CampSass 2014

Well, we did it! When we first announced Camp Sass we had no idea if anyone was going to be interested in the idea. I mean, we knew lots of people were Sass programmers and lived in San Francisco, but we weren’t sure if people wanted to actually meet up. San Francisco, for all its tech-centeredness, is actually not a great city to host a conference in. Most tech workers there tend to want to avoid spending any personal time doing more technology work. Very different than the smaller and more intensely connected tech communities that exist in Toronto, Atlanta, Chicago, Seattle, and even New York.

Some of our great speakers. Clockwise from top-left: Divya Manian, Chris Eppstein, Claudina Sarahe, Joe Lencioni & Henric Trotzig. Photos by Jina Bolton.

But, good news is that we sold out (and then some), having to turn down a lot of interested attendees. So, win for our first event! Plus, I’m happy to announce that we broke even – which is pretty crazy for a first year conference. Our intention was to keep the ticket prices low and find a way to break even by keeping things el-cheapo.

Also, I’m very proud that the response we got about the conference was extremely positive. Attendees rated the conference at a 4.2/5.0 which is pretty amazing for both our first year and with the technical glitches we had with our A/V system.

Actually, that’s a funny story. Michael and I arrived at the awesome Code for America offices (so pretty!) and started to set up as people were just beginning to trickle in. And then the worst thing ever happened… the main projector decided it hated us and would absolutely not work. Imagine a montage of a bunch of computer geeks trying to wrestle with a projector for 30 minutes. Luckily, the office had monitors against columns to the side, so with only 15 minutes before the event started, we had everyone help turn the chairs 90 degrees and face the side wall where we held the presentations (you can see the set-up below).

Not exactly a stress free start – I nearly died!

It all turned out to be fine, though. It kind of gave a fun jankiness to the event. A fun “get to know you” moment for the attendees as they moved 200 chairs 90 degrees. ;)

The main critical feedback we got was that people were asking for more deeply technical talks. We planned for about one-third technical talks, one-third community, and one-third inspirational technical stories. Why did we do that? Well, the idea was that if you want to learn Sass, there are tons of great workshops, blogs, and videos. You come to an event to connect with those next to you. To start forming a community.

In this respect, I think it was a huge success. I think next time we might go with something more like half deeply technical talks, and maybe even add in a workshop day for those who really do want some hands-on training time with the Sass experts out there.

All in all, we’re super happy with how things turned out. The people who showed up were kind, friendly, and passionate about Sass, and getting to spend a day together was simply awesome.

We’re already starting to talk about and plan the next Camp Sass… though, chances are the next one might be in another city. Don’t worry, San Francisco will always be a home for Camp Sass, but we want to give another city some Catlin Sass lovin’.

Hampton headHampton Catlin is the creator of Sass, Haml, Tritium, and Wikipedia mobile. He’s one part back end developer, one part startup leader, and one part chaos monky. He’s also CEO of rarebit, which he co-founded with his husband. He speaks at a lot of conferences, writes a lot of code, and spends way too much time on Twitter at @hcatlin.

A Sad ‘Victory’

[For a great summary on why Brendan stepped down from a Mozilla insider, see Mark Surman’s post.]

First, I want to say how absolutely sad to hear that Brendan Eich stepped down. I guess this counts as some kind of “victory,” but it doesn’t feel like it. We never expected this to get as big as it has and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration and say that he never intended to cause people problems.

It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.

We absolutely don’t believe that everyone who voted yes on Prop 8 is evil. In fact, we’re sure that most of them just didn’t understand the impact the law would have. That’s why so many people have changed their mind in 4 short years – because they saw the impact and pain that the law caused to friends and family members.

People think we were upset about his past vote. Instead we were more upset with his current and continued unwillingness to discuss the issue with empathy. Seriously, we assumed that he would reconsider his thoughts on the impact of the law (not his personal beliefs), issue an apology, and then he’d go on to be a great CEO.

The fact it ever went this far is really disturbing to us.

The Mozilla blog post really warmed our hearts. We’ve been working directly with Mozilla and Brendan to try and find a positive resolution to this. We really do love the Open Web and to see it threatened by this issue was heartbreaking for us as advocates of both open source software and our own equality under the law.

We think Mozilla put it the best: “Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.” That’s exactly how we have felt. We absolutely believe people should be allowed to have personal opinions, but we also believe that we are allowed to disagree and to try and change someone’s mind by expressing our own personal story.

In the CNET interview, we were so hopeful that when he was asked the question about if he’d vote for Prop 8 again that he’d say, “You know, my personal beliefs are very strongly held, so those haven’t changed. But I have realized after talking to so many people affected by the law in ways I didn’t intend, that the law itself should treat us all equally.”

That would have been victory. And that’s why we are so sad.

