Maybe I'm in a Muppet mood, or maybe the approach of Easter and arrival of spring has me optimistic.
Regardless I want to spend a few minutes today celebrating the work of Mozilla Labs, not so much for what they do, but for how they do it.
The Bunson Honeydew of Mozilla Labs is Pascal Finette (right, from his personal site), German educated with a British Web address, now based in Los Gatos. The most recent post at his blog, which dates from February, attacks companies that see community as merely a way to increase revenue.
At the heart of the lab are its discussion forums, organized by project, and the challenges Finette has put before a small army of unpaid developers. There are a series of awards, but members of the group decide who gets them, which has attracted a global following in academic settings.
What is most compelling about Finette's work is his use of the open source process in the name of design. This breaks a lot of the rules we assume for open source.
We understand collaboration on technical subjects, but design is thought to be an individual exercise. It's as though people had never heard of ad agencies or movies, creative disciplines based entirely on collaboration.
A good place to join the discussion is around Mozilla's Concept Series, which as the name implies is really a system for brainstorming. Once a prototype is built and a group created around it, it gets its own icon and identity, as with the Bespin code editor or Raindrop messaging group.
Not everything is a result. As Finette notes, not everything is a profit center.
But in 2010, if you're trying to learn Web development in a college or even high school, if you're even a little underemployed, this is a great way to get started. Lurk a while before you say anything. (You don't want a Beaker reputation.) Try things out. Play.