountain View, CA, in October 2010, actually - I posted about my changing personal priorities back then. And I still remember driving my rental car up to Lake Tahoe, thinking about all those things and listening to the then-just-released Zac Brown Band album "You Get What You Give" and in particular the song "Let It Go", whose lyrics gave me the right mindset for what was I was going through and what 2011 would bring: "Save your strength for things that you can change, forget the ones you can't, you gotta let it go."

Following that, I started 2011 by transferring the vast majority of my responsibilities in SeaMonkey over to other people (we have built up a great team there over the last years, including awesome people like Callek, InvisibleSmiley, etc. - kudos to them to be able to take all that over in their free time) and get the ball rolling on making the project even more sustainable in the future (I hope we'll have news for you on that soon).

Instead, I followed another piece of advice from this song - "When the pony he comes ridin' by, you better sit your sweet ass on it" - and started contracting for Mozilla on the CrashKill team in February, first half-time, finally full-time. With that, my focus changed from SeaMonkey to Firefox and from project management to crash analysis.

For one thing, I ended up growing into that role better than I imagined at first, finding crash analysis more interesting than expected, for the other, this change ended up having more influence on my life than I had imagined. With the need to communicate a lot with different people in this job, from the CrashKill team via the Socorro team that works on the crash-stats server and which I'm coordinating with to various devs, engineering managers or release managers as the need arises in crash analysis.
Unfortunately with me being a "remotie" all communication needs to be online (or via phone) and is stripped down to the essentials needed for the job. Being a very social person, I'm missing the additional nuances that face-to-face communication would bring to the table, and more need for communication as part of the job makes that more obvious to me.
Then, the whole CrashKill team is based in Mountain View, the vast majority of the Socorro team spread across the US, and most engineering or release managers also based in Northern America, so most of that communication as well as all my meetings is happening during US working hours, which from my point of view in Europe is in the evening to night hours, which requires my work time to be mostly at the end of the day. I have been doing work at late hours in the years before, but there was not as much requirement of that before, while now I have to make at least the meetings, and should be available for more conversation on IRC at those times. Making evening appointments becomes quite difficult in that light.
And speaking of requirements, while I could basically completely make my own schedule before, I now should bring in 8 hours of work per day, and with doing that at the end of every day, I need to make all shopping and other private stuff in the afternoon, leaving me all day with "I still have a full work day to deliver today" in mind - until I achieve that and fall into bed. This causes its own share of subconscious stress.
And I'm doing all the work from my own private apartment, not getting out unless I go shopping or take my usual Monday and Tuesday evening off for some Karaoke.
So, I learned that working from home and remotely has its downsides, esp. for the kind of job I'm in there. This is one area I need to work on a lot in 2012 and find solutions that will be connected with another share of change I'm sure.

But not only my role and work life have changed - Mozilla went in a direction I had often spoken for and has changed to a rapid release cycle and started planning for that shortly after I started contracting. I commented in the planning phase and tried to help shape this process and always was convinced it was a good idea, even though we hit more road bumps than expected. I was heavily involved in coordinating to get crash-stats support rapid releases usefully and also laid out publicly how the new process can improve stability.
Mozilla also has revamped its mobile efforts completely - both with a completely new "native UI" version of Firefox for Android, which is in Aurora testing now and with a completely open mobile stack in the form of Boot To Gecko (B2G), a complete "operating system" based on the browser and open web standards (requiring new WebAPIs), which is also coming together piece by piece now.
And next to those changes, we're also working on changing how identity and logins work on the web and changing the current "silo"ed app store model by bringing open concepts for web apps and markets into the fold that easily allow decentralization and users really "owning" their apps.
In the middle of all that, Mozilla has restructured a bit, brought some previously split-off groups back into the common Mozilla fold, hired a lot of new people, lost (as employees but not as community members) a few high-profile ones who were looking for new challenges, worked on the MPL 2.0, founded exciting new initiatives like WebFWD and went stronger on marketing that we are a non-profit - clearly a lot of change happening everywhere, with the mission and the Manifesto standing unchanged and as clear as ever over all of it, though.

