On Mozilla’s “open” quest

What do we think about Mozilla’s CEO stepping down?Brendan Eich is widely known for a number of major contributions to the evolution of the Web, including inventing JavaScript and being the co-founder of mozilla.org. Last Thursday he had to step down, 11 days into being Mozilla’s CEO, forced out by the uproar over a donation of $1,000 he made six years ago to a ballot measure against gay marriage.
No, I am not going to debate Prop 8 here, nor the changes in our country since 2008. I likewise think it’s irrelevant that his contributions were way offset by other Mozilla workers who donated in support of gay marriage. And I’m not going into the fact that his (small) donation stands in stark contrast to other companies’ leadership staff who donated against gay marriage, yet have continued to work and be promoted. All that can be found on the web; the “open” web Eich helped create for all.
Eich’s situation is unique: Mozilla claims to carry the banner of openness, a banner he initiated and fought for. Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post Thursday: “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality.” She emphasized the company’s support of “the open Web” and confessed to having screwed up “because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves.” She continued saying: “While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the Web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better,” she wrote. “We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla.”
So here’s my issue: do you throw someone out of an “open company” which stands for “all of us engaging freely in tough conversations” – the same someone who co-founded this company with these principals, because, well, he acted on them? Because he allowed himself to express who he is, even when in a minority? I remember my kids once questioning whether I think “normal” is like me. We laughed but it’s a dangerous pitfall we all can fall in, and open Mozilla is no exception. I would like to ask Ms. Baker when she speaks about “openness”, does she actually mean, open, or does she mean – open to people like her? I would argue that having people of different views as leaders of a company, much more expresses these values of openness, than having people with same views, all chiming to the same tune!

I don’t know Eich, and if he came over for Shabbos, we would probably argue about this and other issues. I would tell him about my friends who suffer because of discrimination, and I believe he would tell me about his too. Either way, I don’t think I would kick him out of my house for having different opinions than me. Isn’t this what diversity is all about? Having different opinions and supporting different causes (yes, within reasoning, and I can already hear the critics saying: what if he supported the Nazi party? you’re right, then we’ll have a different conversation, but the fact is, he doesn’t, he isn’t out to hurt anyone, and we, the “open minded” people of the modern world, must be able to tell the difference. More on that in his own blog).

My concern here is that we are quick to react and we do so from a place of fear. In the effort to force ourselves to become more “open”, we actually become more closed. In that sense, freedom can become just another jail.

 

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One Response to On Mozilla’s “open” quest

  1. neskama says:

    Nicely put Michal….really nicely worded. thanks

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