How I Got Involved in Mozilla

Published on Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Tags: Mozilla

This is discussed very briefly on my about page, but I figured it could use a bit of a longer discussion. I generally consider myself to have joined the Mozilla community in ~2006. I know that I was using Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Mozilla Sunbird way before that (probably since ~2004, which is when I built my own computer). But I was just an enthusiast then, running beta builds, then alpha and eventually nightly builds. (This was way back when things were more dangerous to run: Minefield and Shredder.)

Anyway, back to 2006…I initially got involved in a more technical fashion by writing extensions (or maybe it was GreaseMonkey scripts). I don’t really have anyway to prove this though — I don’t seem to have any of that code. (This was before widespread distributed version control.) Anyway, let’s just assume this 2006 date is correct.

My first patch was in 2008 to move a function from the Provider for Google Calendar to the calendar core so that I could use it in Thundershows: a calendar provider for TV shows [1] [2]. (As far as I know, I’m one of a handful of people to actually implement a calendar provider.) I found the calendar project much easier to get involved in than other aspects of Mozilla since it was so much smaller. (I also toyed with adding an entire new protocol to Thunderbird, which R Kent James has now done successfully! [3] [4])

I then came across Instantbird in ~2008 (sometime in the Instantbird 0.1 era). I thought this was great — Mozilla was finally making an instant messaging client! Well, I was kind of right…Instantbird is not an official Mozilla project, but it was exactly what I wanted! The guys (mostly Florian Quèze) in the #instantbird IRC channel were awesome: kind, patient, helpful, and welcoming. They were the ones that really introduced me into the Mozilla way of doing things. I fixed my first bug for Instantbird in 2010 and haven’t stopped since! I’ve since added IRC support via JavaScript (instead of libpurple) and am now one of the lead developers. I’ve mentored Google Summer of Code students twice (2013 and 2014), contribute to Thunderbird and am a peer of the chat code shared between Instantbird and Thunderbird. (I do also occasionally contribute to other projects. [5])

[1]This was my first project to really have other users, I had people filing bugs, asking for new features, etc. It was great! I even had someone (years later) tell me in #instantbird that they had loved Thundershows!
[2]My second bug dealt with the same set of code and had tests committed (by me) over 5 years after the initial patch. Oops!
[3]My work was based off of some experiments Joshua Cranmer did to add support for web forums to Thunderbird. After all this time, I still want that extension.
[4]Oh, also rkent did EXACTLY what I wanted years later: which is add Twitter to Thunderbird.
[5]But not Firefox. After seven years (and over 1800 commits), I’ve never fixed a bug in Firefox; although I have had code committed to mozilla-central.