All this makes it clear that a lot of change has come in 2011, both to me and Mozilla, and that it's still only the seed for what's to come in the year(s) ahead. The winds of change are still blowing, and I'm excited for what they propel and which interesting experiences they drag in for all of us.

The future's in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind
Of change. -- Klaus Meine / The Scorpions

By KaiRo, at 21:26 | Tags: CrashKill, Firefox, future, history, Mozilla, SeaMonkey | 1 comment | TrackBack: 0

May 12th, 2011

Full Time at "CSI:Mozilla"!

Roughly three months ago, I blogged about contracting for Mozilla, and that 3-month half-time contract has actually ended last week. But my work for Mozilla has just started, as that contract has been extended by 6 months of full time!

I've now also gained a real account and can regard myself as a real part of the Mozilla workforce now. I'm looking forward on more analysis of crashes on one hand, of areas where we need better crash stats on the other hand, along with finding out specs of what exactly we need there and trying to drive and accompany those to completion. That basically means I'm continuing what I did in the last months, but with even more intensity.

As the internal phonebook has a freeform field for a job description, I've been thinking a lot recently what I should put in there (left it blank for the moment) and as I've putting most of my work into investigating surrounding of crashes and the scenes of crash analysis, I'm more and more leaning toward "Crash Scene Investigator - CSI:Mozilla", what do you think? ;-)

Whatever exact wording I put in there, I think I found an interesting corner in this project to work on, with a lot of interaction with other people int he project, just as I like it, and I'm proud of helping to improve the stability of Firefox and reduce frustration for hopefully a lot of people out there! :)

Update: The account mentioned above is now reachable with "kairo" before the "@"! ;-)

By KaiRo, at 02:55 | Tags: CrashKill, Firefox, future, Mozilla, Socorro | 7 comments | TrackBack: 0

February 16th, 2011

Auftragsarbeit für Mozilla!

Vor einigen Monaten habe ich schon (auf Englisch) darüber gebloggt, dass sich meine persönlichen Prioritäten verschieben - und je mehr ich über die Zukunft meiner selbst und des SeaMonkey-Projekts nachdenke, wird mir klar, dass ich dort sein möchte, wo Innovation passiert und die Zukunft des offenen Webs gestaltet und nicht nur konsumiert wird - und je mehr ich die Dinge aus einem möglichen Firefox-Blickwinkel ansehe, desto mehr habe ich das Gefühl, dort hin zu gehören. Es fühlt sich für mich besser an, über Vorschläge, die in verschiedenen Foren anfallen, im Sinne von "was heißt das für Mozilla als ganzes" nachzudenken als von "was heißt das für SeaMonkey". Ich fühle bei dieser Sicht mich wohler, und ebenso, wenn es darum geht, Firefox und das offene Web weiter zu bringen - auch wenn ich derzeit noch tief im SeaMonkey-Projekt stecke.

Aus diesen Gründen habe ich auch bereits begonnen, einige meiner Verantwortungsbereiche im SeaMonkey-Projekt an andere zu übergeben - wie das Release-Engineering an Callek, zum Beispiel - und ich arbeite an weiteren derartigen Schritten. Im Endeffekt möchte ich, dass mir nur mehr die deutsche Übersetzung und der "Owner"-Status im comm-central Build-System übrig bleibt, sowie einer der Mitglieder im SeaMonkey-Council zu sein - zumindest im Moment. Aber bis dorthin ist noch einiges zu tun, und ich möchste, dass dies ein sanfter, schrittweiser Übergang wird, sodass das SeaMonkey-Projekt aus dieser Zeit mindestens gleich stark, wenn nicht stärker als vorher, herausgehen kann.

Gleichzeitig - und das ist der Kern dieses Beitrags und etwas, das sich schon seit einiger Zeit zusammenbraut - beginne ich, woanders Erfahrungen zu sammeln. Ab dem heutigen Tag beginne ich einen Teil meiner Zeit offiziell für Mozilla zu arbeiten - derzeit heißt das, auf Auftragsbasis halbzeit ca. 3 Monate lang an einem Projekt zu arbeiten, aber ich hoffe, dass daraus ein fruchtbares Verhältnis wird, das in der Zukunft noch große Zeiten erleben wird.

Meine Arbeit bei Mozilla ist dabei generell im Bereich des "Program Management" angesiedelt - das konkrete Projekt, an dem ich in den nächsten Monate arbeiten werden, ist dabei, eine Strategie für Socorro (unser Absturz-Statistik-System) aufzustellen. Ich werde nicht an Code arbeiten, sondern mit dem Socorro-Team und den anderen Mozilla-Managern und -Entwicklern zusammenarbeiten, um einen Plan zu finden, woran die Entwickler in den nächsten Monaten arbeiten werden, um eine zusätzliche Perspektive zu finden, wie das Absturz-System verwendet werden kann, um als Hilfe für Release-Entscheidungen zu dienen, und sich nicht nur um die Analyse spezifischer Bugs dreht. Eine Menge Arbeit steht bevor, die über 400 Änderungswünsche und Bugs zu konsolidieren, die sich um das Socorro-System aufgestaut haben und um einige detailliertere Spezifikationen für etwas komplexe Gebiete aufzustellen, sodass wir Systeme bauen können, mit denen wir Absturzdaten besser verstehen und effektiver nutzen können. Ich kann jedenfalls aus der gesamten Community Vorschläge gut gebrauchen, wie wir dieses Ziel möglichst gut erreichen können.

Die positive Seite an einem Übergang in dieser Art für mich liegt darin, dass Socorro für alle Mozilla-Anwendungen zur Anwendung kommt und ich etwas Erfahrung (wenn auch nicht allzu viel) mit der Verwendung dieses Systems habe. Da ich ebenfalls Erfahrungen mit dem Release-Management von Mozilla-Produkten habe und den Diskussionen von Firefox-Release-Managern sowie der Security-Gruppe schon länger folge, sollten mir Einschätzungen leichter fallen, wo der Fokus für Absturz-Berichte und -Statistiken liegen kann.

Für mich persönlich habe ich dem Projekt den Spitznamen "Veridian 3" (eine fiktionelle Absturzstelle) aufgesetzt, und in einem ersten Klassifizierungslauf werden meine internen Tags auf Bugzilla daher mit "V3" beginnen - aber diese Name sollte nicht aus meiner privaten Verwendung anderswo hin durchschlagen, um andere nicht verrückt zu machen. ;-)

Einiges an konzentrierter Arbeit liegt vor mir und auch einige Dinge, die ich nicht gewohnt bin, wie einer spezifischen Person Bericht zu erstatten bzw. unterstellt zu sein oder Pläne zu erarbeitet, für deren Ausführung tatsächlich andere bezahlt werden, aber ich bin zuversichtlich, dies erfolgreich zu meistern und meinen Beitrag zu einem besseren Absturz-Statistik-System für uns alle zu leisten.

Also, seid darauf gefasst, dass ihr mich in naher Zukunft etwas weniger auf den üblichen Plätzen seht, aber dafür an einigen neuen Bereichen! :)

By KaiRo, at 14:25 | Tags: Firefox, future, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, Socorro, Veridian 3 | no comments | TrackBack: 0

Contracting for Mozilla!

A few months ago, I stated that my personal priorities are changing - and the more I've been thinking about my and SeaMonkey's future, I saw that I really want to go where innovation is and the future of the open web is being built and not just consumed - and the more I tried to look at things with a hypothetical Firefox hat on, the more I felt like that would be where I wanted to be. It feels better for me to think about proposals I read about in terms of "what does this mean for Mozilla as a whole" rather than "what does this mean for SeaMonkey". I feel more at home in those terms as well as bringing Firefox and the open web forward - even if I'm still deeply into SeaMonkey for the moment.

Given all that, I started to shift a number of my responsibilities in the SeaMonkey project over to other people - like Callek for release engineering, for example - and I'm working on more in that area. In the end, I probably want to end up only having the German localization and the comm-central build system ownership left, as well as being one of the members of the SeaMonkey Council - for now. But there's still some way to go there, and I'm trying to make this a smooth, step-by-step process so that the SeaMonkey project can come out as strong or even stronger than before from this period.

