My journey in becoming a Mozillian

I decided to try out Medium this morning while traveling back from #mozlandia.  You can view the original post here.

I have also pasted the post below (minus the cute picture of part of the team).

My 365 day journey of becoming a Mozillian

My name is Darren Herman and I’m the Vice President of Content Services at Mozilla. I can be found at @dherman76 on Twitter. This is the first time I’m telling this story publicly and the first time my team is seeing it. I am blessed to work with such an amazing group of individuals and hope you can all relate to the below.

Today is just after my one year anniversary at Mozilla, but only now do I feel like I could consider myself a Mozillian. Maybe other Mozillians won’t consider me one yet, but at least I’m on my way. As I fly back from #mozlandia, our official all-Mozilla meeting in Portland, I have begun to reflect on this.

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I remember back to my first day on the job in Mountain View that it felt amazing to be a Mozillian. At that time, I did not realize that I was not a Mozillian but I was just a new employee at Mozilla who was just starting the journey to become a Mozillian.

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My past year has been turbulent, exciting, devastating, inspiring, unbalanced, curious, stressful, and amazing. I never thought you could group those words in the same sentence but those were all emotions I felt over the past year.

The majority of the senior executive team that I interviewed with and which hired me are now gone. The inspiring technologist and inventor of Javascript who many of us came to work for unfortunately left… Scary in my eyes.

One of my most intense moments of emotions was when I felt a sense of inspiration and excitement when I took the stage at the IAB Leadership Summit back in February to talk about Mozilla’s intentions within the advertising ecosystem. The talk at the conference was well received and I was in my glory moment.

Maybe an hour after I walked off stage, the reality of my new role set in to Mozilla. Mozillians, the community, and many users erupted at me, almost like the human immune system reacting with a toxin. My flight back to New York from the IAB Summit was filled with dozens of emails with our communications team to figure out how to calm a storm I created. Mozilla getting into advertising? No fucking way.

In my head I was thinking to myself… I came to Mozilla to evolve the advertising industry and content space but what I’m trying to do is constantly rejected? WTF. Why am I here? And more so, I left one of the best roles on Madison Avenue thanks to the generosity of my former employer for this?

I received threats from our community. I received flaming emails. I received a lot of resistance.

It was time to re-evaluate my time at Mozilla so I did. I went to my coach, my wife, my brother, my father, and my mentors and we chatted. Per their feedback and my decision process, I quietly resigned and I continued an old conversation with a pre-IPO hot company to take a c-level role doing things I had former comfort in and with a leader who I respect more than 99% of people I’ve ever met.

By the end of this December, my plan was to exit Mozilla and start in 2015 at the new opportunity.

But something funny happened to me on the way to Mountain View for the 10th Anniversary of Firefox.

In the weeks leading up to the 10th Anniversary, my work life at Mozilla started to change a bit. My team had grown from back in February and we’d shipped code. We’d launched Tiles with some commercial partners and landed the Interest Dashboard in the AMO. In an engineering culture this is the holy grail, much more than talking about something or even showing mockups. We shipped code. We fucking shipped code.

I’m not going to say that we got all the respect in the world inside of Mozilla, but I started getting less hate mail, the tweets became positive, and the community became super curious.

I also began talking different. It’s weird to say that and it was something I never realized earlier this year. I used words that were second nature to me but not second nature to Mozilla. I used words that scared people. Hint: don’t ever say synergy. I tweaked my vocabulary. Had I done this for my talk at the IAB Leadership Summit, I would have probably had 90% less issues, but hindsight is 20/20.

My team, which is probably the smallest (but growing) inside of Mozilla, started to snowball. We were knocking off bugs. We got momentum in the press. Our talks with commercial partners for selling advertising tiles was beyond well received. There was real hope in all of our eyes that we could begin to change this ecosystem.

At around 6am PST on November 10, I walked into the Mountain View office for the big 10th Anniversary celebration with anticipation that this would be my last time in Mozilla Mountain View but all of the emotions from above started to hit me.

I texted my absolutely amazing wife and said that it was bittersweet that I was leaving Mozilla now as the hard part was probably mostly behind us. I’d resigned a month or so earlier but I actually now might want to stay.

