Andy McKay

Dec 14, 2014

Self Examination


A few weeks ago we had the Mozilla Mozlanida meet up in Portland. I had a few things on my agenda going into that meeting. My biggest was to critically examine the project my team and I have been working on for almost two years.

That project is Marketplace Payments, which we provide through the Firefox Marketplace for developers. We don't limit what kind of payment system you use in Web Apps, unlike Google or Apple.

In Mozlandia, I was arguing (along with some colleagues) that there really is little point in working on this much anymore. There are many reasons for this, but here's the high level:

  • Providing a payments service that competes against every other web based payment service in existence is outside of our core goals

  • We can't actually compete against every other web based payment service without significant investment

  • Developer uptake doesn't support further investment in the project.

There was mostly agreement on this, so we've agreed to complete our existing work on it and then leave it as it is for a while. We'll watch the metrics, see what happens and make some decisions based on the that.

But really the details of this are not that important. What I believe is really, really important is the ability to critically examine your job and projects and examine their worth.

What normally happens is that you get a group of people and tell them to work on project X. They will iterate through features and complete features. And repeat and keep going. And if you don't stop at some point and critically examine what is going on, it will keep repeating. People will find new features, new enhancements, new areas to add to the project. Just as they have been trained to do so. And the project will keep growing.

That's a perfectly normal thing for a team to do. It's harder to call a project done, the features complete and realize that there might be an end.

Normally that happens externally. Sometimes its done a positive way, sometimes it's done negatively. In the latter people get upset and recriminations and accusations fly. It's not a fun time.

But being able to step aside and declare the project done internally can be hard for one main reason: people fear for their job.

That's what some people said to me in Mozlandia "Andy you've just talked yourself out of a job" or "You've just thrown yourself under a bus".

Maybe, but so be it. I have no fear that there's important stuff to be doing at Mozilla and that my awesome team will have plenty to do.

Right, next project.

Update: Marketplace Payments are still there and we are completing the last projects we have for them. But we aren't going to be doing development beyond that on them for a while. Let's see what the data shows.