#mozlove for Nigel Babu

Two weeks ago some 1000+ Mozillians gathered in Portland for a workweek.  Attendance was, as usual, from all over the world – staff  and volunteers all working really hard, together,  to visualize 2015 – and in the evenings we met at various restaurants all over town to unwind and socialize.  It was on one of these nights at the Deschutes Brewery , I met and was inspired by Nigel Babu and the story of Mozilla Sheriffs.  ‘Sheriffing’ is not just the coolest contributor title – but a truly amazing collaboration of people across the world working to ensure the Firefox & B2G trees build correctly each night.  Across the continent – there is always Sheriff watching.

Nigel made me aware that even for the most impactful contributors – recognition is sometimes rare, or  is limited to specific areas of the project – rarely does that news bubble up.  I would say that most of us don’t turn up expecting recognition – but it is nice to feel appreciated, and valued. I’m imagining a 2015 where recognition is something we all practice.

To that end, I am writing this blog post, an interview to recognize Nigel but also to start a challenge to others in the community – to write about, tweet about – ‘make some noise in some way’ about a community member (staff or volunteer) making impact on Mozilla’s mission, or someone who has inspired you personally.   Tag it with #mozlove , and nominate someone else. I am nominating       to do the same.

Let’s end 2015 with love-stories about community members like Nigel.

Nigel, can you tell me a bit about yourself  ?

I live in Delhi, India (just recently moved from Bangalore) and I work as a Senior Systems Administrator at Open Knowledge. I’ve been an open source contributor for several years, starting by contributing to Ubuntu in 2009. Since then, I’ve been active in the open source world and it’s now part of my day job.

I learned about a very cool contributor title in Mozilla called ‘Sheriff’s’ and that you are one!  Can you tell me more about this role, and what is it that inspired you to contribute?

Every time someone commits code to Firefox or B2G, there’s an array of builds and tests kicked off on various platforms. Sometimes, these tests take hours to run and the developer may not be aware that they broke something. As a sheriff, we watch the trees to ensure that our tests and builds don’t break. The Sheriffs team also helps folks land their patch onto repository if, for whatever reason, they do not want to land it themselves.

The inspiration for contributing to Sheriffs team is entirely incidental. At the summit in Santa Clara last year, I was sitting in the lobby next to Wes Kocher. We started having a conversation and he invited me to his talk later that day. When I attended the talk, I realized I knew Ed Morely from the London office. During the talk, Ed, Ryan, and Wes convinced me I could help. There was a bit of a gap in coverage between Wes in the US West Coast and Carsten, in Germany and I was in a perfect timezone to help.

The team got me the access I need to start marking failures as intermittent and wrote documentation from the conversations and questions I raised. Over the months, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I’ve also gotten more confidence in fixing issues. There’s been a day when I’ve had to call up Nick Thomas in New Zealand followed by Chris Cooper in Toronto because there was an infrastructure issue needing all trees to be closed.

How long have you been contributing to Mozilla – Is Sheriffing where you started contributing to Mozilla, or was there a journey here?

I’ve been contributing to Mozilla since 2011. I started my contributions by helping with developing input.mozilla.org. The codebase has changed drastically since then and I’ve blogged about my initial story already.

I also learned from our conversation, that Sherriffing takes global cooperation, for timezones – can you tell me a bit more about that?

Sheriffing is handed over from shift to shift throughout the week. I watch the tree in the mornings in my timezone (almost all the time with Phil for company). Around afternoon, Carsten, takes over from me. After him, it’s Ryan’s turn, and finally Wes. After Wes, it’s a mix of Phil and I watching the tree again.

What feels most rewarding about contributing to Mozilla?  I suppose what I’m wondering is – what sustains your involvement – keeps you involved?

Sheriffing has it’s own feedback. Every day as we do backouts and keep the tree green, I know that while it temporarily disrupts work, in the long run, it’s helping developers merge their code into Firefox sooner without issues


Thanks for all you do Nigel!