I was given 5–10 minutes during our celebration to talk about what Content Services was doing in front of all Mozillians. Hundreds of Mozilla employees were physically present and others were connected over our Vidyo conference system. I asked my team to join me on “stage” (no real stage) as I went thru a slide deck of some of the products we’d launched and landed and for the first time, we got an applause; what I interpreted to be a real-one. After the talk was over, Mozillians that I had never met before came up to me and said things like: I can’t believe you’re still here but we’re lucky to have you, I now get what you’re trying to do and holy shit it’s cool, and we know this was a hard year for your team and you but hang in there.

It felt good. So good that I went into my transition meeting later in the day and the meeting lasted less than 5 minutes. I decided to stay at Mozilla and Chris Beard, our CEO gave me a second chance and vouched his support.

Fast forward. #mozlandia

I believe it was Chris who had the genius idea to bring 1200–1300 Mozilla employees to Portland this past week. We had a rough year, collectively due to management changes, etc, and thought that bringing us all together would strengthen our bonds and get us aligned for 2015.

A few things clicked for me at #mozlandia that make me feel like a Mozillian.

  1. I gave a presentation to all of Mozilla on the big stage one morning and there was applause and laughs. I had the most dangerous subject (advertising) and showed a disruptive path forward that was received.
  2. I met many different teams over the course of the week and proved I was human. So I think. I shared a beer with people who had called me out on Twitter earlier in the year and while we probably aren’t best drinking buddies yet, we didn’t kill each other either. We listened to each other and had constructive conversations.
  3. I saw the passion in my teams eyes about what we’re aiming to tackle which is monumental and not easy. But the passion is there and we are all aligned.

I feel stronger than ever that Mozilla is an amazing place. We have a real mission that’s not encumbered by another person, investor, shareholder, or partners priority. Our mission is probably as true and noble as one could be.

It took me a year to truly understand this and I’m still learning each day. If you are reading this and witnessed this all happening over the last 365 days, I thank you for your support. Thank you for showing me the Mozilla way. Thank you for continuing to nurture me into the culture.

Showing is worth more than talking. Watch our code. It’s open. And fucking amazing. Get ready. I’m excited for 2015.

The Independent Web

Since I joined Mozilla almost a year ago, I have been more conscious of the independent web meme.   Today, Mozilla celebrates it’s 10th Anniversary of Firefox which is all about choice, control, and transparency on the web [1].

While I was personally aware of independence on the Internet (I’ve been a Firefox user for a long time), I truly did not comprehend the importance of this subject.  Last night on my flight out to Mountain View (thru SFO), I watched The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin and this reinforced independent thinking as it pertains to global currency.

If you live, work, or gain value from the web, which I believe every single person reading this post, I highly suggest you start reading up on the independence of the web as it’s truly one of the worlds most important innovations and too many of us take it for granted or take advantage of it.

At Mozilla, we put together this video that talks about independence.  Enjoy it.

Happy 10th Anniversary Firefox.

[1] For those blog readers who are in the advertising and/or publishing sectors, read the post I wrote about trust, transparency, and control for users on the web and with advertising.

Some big hairy questions for advertising and marketing technology

It’s an exciting time for the advertising and marketing technology world.  WPP recently acquired up to 25% of Appnexus, Millennial Media just acquired Nexage, and Mozilla recently announced it was entering the advertising landscape (self promotion, I know).

I’ve participated in this ecosystem for a while now and have some big hairy questions for us all going forward.  I think we should spend some time trying to think these questions through as an industry because we are all going to face it them.

What happens when we have five closed ecosystems?

You know, Google, Amazon, Apple, Baidu and Facebook.  These companies are large enough to become “first party” and could redefine the advertising landscape.  What happens to everyone else?  How is measurement accomplished for agencies and advertisers when 3rd party isn’t allowed?

Advertising buyers haven’t thought of the browser much, but they will play an increasingly important role

Back on the agency side, I didn’t see many line items on our media plans specifically for Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera or Firefox but these might play a role moving forward.  Default blocking of cookies, add-ons like AdBlock Plus, and others are impacting ad delivery and targeting.

At large, users are just not in control of their advertising experiences

I spend a lot of time meeting with advertising and marketing technology companies in our sector and I just don’t see the inclusion of user permission/control within the innovation.  Imagine what the results would be if users actually were part of the process around making available the data they wanted marketers to react to.

