Thunderbird Reorganization Plan - the motivation

R Kent James kent at
Mon Sep 8 20:19:12 UTC 2014

I'd like to see if we can reach consensus on the general outline of a 
reorganization plan for Thunderbird. I hope it is clear to anyone that 
has been observing our efforts recently that there are issues with our 
current direction. Some symptoms:

1) The decision to confirm that we could spend Thunderbird income on a 
gathering of contributors, as promised to the community at the last 
reorganization, required intervention from the highest levels of Mozilla.

2) Thunderbird 31 released with very few new features.

3) comm-central has been closed now for about six weeks due to various 
breakages. This is really bad for engaging contributors, as well as 
slows down development. Collapse of Thunderbird as a product will start 
with long periods of time where we are unbuildable, so this is the first 
hints of collapse.

4) We have been unsuccessful so far at negotiating a resolution to the 
issues of repository structure that are needed for reducing our 
sensitivity to changes in the build system.

5) The process to confirm that we can publicly release information on 
our growing daily user count (which we sorely need to counter market 
perception that Thunderbird is dying) has taken over a year and is still 
not complete (though all indications are that we will have that approval 

6) The last entry on the Thunderbird blog was about one year ago, on 
September 13, 2013. Other aspects of public communication, such as 
release notes for Thunderbird 31, have also been inadequate recently.

At the same time, our user base is growing, and we have a strong core 
team with good internal dynamics. Our product is strong, and we are part 
of a proud brand and organization. We have everything that we need to be 
successful, we just need to get behind a plan and execute.

I'm going to post the minimal outline of what I think is needed in a 
separate communication, as I don't want to clutter that with the long 
list of problems that I have presented here. That communication will lay 
out key features of the reorganization plan, without too many details. I 
hope that we can reach a general consensus on the minimum plan in that 
document, and proceed to implement any negotiations that are needed to 
move it forward. Details are purposely omitted to try to get a list of 
the bare essentials of what we need to agree to.

One reason that we need to do this now, rather than wait for the Summit, 
is that we hope to take the opportunity at the Summit to prepare a 
marketing video that would be a key part of the strategy moving forward. 
So we need to agree on pieces of the plan, particularly the piece about 
approaching our users directly for funding, so that we can do the video 
as part of the Summit.

In the absence of a working governance model, one way that we can 
proceed with a reorganization is to have stakeholders add their name to 
a plan as a co-sponsor. What I will suggest is that I present my 
document, we have some discussions, and then I will modify the plan 
incorporating the input. Those who support the plan will be listed as 
co-sponsors. When you read the plan and comment, consider that you will 
be asked to be a co-sponsor of whatever we agree to.

If in the end you cannot agree to the plan after discussion, then I 
would strongly encourage you to offer an alternate plan. The plan that I 
present may not be the perfect plan, or the only possible plan, but we 
need SOME plan. If not mine, please present your own. Or state clearly 
why you think that the status quo is working fine.

Actual summary plan to follow.


	R. Kent James
Personal: kent at
Business: rkent at
Twitter: @rkentjames
Mozilla IRC: :rkent

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