At the same time - and here's the meat of this post as well as something that has been brewing for a while - I'm starting to get my feet wet in different areas. Starting today, I'm officially working for Mozilla part of my time - for now, this means contracting on a roughly 3-month project I'm working on half-time, but I hope this proves to be a fruitful relationship that has some great times still to come.

My work within Mozilla is positioned in the general area of program management - the concrete project I will be working on in the upcoming months is putting together a strategy for Socorro (the crash stats system we're using). I will not work on the code, but rather work with the Socorro team and the other Mozilla managers and developers to find a roadmap for what the developers will work on in the following months that will bring some additional perspective of how to use the crash system to help enable people to make product release decisions, and not just around analyzing specific crash bugs. There is a lot of work here to consolidate the over 400 change requests and bugs that have built up around the Socorro system, and create some more details specs for some of the more intricate areas that will help us to build systems that help to understand our crash data better, and how to use it more effectively. I can definitely use suggestions across the entire community of how we can meet this goal more effectively.

The positive side in terms of a transition for myself is that Socorro affects all Mozilla applications and I have some experience (even if not too much) in looking at it and seeing what this system is actually about. Also, having release management experience for a Mozilla project and having been following discussions of Firefox release managers as well as the security group helps in having insights into what is in the focus when it comes to looking at crash reports and statistics.

For me personally, I have dubbed this project "Veridian 3" and in the first round of bug triage I'll be doing, my internal tags will start off with "V3" because of that - but this name will probably not leak outside my private use, for other people's sanity. ;-)

There's a good amount of intense work ahead and some things I'm not used to like reporting to a specific person or making plans other people are actually paid to work on, but I'm confident to master those and come out with having my part in helping us all to have a better crash stats system.

So be prepared to see me appearing somewhat less in the usual places but instead in some new areas in the near future! :)

By KaiRo, at 14:24 | Tags: Firefox, future, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, Socorro, Veridian 3 | 7 comments | TrackBack: 2

October 28th, 2010

Personal Priorities

First, I know I should do some writing up of a few weekly status updates, those will follow soon - I still have a quite large backlog of TODO items from the last weeks. But here's something I want to get into the public first:

As you might know, my recent visit to the US was not just for pleasure, but also for having a number of talks with people at Mozilla in Mountain View, some of which were centered around the very core of SeaMonkey - and even about myself to some degree.

In those talks, around them, and in the followup, even during my vacation time, I came to think a lot about esp. my personal future. I knew before that I'm putting too much strain on myself currently, but having no free room for creative or visionary thinking and being constantly on edge, working mostly on "should have been done a long time ago" items instead of fun and future-oriented things even felt worse when I gained some distance to it - first with the different work environment and orientation I saw in the Mozilla offices, then with relaxing some when driving around and doing sightseeing and things like that, almost without any pressure of timeframes or things that have to be done "yesterday".

Now I surely can work in an environment where I have a list of things I need to do, but I need to get off the state where I feel that a lot of things will never happen if I don't take them on, and where I have to work overly long hours constantly just to stay on top of things. Apart from that, I need to "get a life", just for my own sanity. And finding time for finally finishing my studies and get that Master's degree would be a good thing as well.

I have been in the SeaMonkey project for a few years now, and it surely has been a fun ride, I learned that I can do and love release and project driving, that I can keep a good overview of what's going on in such a project as well as the overall Mozilla community (even though one can never know everything there), but we are at a point where both the SeaMonkey project and me need to go in new directions, and I'm not yet sure if those are aligned at all.

I'm coming more and more to think that this might be the point where I need to go a different path than this project. I'm not convinced of this view yet, but I know that my life has to change in a few ways - apart from going back to a more humane amount of work, I need to free myself from constantly fighting an uphill battle that very much of the time seems to be fought against people who actually should be friends. I want to be able to spend resources on making the web more open, to improve privacy and identity management for people on the Internet, to make social contacts a story of freedom instead of walled gardens - and I'm not sure if the road the SeaMonkey project is taking will allow me to do that, as up to this time, the routine of what I'm doing has not enabled me to do that and I don't see the playing field for our project getting significantly nicer. I'm trying to rebalance my personal priorities, and this project might not be the impersonation of those any more.