We fully support Mozilla, their mission, and trying to build back up the bridges that got torn down. We know many people are going to be upset by Eich stepping down, and some of them might send out a lot of hate. This has been a traumatic time for us, and we hope to never have to post anything about this again. We are software developers and we’d much rather spend our time building great software and helping people than being involved in a horrible mess like this.

Finally, as the terms of our boycott have been met, we’ll be putting our apps back in the Firefox Marketplace soon. We are excited to get back to what we love to do: making great things!

Why the Open Web Matters

Well, it’s certainly been an exciting last couple of weeks. And by exciting, we mean it’s both been a proud launch of our company, and something that has caused us great consternation. Mozilla appointed as CEO someone who is against equality – and this pains us as Mozilla’s mission statement is one we whole-heartedly agree with.

We here at rarebit really believe in both open source software and in the open web. Why? Because we believe that global participation in software development, security analysis, and creation of new standards can help mankind continue forward to a more equitable future.

Right now, there’s a war going on that is missed by most people. It’s part-patent war, part-licensing, and all collusion. You see, most web technology is built by very large companies with a lot of money and very worried lawyers. They file patents on everything.

Did you know that Microsoft has a patent on the double-click? It’s true. Technically, any double-click is a violation of that patent. In fact, we’re all probably in violation of hundreds of thousands of patents. There are more than you can possibly imagine. At many companies, employees are paid on a per-patent basis.

“But those are private companies,” you cry, “What about open projects like Android?” Let’s look at the Android operating system. Sure, it’s ‘open source,’ but good luck trying to build your own phone and install it. Android is, importantly, mostly open source. What is the “mostly” part? Well, Android is encumbered with thousands of weird licenses because it integrates with a lot of Google technologies. Those technologies are fiercely guarded. Chrome? Same deal.

We absolutely don’t believe that closed source software is evil or that we should live in a communist software state. We like building closed source software ourselves – and charging for it.

But it’s absolutely critical for the future of the web that we all continue to share what we’ve made and try to limit the lawyers.

That’s why at rarebit, we spent a lot of time giving code back to the community. In fact, we are developing a new project called bob that should make it easier for web developers to build and package web applications meant to run on the phones themselves. Think of it like a super lightweight Phonegap.

We want to continue this tradition as our company grows and we expand out. That’s why we want to make a promise, right here, right now, that we’re going to continue to make the web better, give back code to the development community, share what we’ve learned, and try to support the open web.

Hampton headHampton Catlin is the creator of Sass, Haml, Tritium, and Wikipedia mobile. He’s one part back end developer, one part startup leader, and one part chaos monky. He’s also CEO of rarebit, which he co-founded with his husband. He speaks at a lot of conferences, writes a lot of code, and spends way too much time on Twitter at @hcatlin.

What’s the Big Deal? 5 Reasons Eich Should Step Down

[For an update on Brendan stepping down, please see here, and for a great summary on why Brendan stepped down from a Mozilla insider, see Mark Surman’s post.]

This has been a totally unexpected whirlwind. We thought our original post would be shared by some friends and people in the Sass community. Turns out, it’s started a full-out protest – something we didn’t expect, plan on, or even hope for.

During this time, we’ve had a lot of great conversations with some amazing allies within Mozilla. There are many employees standing up for us both internally and some publicly. To you all, we have endless thanks. Unfortunately, finding satisfactory resolution to the situation has not been easy to come by. I don’t want us all to forget this time.

When we first posted that the only solution to this mess was for Eich to step down, we knew we were making a bold, unlikely statement. To us, we could do that, because no one was going to even notice. Since then, lots of people have been critical of our choice to no longer support the Mozilla foundation. Surprisingly to us, we have realized that our original call for him to step down wasn’t crazy at all, but is pretty straightforward.

Michael and I absolutely want the open web to win, and we love the mission of Mozilla. But here are five reasons why we think Eich has shown himself to be the wrong person for the job of CEO of Mozilla, and should step down.

1) He Won’t Apologize

It’s become clear that Eich has not changed his mind since the donation was first made. If you read what he’s written, it’s pretty conspicuous. There are apologies he can issue that don’t actually require him to approve of our personal lives philosophically, all while apologizing for unintentional damage (we would accept the apology, but we don’t have to like the guy). How about something like this that apologizes for harm, but allows him to keep his bigotry intact:

When I originally donated to Prop 8, I did so on the basis of personal opinion and I was not aware that it would have direct harmful effect on people. To me, marriage is a traditional term that I wanted to protect (and still do), but I did not realize that legal protections were at stake. For instance, I was not thinking about the families with children that were torn apart by immigration officials due to this law. I may not agree with their choices in life, but I don’t want to see families torn apart regardless. The law should protect all of us equally, even if I morally don’t approve of certain life choices.

