A Post-Planet Module World


I’ve been a Mozilla Planet module peer since the module was created in 2007.

The module, as incepted then, might have never existed, were it not for the issues I raised… but alas I’ve told that story already, and if you really care, you can click that link.

As originally created, our role was to attend to requests related to Planet’s settings and feeds, respond to technical issues as they arose, and ensure that Planet and the content it hosts serves the needs of the Mozilla Community.

Functionally, this came down to two major activities: researching and approving RSS feed additions and deletions. And making policy around content-appropriateness, including rulings whenever questionable content appeared on Planet.

We’ve been coasting on both of those mandates. For awhile now. And yet, this paralysis isn’t particularly surprising to me.

There have been instances where we, as Planet Module stewards, have been asked to “sit out” of discussions related to Planet1 and its operations. Whatever your opinions on this, it’s had the side-effect of gutting momentum on any initiatives or improvements we might have discussed.

It’s gotten so bad that there have apparently been a number of complaints about how we’ve been [not] doing been doing our jobs, but that feedback hasn’t effectively been making it to the module leadership. At least not until there are people with pitchforks.

There’s so much frustration about this issue, a Mozilla Corporation employee emailed the Planet list last week, all but demanding to be added as a peer. There was no hint in the message that any discussion would be tolerated. And while I disagree with his methods and logic, I certainly understand his frustrations.

Additions and deletions to a config file in source control aren’t rocket science.

And as for our other role—creating an acceptable-content policy for Planet and discussing those issues as they arise—Mozilla now has a Community Participation Guidelines that supersede anything a module owner or peers would say.

The fundamental issue, at the time, was one of free speech2 versus claims of “hostile work environment” and “bigotry.” While it’s unclear who is responsible for interpreting the Guidelines3, the Guidelines do take precedent over the Planet Module.

Without the policy responsibility, the Planet Module seems to me to be effectively reduced to something you could challenge a summer intern to automate4.

Who knows what the Planet Module will become. But I’m not interested in joining on that journey. So I’ve resigned my Planet module peership5.

So, as they say… so long. And thanks for all the RSS feeds.

  1. Don’t ask me by whom; I’ve asked repeatedly; I’ve been refused an answer every time
  2. Specifically, endorsing a political position
  3. Though, one can guess: I’ve only ever heard one answer to “Who is the final arbiter at Mozilla?” as long as Mozilla has existed
  4. Though, like most problems presented to software engineers, it’s not as simple as you might imagine
  5. Technically, effective last week on February 9th; but it’s been a busy week, so I didn’t have time to write about it until now