[Council Update] New Council, New Hires, New Looks!

Philipp Kewisch kewisch at thunderbird.net
Thu May 17 20:29:29 UTC 2018

Hello Thunderbirders,

It is about time for another update. As you may know, since the last
update a new council was elected.

Five council members were re-elected (Jörg, Magnus, Patrick, Philipp,
Wayne). Of the remaining former council members, Kent is stepping back
from his Thunderbird activities and focusing on educating prison inmates
on tech, increasing their chances of gaining a foothold once their
sentence has ended. Ben has decided not to stand for reasons he has
outlined earlier on tb-planning. On behalf of the council I would like
to thank Ben and Kent for their council work and the dedication they
have brought in. We’ve achieved a great amount since the council was
created in 2014, and we couldn’t have done it without their contribution.

While we are sad to see Ben and Kent go, we are excited to have two
brand new council members on board. First of all, I would like to
introduce Philippe Lieser. He has been an add-on author since 2013,
working on the wonderful DKIM Verifier [1]. While he has been a passive
bystander in the past, he is passionate about Thunderbird and wants to
ensure that the momentum we have built continues. Second, our Community
Manager Ryan Sipes has joined the council. Ryan cares deeply about our
users and developer community which made his decision to stand for
election almost natural. We are looking forward to working with Philippe
and Ryan this term.

Within the council, we’ve voted that I continue the role as Chairman of
the Council, Ryan has stepped up as our treasurer (replacing Kent), and
we’ve created a new “secretary” role responsible for ensuring the
council processes are being followed and votes are properly recorded.
Wayne has been carrying this role implicitly in the past, and what we
imagine for the role will also help balance council work a little better.

Transitioning council members is not something we do often so it took a
while to get organized again. Going forward, we want to make sure the
new council members find it easy to get started. To support this, we’ve
started to create a council process document that describes the various
activities we undertake. It contains information about the tools we use,
the processes we have, and how to go about certain topics such as
hiring. You could think of it as a very early version of bylaws for the

Aside from that, we have been busy with hiring, which is taking up a
great deal of our time. We are currently in the process of bringing on
up to three new developers, a new build engineer, and a manager. In
order to give us a chance to evolve Thunderbird in a way that we are
less dependent on Mozilla Platform changes, we need to invest in more
staff to support the community in their work.

Given this is meant to be a status update I don’t want to get into too
much detail on the topics the new developers will work on, but we will
have a frontend engineer for XUL replacements, an engineer to support
our add-ons strategy, and one focused on technical debt in the backend.
We haven’t quite scoped out the third role yet and need to make sure
hiring a third developer is within our budget, but we are certain we
need to move quickly, and that works best with more developers.

Our previous build engineer has done a great job preparing Thunderbird
to run on the new infrastructure using TaskCluster. He already came to
us with a great deal of expert knowledge on TaskCluster, so we are not
surprised he found a new position with the Firefox Release Engineering
Team. We are therefore looking to fill the vacancy with someone who can
continue to maintain our release infrastructure.

Working with so many talented people takes time to make sure they are
also getting the best out of their job. Our staff has shown a great
amount of self-initiative and passion in moving Thunderbird forward.

However, we feel that as a volunteering council we can support our staff
and community better if we hire a manager. We’ve had someone with a lot
of experience in Thunderbird approach us about this role, who we will be
hiring. This person will have split responsibility, both managing the
staff members, as well as a technical/architect component. We may
consider separating this role more in the future, but believe that the
combination currently fits our needs.

On various lists, the technical merits of rewrite vs gradual replacement
have been discussed. We feel both approaches have their advantages and
downsides, but at current we have the impression that discussion around
this topic is not bringing us closer to a resolution. Therefore our new
manager will plan and execute a number of experiments to support or
disprove each thesis. This could be something like “is it feasible to
use rust in Thunderbird”, or “how will performance be affected if we
rewrite component Y in JavaScript”.

Of course actually implementing these experiments wouldn’t be possible
without our beloved community, we are looking forward to involving you
in this process. This is a prime opportunity to work on something new
and exciting, while at the same time moving Thunderbird forward and
making it a piece of your own.

We are also venturing into the land of partnerships, extending the work
that had started even before the council was formed. With new
partnerships we hope to provide Thunderbird users with a helpful
service, while at the same time creating an opportunity to increase our
resources, which in turn we can invest for the future of Thunderbird. We
are still in the process of finding an agreement, so stay tuned for the
next update. In any case, we want to make sure to respect users’ privacy
with these partnerships.

As you may have also noticed, the Thunderbird logo is about to get an
update! Thanks to the amazing work of Elio Qoshi [2] and his team we
aren’t just getting a new logo, but there is also work underway to
create a Thunderbird design style guide, which will help with
consistency. If you want to take a peek, you can see it now by
installing Thunderbird Beta [3]!

This concludes my update for today, I hope I could give you some insight
into our work. If there is anything specific you’d like to hear for the
next update please do leave a reply.

Talk to you soon!

[1] https://addons.mozilla.org/thunderbird/addon/dkim-verifier/
[2] https://elioqoshi.me/
[3] https://www.thunderbird.net/channel/

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