Bam! If he had issued that 6 months ago, I’d be a fan. If he issues it today, I’d call off our boycott. I’m not holding my breath for a change, though.

2) He’s Hurting the Cause

We don’t believe Eich is an evil person. He has done a lot of good, and we probably agree on more topics than we disagree (one topic we disagree on is if I should be able to visit Michael in the hospital as a family member or not, and, for me, that’s kind of a deal-breaker to being friends). He’s helped build up a great organization and made the Internet a more awesome place. Unfortunately, he’s also hurting the very cause he believes in. I’ve received numerous e-mails from volunteers who have decided to quit the project in protest.

Whether you think they are right or wrong for stopping volunteering, it’s hurting the project. And, they are quitting specifically because of an action that Eich took (not simply “an opinion”). It doesn’t need to be fair for it to be real and damaging.

3) Moral Authority to Lead

In order to run a large community driven business, a leader needs not only academic intelligence, but needs to command the respect of the community. Eich’s creation of JavaScript and his technical leadership have gained him a lot of respect. We understand that. But we believe that you must also be a moral leader if you want to change the world and lead an open web revolution. One can’t lead a moral crusade when they have compromised their moral authority to do so.

We want the open web to win, and we want a leader we can believe in and respect.

4) Experience as CEO

It’s odd that no one’s actually been talking about if he was the right choice even if he hadn’t made the donation. Mozilla is attempting to disrupt the mobile phone market. In order to do that, they need a CEO who can wrangle with some of the world’s most powerful companies. They need someone who can wine and dine the right people, and handle the global politics of the mobile phone market. Personally, we think that his handling of his situation, perhaps more than anything else, is telling of what kind of leader he will be.

5) Leaders Must Lead

If you’ve been following this whole debacle closely, its very clear that the handling on Mozilla’s side has been… lackluster. Their first pro-diversity statement made no mention of why it was being posted, and could easily be summed up as “we do slightly more than the legally required bare minimum.” What a terrible thing to post.

Mozilla believes that everyone internally deserves a voice. When the topic is something easy like “should the NSA spy on us,” then a political opinion is quick to happen. When something much more complex and personal happens, chaos can quickly ensue. If Eich was a smart, swift leader, then this could have been sorted out quickly, and we wouldn’t be writing the damn post.

We understand that Mozilla wants to stand by its co-founder. He has a lot of internal respect and we understand that. But we believe that the Board didn’t properly calculate the effect this would have on the community. How much harder is it going to be now to get the best talent to work at Mozilla, when they have a CEO who’s against equality? How much harder is it going to be to make the web a more open and just place when people think of Mozilla as suspect? How many in the community have lost passion for the project, just so the Board can give an old friend the promotion he always wanted?

Our opinion is that this mess happened not because Mozilla is itself bigoted (we don’t think it is!), but a lack of understanding just how personal this is to many of us who suffered under Prop 8.

Simply speaking, the right thing for him to do is either aggressively start rebuilding bridges with his community or step down.

Goodbye, Firefox Marketplace

[For an update on Brendan stepping down, please see here, and for a great summary on why Brendan stepped down from a Mozilla insider, see Mark Surman’s post.]

Several months ago, my husband and I decided that we didn’t just like working together at the same company, but we wanted to go whole-hog and co-found a venture together. The first steps to achieve that were to update some of the applications that I had previously released. Being huge fans of WebOS and open source in general, plus we love focusing on emerging countries, the new Firefox Phone seemed a natural choice for us to focus our development on. We started to porting all of our apps to Firefox OS!

Color puzzle
Color Puzzle

The last couple of months we’ve been working our butts off getting the apps to be awesome. And we’re really proud of them! The one that is live is a puzzle game called Color Puzzle. It is fun, fast, and has a quickly growing audience on Firefox. We’ve got thousands of downloads and thousands of games have been played.

In addition, today was supposed to be the day we launched a dictionary for Firefox phone, based on our Dictionary! app for iPhone and Android.

Except it wasn’t to be. Today we were shocked to read that Brendan Eich has been appointed Mozilla CEO. As a gay couple who were unable to get married in California until recently, we morally cannot support a Foundation that would not only leave someone with hateful views in power, but will give them a promotion and put them in charge of the entire organization.

Many people are outraged in a political way, and Michael and I thank all of you for being so supportive. But, for us, this is very, very personal. Michael is a British citizen and so immigration is a big issue for us. Being a binational gay couple, up until this summer when the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 8, Michael was here on a temporary visa, tied to his job. Luckily, he loved working there, but we were not able to do anything on our own. If you leave your job, you lose your visa. So, due to Prop 8, Michael was unable to co-found a business with me.

