MailCo Jobs

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I have the enviable task ahead of me to recruit a from-scratch team for MailCo, to help me lead Thunderbird in particular and email & internet communications in general. In this post, I highlight some of the requirements I’ve identified for MailCo, and what that means for who would be a good fit. I then give high level descriptions of the roles I’ve identified as being my first priorities.

What will MailCo be like?

This is going to be one unusual company. We’re going to be a small team (probably fewer than 10 people in the first year), with, from day 1, an awesome responsibility towards hundreds of contributors, tens of thousands of beta testers, and millions of users. People will also look to us to do innovative, industry changing (and still unspecified) things. While few will expect us to mirror Firefox’s success, for a variety of reasons, I think we have much to gain by simply trying. At the same time, while we’ll have an ambitious mandate, we’ll also have to carefully manage the existing codebase, support today’s community, and incrementally make both the project and the community stronger. We’ll be part of the Mozilla world, but have our own identity as an organization and a band of co-workers.

What does that mean for recruiting? I think the best summary of my thinking here is that I’m looking for “thoughtful, ambitious people who can have extraordinary impact through leverage”. By thoughtful, I mean that it would be a disaster to bring in people with wonderful blue-sky ideas as to how the world should be, and who will push their ideas forward without considering the existing state of affairs. By ambitious, I mean that there is too much stop energy in the world, and it’s too easy to look at any situation and see unsurmountable problems. Especially in a startup environment, I need people who, when faced with a roadblock, will either ask “where should we start clearing?” or “can we go around it?”. (I’m well aware that my job as a leader is to make those questions be questions that are both reasonable and safe to ask). By leverage, I mean that regardless of the functional role, MailCo’s success will depend on our ability to draw in contributions of code, sweat, passion, talent, and enthusiasm from people outside of MailCo. This will be as hard as it is rewarding. Bright, competent people are rarely comfortable asking for others to help them. It may even feel inefficient at times. But the only way we’ll ever be able to radically improve things is to build the same kind of thriving community that Firefox has built. So I’ll be looking for people who understand that and can help identify and amplify “scaling factors”.

The long-term goals for MailCo and Thunderbird will be discussed in detail later. For the purposes of today’s post, I can summarize the medium-term goals for Thunderbird as:

Build and continually tune a software production machine

This first goal has all to do with code, process, infrastructure. There’s a lot of work to do there, from build and test automation, architectural cleanups, fine-tuning of the release definition, bugflow, outreach to the various related communities, etc. The best news there is that many people seem to agree on what’s needed — all that’s been missing is time to do the work, and that’s exactly what the seed funding is for.

Massively increase the number of people using Thunderbird

I believe that while today’s Thunderbird is a great product for several million people (!), there are some relatively small changes which could make it a great product for millions more, while not detracting from the user experience of its current fans. Simple things like spending time (key word again!) on UI cleanup and simplifying initial configuration could, in collaboration with a grassroots marketing effort, significantly
impact the number of people we reach.



by Stacina

Build a platform for long-term innovation

The Mozilla project (platform, community, infrastructure, people) is remarkable for its powerful customizability, extensibility, and reach, both enabling innovations and taking them into the hands of users. Thunderbird has already done a lot there, fostering great innovations through extensions, and as part of its product evolution. I think we should and can do more. We should increase our support of add-on developers through advocacy, marketing, and access to infrastructure. We should also use some of our resources to do some of the hard engineering and documentation work which will make it easier for the next generation of extension developers, partners, and advocates to do more.

Note that these three goals feed each other. You can’t reach millions if you can’t smoothly produce and evolve software, and market impact will make innovation relevant.

