Understanding the Mozilla CEO mess

Disclaimers:

This is a revision of a post I put up a few days ago. Events changed, so I felt the need to take the previous version down. My apologies to those who wanted to read it that hit a 404. (I didn’t know it had been linked to by someone other than myself yet) I wanted to avoid looking like I was more a part of the debate than I am, so even with the updates I added, I felt the need to redo things a bit here.

This is going to be a bit of an off-topic post to many of the few readers I have on this blog. If you aren’t already aware of the firestorm at the selection of Brenden Eich as the new Mozilla CEO, then you might not be my target audience for this post. I suggest going off to Youtube and watching some funny videos, as it might be more productive for you than reading this. This issue is a god forsaken mess, so be prepared for a little rant.
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Contributions update

The Amazon wish list is now effectively done. A couple generous donors bought me some new hardware and I purchased a new mid-range Android phone using donated funds. I’ve taken off the smaller things I can buy myself easier as well as the larger tablet (I don’t need two tablets). Their system is less then ideal, as it doesn’t even provide a way to be notified of use. I literally had to remember what I put on the list and check it to see if something was missing. No log; no email. One person bought me a two-pack of little flash drives and it just showed up in my mailbox without so much as a name. Yeah, not great, but thank you nonetheless. 🙂

Only one person sent me an Amazon gift card, possibly because people may have been confused with Amazon’s system. I’ve decided that I need to turn off their system because the UX is crap. The one person that sent me Amazon-money did so by emailing the general feedback email address, so I highly suspect that someone might’ve bought a gift card through Amazon’s system for themself instead of as a gift accidentally. It’s also possible that because Amazon is a bit grandiose in its labeling and has $100 in its thumbnail, some people might have thought you could only send large amounts. There’s a lot of issues with their site, I think.

As a replacement secondary donation route, I’ve started using Gyft. (Update: Gyft no longer used) You can send various different gift cards, including Amazon, with no fees and even a points system to get minor discounts on future card purchases. I found them when I was looking for a good way to buy some things off of Amazon with PayPal money, which Amazon refuses to accept in an anti-competitive maneuver to try and push their Amazon payments system. Gyft even accepts Bitcoin. I purchased a small cart of little things I needed with a combination of a directly gifted Amazon gift card code, an Amazon gift card purchased from Gyft with Bitcoin, and another Amazon gift card purchased from Gyft with Paypal (and some Gyft points from the Bitcoin purchase). All digital and quick. We’re living in the future. Though, it’s a convoluted overly-complicated future.

Multiple people have also requested a mailing address to send me a physical paper check. I think I may need to do this, however I’ll need to get a PO box first. Not that I explicitly distrust anyone asking, but I’m not giving my home address to strangers on the Internet. It’s effectively impossible to develop software used by a million people and not have at least one legitimately crazy user who I need to worry about.

I will also note that I’ve had 3 or so people request I accept Bitcoin but only one person actually follow through with a Bitcoin donation. I get the feeling that some people just like the idea of Bitcoin, but don’t really want to use it. An address to donate to me is sitting in the sidebar on the right. I can now convert it to gift cards with Gyft to use it instead of having to deal with an exchange, which is a surprisingly efficient and user-friendly route.

Update:
I’ve taken down the Gyft page as apparently nobody wants to use it and the survey indicates that it’s not as popular as I had thought. Instead, using Amazon’s basic gift card via email system works fine. You can send it to my public email address for Flagfox or my private one if you have it.

A phishing story, aka why I need to write a mobile version of Flagfox

Over the past year or so, a few different people have requested I add Mobile Firefox support to Flagfox. My response was always the same: I’d like to, but I don’t own an Android device and can’t really afford get the hardware I’d need to develop for mobile. I recently decided to change that by directly asking my users if they’d like to donate towards Flagfox development, including a mobile version. The response was quite encouraging. I’ve gotten a few hundred small contributions and a few larger ones. I’m not exactly rich now, but I now own a mid-range Android phone and a small tablet. I will be starting on work towards getting Flagfox working in Mobile Firefox at some point soon. If anyone would like to be notified of when I have an alpha or a beta ready for testing, follow this blog or me on Twitter.

Today, I shall tell you a story. This is not fiction; I kid you not, this happened today. I have had my new phone for about a week now. I ended up going with one locked into Verizon because I didn’t want to pay the extra $80 needed for an unlocked phone only to probably end up going with them for coverage. I could tell you another story of how many hours of being on hold and getting the run-around it took to actually get the damn thing set up and another call to get texting working, but this story here is about phishing.

