Quick Thought on Brendan Eich’s Resignation

(Based on a comment I posted on FB)

The response to the criticism of Mozilla’s appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO was, from some, “it is intolerant to want Eich gone because of his political beliefs”.  I think that’s too naive an interpretation of what really happened.

This is, to me, not about Eich. It’s about the employees, contributors and supports of mozilla who have the right not to work with him. The issue was not “Eich is a dick, so he must be sacked” it was “parts of the community are leaving because they have a right not to work with this dude”. You cannot be a leader if the people you are leading feel like you have a personal issue with them – and lots of people clearly felt that.

The ill-will following Eich’s appointment seems to have been at a mostly individual level. There was no co-ordinated campaign trying to get him sacked, or make him resign, it was largely just many individuals expressing their disappointment. Those individuals obviously have that right. Those individuals also have the right (seeing as how they are not subject to some kind of open source bonded labour) to choose which organisations they contribute to. When  contributors feel like an organisation doesn’t align well with their values it is inevitable that some will leave. After all, the pay off for working for an organisation like mozilla is that you feel you’re contributing to something worthwhile – something that aligns with your values, often in more ways than just a shallow “I believe in making a good web browser”.

Eich has a right to say what he likes and support the causes he believes in, but he does not have the right to expect other people still to be happy to work with his organisation in spite of that. Fundamentally, this was an issue of whether the community felt like it shared the same values as the leadership. It looks like Eich has, quite rightly, recognised that although he has the RIGHT to be CEO of mozilla it was not in the interests of the organisation for him to do so.