Mark Surman interview in Sept 08

I had the honour of interviewing Mark Surman when he dropped by Singapore in September prior to the start of his work at the Mozilla Foundation. We talk a bit about his upcoming role in the foundation, the role of Mozilla in education, and managerial structure in general. Unfortunately due to the lack of time I am unable to do anything more than transcript the first video.

Videos one, two, three, four and five are in .mov format (now in .ogg too, see end of post for links, but they are in poorer quality having been transcoded from .mov and thus are smaller in size). SHA-1 checksums are at the end of the post. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license.

Edit: Thanks to KaiRo’s suggestion, I tried to embed the videos using the new video tag, so here’s the first video below. It should play automatically after it has finished downloading.

Edit 2: Halfway through the video when played by Firefox 3.1 beta 1, it should crash at nsOggDecoder::HandleVideoData. I don’t know if this is fixed in the recent nightlies though. You have been warned!

Edit 3: More document tidyings, I got my <video> information from this devmo page, any queries please redirect to that page… 🙂

Edit 4: Took out the autoplay attribute, to play the video, one should right-click to show controls and play if the controls don’t show up.

Transcript of the first video:

GK: Hi, Mark.

MS: Hi, Gary.

GK: So, you’re taking up a new position, as an Executive Director for Mozilla Foundation.

MS: That’s right. (nods head)

GK: And, here’s a couple of questions for you. Let me start off with…

GK: What are your plans for your role as an Executive Director, especially with regards to the community, the goals, and education?

MS: So, as people who know the history of Mozilla know, it started out as a foundation because everybody who was involved in the beginning really had this big public mission of keeping the internet open, keeping the web open, and the main way they want to do that was first with a browser.

That was so successful, but they needed really to spin off a company just to manage that part of the mission. But the mission remains that broad desire to keep the internet open. So now, the things are really established with Mozilla Corporation, with Mozilla Messaging, there is a kind of a desire on the part of the board to think of what else can we do to keep the internet open.

So, my role as Executive Director coming in, is to work with the Mozilla community, to work with other people who are interested in getting involved with the Mozilla community, to figure out what’s the new terrain in terms of keeping the internet open. A part of that is about bringing more people in, who care about the values of Mozilla, so education, you know specifically working, say with students and professors, who’re gonna learn about open source and use the Mozilla community as a way to do that and also contribute, that’s one way to bring people into the community.

So the foundation will probably explore some things in that area, but also, you know just engaging the 200 million people who use Firefox and people who use Thunderbird and other Mozilla products and saying, "You know, maybe there’s something more here than just a great product."

And it is, a great set of products. Maybe there’s some values that resonate. You know, things like, Spread Firefox or Download Day, people resonate with Mozilla’s brands and want to get involved, so another role for the foundation is to figure out beyond using those products, are there other ways for those people to get involved and express their interest in the open internet.

Maybe that’s getting involved in issues like data, maybe that’s just kind of evangelizing to their friends and relatives on why the open internet and keeping the web open are important. Those are the kind of things we’ll look at in the foundation. But the really key thing is to make sure that what we do is driven by the Mozilla community, just like everything else is. So there is this new opportunity to create new opportunities for participation.

GK: So, how do you plan to reach out to educational institutions that are interested in teaching open source, but they have no idea how to start?

MS: Hmm, I’m not sure that the first place to go, is to go to educational institutions that have no idea how to start.

I think the first place we want to go is, places where there are professors, places where there are students who are already active over there in open source, already interested, possibly already contributing to programs or to communities like the Mozilla community, or other communities that are doing open source. And help them find a way to structure what they’re doing, bring it into the classroom, get credit for what they’re doing, involve more people in what they’re doing.

So really, I think what we’re looking for early on, and this is all still to be formed, and we may need to get more people’s opinion on this, is champions working in universities, working in colleges, working in educational institutions, who already are excited about the values of Mozilla and the values of open source, and who want to go further with that. So, that’s the first place to start.

GK: How do you feel about Seneca’s program so far?

MS: I think the Seneca program is a real beacon for people who want to do exactly that, who want to take their interest in open source and turn it into formal courseware, a formal offerings.

The Seneca people basically teach computer studies, and what they’ve done is they’ve started a course about three years ago, where the students who are learning Mozilla programming aren’t doing that just in sandbox or just in a laboratory; they’re going out in the Mozilla community, with the help of their professor and contribute directly, learning this real-world environment, which makes, you know, good sense in terms of contributing to Mozilla, but also good sense in terms of them being ready for the job market, right?

They learn to work in a global community, they learn to work with the real skills involved in, you know in open source but also in the real world of producing any piece of software. And you don’t often learn that in kind of a traditional computer studies programmes, so the community is part of who’s teaching those students.

And they have expanded, at Seneca, from just doing Mozilla; now they’ve got the same model for doing OpenOffice and for doing Linux builds and a whole bunch of stuff. So that’s a very successful model, the question is, can other people build on that kind of approach, and hopefully they can.


sha1 hashes of:

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bac37b9a4582e6741df10e73f4b598c2f92e0652 –

7ffe67e95e89a4503874eb5837fb1d235a8e86fc – 1.ogg
2ea95529efbeb79b9c18237b0d11c617552c9005 – 2.ogg
c9f84818d088aea830e607e3c01d41138541ed17 – 3.ogg
7f059bf520ef7c9a5e2850495f0f51640f152d1d – 4.ogg
dcdd235a50576114397f33f6cdf9537588f49733 – 5.ogg