Why I don’t talk about where I work, and why it’s important to me

Earlier this year I changed jobs. I decided not to tell most people where my new job was. A lot of people were really curious when I announced I was leaving. I expected this and made it through the transition period. But I’m still fielding questions about it often.

Did you know, people ask you where you work all the time? I probably did this too. And in tech/silicon valley, “I do computer programming at a tech startup” is not enough. People really want to know where.

That’s when I have to explain that I’m not talking about it. I try to move the conversation on quickly, but that doesn’t always work. Often it leads to much increased curiosity. There’s usually a joke about the CIA then and awkwardness. Lately I’ve been talking to people that have heard where I work through the grapevine. This makes me kind of sick and sad, because I’ve requested that people not talk about it. Some people have been really amazing about this, though, and I am so grateful for them.

The purpose of this is to explain to people I know, in one fell swoop, why I don’t talk about it, and help them understand why it’s important to me that they not make it a gossip thing. For one though, the nature of my job is not why I don’t talk about it. If I did tell you where I worked, you’d probably be underwhelmed. It’s not important, except to me.

Here’s why:

Last year, my coworker at the time became mentally ill. It seemed to be a gradual/sudden thing. Some people think it was adult-onset Schizophrenia. He developed grandiose ideas about the universe and AI and other such things. Unfortunately some of these delusions involved me. It didn’t play out well. Eventually he left the company, but persisted in walking around the entrance to the office every so often. Being worried when you come into work every day is a horrible feeling, I discovered, and I left too.

When I left, I realized I had a huge opportunity to turn a new page. My first day coming in to work at my new place was exhilarating. And it was mainly because I knew there was no way he knew where I worked. It was such a huge, gleeful feeling of relief.

By not telling anyone where I work, I’m trying to control that information and keep it from reaching him. I’m not sure that he’s active in my former work circles with his mental state, but it’s something someone could easily forget and mention on Twitter or something relating to my company, and I think he’s still on that. By not telling anyone, I’m increasing my safety, and more than anything giving myself the freedom to go into work without wondering.

I think it’s probably okay now –it’s been a year since he last contacted me, and awhile since I heard he was spotted around the old office. But really, I don’t know. As I learned, I have no real way of predicting this. When someone has no respect for you, anything is possible and you have no control over it.

Sometimes in moments, I’m tempted to talk about what I’m doing now. It would help professionally to be able to talk and network over it, show off publicly what I’ve worked on and how I’ve grown technically. And stop the awkward conversations! But if I did, and he showed up on the street in front of my office, I would feel so stupid for trading off anything for that.

Another thing I learned last year is that there’s only so much companies are willing or able to do to help you. If this became a situation again, I might have to leave my job again. At the end of the day, these things end up as your responsibility. I’m on my own and I have to own my decisions.

If you know me I have a couple things to ask: 1) If you know where I work, no need to talk about it to anyone. 2) Don’t ask where I work if you see me. There are other things to talk about, I’ve discovered.

New Bugzilla Todos Features

A few months ago I created Bugzilla Todos out of a need to see all the Bugzilla-related things I had to do in one place, and also quickly see what other people had to do (for example, when picking someone to review a patch).

It’s a basic UI that shows your review and flag requests, patches to check in, unfulfilled requests you made of other people, and assigned bugs. I just added a few features that I desperately wanted for it:

Live Updates: Bztodos now checks Bugzilla periodically for any new requests, and shows notifications of these new requests:

Favicon counter

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 9.18.01 AM

It shows the count of the new requests in the favicon (thanks to the tinycon library), and highlights new items in the list. It checks every 15 mintues. I hope that’s okay with Mozilla’s Bugzilla.

Remember Last Tab: When you visit the page again, the last tab you had selected will be open by default.

Keyboard shortcuts: Visit the ‘Review’ tab by simply typing ‘r’ when the page is focused. The shortcuts are based on the first letter of the tab, and ‘p’ for the ‘Respond’ tab.


The Bugzilla queries used to fetch these queues are always in need of tweaking for unforseen situations. Please file an issue if the wrong items are showing up in a tab, and especially if something is missing. Also file if there are any suggestions at all.