Today, I got a text message. I am a new Verizon Wireless customer, and here in my inbox was a text “from” Verizon Wireless telling me to review my account payments after a recent service disruption. It’s highly unlikely that the attacker knew that I had any recent service issue, but it is an amusing coincidence. This message contained a URL to a site on a raw IP address, in the form of “http​://​255.255.​255.255/verizon​.com/​wireless/” (with a real IP address). I looked at this and laughed. If this were my mother’s new phone, her bank account could now be empty.
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Flag selection & update policy

With the new flag set in Flagfox 5.0, many countries/territories got updates for their flags that were long overdue. Previously, there were quite a few small regions using the flag of a colonial power because neither old icon set had a flag for them. This new set is based on the flags Wikipedia uses, so it is now as complete as can be. This also makes my response to change requests a lot simpler.

My policy has always been that I will not wade into political disputes. The flag I will show for your country/territory is the one Wikipedia uses.

I am not qualified to pick a side in the dispute over what flag should be shown for an island on the opposite side of the planet that I’ve never heard of. I thus defer to more informed experts on the matter. Win over the curators of the Wikipedia article and I will go along with what they use. If they have everything properly set up I may even be able to include updates automatically.

Note that specifically I’m referring to the main English article, not any localized versions. Also note that I will not “localize” a flag to appease different locales’ view of the world, nor will I override their decision because you don’t accept a flag as “official” but they do. Additionally, just to state what should be obvious, each country/territory gets one flag, no matter how many flags are declared/accepted for it.

No matter how passionate you are that the flag you want is the “correct” one, there are also going to be other people who want another one instead. Please understand that we do not all live in the same world. Your dispute is as alien to me as a political issue local to me is to you. I’m not going to change flags just because someone sent me an angry email written in a language I don’t read, because the response to doing so will probably be an equally angry email written in a different language I don’t read. I’m not going to pick sides in issues I’ve never even heard of.

Flagfox 5.0 update Q & A

I’ve been getting quite a few emails and bits of feedback from various sources, so I thought I may as well put up a post centralizing some common questions and answers.

Can I make the flags smaller?

Yes, however some of the more detailed flags don’t look quite right when you do. See here for more info. It’s just a pref to set via about:config.

Why didn’t you add the size setting to the options?

I didn’t want to include an in-GUI option that didn’t work perfectly. Detailed flags just don’t look right at smaller sizes. Those who reply back to me after I point them to how to change the size often respond “oh, yeah, I see that now”. Having it just in about:config lets me easily leave it as a raw number you can play with, as well.

Will you add back the old flag icons?

No. The old sets are not maintained anymore and full of out-of-date flags. Even attempting to properly figure out how many need fixing would take forever and I don’t have the capability to make replacements that match the styles. They were also bad for various other reasons, hard to make out for many people, and the alternate set was actually upscaled to fit into the still tiny space. It’s quite frankly strange that there are a few people who rudely demand that I revert something I worked on for months because they’re used to the old style. (I still get one guy creating throwaway accounts on Mozilla Add-ons to abuse the review system to repeatedly rant about the lack of status bar support many years after the fact; don’t get me started on the angry email about not supporting a version of Firefox that runs on Windows 98 anymore…) Yeah, it’s a UI change, and there’s a bit of subjectivity, but just because you don’t like it as much as everyone else doesn’t mean you should be an asshole about it.

Why didn’t you add the ability to pick between 3 different sets?

That would be a complicated mess and bloat the installer and update sizes. Again, there’s lots of holes in the old sets that I would have to attempt to (poorly) maintain.

Can’t you just add an option to the options dialog for me?

No. Even if I want to add an option, it needs to be translated into around 40 languages. Flagfox has around a million users and most of them don’t use it in English. The translators are all volunteers and getting any localization updates takes a month or two. Yep, there are downsizes to localization. (though, the positives outweigh the negatives)

How can you say the old sets were out of date? They even had the new Libyan flag.

