I recently read a couple of articles in the press about the fact that the Firefox touch-friendly User Interface for Windows 8 will not be released before early next year.
Anyone working in a Communications team of an organization will cringe when reading such an article, due to its negative nature. I know because I did. The same person will then try to identify the source of the information so that similar things do not happen in the future.
In this particular case, the information comes from the publicly-posted notes from the Firefox Planning meeting.
I’ve been involved with software for the past 30 years and I cannot count how many times a project has taken longer than planned. I know too well the infamous 90-90 rule, which says:
The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.
Even if this humorous rule is almost true and shipping software rarely happens on time, setting goals in terms of concrete dates is important when it comes to managing software development.
We’re left with the following question: should Mozilla stop publishing such information on its Wiki in order to prevent PR issues? I don’t think so.
Such information is important for an organization like Mozilla for which openness and transparency are essential values. These values have a cost, which is that we cannot control what is published in the press, while our main commercial competitors are less transparent and therefore benefit from more controlled messages in the press.
Meanwhile, transparency and openness benefit Mozilla a lot. In particular:
- Openness allows participation. At Mozilla, many activities from software development to support, localization and Quality Assurance are participatory and involve non-paid staff. There is no need to be a Mozilla employee to contribute to the Mozilla project, which enables Mozilla to compete with much larger organizations.
- Transparency allows Trust. Users can trust Mozilla’s products, technologies and processes because they make sure the code they run does what it’s supposed to do, because this code is public and can be audited. In the view of the recent mass surveillance disclosures, this is priceless.
We all see the cost of being transparent and open, but the price to pay is quite small when compared to what it brings to Mozilla. Therefore, I would like all Mozillians to remember this and cherish openness and transparency.