Throwing in the Towel

I guess it isn’t going to come as much of a surprise to people when I say I’ve been having a hard time finding the time to maintain the extensions I develop. I’ll go over some of the reasons why shortly, but I guess the highlight (or lowlight depending on your point of view) of this post is that I’m no longer going to really put in any effort to keep them updated.

Nightly Tester Tools will probably continue to get the odd update here and there where I find something interesting to add, and Update Channel Selector is due to get an update to make it actually work on most platforms, but otherwise I would not expect to see any further updates for any of my other extensions.

I came to this conclusion last week when doing some updates and I realised that I really wasn’t enjoying it. The things I generally enjoy doing in my spare time are things that are new and interesting. All of my main extensions were born out of finding something cool to do with the platform. Fast ways to perform regular expressions on large html documents, painting thumbnails of webpages (back when it was actually new and exciting), taking enough control of the toolbar customisation service to be able to dynamically add many instances of the same widgets. All of this stuff was interesting enough to make me knock up a quick extension to play with it. When they seemed useful I would go through and try to iron out some of the rough edges to make it something I’d consider release-worthy. Only Tab Sidebar had real effort put into it to try to make it into a real user friendly product.

I’ve also had quite a large change in my life since I last really actively worked on my extensions. Back then I was a small business owner, most of my day to day work was IT support and web development. Getting home and sitting down for a few hours hacking away on extensions worked as quite a diversion, completely taking my mind off the stresses at work. Now I work for Mozilla. Working on extensions is basically no different from what I do during the day. It is no longer a diversion, it is just like work. How many of you like to get home from work, kick back and then go back over more work to relax?

These things, as well as other issues, have left me really uninterested in doing anything except the exciting new stuff. Turning that into a usable tool, fixing bugs, making things work in new releases, all of that is just dull and no longer worth the spare time it loses me.

And that is pretty much that. I’m not totally out of the extensions game, while I might still create a few experimental add-ons in the future, they probably won’t be fully useful, just little things for fun. I’m not really going to be interested in hearing about bugs in my existing stuff or that it hasn’t yet been updated to the latest version of Firefox. I’m not going to do anything about it. Of course all of my add-ons are open source, under the MPL/GPL/LGPL tri-license, and I’d happily talk to anyone thinking of taking over official development of them for the future.

To those of you who have kept using my extensions and let me know how much you liked them I’d like to say thank you, and I’m sorry that there will be nothing more even though I know you were hoping. It’s taken me a while to reach this decision and I’m sure some will feel a little left in the lurch by it, but I can’t keep fooling myself that I’ll find the time to put in the effort you all deserve.

24 thoughts on “Throwing in the Towel”

  1. > How many of you like to get home from work, kick back and then go back over more work to relax?

    Me!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  2. August 26 2008

    Dear Dave Townsend,

    Your idea of “Throwing in the Towel”, I think, is different than most people. After being taken aback, I read everything about you (probably there is a lot more). Anyway, I want to commend you for being such an inspiration. I agree with Reed Loden, there are some of us who are at that stage in life that are champing at the bit. We cannot wait to be given permission to start work on projects such as you and others have developed with such magnificence. All that I can say is THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! (And don’t be afraid to change your mind.)

  3. Believe me, I know the feeling. I have been much less productive for Mozilla code since I started working at Skyfire. It’s not from a lack of desire – it’s from a need for a change of pace after the day is done.

  4. Posted by Reed Loden:
    > > How many of you like to get home from work, kick back and then go back over more work to relax?
    > Me!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

    Me too…. 😀

  5. Wow. I am going to miss you…ie my Toolbar thinger, i almost want to revert to an older version of my browser just to have my toolbar thinger. I can relate to your need to do no more of it once your home.

    Thank you, for all the time you took over the wonderful things you gave us all!

  6. Mmmmh, after reading the not moving but depressed and depressing farewell from Dave, it seems like a typical case of ‘private vices, public virtues’. Dave did good for others, and apparently pretty good good, not out of his desire to help and love for his fellow beings, but out of a self centered want to scape some from the stressing work; now he is at Mozilla and he is still, or worse, stressed, now that he does as a job what he used to do as a hobby. Well, Dave, my friend, you have big trouble of basic attitude to jobbing. Seems that whatever you do for a living annoys you for that mere fact: to be a means of living. Tsk, tsk. How many would kill to have a job where they could do what they like as a hobby! To get paid for doing what you like. The truth, Dave, is that you have Hipengyphobia, you are afraid of responsibility. So, you don’t feel committed either to the products of your own work nor to the public you allured in the addiction of your add ons. Bad boy, baaaaad boy.
    C’mon Dave, leave alone the fear of failure and get back.

  7. Hi, I certainly understand how you feel. But why not ask your employer if they would allow to make a few small updates on company time? Toolbar thinger is one of my favorite extensions, and I can’t imagine it would take more than a couple of hours for someone experienced to update it for Firefox 3. Since good extensions add value to the Mozilla platform, it seems like something the Mozilla foundation would want to encourage their employees to do.

    Anyway, I’m really hoping you’ll update the thinger. It doesn’t need any feature updates, just compatibility with Firefox 3. If you really can’t do it, could you perhaps make a blog post explaining what changes to the bookmark APIs are relevant if someone else wants to try it?

    Thanks for your great work.

  8. The entire bookmark system changed between Firefox 2 and 3, there are good notes on explaining the changes. The harder problem though is that the toolbar customisation system changed. I have already spent not hours, but days trying to get Thinger to work as I wanted in Firefox 3. Don’t imagine that something that looks simple to do is.

  9. To wrongdoer:

    Wow – I think you’re the one who needs an attitude adjustment.
    At what point did Dave guarantee you ANYTHING and commit himself to forever ongoing extension development? Since when is Dave a slave to freeware?

    What he did was FREE. If it was a paid product, then yes – there are commitments and responsibilities to consider. But this is freeware. And whether you like it or not, Dave “owes” you nothing just because you were (as you say) “allured” to his extensions.

    Maybe you’d feel better if he simply pulled them completely and made them available to no one?

    Or maybe instead of whining because your free tool isn’t being developed anymore, you can learn how to write extensions yourself and continue the development for the good of the community. How about that?
    But that would require effort on your part, you selfish SOB.

    It’s people like you with attitudes like yours that sour developers and make an otherwise enjoyable pasttime a chore.

    Dave owes you nothing and I applaud him for all the time and effort he’s put into the projects we have. He’s made his decision and had the balls to post his reasons for all to read. But that’s not good enough for you.

    Frankly, I’m glad Dave’s not developing his extensions anymore simply so that pricks like you get annoyed and post drivel on blogs like this.

    Have fun at your boring job where I’m sure you complain all day. I’ll bet you’re a peach at work.

  10. Thank you so much for your work especially Tab Sidebar, it’s a wonderful add-on. One thing that I would like to have fixed is the width of the sidebar: i dont use previews, and I would like the sidebar to be small enough to only show the little tab (small image) of the website of the tab.

    I’m ready to pay for it of course!

    Thx again


  11. Thanks for a great extension. I can empathize with the time pressures and your having to make a hard decision. But again, thanks for a great Thinger. (And I’m very very sorry that there are ingrates who are not appreciative like they should be.)

  12. Sad, I just find the Find Bar regular expression extension and it is what I wanted, but now it’s not maintained.

    Congratulations for the job and admitting the facts that you have no interest and time to maintain your hobby programs. It is not easy, but you made the right decision.

  13. