Apr 192016
 

One great thing about watching the future of the Web being planned in the open is that you can see how smart people having open discussions, combined with the occasional sudden realization, epiphany, or unexpected spark of creative genius can make the Web a better place for everyone.

This is something I’m reminded of regularly when I read mailing list discussions about plans to implement new Web APIs or browser features. There are a number of different kinds of discussion that take place on these mailing lists, but the ones that have fascinated me the most lately have been the “Intent to…” threads.

There are three classes of “Intent to…” thread:

  • Intent to implement. This thread begins with an announcement that someone plans to begin work on implementing a new feature. This could be an entire API, or a single new function, or anything in between. It could be a change to how an existing technology behaves, for that matter.
  • Intent to ship. This thread starts with the announcement that a feature or technology which has been implemented, or is in the process of being implemented, will be shipped in a particular upcoming version of the browser.
  • Intent to unship. This thread starts by announcing that a previously shipped feature will be removed in a given release of the software. This usually means rolling back a change that had unexpected consequences.

In each of these cases, discussion and debate may arise. Sometimes the discussion is very short, with a few people agreeing that it’s a good (or bad) idea, and that’s that. Other times, the discussion becomes very lengthy and complicated, with proposals and counter-proposals and debates (and, yes, sometimes arguments) about whether it’s a good idea or how to go about doing it the best way possible.

You know… I just realized that this change could be why the following sites aren’t working on nightly builds… maybe we need to figure out a different way to do this.

This sounds great, but what if we add a parameter to this function so we can make it more useful to a wider variety of content by…

The conversation frequently starts innocuously enough, with general agreement or minor suggestions that might improve the implementation, and then, sometimes, out of nowhere someone points out a devastating and how-the-heck-did-we-miss-that flaw in the design that causes the conversation to shift into a debate about the best way to fix the design. Result: a better design that works for more people with fewer side effects.

These discussions are part of what makes the process of inventing the Web in the open great. Anyone who has an interest can offer a suggestion or insight that might totally change the shape of things to come. And by announcing upcoming changes in threads such as these, developers make it easier than ever to get involved in the design of the Web as a platform.

Mozilla is largely responsible for the design process of the Web being an open one. Before our global community became a force to be reckoned with, development crawled along inside the walls of one or two corporate offices. Now, dozens of companies and millions of people are active participants in the design of the Web and its APIs. It’s a legacy that every Mozillian—past, present, and future—can be very proud of.

 Posted by at 11:00 AM
Apr 032016
 

Today—April 3, 2016—marks the tenth anniversary of the day I started working at Mozilla as a writer on the Mozilla Developer Center project (now, of course, the Mozilla Developer Network or MDN). This was after being interviewed many (many) times by Mozilla luminaries including Asa Dotzler, Mike Shaver, Deb Richardson, and others, both on the phone and in person after being flown to Mountain View.

Ironically, when I started at Mozilla, I didn’t care a lick about open source. I didn’t even like Firefox. I actually said as much in my interviews in Mountain View. I still got the job.

I dove in in those early days, learning how to create extensions and how to build Firefox, and I had so, so very much fun doing it.

Ironically, for the first year and a half I worked at Mozilla, I had to do my writing work in Safari, because a bug in the Firefox editor prevented me from efficiently using it for in-browser writing like we do on MDN.

Once Deb moved over to another team, I was the lone writer for a time. We didn’t have nearly as many highly-active volunteer contributors as we do today (and I salute you all!), so I almost single-handedly documented Firefox 2.0. One of my proudest moments was when Mitchell called me out by name for my success at having complete (more or less) developer documentation for Firefox 2.0—the first Firefox release to get there before launch.

Over the past ten years, I’ve documented a little of everything. Actually, a lot of everything. I’ve written about extensions, XPCOM interfaces, HTML, a broad swath of APIs, Firefox OS, building Firefox and other Mozilla-based projects, JavaScript, how to embed SpiderMonkey into your own project (I even did so myself in a freeware project for Mac OS X), and many other topics.

As of the moment of this writing, I have submitted 42,711 edits to the MDN wiki in those ten years. I mostly feel good about my work over the last ten years, although the last couple of years have been complicated due to my health problems. I am striving to defeat these problems—or at least battle them to a more comfortable stalemate—and get back to a better level of productivity.

Earlier, I said that when I took the job at Mozilla, I didn’t care about the Web or about Firefox. That’s changed. Completely.