Still, I have a lot of heart in this project, I love the people working on it, who I see as very dedicated, efficient and passionate, and I surely am fond of browser/messaging integration as well as having advanced features at the top of your fingertips. Wherever I'm going, I will support SeaMonkey in the transition to the future that is upcoming for this project - and I really want to see it succeed - with or without me being actively there.

I haven't decided where I'm going or if I fully stay with SeaMonkey, and as I said, I will fully support the transition, so no need to panic or something like that. What I have decided is that I need to change my personal priorities to match the man I want to be better, and to leave some room for ideas, visions, and some "real life" (whatever that is). ;-)

By KaiRo, at 13:50 | Tags: future, Mozilla, personal, SeaMonkey | 22 comments | TrackBack: 0

September 4th, 2010

Bridging Web and Local App(lication)s

A major belief among a large part of the Mozilla community appears to be that 5-10 years in the future, the desktop or local applications will be extinct, and all we'll be working with will be "web apps".

Now, as with many other things, I don't think this extreme will be the common case (or else we should stop caring about Windows, Mac OS or any other "fat" operating system and all jump fully on ChromeOS) - but I'm sure that "web apps" will play a very much larger role, and I agree that almost everyone will at least use some of those.

In such a future, where the common case will be to use both web and local applications to some extent, probably also with a mixture of cloud and pocket data, it will matter a lot to have solid and well-thought-out ways of bridging their differences and working well with both - esp. for professional and advanced users, who spend a lot of time "in front of the screen" (whatever that will look like).

Also to keep in mind is that pure web applications in the currently done ways pose a problem for some people - I had an interesting conversation recently with a guy working in development aid for some African regions where he said there are entire communities of people that share a 256 KBit/sec Internet connection and things like Facebook or GMail cause nightmares for him.
That surely doesn't mean they should not exist, but those cases need thought, just like cases where you (intentionally or unintentionally) have no or a very bad network connection but might want to do work with your (mobile) computer (device). Not every place where people go in or around this world will have high-volume Internet access available for everyone all the time. We don't even have light all the time on this world, even though life on this planet heavily depends on it, and we have a transmitter right in our neighborhood (well, in terms of what we need there, 8 light-minutes are right next door).

Still, web applications allow the incredible stunt to have the same software on a free and open platform that runs on all kinds of devices with mostly quite permissive licensing. And they allow getting productive immediately, without long install procedures or continuous updating - as well as unprecedented collaboration and other features only the web can make possible.
On the other hand, they're currently one of the worst examples in cross-application consistency, easy adaptation to the personal look and feel preferences and integration with the people's work environments, leaving any current or past desktop environment looking like a champ in comparison.

To improve those situations, we of course need to have possibilities for web applications to cache code and data locally so they don't need to load everything a new all the time, they need ways to adopt to a common look and feel defined by those accessing them, ways to integrate with the work environments - and a richer toolkit of easy-to-use controls to match desktop applications. All those are being worked on by the teams of Mozilla and other browser vendors in committees working on improving HTML, CSS, ECMAScript and other web technologies as well as in implementations in our web runtimes ("rendering engines" is not the correct term any more, I guess).

What we also need, though, are smooth transitions between desktop and web applications - in both ways - and between local and cloud/remote data, both in terms of the user-facing side and in terms of writing applications. We need local and web applications that can work with local and cloud/remote data, we need technologies to write local application with (basically) the same set of technologies as we're writing web applications, and we need to be able to convert one to the other rather seamlessly.

The Mozilla platform already works very much with the a lot of the same set of technologies as the web, so we are in a good position in this area already, but we need to become even better by making the technologies even more similar (and there's a lot that future HTML can learn from XUL, too, even if XUL is being treated a lot like the ugly stepchild nowadays). A lot of awesome things can be done today, but I'm convinced that's nothing compared to what we'll be able to do tomorrow if we follow those paths we're already on to the most part.