A few other important points before I dive into specifics:

  • I’m in Vancouver, but not everyone has to be. I’d love to have people join me, for a couple of reasons: for some roles, especially those involving a lot of coordination, having people nearby is helpful. Also, Vancouver is a great city, moving here tends to be easier than many other places, and living here is a privilege I don’t mind sharing. At the same time, I expect MailCo will be a global organization, reflecting the nature of the project, and I’ll cheerfully consider remote workers.
  • Experience with the Mozilla project is a huge asset to a candidate. Mozilla does software in a unique way. While each project has its own twist on how decisions are made, work is coordinated, releases are driven, etc., there is a general agreement regarding the basic model. If you’ve never encountered Mozilla technologies or the Mozilla process, you are at a disadvantage — however, it’s not an insurmountable one for many positions.
  • At this point, I’m not looking to fill “management” positions. If you’re not interested in being an “individual contributor”, then check back in a few months.

With that in mind, here are the broad categories of roles that I’ve identified so far, after talking to Mozilla Corporation staff, Thunderbird, Seamonkey, and Calendar contributors, managers at other companies with relevant experience, and drawing on my own background.

In no particular order, and titles to be negotiated:

Brick-laying architect

Thunderbird is a huge codebase. Lots of JS and C++. Some of it ugly. Lots and lots of known enhancement requests, bugs, interdependencies, protocols, use cases, preference switches, configuration options. I and others have ambitious plans to evolve it over the next few years. I won’t have the bandwidth to keep the entire project in my head, and I know that I don’t have the C++ chops to help orchestrate such large-scale changes gracefully. I need someone who can help lead that. Such a person must be able to assist the community of existing developers as well as nurture new developers and help them become productive. This is not a “management” or pure architecture job, by the way — code reviews & patches are the currency of the project, and for this person to be effective their coding and related practice must be top-notch. Relevant experience with client-side software and industrial-grade C++ is a requirement.

Virtuoso developers

In collaboration with the big-picture role above, there is plenty of urgent, high priority work to be done in the codebase, and I expect at least a couple of people to be working at the module level or feature level to help drive changes, refactor cheerfully, and help others day-to-day through the usual IRC and bugzilla channels. I’m in particular looking for people who can think “vertically” about the software, understanding not only the engineering issues, but the user-facing issues as well. We’re building a tool to be used by millions of regular people, and people who are driven to make the “computer stuff” just work for end users will find this an opportunity to have a huge impact. People who have “shipped” software and understand the messy, stressful, frustrating but necessary compromises involved will have a leg up.

Automation Fanatic

One effective lever is judicious use of computers in the software production process, including automation. There is urgent work needed to simplify the build machinery, building on the work that Mozilla’s build group has already done. Once that’s done, there’s work to build a strong test automation system. When that’s done, there will be more to do. The ideal candidate here is driven to make normal operations automatic and invisible, and yet always wants to improve processes. Experience and passion for build automation, test automation, sysadmin and configuration management skills required. Knowledge of Perl, Python, makefiles also required.

User Experience Lead

UI and user experience in general is a topic I have a lot of interest in, and I think it’s one of those areas where Thunderbird has been particularly starved for resources. I’d like to see someone become the driver for user experience for Thunderbird, using a similar model to what Mike Beltzner has been doing for Firefox. This is a prime example of where being good at your trade isn’t enough, and you also need to understand, appreciate, and leverage the community to broaden your own perspective, and scale your impact.

QA Community Lead

Thunderbird keeps some of the most personal and important data that people have, their email. For that reason alone, it’s important that the quality initiative for Thunderbird remain central to the project. There are tens of thousands of people who are willing to help in various ways, and at least one person will be needed to coordinate their efforts, lead test days, help drive the test infrastructure, assist with bug triage, etc.

Extension Lead

I believe that the extension-writing community is one of the layers of community around Thunderbird with most latent impact, and I need someone to focus on them. This means making sure that extension writers are listened to when planning the product’s evolution, helping with our developer documentation story, implementing strategic extensions, demonstrating and stretching the extensibility of the platform, and looking out for Thunderbird extension authors and users in general. Experience with mozilla front-end technologies in particular is important, as well as strong people and troubleshooting skills.