Yeah, because I added it. There hasn’t been an update to either set in about 6 years, and the primary one was more out of date than the alternate one. I have personally been making an attempt to hack in updates over the years. They didn’t match at all. The size of the old sets was too small to work with without heavy stylization, and I’m no image editor pro. I was forced to limit which flags I could update to avoid making them a complete and total mess. Minor updates had to be ignored. Each individual update was a pain in the ass to do, taking a lot of time, and done always late as I didn’t exactly have a way to know when any of the 250 flags needed changing. It was an unmaintainable mess and the primary reason I decided I had to work towards a better solution. This new set is maintainable. I can actually detect and release updated versions rapidly. If you haven’t noticed, there have been a few more changes in the world as of late, and this is what I need to do to keep up.

There is no Flagfox development team. It’s just me; one guy sitting on a couch with an old laptop. It’s not a full-time job unless you decide to donate quite a lot to keep things going. There is one person working on Geotool. It seems there are quite a few people who can’t grasp that software is written by living people, not always a giant corporation or other organization. This is a free service and this new flag set is the only practical way forward that makes giant improvements in accuracy, usability, and appearance.

Can I have a monochrome mode?

Not trying to be rude, but this question made me laugh. I don’t even want to attempt to count how many countries have tri-color flags. If I made a way for the flags to be monochrome to match other buttons in your theme, you wouldn’t be able to tell many of them apart. People had enough trouble trying to tell apart Ireland and Italy in the old sets. No, monochrome will not work here. 😉

Why are the flags different sizes?

Flags are actually different sizes. Different flags have different aspect ratios. You may be used to flag image stylizations where they’re all squished and changed to be the same size. That is not real life. The 250+ nations of the world have not all gotten together to standardize their flag aspect ratios.

Why don’t the flag colors match?

Flags are actually different colors. The red of Canada’s flag is not the same red as America’s flag. Again, no, the world has not color coordinated their flags. I decided that if I was going to make a new flag set I would do it correctly and respect the actual color choices of each country. Plus, it’s much easier this way.

I don’t like flags at all. Can I have a text only mode?

I’ve been considering this a while as an accessibility feature. It was requested specifically recently by a user, so yes, I’m going to look into implementing this feature at some point.

Why did I put the first-run page on my blog?

If I were to put all 10 translations and all the needed styling to get it working inside the installer it would really bloat up the download size for the update for everyone. Putting it up here also lets me put in updates to links if need be.

Why only PayPal?

Mozilla Add-ons only allows PayPal. Yes, this sucks. I have also provided a second route to donate via Amazon which a few people have opted to use. At request I also put up a Bitcoin address, though as of yet nobody has used it. I would have preferred to also have up a Litecoin address, but could not do so due to technical issues with the client. If anyone has an issue with PayPal, please read this. You can email me to get the email address you need to use to send a donation with PayPal directly if Mozilla’s system does not work for you.

Why haven’t you responded to my email/review/post/comment?

I’ve responded to most people as quickly as I can. I’m ignoring the ones cursing at me. I’m noticing that some of the less coherent ones are getting caught in the spam filter, and I’m inclined to not dig through hundreds of spam emails to find them all.

How has the feedback been thus far, in general?

Overwhelmingly positive. Counting all routes, including contributions, I’ve gotten hundreds of thanks and a couple dozen or so complaints.

Note that the contribution system allows for posting a message, however near as I can tell, there’s no way for me to actually view that. Mozilla doesn’t seem to forward that correctly or put it up anywhere else I can find. Sorry, I have no control over that.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a promising idea that is horrifically implemented. It’s a decentralized currency at the whims of some poorly run, very centralized exchange servers. I played around with mining a little of it but donated what I had to charity after the first catastrophic crash. Now that we’re 4 highly predictable crashes in, there are, however, still people using it. I get it; PayPal is bad. They, however, aren’t going bankrupt anytime soon. The #1 Bitcoin exchange just did. It just isn’t safe to use unless you’re desperate.

That all being said, if you’d like to donate towards Flagfox development and can’t use PayPal or Amazon, I guess I will put up a Bitcoin address to accept with. Apparently there’s a new lighter-weight client which I can try that should work from the start, instead of after a week of blockchain updates.

1Bp66Bq3ztkJwNaEjYoH3XkuyU6DSttGFD

If you’ve got any Bitcoin sitting around, the address is above. Hopefully this will work. Again, PayPal or Amazon are preferred.

I was going to also list a Litecoin address, however I can’t find a way to make the client store the blockchain on a drive that actually has space free. So, nevermind on that one.

Edited to add:
Comments are moderated on here. Weird hostile posts will not be published, nor will I debate the merits of Bitcoin here.