Our wedding

Luckily, the Supreme Court dismissed the Prop 8 appeal. Actually, we were featured on the front page of the New York Times the day the ruling was announced! This summer, Michael and I got legally married in the US at San Francisco City Hall, in the same building that Harvey Milk was shot 40 years earlier for standing up for gay rights. It was humbling, emotional, and the best damn day of my life.

Today, Michael has a green card and we’re able to pursue this venture in the US. These days, I am so damn proud of my country for making this all possible. It’s really stunning the support we’ve received, and thank you to everyone out there who have either changed their own minds on the subject, or convinced a relative or friend that there is nothing wrong with the government recognizing our relationship. Thank you.

The overturning of Prop 8, literally was the foundation that allowed us to start this venture.

That’s why it’s personal for us. Brendan Eich was an active supporter of denying our right to be married and even to start this business. He actively took steps to ensure that rarebit couldn’t exist!

Further, he won’t comment on the issue and has not acknowledged any change of opinion. Two years ago, he had an opportunity to change his mind and help change society for better. He has not in two years, and said he will not… so it’s hard to think that any public change of opinion at this time would only be to ensure his new powerful position at Mozilla.

By the very bones in our body, we cannot dare use our creativity, experience, knowledge, and passion to further the career of a man who has to this day not apologized for his support. I can’t spend hours and days and years polishing, building, and upgrading applications that make him richer than he is.

Building great apps is what we love to do, it’s our passion. We want to make great things for people to use. Whether its a fun little puzzle game, or a useful dictionary, or our work on Sass.

Let me do a quick FAQ here to handle a couple responses I know we’ll get immediately:

Brendan Eich is just one person at Mozilla. There are lots of supportive, friendly people at Mozilla who do great work and want to make sure that Mozilla is a supportive place for LGBT people. Why punish all of them?

I certainly recognize that there are great people at Mozilla. And that lots of people there want the org to be open and supportive. However, the board could have chosen ANY of those other, awesome people at Mozilla to be CEO. Out of all the possible candidates they could have chosen, they chose Brendan Eich. CEO’s are extremely important to an organization. Their ideas, beliefs, philosophies, and personalities drive organizations. And, when it’s an organization that I’m personally investing in, it’s even more important.

If you don’t like Brendan than maybe you shouldn’t use Javascript!

I know everyone loves Node, and Javascript is super popular right now. But I have only ever written it because I have to. I don’t write server-side Javascript and keep it to a minimum. I just don’t enjoy the language. I write mostly in Ruby and Go.

People are allowed to have private beliefs. You can’t go after someone for having a private belief

This is a strange one to me and can indeed be a sticky situation. I am NOT judging people who use Firefox, work at Mozilla, or even support Brendan’s right to his opinions. It’s fine that you think I shouldn’t judge his opinion. (This is getting confusing). However, this particular subject is not one that is negotiable to us. We are personally affected by his actions.

It’s not his belief that hurts us. It’s that he actively donated to a cause that directly negatively affected us, personally. It’s not abstract. It’s not a witch hunt. He’s certainly allowed to have his opinion, of course, but I’m allowed to judge his actions of supporting the cause financially.

Actions have consequences.

Including this action on our part. We wasted months of work by building this applications and taking them down. We will lose a lot of money personally. No VC’s here… just our savings and trying to bootstrap a business.

The plan was to launch this site in 3-4 months, but instead, we’ve launched it early to post this. We apologize for the weak design as you see it and the prototype logo. We’re looking forward to saying a lot more happy things on this blog in the future.

Hampton headHampton Catlin is the creator of Sass, Haml, Tritium, and Wikipedia mobile. He’s one part back end developer, one part startup leader, and one part chaos monky. He’s also CEO of rarebit, which he co-founded with his husband. He speaks at a lot of conferences, writes a lot of code, and spends way too much time on Twitter at @hcatlin.

Dear Mozilla,

As a married gay couple who are co-founders of this venture, we have chosen to boycott all Mozilla projects. We will not develop apps or test styles on Firefox anymore.

Effective today, we’re removing Color Puzzle from the Firefox Marketplace and stopping work on all of our Firefox-related applications, notably the about-to-launch Firefox version of the popular Dictionary! app for iPhone and Android.

This is in protest of the appointment of Brendan Eich to the position of CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, where he had previously served as CTO.

We will continue our boycott until Brendan Eich is completely removed from any day to day activities at Mozilla, which we believe is extremely unlikely after all he’s survived and the continued support he has received from Mozilla.

This makes us very sad, as we love the little guy fighting to make things better. But it’s because of our status as a minority that we simply can’t ignore this slap in the face of giving him a promotion to lead your organization.

Hampton Catlin (@hcatlin)
CEO, rarebit

Update: If you think asking him to step down is overkill, then go read the next post 5 Reasons Eich Should Step Down.