I had the unexpected pleasure of sitting down with Mike Shaver, one of the founders of the Mozilla Organization at Etech earlier today to discuss the recently released Mozilla Manifesto. The document is the organization's attempt to declare it's vision of the internet as a global resource, the role it plays in the ecosystem that develops and sustains that network, and acts as a set of guiding principles for the organization to use as an internal guide for decision-making as well as a measure for members of the community to use to gauge their adherence to the concepts it expresses.
Thanks to my pal Steve Borsch, author of the excellent Connecting the Dots blog for recording and editing our conversation on his handy M-Audio Microtrack.
When I asked if there was a precipitating event (or crisis) that dictated that this was the right time to do this Mike assured me it was simply a case that there was finally time to do this in the busy schedule the organization's core members have been keeping. One of the challenges in deciding exactly how these thoughts would be expressed, he said, was that "so many people have had a version of this in their head for a long time".
In the presentation he gave to discuss the Manifesto this afternoon, Mike went statement by statement and parsed things out. With more than a bit of humor, he quickly explained the key points that are made in the document and what it all means form the perspective of the organization. So, whether the topic was accessibility, neutrality, or importance relative to the position of the user in the socio-economic pecking order, the idea behind the statements in the Manifesto are to define guiding principles, in clear language, that define an describe the organization's perspective. That's a pretty good description of a Manifesto in my book.
In the conversation I had with Mike earlier in the day, he was quick to point out that, like everything Mozilla generates, this is a work in progress. When I asked him how deliberate the labeling of this first public release as version 0.9 was, he smiled and agreed that this was "a very software-like thing to do - it sends a clear signal ot the audience for this document that we feel this is ready for public examination and discussion but is in no way finished."
When I asked him about the potential for some passionate but misguided (or at least misaligned) individuals to use the Manifesto as a blunt instrument to support their own position as son often seems to happen in communities of passion, he was quick to acknowledge the possibility that might happen and said that in cases of gross abuse, he felt they had a responsibility to intervene but that essential nature of the organization, the Manifesto, and the community that surrounds it was to accept both the risks and reward inherent in an open conversation.
The Manifesto can be found here.