The display category is much bigger than it was 4 years ago but are we setup to measure it?

Every couple of months a new ad unit is released and every few years, a new medium is created.  Display media has evolved across mediums and units and is at an all-time high; and tomorrow, it’ll be even higher.  Using some quick examples, we have display on Twitter, Pinterest, Firefox, Instagram, Snapchat, and Flipboard… all of which units didn’t exist 1,000 days ago.

We are entering a new wave of marketing and we’re buying the wrong metric

Reach and frequency are the wrong metrics for moving forward but they were the right metrics for yesterdays media buying.  I believe we’re entering the Intention Economy (stolen from Doc Searls) where “intention holders” will be able to make spot markets and evolve the advertising equation.  Why not?  Why not.  Technology has evolved and we’re starting to see the early infrastructure of this existing across Facebook and Uber.

Agencies will exist, they are just setup wrong for the future

One of the more popular questions that gets asked is whether or not agencies will exist in the future… and I certainly believe they will.  Relationships are super important and managed service is not going away.  However, agencies will change and morph.  If we move into the “intention economy” and we have “intention holders,” who becomes the agency for the user?  Who is the user agency?

These are just some of the questions that I’m thinking about – and are part of my industry breakfast conversations.   I hope you are thinking about them too as they are going to impact the next five to ten years of our industry.

First Week with Surface Pro 3

Some people say advertising doesn’t work… but it worked on me.  After seeing countless ads for the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and watching how that keyboard “clicks” into the tablet, I decided to go to the local Microsoft Store (in Westchester Mall in New York) and see what all the fuss was about.  And apparently once the NBA season starts, we’ll be seeing all the announcers using these tablets.  Good job to whoever does the media buying for Microsoft!

MySurfacePro3I have a Macbook Air for work and a Nexus 7 tablet for travel.   I am on plenty of airplanes – almost every other week is either a cross country flight or a global one… so having a device that has solid battery life is a must.  My wife and I recently went away on holiday and I only brought my Nexus Tablet… I absolutely loved having such a light device but I didn’t like the input function… typing on the small screen.

My rationale for the Surface Pro 3 was that the device has better input:  the keyboard. I won’t bore you with the in-store experience but it was actually better than I had anticipated (I still talk to one of the guys as he gave me his business card)  and I have had the computer now for over a week.

After the first 2 days, I told my wife and my colleagues that I was going to return it.  I figured that it wasn’t a tablet.  It’s not.  As much as Microsoft calls this device a tablet…it just isn’t.  It’s too damn heavy.  I think it weighs just under a Macbook Air… if you try holding that for a prolonged period of time, it just weighs too much.  No beach reading with it in my future.  I don’t know why it’s considered a tablet other than for business reasons.

So I was going to return the tablet and luckily had 30 days to do so for my full money back.

Then I realized that I actually liked the experience of the machine.  I like the Windows tiles.  I like being able to multi-task and have up to three windows/programs open on the device.  I like that Firefox works on this device unlike current iOS devices.  And the battery life is pretty good.  Oh, and it has additional monitor support so I’m actually typing this post on the Surface but looking at my desk monitor while typing.

This thing is a desktop or laptop replacement.  The Surface Pro 3 will be my home “laptop” so I don’t need to lug my work computer home each night.  For travel, I bought a Logitech keyboard that pairs with my Nexus tablet (Firefox add-on Invisible Hand got me $30 off!).

I’m enjoying it…. just thinking of it as a tablet was incorrect.  This thing is too big.  But pretty cool at the same time.  And btw – I’ve not owned nor recommended a Microsoft device in over a decade.  Should you buy one?  That’s up to you but at least consider one if you’re in the market for a new laptop or desktop.

FWIW, I can see this being the ideal college computer.

Attention Minutes

Earlier this morning, one of my colleagues sent around a note to a bunch of us pointing to a post by Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress (and many others).  In his post, he talks how the Knight Foundation has granted Grist.org monies to build an open-source WordPress plug-in to measure Attention Minutes.

As someone who straddles technology and marketing/advertising, I wanted to talk about why this is particularly interesting.

Note however, WordPress is not the first to go down this path, mentioned in the comments of the post are Upworthy and Parse.ly, two companies who are dabbling in this space too.  I’m sure there are many others.