Open Source Rocks – Follow Up

My last blog post was quite a downer, so I want to do a short follow up for posterity.

First of all, there were some nice responses to it from Steve Klabnik and especially Corey Haines, who gave a sincere straight-up apology. Several people have told me they are usually very nice, so keep that in mind.

The emails I got really stuck out to me. Some people had their own stories that were way worse than mine. Sadly, several said that this is why they’d never open sourced anything.

But I also got emails with people telling me how useful they’d found some of my open source projects. That right there makes it all worth it. Make sure you let people know when you appreciate their work, it might help balance out some of the bad.

I want to make it clear that you should definitely still open source your code. I still wouldn’t hesitate to open source something if I thought it could be useful to someone.

Being Ridiculed for My Open Source Project

Yesterday my colleague mentioned that a script I wrote was getting a lot of attention on Twitter. This particular project was something I wrote a couple years ago to help me out with a workflow. I had a lot of fun writing it and have gotten a ton of use out of it, and several people have expressed that they have too. I’d put it up on Github, so that others could potentially use it or use the code.

So I went to see what people were saying about this project. I searched Twitter and several tweets came up. One of them, I guess the original one, was basically like “hey, this is cool”, but then the rest went like this:

1 2 3

At this point, all I know is that by creating this project I’ve done something very wrong. It seemed liked I’d done something fundamentally wrong, so stupid that it flabbergasts someone. So wrong that it doesn’t even need to be explained.  And my code is so bad it makes people’s eyes bleed. So of course I start sobbing.

Then I see these people’s follower count, and I sob harder. I can’t help but think of potential future employers that are no longer potential. My name and avatar are part of its identity, and it’s just one step for a slightly curious person to see the idiot behind this project.

I queried some tweeters for more information on why exactly it was so bothersome. I didn’t get apologies from these tweeters.

The response to this from other people was overwhelmingly reassuring. The tweets were called out by several people, and I got a bunch of reassurance and support. I’m lucky to have friends in this industry that know me in person and through my work, and thus feel more compelled to speak up.

I evangelize open source whenever I meet new coders or go to meetups. I tell them to make something that they would find useful and put it out there. Can you imagine if one of these new open sourcerers took my advice and got this response, without the support I had. Can you imagine?


I got some apologies: http://programmingtour.blogspot.com/2013/01/im-sorry.htmlhttp://blog.steveklabnik.com/posts/2013-01-23-node, and I wrote a follow up post here: https://harthur.wordpress.com/2013/02/01/open-source-rocks-follow-up/

Also, it was hard for me to convey this, but the snarkiness of the tweets really made it so much worse. I wish I could explain why.



Filing Bugs in Components

I’m always filing bugs, and I usually know the Bugzilla component they’re supposed to go in. So I made a shortcut to get around the hoops of picking a component on the Bugzilla form. It’ll autocomplete on product and component name for faster filing:


I also often search for bugs by summary in a component, so I made a shortcut for that too. You can search for open, closed, or both:

I’m interested in the common fields other people use when searching for bugs, so if you have any insight leave a comment.



Creamy Lemon Ice Cream

Makes 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.

2oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt

Mix the cream cheese and sugar. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and vanilla and mix well. Wisk in the milk and cream. Pour in your ice cream maker and use according to directions.

Seeking New Owner for Nightly Tester Tools

Nightly Tester Tools is an addon for Firefox nightly and beta testers. I’m the current maintainer of the addon, having been passed down the torch by Dave Townsend. It’s at the point where I no longer have time to give Nightly Tester Tools the attention it deserves.

Nightly Tester Tools has been around for a long time. It’s provided tools like build id copying, screenshots, and test crashing. The code is currently on Github, and there’s a Bugzilla component Other Applications/Nightly Tester Tools Where people file bugs.

Maintenance mainly involves bumping the version compatiblity on AMO every time there’s a new Firefox release and checking out new bugs or feature requests that come in.

This is a great opportunity for a nightly tester to build onto a tool that helps out thousands (NTT has about 100,000 users) of testers, and learn some extension development at the same time.

Please get in touch if you’re interested. I’m harth on #ateam on irc.mozilla.org and always available to answer questions about it and guide anyone along about the process.