And then, I'm quite convinced that there's a tremendous potential on an application that bridges web browsing, running web applications, and running local application code built around web/Internet communications. All those things should seamlessly integrate, work together, be able to exchange data where the user allows it, and give us the power of being productive, social, communicative, efficient, informed, and interconnected all at once. Right now, there's nothing as productive and efficient than fast, organized local application interfaces, and there's nothing as social and interconnected as some web applications. An integrated Internet application could build a bridge between them, bring that together and beat all the single offers out there, and there's none better situated in that particular race than SeaMonkey. We just need to grab the chance and bring it there.

Who is with me in that?

By KaiRo, at 18:37 | Tags: future, Mozilla, platform, SeaMonkey | 5 comments | TrackBack: 0

August 15th, 2010

The Cloud And The Pocket

In recent months and years, I have heard an increasing number of people putting forward opinions that "in the future, nobody will have local data, everyone will have all his/her data in the cloud".
Now, I don't think this extreme will really be reached, I'd even go as far as to believe we'll have most or all of our data and probably a good part of our computing power in our pocket instead.

Right now, the primary argument for putting things into the cloud is that people want to use their data from different desktops, maybe their smartphone, possibly some tablet, and all those have web access, so the cloud can be accessed from all those machines, and the same way. Of course, that only works really well when you're on broadband. Still, this is nice to have, and who cares about the cloud provider reading your data for better ad placements and selling data to third parties anyhow. You are on Facebook as well, right? OK, so why should you care about your data being sold or analyzed for better ads in one more place? After all, it wins you a lot of comfort, and that's what counts.

Let's assume for a moment that those problems are all moot. And the problem that there are places where your phone or tablet doesn't get any or only a bad connection, intentionally or unintentionally, be in in some deep basement bar (like the one I'm going to frequently) or far out in the US country, in deep valleys or up on mountains, where it's too expensive to put transmitting stations for phone providers because of too few people or too many reflections and too little direct reach. Let's ignore all that for the moment. Let's also ignore that your cloud provider could just go bankrupt or stop its services for other reasons.

I still think a different model of data storage will feel better for most people once all parts of the concept are there - which will not be the case in 2010, probably more in 2015 or 2020.

Imagine your smartphone, lets say some neat package similar to the current iPhone or N900, basically a small screen which not much else, possibly a mini-keyboard if you like, will have as much computing power and more storage space than a current desktop (which, given what we've seen in the last 10 years, is not unrealistic). Imagine you could have tablet-like screen rolled up in your backpack and put up to a normal tablet screen within a few seconds, and you smartphone would just connect to that and act as the processing and data unit for it. Also, imagine that instead of a desktop, you would have just a large screen on your desktop, along with whatever input devices will be your choice (currently probably keyboard and mouse for most people, but who knows what we'll have then) - and your smartphone will seamlessly connect to that and act as data unit and possibly processor, perhaps in cooperation with some stronger processor unit integrated with the big screen or some other extension device on your desk. Even more, imagine that in cafes or on airports, there will be such computing stations you can seamlessly connect your smartphone, er mobile computer, to.

Now, having your data and processing power in your pocket, using the same software across all those machines, be it an OS, web browser, web app, local app, hybrid, or whatever, why again would you want to store all your data in the cloud?

Sure, there are still reasons, like sharing with others, where the cloud can be helpful, and you sure will want your mobile data to be synchronized with those parts of cloud data. The cloud surely has its good use cases, even in that possible future, but I don't think most people will want to have all their data and their private stuff all up there, esp. when they can and will have it in their pockets and just as ubiquitous instead.

And I doubt the connection to the cloud will ever in near decades satisfy the speed we'd want to edit our videos in the quality we really want to achieve. ;-)

Still, the pocket devices I imagine and all that infrastructure around it will need some time to come into existence (nothing of that sounds really impossible even today, though), so there will be some time where the cloud can continue to shoot ahead in the uses cases of oneself having access to the data everywhere - but I'm looking forward to the pocket taking its bold steps into a quite interesting future!

By KaiRo, at 23:26 | Tags: Cloud, future, Internet, mobile, storage | 2 comments | TrackBack: 0

June 25th, 2010

My Thoughts About Tabs On Top

I've just watched Alex Faaborg's video about Tabs On Top for Firefox 4, and as I have been thinking about that topic for years now, I think it's time I put down my thoughts as a "SeaMonkey guy".

