Interview with Robert Kaiser, SeaMonkey project coordinator

Ricardo Palomares from Mozilla Hispano, had an interview with Robert Kaiser, long time SeaMonkey project coordinator on what’s going on with SeaMonkey, the motivations, and other activities including promotion and T-shirts. Oh, and real sea monkeys also.

RP: You are the coordinator (is that the right word?) of SeaMonkey Council, is that true? What does that involve? What else do you do in the project?

Yes, the formal designation of my position is “project coordinator” of  SeaMonkey, meaning I’m trying to coordinate all work happening within the SeaMonkey project as well as how we work together with other projects, esp. Thunderbird, calendar and the larger Mozilla project, including Firefox, etc.

I’m also doing or leading the release driver work, including scheduling releases, determining which bug block the release and which we approve to go in at late development stages, and finally trying to get people to also resolve the problems that need to be fixed for a successful release.
In addition, I’m acting as build engineer, maintaining the machines that build our code, run automated tests, and upload nightly builds as well as create release builds and updates.

Next to those areas I’m trying to help out where help as needed as far as I still have time left – oh, and I’m still doing the German localization, which is what brought me into the project in the beginning.

2- Why use (and help with) SeaMonkey instead of Firefox + Thunderbird?

Because it’s nice (for a certain group of people) to have browser and messaging closely integrated with each other in one single application, and because it’s nice to have a lot of advanced features  like the cookie viewer right available from the browser menus, not  needing deep clicking into subwindows of subwindows to finally arrive
there like in Firefox.

At the same time though because it’s important to have the power, innovation and security that the Mozilla platform offers, including things like HTML5 and extension support – that’s what makes us special  in comparison to other products out there and connects us with Firefox and Thunderbird, which we join in the fight for openness, choice and
innovation on the Internet.

SeaMonkey Project has just completed the transition from old XPFE to XUL/Toolkit, something Mozilla Foundation dismissed as a too demanding effort to do. Are you (all SeaMonkey Council members) aware of the big success you have achieved?

Back at that time in 2005, the Mozilla Foundation didn’t have a  dedicated team any more that cared about the suite, and such a dedicated team was necessary to get this major transition done. I  think all of us are glad we managed to do that, but I think we only will really believe it and be able to celebrate when the final SeaMonkey 2.0 has been released and users actually move over to it.

SeaMonkey 2.0 will be on par with most of Firefox 3.5 + Thunderbird 3 features. What’s missing, and what’s next?

Major things like the whole HTML5 feature set of Firefox 3.5, solid add-ons management, automatic updates, feed reader, support for the Lightning calendar extension, a theme facelift, session restore, or more intelligent location bar search and many others are done with SeaMonkey 2.0 and move us from a late-1990s feature set to a modern
Internet suite ready for the web of 2010 and hopefully beyond.

What we still need to do for a next release is reworking the bookmarks infrastructure, the way web search plugins work, integrate more intelligent message search features and some changes to internal structures to make it easier for Mozilla code as well as extensions to work with SeaMonkey as well as Firefox and/or Thunderbird.

Outside of the borders of just porting over things from Thunderbird and Firefox, we also will be investigating an approach to make everything in the application being able to be in a tab and make tabs in all parts of SeaMonkey interchangeable, esp. between browser and mail.

We also will be looking into cooperation with the KompoZer project so that SeaMonkey Composer will also see some active development and improvements again.

Few people know about the SeaMonkey Shop. Is there any chance to see SeaMonkey merchandise inside Mozilla Online Store? How does purchasing SM merchandise help the project?

I don’t think we’ll get things into the official Mozilla store, but the Mozilla Community Store – http://communitystore.mozilla.org/ – also has some nice SeaMonkey designs, and we encourage other SeaMonkey
fans to upload theirs as well. For other designs than T-shirts (desktops wallpapers, etc.), the new Mozilla Creative Collective also welcomes contributions, see http://creative.mozilla.org/tags/seamonkey/designs for the currently
uploaded designs with a “SeaMonkey” tag.

