The Mozilla Manifesto Addendum

The Mozilla Manifesto contains the ten principles that guide Mozilla's mission:

Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent.

I spent my third week with Mozilla in Austin for the All-Hands meeting. There, Mitchell Baker mentioned she was working on what she called 'an addendum' to the Manifesto. Today we see the results of that Addendum, in anticipation of Mozilla's 20th birthday. Four new topics have been added to the Manifesto:

  • We are committed to an internet that includes all the peoples of the earth — where a person’s demographic characteristics do not determine their online access, opportunities, or quality of experience.
  • We are committed to an internet that promotes civil discourse, human dignity, and individual expression.
  • We are committed to an internet that elevates critical thinking, reasoned argument, shared knowledge, and verifiable facts.
  • We are committed to an internet that catalyzes collaboration among diverse communities working together for the common good.

As the blog post puts it, "We do this to explicitly address the quality of people’s experiences online". When I first heard talk of these four points at the All Hands, I knew I had found somewhere special to work. I'd also encourage you to read Mitchell Baker's Op-Ed from this morning, as it contains some of the background thinking. I quote it below:

All this is ambitious, given the current state of the internet. These ideas won’t come to life on their own. As in any human institution, real transformation will come from a huge diversity of sources.
— Mitchell Baker

When I was job hunting, I was first and foremost looking for a job with interesting projects, and a business I could live with. Instead, what I have found is an organization suffused with values I appreciate, that are core to the organization. I still kick myself at my fortune on a regular basis. 

Recently I spent four days in Mountain View, digging into the culture of Mozilla, its history, it's mission, purpose and future. I won't get too deep into the program, other than to say it was excellent. Time and time again, we returned to the manifesto and the mission. The manifesto suffuses through the work of Mozilla. Today, with the addendum, I'm particularly happy to say I'm a Mozillian.

On Driving

Just a month and a bit shy of thirty, I finally got my drivers licence.

My first time driving a vehicle I was roughly twelve, and my grandfather took me out on rural Saskatchewan roads, driving his 1960s era Chevy truck. I remember sitting on the bench seat, trying to push that clutch. It was very challenging to get it down, but the truck was forgiving, and I was able to drive it. I seem to recall I even got it up to 60 at one point.

I got my first learners permit about ten years ago, at the urging of my now wife. It took me two tries, after flubbing a question too many on the first attempt. Learning to drive didn't go well. I wasn't personally particularly invested in doing it, and so at the first challenge, I essentially walked away from the notion. Mostly I was just happy I had ID I could use when trying to go to a bar with my friends.

For ten years afterwards, I got by without driving. I used transit, and had Andrea, who has loved driving for years.

Moving to Ottawa though made it pretty clear I was going to need to know how to drive. Winters are not particularly forgiving to just random exploration on transit. Plus, if we start a family, it's important we both be able to drive the car somewhere! So last year I started saving for Drivers Ed, wrote my G1 (learners) exam in Ontario, and then finally took lessons.

I was so nervous about writing my G2 road test. I booked the day off work, and booked some extra driving hours with my instructor earlier in the day. When it was finally time for the exam, it flew past so quickly I was shocked. I pulled into the parking lot on at the testing centre, parked the car, and the examiner said "Congratulations, you passed!". I was tempted to reply "Are you sure?"

I've since been practicing driving standard with Andrea. After a little bit of awkwardness trying to find the clutch point near the beginning, I am happy to report now I've managed to drive a few different big routes, and am starting to feel much more comfortable driving. Both in general, being a person on the road, as well as driving standard.

I've still never driven the car alone, but I am excited for that day in a way that I am sort of surprised to report. My dislike of driving doesn't seem to be standing particularly strong.

Two(+) Weeks without Twitter

Apparently Jack Dorsey has finally started to realize that Twitter is problematic. Here I am, having been off Twitter for more than two weeks, and I have to say on a personal note, I feel happier, healthier, and more together than I have in a long time. I find myself blogging more. Reading in depth more. Playing more guitar.

The inbetween moments where I would reach for Twitter, only to develop a new bout of anxiety are gone.

I'm not perfect: I definitely am polling parts of the web more than I used to (which ends up being random reward, another problem).

However, overall, I feel myself to be in a much better place. As a result I think I may be staying off Twitter when this experiment ends.

I really hope that Jack and Twitter can fix some of its problems, for those who choose to stay (and there are great people and great things that happen on Twitter). I just don't know that I can be on there, perhaps because of my own weaknesses as a person.

This isn't the first time I've kicked an internet habit because it was bad for me; I did the same for Reddit years ago, Slashdot before that.

The Netflix Funnel

Over the last little while I have found myself increasingly conflicted about streaming video services like Netflix and CraveTV (the two Andrea and I subscribe to). While we still find things to watch, I worry about the way they funnel our viewing habits, maybe in ways we don't always notice or pay attention to.

Consider the dominant streaming video service, Netflix, which now has more subscribers than all cable providers combined. While Netflix has grown more popular, it has diminished its content to the point where it recently hosted only 25 movies made before 1950, as Zach Schonfeld pointed out in Newsweek. “It’s the sort of classics selection you’d expect to find in a decrepit video store in 1993,” Schonfeld wrote, “not on a leading entertainment platform that serves some 100 million global subscribers.”

The above quote comes from this article on Pitchfork making a similar argument about my concerns, but projecting forward streaming music services.  In Canada, I checked using AllFlicks.net, and found 18 movies before 1950,  almost all of which are documentaries, in turn, almost entirely about WWII. It doesn't get a lot better quickly:

  • 1950-1960: 12
  • 1960-1970: 18
  • 1970-1980: 35
  • 1980-1990: 94
  • 1990-2000: 193
  • 2000-2010: 787
  • 2010-2018: 4369

I totally understand Netflix's position here: They need subscribers to make money, and most people want to watch the newest stuff. I think I find this  fascinating because it's a non-algorithmic example of the ways in which our behaviour is altered by large corporations, and in this case, I can't even really ascribe malevolence. Yet the power wielded by Netflix seems undeniable. I know personally, despite having an interest in watching some old movies, I find its relatively rare for me to go try to find them, because there's always something on Netflix that could be watched. Yet, as the above info shows, it's unlikely what I watch on Netflix will even a decade old.

Maybe the way I handle this is a redoubled love for the public library.  I've been wanting to watch "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" for years (since Eliott Kalan of The Flop House podcast doesn't stop talking about it), so in writing this post I finally put the DVD on hold. Of course, compared to Netflix, one of the downsides to the library is inventory.

All Copies in Use

Then again, perhaps the limited inventory is a good thing, by creating some mindfulness in the consumption. Since I know how in demand this DVD is, when I get it from the library, I will almost certainly watch it while I have it. Whereas, if I found out The Taking of Pelham One Two Three showed up on Netflix, I may dither and dither until it leaves the service and I've missed it.