Of bears, landslides, powercuts and cancelled flights

03 Aug 2008

Bear with me for this long post (no pun intended) describing the awesome Mozilla Summit at Whistler. The short version is that it was supercalifragilisticexpialidoceous. Ok, that’s a nonsense word but there’s no way I can put the experience in just one word.

Monday All the interns got up fairly early to catch a shuttle to SFO, and we arrived in Whistler after a pleasant 3 hour flight and 2 hour bus ride from YVR. The scenery was fantastic all along the way, and the hotel was overwhelmingly comfortable. Nothing much happened except meeting some familiar as well as new people at dinner.

Tuesday First day of the summit started off with keynotes by John Lilly and Mitchell Baker. Mitchell’s analogy of what she thought of Mozilla was especially intriguing. A great way to kick-off the sessions that were to follow over the next few days. The UX talk on the history and future of browsers was especially a good one. Highlight of the day was Gary spotting bears. Apparently, there were a few that were brave enough to jump into the room balconies too.

Wednesday I spent most of the early part of the day in the Emerald room, attending sessions on Mozilla’s Technology roadmap, Fennec and the Labs concept series. I ended the round of session-attending with Myk’s talk on Snowl, which is another cool labs project (well, all labs projects are cool!).

The big news of the day was the rockslide on the road connecting Vancouver with Whistler. ~350 at the summit suddenly had to change travel plans to accomodate for this… um… natural disaster. The contingency plan involved 8-hour long bus rides on a longer, more scenic route or float planes.

The labs team spent wednesday night hacking at Chris’ room, in preparation for our presentations the next day. Prior experience led us to believe that relying on the WiFi network in the hotel was probably not a wise idea for our demos, so I setup a local weave sever with a few demo accounts and changed the bookmark sharing code to not depend on XMPP to notify the receving user of the share. It was 3 am by the time I got to sleep so I responsibly set an alarm because the weave talk was the first one on the next day.

Thursday Except the alarm didn’t go off, and I woke up 45 minutes after the scheduled time for the session. My first reaction was along the lines of oops, I screwed up. But as I became fully awake I realized there was no power in the entire hotel and breathed a sigh of relief because all the morning sessions were postponed. So the story was that a laundry truck ran into a transformer and it would take a few hours for power to be restored.

The Labs sessions were moved to a conference room run by our friendly neighbors (The Hilton), and we started off shortly after lunch. The Labs sessions on Weave and Ubiquity went off really well and I think they created a lot of buzz. Especially with ubiquity, some of the demos were mind-blowing!

Though I really wanted to attend the session on HG, I decided to take a nap instead and prepare myself for the grand dinner atop Whistler-Blackcomb (which are, incidentally, codenames for Windows editions). The dinner was a fine end to a fine summit, and I was especially excited to experience snowfall for the first time in my life.

My plan to get back home was to catch a Floatplane with the rest of Labs the next morning, in time for the YVR-SFO flight at 3 pm.

Friday But NO. All the floatplanes had been cancelled due to fog and low tides, so Dan & Chris put me up on the last bus out of Whistler at 11 am, and kindly provided a goodie bag full of food and coffee for my 8 hour bus ride.

The ride itself was not bad at all, the scenery on the way was well worth it. As we approached Vancouver (around 6:30 pm), Melissa Shapiro found me on the bus and informed me that she would try to catch the 8:15 pm flight to SFO (which was the last one out of YVR) and recommended I do the same. The bus didn’t go to the airport, but to the Sheraton at Wall centre instead, so Melissa and I took a cab and rushed to the airport.

We managed to get standby tickets on the plane, and went through US immigration, customs and security check (where I was “selected for random screening”). We did make it to the gate on time, but not on the plane. Technically, I had to re-enter Canada through immigration, but I had a single-entry VISA. Thankfully, Melissa was there to vouch for me, so I was able to make it back in.

Chris had rooms for us at the Sheraton and we headed back. After a great dinner with Bret, Brad, Melissa, Chris and Dan, I tucked in for the night watching Vancouver’s great skyline.

Saturday Quite an uneventful day, considering the last week, because everything went as planned. All of us had confirmed tickets on the 11 am flight to SFO.

Melissa, Chris and I stopped for a while at Stanley Park on our way to the Aiport, while Dan had to leave early because he had to pick up his bag and passport (which he left at the party on Thursday, there’s another whole story!)

Phew Well, I’m back in Mountain View now; and only have a week more to go. I’m really going to miss everyone, and the summit just made it a whole lot harder for me to say goodbye. But as Chris Hoffman had said in a brown-bag sometime ago: This is Hotel Mozilla - you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!

Just want to convey a big Thank You to everyone at Mozilla; especially Dan Portillo, Tiffney Mortensen, John Lilly, Julie Deroche, Melissa Shapiro, Maria Emerson, and most of all, Chris Beard, for making my experience at the summit an experience of a lifetime!