Purchasing T-shirts or getting any other SeaMonkey merchandise or designs help the project simply because it spreads the word about our project, and any SeaMonkey user or fan can help us that way – let  others know that SeaMonkey exists and why (s)he might want it!

On the official SeaMonkey Shop, $1 per purchase goes to the project, we probably will use that money to create some buttons, etc. that we can spread to people at conferences.

You have quite some experience with regard to recruiting contributors. What can motivate an user to become a contributor in a open community like Mozilla? How can community projects like SeaMonkey or Mozilla Hispano attract contributors?

The main motivations I’ve seen is either feeling the need to give something back to the great community that brings this product to them or that they feel something they would like to have is missing or not working as expected and trying to solve that by putting their own work into it. The main thing to attract contributors is to be friendly and
helpful to those that come around and want to help or want something to be improved, and help them to help themselves in a way that profits everyone. And one thing I learned is to never get tired of telling people they can help and how they can help to improve things.

What areas of SeaMonkey Project will benefit most of new contributors? Programming? Testing? Documenting? All of them?

Every time this question comes up, I tend to have thins image in my mind of a guy who is now the leader of one of the world’s largest software companies as he runs around on a stage chanting “developers! developers! developers!” 😉
In reality, there is no special area where we benefit most, we can need help in all areas of the project, from personally spreading the word to a marketing lead (hint), from testing to a QA lead (hint), from documentation to actual software development. Oh, and of course in localization. I hope I didn’t forget anything. So, whatever your skills are, if you like SeaMonkey and want to help, we want you! 🙂

Finally, how are your sea-monkeys doing? Mine died, sadly, I think I should have refreshed their water more often. 🙁 Any hint to make them live longer?

They are actually alive and well, thanks! Well, the first ones died off as well, maybe I forgot to feed them for too long or so – The good thing is that you just need to pour the usual amount of food into the water for a week or so and care that the water has oxygen, and new Sea-Monkeys will be born. A few eggs are always left when the adult animals die, and you can get everything back to life again – after all, they survived thousands, maybe millions of years, they need to
have good mechanisms for survival!

You shouldn’t actually refresh or change the water itself, pouring it into a similarly-sized cup and back into the original container and repeating this 4-5 times every few weeks brings enough oxygen into the water that they can live well. Also only feed them the amount of food the packages they you should (small end of the spoon every two days), and don’t let the “aquarium” get too cool, they like it best if the water is 20-30°C or something like that.
And when they die, don’t be too sad, it can happen, but you can get them back to life. If you just forgot to feed them for too long, get the water oxygenated and put the usual amount of food in for a week or two, and you should see those small dots swimming around again, slowly growing to become new Sea-Monkeys. If something worse has happened,
put the water into a wide contained and let it dry out by air (not in an oven!), then start over again with the dry remains (which contain salts for the water and eggs!) the same way as you started in the very beginning with package 1.

Just like with the Internet suite, those animals can be revived and live well and for a long time after that! Long live SeaMonkey! 😉

One thought on “Interview with Robert Kaiser, SeaMonkey project coordinator”

  1. Ya so I’m a little late with reading this, but it’s a great interview.

    I installed SeaMonkey last night (for the 90th time).
    It is a great product, no doubt about it, and the motivation this time around to install it comes from stumbling upon more and more of Robert’s posts and comments.

    I like how passionate he is about SeaMonkey and especially the fact that he’s an independent thinker overall.
    His work with SeaMonkey (and of course other areas) is very important in my opinion.

    I’m not sure where I’ll personally go with SeaMonkey, I’ve always been a supporter and even entered the SeaMonkey logo contest years ago (mine sucked).
    I’d like to become a part of the project, but I’m pretty overwhelmed and backed up with projects right now as it is.
    I’ll do what I can.

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