Quick notes

Drive-by bits:

  • Saw this in google alerts, about one person’s process of fixing a thunderbird bug. It’s nice to see how getting involved and scratching itches is seen as easy by at least one contributor. We need more of that.
  • In case people didn’t notice, Shane’s looking for a Komodo dev. Cool stuff.
  • Rhetorical question: Why is it that when you see people walking in the street it’s so easy to think poorly of them without knowing anything, and when you talk and listen to people, it’s so easy to find things to like about them?
  • I’ve had lots of great conversations this week. Very energizing. As a result, I’m behind on my email. Apologies to many.
  • I got a visit this week from a few people including the PyPy crew, who gave a fun presentation to me, some of the ActiveState folks, Sun’s Tim Bray, and Avi & Andrew from DabbleDB/Seaside. Language geeks all. Apparently they’re going to give a google talk, which should make its way on the web at some point. Language geeks should keep an eye out for it.
  • Another visitor who tagged along was Aza Raskin, from Humanized, and it was fun to talk about advanced user interface ideas.
  • I’m heading to Paris for the next week, to talk to customers, interview possible hires, get to know the Mozilla Europe crew, drink some wine, eat some food, see friends & family. It’s just a quick trip, I promise I’ll do a broader European tour sometime later, as I know there’s lots and lots of interesting conversations to have there
  • It’s been true for a while that when I buy a computer, the manufacturer takes that as the signal to roll out an upgrade. Can that be generalized to: “When I head for Paris, the strikes start?”
  • Is it possible to buy a SIM card in Paris that I could plop into my iPhone and have a working phone?

ActiveState rocks on

Unavoidably, my taking on a new job at Mozilla means that I’ll be leaving my old one behind. After eight years, that’s something that begs commenting, especially if to those who’ve known me primarily through my various roles at ActiveState.

ActiveState has been a tremendous home for me for many years. Throughout my tenure I’ve grown tremendously as an engineer, a manager, an “open source guy”, and hopefully as a friend and colleague. It’s going to take some adjustment to not be an Activator.

At the same time, I think my leaving ActiveState is the right thing to do, not just for me, but for ActiveState as well. ActiveState is in better shape now than it’s been in years, with a strong CEO who knows how to nurture his team, a supportive board, a solid core business providing support for dynamic languages to people and companies worldwide, an exciting adventure for our collective child, Komodo, and some intriguing possibilities in the hyper-growth arena of social networking platforms. ActiveState is poised to do great things, they’ll do so just fine without me around on a daily basis. My leaving will allow the organization to evolve, and I’m confident it will be for the better. The best bit is that I’ll have a great ongoing role as an advisor, so I’ll still get to talk to my friends and participate in the most fun discussions. I’ll stay based in Vancouver, which will make it quite a bit simpler.

It’s a testament to the depth of relationships I’ve formed at ActiveState that everyone‘s reaction when hearing of the reasons for my leaving was the same: “Congratulations.” They understood that “the mozilla mail thing” is a unique gig. Thanks, all, for everything.

I’m sure I’ll blog about ActiveState news periodically, as projects like OpenKomodo evolve.

Open Komodo Thoughts

Today was a busy day, hence this late post.

As mentioned in the target of my last post, today we announced the Open Komodo initiative, which will see ActiveState open-source some of our crown jewels, because we think it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for ActiveState, because we want to see Komodo grow faster than we can grow it with our limited resources (and we think we’ll be able to grow the business as a result), and it’s the right thing to do for the open web. With any luck, if we can get the right people to help, we can combine the strengths of Komodo, Firefox, amazing firefox add-ons like Firebug, and new ideas, and create, together, a set of development tools which will, if not change the world, then at least change the world of web development.

I’ve spent a fair bit of the time in the last couple of years dealing with web development and learning from masters. And it’s simply, inexcusably, unequivocally, way too much not fun! Using Firefox makes you wonder how you could do it before it better than some of the alternatives (brr). Learning Firebug makes you wonder how you did it before. But it’s still, I maintain, way too incredibly and painfully hard. Paraphrasing what my friend and colleague Luke was saying a few weeks ago, if you add up the number of hours wasted debugging cross-browser bugs, you come up with a sad and silly number. And that’s just the !%#@$ cross-browser issues.

So we’ve decided to do our bit to help fix that (while helping the business grow at the same time). Time will tell if it was the right call or the wrong call, but I’m pumped.

Let’s see what we (you, me, and hopefully people neither of us know just yet) can do if we think bravely about what could be. What if you had a true integrated development environment that had all the debugging and introspection goodness of Firebug, with the workflow support of Komodo, mixed in with the crazy features that you and others will add? What about a “view source” that also showed you the source on the server, not just what the browser got? Could we actually make building webapps 10% easier? Maybe 20%? Each of those percentage points matter. Not just in the lives of the poor souls to have to deal with broken browsers, but because any time not spent wasting dev time will be spent pushing the web further.

We can and must build better web standards, better browsers, better Ajax libraries, better browser plugins. But that just makes the stack taller. Good tools can help make it fit in people’s brains. Case in point: every time the background syntax checker in Komodo detects a missing closing bracket and saves a developer a few seconds that she’ll be able to spend learning about Cool New Stuff. Everytime someone using Komodo Snapdragon can inspect a DOM element, tweak a CSS rules until things look good, and save that change through to disk, that’s one less chance for a copy & paste error. Baby steps are like compound interest. They add up.

Finally, speaking egotistically and mixametaphorically, knowing that some of the Komodo DNA will be able to evolve in the wild, mix with other DNA, and create new offspring, fills me with parental pride. I’ll still stay up at night waiting to see if the kid comes home safely, but the neighborhood’s safe, so I don’t worry too much.

Oh by the way: the word mixametaphorically is hereby placed in the public domain.