Lets break down Attention & Minutes.

at·ten·tion (noun)

The dictionary describes attention as the act or faculty of attending, especially by directing the mind to an object.  Since the invention of Internet marketing, attention has been one of the key drivers of increased economic growth…. because it’s measurable.  If you can measure attention by different proxies, you can understand if it’s working or not for you or your brand and can then make rationale decisions as to investing more or less.

Attention KPIs focus around engagement.   CTR is a signal of attention.  Hovers/Mouse overs are a signal of attention.  Purchase is a signal of attention.  Commenting is a signal of attention.  Creating is a signal of attention.  You get the idea.

min·ute (noun)

The dictionary defines a minute as the sixtieth part (1/60) of an hour; sixty Minutes are super important in advertising because much of the ecosystem trades on time based measures such as Gross Rating Points (GRP).  The GRP delivers of the answer of what % of the population is reached during said time period, with some form of content… usually television.   There have been movements to bring the GRP to digital media and I’ve certainly been vocal about this subject in the past.

Attention Minutes

Attention Minutes are interesting to me.  I don’t immediately dismiss them like I do with GRP’s.  I like the idea of a measurable attribute/KPI with some form of time period.  This seems reasonable and something that I’d like to learn more about.  How is it bought?  How is it sold?  What tools measure it?  How can you purchase attention minutes in the programmatic world?

One of my close friends and former boss used to tell the world he’d like to purchase Instantaneous Awareness for his brands.  Maybe we’re coming closer to that?

 

Net Neutrality & FCC

Please take a minute today and head over to DearFCC or any other site about #netneutrality and send the FCC your thoughts as the official comment period is coming to a close soon.  Note, I’m not endorsing DearFCC but I saw this tweet by my buddy Mark and if he’s recommending, I’ll do so as well:

If you are reading this, chances are you earn your living and/or get inspired by the Internet in one way, shape, or form.  What we have collectively been building for the past 20 or so years might change in its commercial intentions which benefit a small number of people.  This is not good for the world at large.

I rarely get political but for something that I’ve been a part of since it’s inception, I care deeply.

#netneutrality

Raising Capital? Watch This Video

I’ve been loving the 30 for 30 documentaries on ESPN.  On my cross country flights for work, I’ve been managing to sneak in a couple between answering emails.

I just finished watching There’s No Place Like Home which is a documentary about a gentleman who has a crazy dream to purchase the official rules of basketball (James Naismith) at a Sotheby’s auction.  Only one tiny problem:  he does not have the finances to make it happen by himself and the estimate is that the auction will be $1M+.

Some lessons for anyone raising capital and/or trying to sell an idea:

1.  Show, don’t tell.  Show a video, show a prototype, show something that can help build emotion with your dream and vision.

2.  Know the social graph.  Investors don’t like to jump alone, nor jump first.  Know who is connected to the vision and work the graph at the same time.  Using boosters, evangelists, or other investors to convince each other is helpful – we all like to do things when we know our peers are doing it too.

3.  No can be temporary.  We’ve all got turned down at one point or another but that’s purely a moment in time.  Stay persistent.  People can change their mind.

4.  If you don’t dream, it won’t happen.   We all have crazy ideas… but even the crazy ideas can happen.  Keep dreaming or we won’t push the world forward.

Enjoy the video – it’s certainly worth it.  I was skeptical before I started watching it but really enjoyed it.  A great 60 min video.  You can learn more about it on ESPN’s page here.

 

 

Why The Self Driving Car Might Actually Work

This week, the inaugural Code Conference took place on the West Coast and much of the buzz was about Google’s self driving car.  Google co-founder Sergey Brin unveiled the car and showed at least one video of a driver-less car which pretty much looks like a gondola.

(image from recode)

I’ve been thinking about self-driving cars for a little while now.  As you might (or might not) know, I enjoy cars.  I’ve blogged about the automotive industry a bit, I got to work on multiple automotive pitches on the agency side, and over the years frequent the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance to enjoy the culture of automobiles.  I’ve also owned my fair share of cars:  some that go fast and some that go slow.

