May 272016

This morning, for the first time in a very long time, I got medical test results that actually definitively pointed at a specific problem. Not only that, but it’s something that could actually potentially be addressed for a change. Then I went to an evaluation for physical therapy and got even more interesting information. Let’s review, shall we?

First off, about a month ago I had a nerve conduction study performed on my left foot area, because of major numbness and loss of sensation in my big toe and the one next to it. It turns out that this is not part of my usual peripheral neuropathy! Instead, the diagnosis is an unexpected one: tarsal tunnel syndrome. This is the lesser-known sibling to the common carpal tunnel syndrome we all fear in my line of work. Something is compressing the tibial nerve, causing damage and the resulting numbness and other symptoms.

From here out is where things might be considered TMI, especially if you’re squeamish about medical things, so I’m going to tuck it into a spoiler box to protect sensitive eyeballs. There’s nothing creepy, just kinda deeply medical.

Medical details ensue!

My neurologist and podiatrist suspect that the varicose veins I’ve developed over the last 25 years or so are responsible. This could also explain why I’ve had leg swelling lately. So they’ve recommended I find someone to look into that.

Less than an hour later, I was in physical therapy, being evaluated for work to begin on treating the foot that’s been so painful. Over the course of a very long exam, a few new things came up:

  • At first glance, it looks like lymphatic edema, in which fluid buildup results in swelling. This can also be a cause of varicose veins.
  • Over the course of the discussion, and after some research, I suspect it’s more likely chronic venous insufficiency. This is more in line with the specific symptoms and the situation as it stands, as well as the explanation that was given to me as to what seems to be going on.
  • This is all probably unrelated to my usual neuropathy, although that assessment could be mistaken.

So basically, what seems to be happening is that some of the veins in my legs have lost the battle against gravity and have stopped properly feeding back up to my heart, resulting in swelling and other yucky things. This has progressively worsened for many years now, until finally the swelling began to impinge upon nerves, causing pain which haws continued to worsen.

Fortunately, there are things we can do!

  • First, the therapist is going to use compression equipment and exercises to try to encourage that fluid to migrate upward. This will let us see if it improves my comfort level. It is not a permanent fix, though. If it helps, then we evaluate how to correct that problem over the long term.
  • We then (or also, depending) look at having the non-functioning veins closed off so that they don’t keep sidetracking blood flow away from veins that still function.


Something for which we have plans of attack! This is unheard of for me! I’m actually quite excited. I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

Please, please let this actually respond to treatment… just once, I need that to happen.

 Posted by at 6:05 PM
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