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Coping with Turbulence

I started flying regularly when I got involved with Mozilla in 2006, and back then I couldn’t stand flight turbulence. Every little bump or dip would startle me; I’d grab the armrests and wish for it go away.

After a few flights like this, I decided that it was something I should be able to overcome mentally. I knew I was flying 600 miles an hour 30,000 feet in the air, but if I felt the same bumps riding in a car, I wouldn’t even think about them.

The trick I came up with was to pretend I was on a roller coaster or another ride at a theme park. At first, this was a very conscious and literal process, where I’d actually picture different Disney World rides in my head. Sometimes, the turbulence would even turn fun. Gradually, I was able to calm myself with just the reminder of a roller coaster.

The last couple years, I’ve apparently convinced myself that planes are so safe that turbulence no longer bothers me at all, even when it gets pretty bad. I don’t even have to think of roller coasters any more; I just continue doing things as if nothing’s happening.

We’re going to have to do our pre-landing safety check on the honor system, so look at your neighbors and if their seatbacks and tray tables aren’t up, give them the stink eye.— Flight attendant on a very turbulent flight last week

I’ve mentioned method this to a few people and it seems to have helped them as well, so if you have issues with turbulence, you might try thinking of theme park rides and realizing it’s something you can get over mentally.

mozilla.dev.marketplace

As the Mozilla Marketplace project has begun to take off, we want to make sure there’s a dedicated place for discussion of planning, features, policies, and other topics. mozilla.dev.marketplace has been around for a couple months, but due to a bug with content not being synced to Google Groups, we were holding off using it. We can’t wait any longer, and this week I’ll be starting a bunch of discussions there about our roadmap, payments, and other topics as we start to build and launch our Marketplace.

So, I invite you to subscribe through either the mailing list or in your email client if you’d like to participate. (Note that this newsgroup is specific to the Marketplace, and that discussions of our web apps platform go to mozilla.dev.webapps instead.)

Add-ons in 2011

This weekend we said goodbye to an action-packed year, and I thought it’d be fun to think back on all we accomplished in Add-ons in 2011.

Firefox 4 Shipped

A critical release for many reasons, Firefox 4 introduced a completely rewritten and redesigned Add-ons Manager, including the interactive discovery pane (“Get Add-ons”), automatic add-on updates, and addressed the single biggest complaint for years with add-ons: installation without restarting. Firefox 4 also allowed us to see how many users actually use add-ons, how many non-hosted add-ons are out there, and gather real-world performance data — all things for which we had no insights before Firefox 4.

The discovery pane was viewed more than 5 million times in the 24 hours after release, and is currently viewed between 2.7 and 2.9 million times each day. It’s responsible for 40,000 add-on downloads every day, plus the 300,000 downloads that come from the Add-ons Manager search. 33% of new add-ons submitted to AMO each month are restartless.

New Developer Tools, Editor Tools, and Review Process

It seems like this happened much more than a year ago, but it was in early 2011 that we launched our brand new Developer Tools on AMO — in my opinion, the best management tools for add-ons, apps, or anything like it on the web. In 2010 we made the decision to rearchitect our review process to require all add-ons to be reviewed and get rid of the sandbox with 7,000 unreviewed add-ons in it. We launched that new process in 2011 by introducing preliminary reviews and direct links while waiting for review. And we made a number of awesome improvements to our Editor tools and statistics dashboard.

That Time of Year

It’s beginning to look a lot like a new blog theme.

I have a good feeling about this theme and hope it will last at least a year before I start to dislike it
— me, less than a year ago

Actually, it only lasted a few days before I started to dislike my previous gradient-tastic theme. 8 posts and 11 months later, I’ve finally replaced it with something very different.

I wanted to step out of my comfort zone with this one, so I did two things I never do: you won’t find a single rounded corner, and I used a background pattern — a realistic one at that.

I also got rid of my About page in favor of an about.me profile and threw in a subtle CSS animation because I’m hip like that.

What do you think?

Add-on Compatibility Progress & Plans

Towards the end of last year, the need for a faster Firefox release cycle was apparent, and nearly every team at Mozilla began preparing for the major changes afoot. Add-on compatibility has always been a huge barrier to releasing more often, so it was critical we have a plan that wouldn’t leave add-ons or users behind. With previous releases usually a year or more apart, we could begin compatibility outreach to developers 3 months in advance of the release, and were able to get at least 80% of the most-used Mozilla-hosted add-ons compatible with the new version. For this new system to work, we wanted a compatibility process that didn’t require developers to lift a finger unless their add-on was one of the few broken.

Firefox assumes that add-ons are incompatible from one version to the next because, in previous versions, they often were. This becomes a big problem when nearly all add-ons actually are compatible in our shorter release cycles. We devised a plan to work around the assumed incompatibility that had three parts:

  • Firefox developers should consider the add-on compatibility impact of every change they make
  • Firefox developers should follow a compatibility notification process to ensure we communicate changes to add-on developers
  • AMO (addons.mozilla.org) will scan hosted add-ons for issues with the new Firefox version and automatically bump their compatibility if none are found

Longer term, the Add-on SDK lets developers build restartless add-ons without worrying about compatibility hassles.