I have a relationship with my cars.   Some cars I care about more than others.  But if I’m leasing, that relationship ends every 36, 39, or 48 months.  I’m onto my next car.   If I own a car, I’m looking at where I’ll achieve maximum value for my sale/trade-in and look to optimize for that.  Note, history tells us that the longer you hold onto an owned car, the more value you get out of it.   For me, value is not correlated to happiness- there might be a slight correlation, but I look to switch my cars more frequently than the typical American of 11.4 years.

As Google showcases it’s self-driving car, the definition of a car doesn’t change, but the value and utility it brings is very different.  Instead of having to worry about driving – and basically concentrating on the road, you now get [potentially] substantial time back in your day.

For me, I am in my car for about 30 mins each weekday.  15 mins to and from the train station.   While those 15 mins each way are not significant, when you add them up over a week, that’s roughly 2.5 hours that I’m sacrificing of my time to drive to the train.  Instead of buying cars that hug the road, sit low, and have 510hp, I can focus on the cabin of the car and basically ride in an office or living room on wheels.  Cars will have more Bentley interior amenities than Ferrari* amenities (though Ferrari is getting Apple’s CarPlay).

I digress.

My relationship is with technology when it comes to cars.  At the end of the day, a car is a set of wheels, an engine, and a lot of modern day computers. Cars today just work….. and for the most part they do.  I noticed my wife had a day-time-running light that was not working today… but that didn’t stress me out.  The car worked fine; when we have a free moment, we’ll bring it back to the dealership and have them fix the light.   Cars have become very utilitarian.

This used to not be the case.  If you ask your pops, your grandmother, or anyone else older than you, you’ll see that they had stronger relationships with cars.  Why?  Because cars used to be a lot more temperamental and they’d break.  They were also newer.  They were to the left on the gartner hype cycle.  When a car had issues, you put on your old jeans and you crawled under your car and fixed it.   You build a relationship with your car.  You might have even named your car.  Or kissed it.  My father named his old Land Rover, Sunny.  That name stuck with me.The self-driving car might actually catch on because replacing your car today is less emotional than ever (IMHO).  For most people**, your car is a utility and you are looking to maximize your efficiency in the day.  If you could check your email or text messages on the way to taking your kids to their soccer game, I’m sure you’d chose that over than actually driving the vehicle.

When we do adopt the self-driving car, the actual car itself will be commoditized (if not already) and will move to the fabric of life.  We won’t think about the car, we’ll think about everything we can do while in the car.

 

* If you’ve ever been in a Ferrari, you’ll be amazed at how little is in the car.  It’s about the driving experience, not the cabin experience.

** Not everyone falls into this bucket.  I’d personally want to keep a car that I could drive.  I get a lot of enjoyment out of driving and taking control of the road.

 

 

 

Some Good Reading for This Week

Been a super busy couple of weeks but wanted to highlight some posts/articles that have been getting my attention as of late:

The Internet of Things by Benedict Evans.  This man is smart and gets me thinking.  Great post.  Fred Wilson posts a follow-up this morning.

The NYC b2b list via Bowery Capital.  A major plus since the list has been open-sourced.

Economics of a Small VC by Charlie O’donnell.  Great recap of how a small VC operates and is a great primer for entrepreneurs to understand how that side of the ecosystem operates.

Who Will Fight for your Digital Rights?  by Andrew Parker.  Short but sweet post making you think about who will stand up for your rights/identity online.  Very Mozilla.

#codecon  Sorta upset (at myself) that I forgot to get a ticket and book my travel.  This conference flew under my radar.  Looking forward to attending next year.

Zero to One.  Blake sent me an advanced copy of his new book with Peter Thiel.  Excited to read it.

Fubnub.  Excited to check out this new project by uberhacker Kevin Marshall.  Should be a better way to take notes.  Also, Amol has a new co that’s focused on note-taking (which pushes email’s boundaries) as well called Knotable.  Check that out.

Any good posts I’ve missed?

Google Controls 41.8% of total Internet Ad Spend

I was doing some financial modeling for a new initiative we’re thinking about at work and wanted to see how many ad dollars there were per Internet user.  Based on my simple calculations, it’s on average* $40.88 per user, per year.

And ….by the way, Google controls around 41.8% of total Internet ad spending.  Wow.

Internet Ad Spending

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Note, I said average above.  We know that some markets value users higher than others.
** Link to the Google doc with above information is here