Next steps

If you think you have what it takes, let us know by emailing mailcojobs@mozilla.com. Feel free to send traditional CVs/resumes, as well as more idiosyncratic descriptions of what you do if that’s likely to be helpful (closed bug lists, screenshots, URLs to relevant work, etc).
If you think there are other jobs that are more important, or if you just want to put your two cents in on the above, feel free to add comments to this post. Don’t apply in the comments, please, that’s much more likely to get lost in the shuffle.

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list of the roles I hope to fill over time. It’s just the first cut. And if you don’t fit neatly in one of the roles above but you think we should hear from you anyway, send us an email. I reserve the right to change my mind when faced with real people rather than job descriptions.

15 thoughts on “MailCo Jobs

  1. Cheq

    (sorry for my english)
    Great public realtions text, great pics %-) But, what is this? Tb is only a mailer, dude.

    1.
    Let migrate the f… mail managment to SQLlite. As first, as second and as third!

    2.
    As fourth “marriage” TB with Enigmal(-team) for 100% simple security communication (f… s/mime certs for simply volks!) and for 100% compatibility (without enigmail skills and hacks) between Enigmail and Tb!

    3.
    Push development of Lightning and Sunbird for good competition with Outlook.

    4.
    Push sync with PDAs (mails and dates).

    5.
    Nothing. “We” dont need superduper “I can cock caffee and burn toast” Thunderbird with video chat crap, build in icq-like bullshit and wonderfull animated writing paper-backgrounds.

    You do not have to do much, thus do it. And waste your time not with write from fairy tales…

  2. david

    @Cheq:
    1. I agree. It’s a hard migration, though. Help appreciated…

    2. I don’t fully understand the secure email subspace, but I do know that there are smart people who disagree on the right answer. I’m happy to be educated, but let’s not do it on this post. Email me.

    3. Agreed, although I think “competition with Outlook” is a lot more complicated than you imply.

    4. Agreed.

    5. Disagree with some of that. In fact, I don’t think you agree either, as your own 2 & 4 are in contradiction with the notion that Tb is “just a mailer”. For a lot of people, “just a mailer” isn’t enough anymore.

    Most importantly, though, please let’s stay civil and respect each other’s opinions. You may not like “icq-like bullshit”, but others have asked for IM integration. You may not want “wonderful animated writing paper-backgrounds”, but others have asked for better templates.

  3. Cheq

    @your ’3′. Yes. You are right.

    @the all another things
    Yes ok. But you must make “right prios”. Imho. And I dont think its a big goal, when you catch kidds and grandpas. But… my fathers mail dir are AFTER reorg 1GB big. With 3 (!) mails lists in Tb. You realy known your genuine problems? That are not templates Dave ;-)

    Ok. I was furiously. Is that understable? That what Tb can is no more then… sufficiently. And I read in your blog about comming great times of glory. Please…
    Of course I accepted others opinions. I am only stay civil volks voice from the street :-p I mean MailCo need more sew to these typ of user, then to fine studys without notions or only code seeing cracks on the mailing lists. Its not RL…

    We have a PROBLEMS. If we can fix it, we can speak about features and the big glory future. Please “dont fly in the clouds”. For first we need good simple craftsman work on the Tb2(/Tb3) foundation.

    You mean realy, you can seals more user with IM and templates? I think Goodzillbird is the wrong way. I think “all integrated” is the wrong way. I think Netscape went the wrong way…

    Make clever APIs for more addons. For IM addons and all what you need. But dont make build all in. You self (your team) cant make from an airplane a car, tank, ship and bicycle at the same time. Let the user choose his addons. Look to FX way.
    You mean realy, you can make fast a better job then Jabber with OTR or Jabberd2? Please, dont dream. You can ask and invite for APIs and for “TbJabb.xpi”. Thats all. Dont make Bloatbird. Use your less resources and less ‘manpower’ with mindful.