Now, some people would assume, that being a "SeaMonkey guy" must mean I'm totally opposed to this as we're widely considered to be the completely conservative kind of folks.

But then, my thoughts base on the fact that we've been talking about running browser, mail, HTML editor, chat, preferences, and whatever else all as tabs that can live in a single window (see our long-term vision) - and I actually can't imagine getting that right without placing tabs on top ultimately (think of toolbars needing to change between different kinds of tabs, for example).

So, I think that for an application suite that allows mixing tabs, it's ultimately a must to do that, and that makes me think in favor of this idea in general. Even now, having SeaMonkey's Site Navigation bar to be only displayed when needed makes my tabs bar jump around, which is nasty. Also, adding find bar on top of the web content should still place it under the tab bar and not make it jump, as it will do in our first implementation.

What I'm still unsure about, though, is how to deal with things like the bookmarks bar or the menu bar, if one has shown them, and unfortunately, Alex also left those out. Also, things like additional app toolbars added by add-ons are something we still need to figure out completely.

I know some users will be upset, and it must be a preference in the beginning, but for SeaMonkey purposes, I don't see how we should ever get mail tabs and browser tabs into a single window if we don't move tabs to the top.

Still, I'd love some ideas about the problems I pointed to. Any thoughts?

(Oh, and, of course, we still need someone to implement/port the actual code to even enable this in SeaMonkey - help would be appreciated!)

By KaiRo, at 16:11 | Tags: Firefox, future, Mozilla, SeaMonkey, tabs, Vision | 14 comments | TrackBack: 1

February 28th, 2009

Lift09: Where Did The Future Go?

So, I'm back from Geneva now - on one hand it's good to be home and with the SeaMonkey and Mozilla work again, on the other hand it was a really delightful experience to look outside our usual boxes of thinking, hear about, create and share new ideas and spend some time with really great minds from a lot of different areas.

I think it was a really great idea of Mozilla to be a partner of the Lift09 conference which was titled "Where Did The Future Go?" as somehow the pictures of the post-2000 future that were painted quite differently in the 20th century than they look today. We're living in some kind of science fiction world today with things like mobile phones, microwave ovens and the Internet, but common future visions like the flying cars and space ships are not common. Actually, there probably were more flying cars out there in the 1960s (yes, they had those things, even if they were rare and expensive) than today. Still, today's looks at the frontiers of the present and nowaday's visions of the future are quite interesting and worth to see them.

And Lift09's program had quite a few of those:
In Wednesday's workshops, I could explore and discuss the future of society and voting, the semantic web, and new ideas for our economy - and those were just my three of the 25 choices that were available.
The big stage conference talks on Thursday and Friday showed how visions of the future have (not) become reality and why, ambient devices for displaying information from the Internet, and why the experimental organization structures of the 20th century were wrong and the traditional participatorial culture like nowadays the social web and open source projects were always right and more stable. We learned how technology improves life in Africa and India, how cities are evolving and what modern urban design is bringing up and interesting information can be visualized, how the people in the dance club can generate the power for the club while having fun there or how to survive a 14,000 km hike through Australia. We could follow talks on how fake products could be dealt with in a different way, on the history of the world wide web, on designs for the future, including machines that consume flies and mice and generate the power to run from them. We were informed what's important about knives, that privacy is just an illusion and doesn't exist in reality, that cameroonian women are heavily using Internet cafes to get to know their future Swiss husbands, and that metromance (romance in the metro) is the way to our future. And finally, we could indulge in ways to firewall, fake and hack RFID tags, technology changing skin and food, as well as the great Vint Cerf and HIStory on the future of the Internet - or should I say the InterPlaNet?

The whole conference was a great experience of thinking outside the box, letting ideas flow, designing the future and using technology in new ways. And if you want to get some impressions, you can actually view and listen to all videos of all the talks right now - a Swiss TV station made them available within probably about half an hour after the talk was held, which is also pretty cool, I think. ;-)

After this experience, I'm pretty sure I'd like to go to such a conference again, maybe even Lift10 next year?

By KaiRo, at 22:20 | Tags: future, lift09, Mozilla, travel | 2 comments | TrackBack: 0

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