Today, I love my job, and I love the open Web. When I talk to people about my job at Mozilla, I always eventually reach a point at which I’m describing how Mozilla is changing the world for the better by creating and protecting the open Web. We are one of the drivers of the modernization of the world. We help people in disadvantaged regions learn and grow and gain the opportunity to build something using the tools and software we provide. Our standards work helps to ensure that a child in Ghana can write a Web game that she and her friends can play on their phones, yet also share it with people all over the world to play on whatever device they happen to have access to.

The Web can be the world’s greatest unifying power in history if we let it be. I’m proud to be part of one of the main organizations trying to make that happen. Here’s to many more years!

 Posted by at 2:59 PM
Jan 082016
 

This morning I had an epiphany. A vision. A prophecy, you might call it. It’s groundbreaking (in a story arc kind of way, not in a real-life kind of way). Since it’s spoilery, I’m going to tuck it into a little disclosure box. Here it is:

My ephiphany

What if Rey is the Chosen One?

Anakin failed to achieve the prophesied role; instead of bringing balance to the Force, he nearly destroyed humanity’s connection to it forever. Some have theorized that his destruction of the Jedi order, leaving, eventually, just him and Luke Skywalker as Force users, established balance.

Perhaps. But what if he wasn’t intended to be the Chosen One. What if Qui-Gon was mistaken? Anakin was, instead, a Force-talented but reckless kid who should never have been a Jedi at all.

Rey, on the other hand, is so powerful and in tune with the Force that she is learning to wield its power through that innate connection, instead of requiring training. Much like the earliest Force-users must have done. This puts her in a unique position—better, perhaps, than Luke Skywalker—to build a new Jedi order. One which is more inclusive, more in tune with everyday people, and so forth.

This also explains much about the vision Rey has when she first touches Luke’s lightsaber. In it, she sees the end of the Luke’s fledgling Jedi order at the hands of Ben Solo and the dawn of her new Jedi order, founded by her, perhaps with Finn by her side, as they do combat together against Kylo Ren.

Rey is the Chosen One.

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 Posted by at 5:06 PM
Dec 242015
 

It’s been a few days now since I saw “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” for the second time, and I’ve got theories! Spoilers lie ahead, but I will start by just saying that this movie was amazing. Now, on to the theories!

First, some thoughts on Finn (John Boyega):

Spoilers ahead: Theories on Finn

First off, let’s talk about Finn’s lightsaber fight versus the vibroblade of the First Order stormtrooper. I’ve heard people say, “How can he be so good with that lightsaber already?

I think the answer is simple and literally right in front of Finn. Clearly First Order stormtroopers are trained to use melee weapons such as the vibroblade. Therefore, it stands to reason that Finn has at least enough skill with a vibroblade that he can wield the lightsaber in much the same way.

The big question, of course: who is he, and what role will he fill going forward? Is he strong in the Force? Or just a heck of a fighter and an incredibly decent human being? I look forward to finding out! Boyega plays this part very well, and the simple, pure human decency Finn expresses despite being trained to kill like a mindless drone implies a strength of character that could have serious import and repercussions going forward.

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Now for the clear hero of the new trilogy, Rey. First off, this is a fantastic character who I already think may be among the two or three strongest and most interesting characters in all of Star Wars film lore. Secondly, she was played brilliantly by Daisy Ridley. Such remarkable acting. I’m a huge fan of this character and of her work in this film. Wow.

Anyway, my thoughts…

Spoilers ahead: The Mystery of Rey

Clearly, Rey is astonishingly powerful in the Force. Once she becomes aware of it and touches it for the first time, she gains enormous power very quickly. So obviously, she has parentage which is also strong in the Force.

This morning I read about a theory of where Rey comes from which I think has a lot of potential: after dropping off Luke with Owen and Beru, Obi-wan had a lot of time on his hands. He communed with Qui-Gon to learn how to pass into the Force at death while retaining a link to the world of the living. He ruminated on the fact that the Jedi order had been destroyed.

And he contemplated the new reality of the future course of the Jedi if the order were to be rebuilt: being disconnected from your feelings and from the people around you leads to a sense of superiority and a detachment that makes it harder, not easier, to resist the temptations of the Dark Side. After a decade or so of meditation and learning new ways from Qui-Gon and perhaps even Yoda, he traveled, and he found love. And, eventually, there was a child: Rey.

The article I linked to above postulated that Rey is a grandchild, but it’s only been 30 years, and I believe that Obi-Wan would have spent the first several years, possibly a decade, ruminating on the defeat of the Jedi and following through on the training Yoda gave him to do at the end of Episode III. Obi-Wan would then meet Rey’s mother a decade or so after the events of Episode III, leading to approximately the correct timing for Rey’s age to be as it is in Episode VII.

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I’ll probably add to this post as my theories expand, so that should be fun…

 Posted by at 12:22 PM