    I can GARANTED you. Directly from the streets ;-) With little bit PR for SQL-based Tb you have 2 mio downloads on first release day.

    With better crypto API and better support for Enigmail you have 2+1 mio downloads on the first day. Believes me. Without wunderfull templates. I will email you.

    You known then only people without understanding for the realy problems asks for better templates and IM? I hope. You will make Tb for first for these people? You must run immediately over Tb’s dying body for better download numbers? Who wants that? TheLady? Google? IBM?

    Dont forget MozillaZine, “obligation reading” for your team… But for first, you need a team ;-)

    Good luck, Dave. Your job is not the finest now :-) But I wish you good luck.

    p.s.:
    Beware of Google, Mozillas great sponsor…

  4. IMHO, the only reason that Thunderbird exists today is that at some point someone decided that there should be Netscape integrated suite, which should have its e-mail… Other than that, it may also thank to the fact that no one was brave enough to say that project “as is” has no meaning and should be abandoned or radically changed.

    What I want to say is that I don’t think that Thunderbird is “patchable” in the meaning that it needs much deeper changes than simple patches. You must go after the following questions:

    1. Which are users that Thunderbird (or MailCo) will serve? (see: https://labs.mozilla.com/forum/index.php/topic,199.msg558.html)
    2. What are needs of those users?
    3. How will Thunderbird serve those needs (better than competition)?

    I would also like to note that I think that current Thunderbird community is so specific that serving its needs may turn into disaster, so I would try to listen Gmail, Outlook and Outlook express users for advices.

    These are all hard decisions, but overall, I don’t think Thunderbird has much to lose, and it has so much to gain!

  5. JoeS

    Well I certainly agree with this:
    We have a PROBLEMS. If we can fix it, we can speak about features and the big glory future. Please “dont fly in the clouds”. For first we need good simple craftsman work on the Tb2(/Tb3) foundation.

    And I think that foundation work must start in the “core” product.
    Or maybe a separation from “core”

    Some examples:
    Due to a checkin to enable modal window, the ability to switch views has been broken for over 2 months on trunk

    An enhancement to the plugin UI in firefox, completely broke trunk builds for TB simply because nobody knew that plugins were enabled in TB trunk.

    I think TB must leverage the Firefox enhancements. But until the commucations is improved, I think TB must be forked from core changes

    As far as getting a good C++ programmer is concerned, it will do little good if he is not free to do what’s neccesary. I get the impression that as far as core dev is concerned…You must use it …or lose it.

    And BTW, what about TB3, it seems to be in freefall right now.

    Apologize in advance is the formatting is crap in this post.

  6. Hi David,

    i heared about your difficult job, to build an new Mail-Client and i red your blog and saw that you are looking for the right stuff. Maybe i can help you somehow. I’m not a softwareengeneer but there are so much other doings.

    Let me know, if i can helpyou.

    Sincerely,
    Uwe Schoeler

  7. basic

    @Cheq:

    2. Seconded! Would be good to have GPG/PGP integrated. Though I disagree with removing S/MIME. IMHO both should be available and unified. Would also be good to have official docs on what they are. Few issues:
    a) GnuPG is GPL. it comes with its own crypto (even has its own S/MIME implementation http://www.gnupg.org/aegypten/ ).
    b) GnuPG is not a library http://www.gnupg.org/(en)/documentation/faqs.html#q4.16

    However, since thunderbird already have a crypto lib, it might be possible to implement GPG/PGP on top of it, but will take someone with security background to make it safe. Some might want to have DKIM/SPF (though I hate it :P ) support as well.

    @David:
    Looking good. Eventually, you might need a good email/IM/crypto security expert (maybe we have one from moz?).

    By the way, how does the penelope/eudora project relates to mailco? Will there be collaboration between QUALCOMM and mailco?

