Saturday, 5 April 2014

Some Thoughts on the Brendan Eich/Mozilla Thing

Patrick Strudwick in the Independent

When the term “pink pound” was coined to denote the higher disposable income of child-free gay people, we should have predicted its inevitable successor, what I call the “purple pound” – the targeting of not only gay customers but our pro-equality allies. This group now forms the majority in the US and UK, a majority even larger among younger people, who also tend to be tech-savvy.

The Venn diagram of Firefox users and gay rights supporters will be almost a circle. Companies such as IBM, Apple, Gap, Nike and Microsoft that support gay causes are simply making a sound business decision.

For a Reaganite like Sullivan to not see where such free marketeering ends is his fault, not Mozilla’s, not activists’, nor any of us who hoped Eich would do the right thing and exit.

There's one little problem with this argument when it comes to Mozilla, which is that it's a non-profit organisation. In the early days, it was quite literally running like a charity with people donating money to help the development team (which included people like Brendan Eich) to make it happen. More recently, they run on kickbacks from the search box. All the money goes into paying staff, many of whom do it for much lower rates than commercial salaries (because of what they're committed to).

So, the effect of lobbying against Mozilla and kicking out Brendan Eich is really that people are just giving themselves a stoning. People with Eich's experience in programming are rather rare, and it's not like you can find people with decades of experience running browser development and who have the skills to have invented 2 programming languages. If the first choice isn't leading it, you're going to have the 2nd choice who by inference isn't as good. So, your browser isn't going to improve as much as it would have done.

I suppose my point is that it's a good/perfect situation and sacrificing better for perfect is often counterproductive. It's like those Catholic adoption charities that wouldn't place kids with gay couples, so they got banned from doing it. Which is great for equality and how we treat gay people, but that's not the main priority with adoption. The main priority with adoption is getting kids out of children's homes and into families. Banning Catholic adoption charities means that instead of kids not getting placed with gay people, they don't get placed with straight or gay people.


Kj said...

Yes. And it's a very totalitarian attitude among some activists; one thing is to bring attention to some company because of the personal opinions of lead figures, boycott the company etc. But they seem to demand that they should cease to exist if they don't cave in, and that people with conservative standpoints shouldn't have any prominent role at all. Plus who cares.

Bayard said...

"Banning Catholic adoption charities means that instead of kids not getting placed with gay people, they don't get placed with straight or gay people"

As far as the people doing the banning are concerned, combatting discrimination against homosexuals is far far more important than making sure some kids in a children's home get a chance of a happy life. It's always the same with this sort of people, they care more about stopping what they see as bad than promoting anything else that might be good.

The Stigler said...


Exactly. My favourite example is Jerry Falwell and Larry Flynt. Two men who utterly, utterly disagreed about pornography and sexual liberty, and yet, they became friends. Because they could see each other as more than just that issue. Didn't mean they didn't stop disagreeing about it.

The Stigler said...


Yup. As Kj says, it's a totalitarian mindset.

And it just makes the world a more hateful, warlike place. You've now got the Christian Right boycotting Firefox because they gave into the gay rights boycott. There's probably Christian propagandists now rifling through the internet for any dirt on the staff at OK Cupid for supporting this boycott.

mombers said...

On the flipside, Mozilla probably risked losing more staff - those who object to discrimination. I worked for Microsoft and they offered benefits to 'same sex domestic partners' since at least 2000. This was a useful recruiting tool. Google even went so far as to pay the tax penalty that unmarried couples have to pay to get both of them onto health insurance.