Thunderbird Reorganization: Summary Plan

Kent James kent at
Thu Sep 11 16:38:37 UTC 2014

On 9/11/2014 1:46 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
>>> >>2) Overall authority for the Thunderbird project to be held by a group of
>>> >>people representing various stakeholders, including representation from both
>>> >>the community and Mozilla staff, as well as representation from developers,
>>> >>support, marketing, qc, and users. The name and structure of this group are
>>> >>yet to be determined, but initially call it by the neutral name of the
>>> >>"Oversight Group" or OG.
>> >
>> >Why replace the Module System? This is what all Mozilla projects use.
> De facto, the Module System is not the only mechanism of governance the
> Mozilla project has. (Making all of this clearer and better is a big
> project, and a discussion for another time.) In practice, the difference
> between the above and a MO/peers system is solely that an OG system
> would not have a single decision-maker. I think it's OK for the
> Thunderbird team to experiment with new forms of governance,
> particularly if there is no-one paid full-time to take on the burden of
> being the buck-stops-here person.
> Gerv

As Gerv says, there are many aspects of Mozilla's corporate governance 
that stand outside of the Module system at the moment. Both MoCo and 
MoFo have boards of directors. There are middle managers and CxO roles 
with significant authority whose role is not typically shown in the 
Modules. Yes all these things in principle could be shown there, but 
they are not because the Module system is not meant to be all-encompassing.

There is no intention to "replace the Module system", in fact I think we 
would use it more were we better organized. But we need an oversight 
group that will play the same role as a board of directors or middle 
managers to take responsibility for larger issues. The OG stands over 
the Modules Owners, advising Mozilla on appropriate people for those 
roles as well as recruiting for those roles, and making decisions that 
are too big for a single Module owner to make.

One of things that we hear from Mozilla is that they do not want to put 
significant management energy into Thunderbird and its issues. Yet the 
current structure now requires the direct intervention of Mitchell (for 
the Summit funding) or Chris Beard (for the permission to share 
Thunderbird usage data). Asking top managers to make fairly basic 
decisions about Thunderbird operations is about as demanding as you can 
get of management energy!

I've run various small organizations of 20 -50 people, sometimes with a 
board over me, and sometimes not. A board with a variety of perspectives 
can be very valuable in guiding an organization, so I much prefer that 
over either a single boss, or being a lone leader with nowhere to turn. 
Mozilla as an organization has leadership structures, but they 
explicitly do not want those structures distracted by Thunderbird. So 
let's provide it ourselves. We need to be trusted to handle the Mozilla 
brand, manifesto, and legal liability, so we cannot reasonably demand 
100% autonomy, but we need more than we have now.

If there was an obvious candidate for a BDFL perhaps we would use that 
structure, but there is not.


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