  8. Cheq: you’re very aggressive. Please, calm down. In Mozilla world, we don’t use such language nor such tone.

    You seems to have little knowledge about the market (that’s what I see from your accusations and presumtions about Google/IBM etc.), you attack and you present “requiring” position of a person who request and others have to realise your requests. Please, bear in mind that Thunderbird is a collaboration effort, and we need positive energy to produce better results, while what I see in your comments is entirely negative and (as I mentioned before) agressive.

    Mozilla is made of huge community and we are open source model. Mozilla’s head is an non-profit foundation with mission statement “Promote choice and innovation in the Internet”. MailCo will be a part of this project and the Foundation will be an exclusive owner of the company, so MailCo team will serve the requirements set up by this non-profit Foundation.

    Of course it’s most important for us to serve users and get their opinions, and I’m pretty sure that MailCo will be listening to what users need. Give them a chance, and try to be supportive. That’s way more effective.

    Thanks

  9. Heribert

    I have tried a lot of email clients – including most of the “big ones” and some specialists. While most of them have their specific advantages, I have not come across a client that was more flexible (from a user’s point of view) than TB.
    Of course, the whishlist for daily usage – especially in a business context – may be a long one. But a lot of add-ons already available step in right here.
    Lightning (which still is 0.7, remind you) is so much more than just an add-on that it deserves tighter integration for more functionality and usability.
    I fully agree with Ivan (comment #4) that a broad user basis is essential. Therefore you should have a look at the needs of those people that now (still) use Outlook and the like. I don’t mean you should copy Outlook (like Evoution tried to do), but find out what people like about it and come up with even better ideas.

    David, none of the positions you are looking for sounds like me – what a pity. I’m not a coder, architect, wizard or similar, but I’m a heavy user. Your new efforts are reason enough for me to keep touch with the community. When I find something suitable where I think I can help, I will let you know…

  10. Rolf

    here an End-User perspective:

    Despite trying to get away from it, I am still using MS Outlook.
    I want a multi-platform solution to have a smooth transition from Windows to Linux.
    (For testing, I have installed tb on my machine for quite a while.)

    WHY have I (and many other users) not yet switched?

    I could live with an external Calendar (some other can’t due to contacts integration needs, which I don’t use for calendar items.)

    I am looking for a solid, fast eMail client.

    So WHAT does an eMail client need?
    eMail addresses.
    => Since I am not prepared to maintain several address DBs, I would need an integrated address book, which covers my needs.
    => And exactly here is MY PROBLEM with tb.
    While tb has great eMail capabilities, the address book is just the bare minimum. More fields would be important to cover peoples needs.
    But MANDATORY for me are multiple categories or tags. (So one could be in the ‘Friends’ group (tag) and also be in the ‘Education’ and the ‘CarClub’ group(tag).)

    Also the synchronisation of contacts (the address book) with PDAs, etc. has to work smooth.

    Those are not huge rocks and could eventually be implemented in tb2. That would allow many, many users to convert to tb.

    Just consider that.

    Best wishes with the further development of tb.

    sincere greetings from Switzerland,
    Rolf Gloor

  11. Michael Vincent van Rantwijk

    First of all; I’m glad, really glad that you finally made this statement because this was something corporate users were waiting for.

    Also, nobody seems to know (or care) what the two former Mozilla Corporation employees for Thunderbird are up to; what if they start a MailCo like company for Thunderbird? Won’t that give them a jump start?

    Should your “QA Community Lead” be the Asa Dotzler for MailCo?

    Have you looked at Flock Inc. and their efforts to setup a community or Flock?

  12. Marta

    This is so exciting! I was just looking to change email providers but just don’t want any of the three largest for various reasons. So I began idly googling. And thought, “what’s my favorite internet page or vehicle? Who do I trust? Where would I be more than happy to put my money, pageviews, and whatever else..” “Oh, Mozilla!”

    So, googling “Mozilla email” returned this post at the bottom of the first page of results. I’m not sure where to watch to find out about beta testing but I’m looking forward to this very much. If you begin hosting an email service I will apply for a position as “evangelist”.

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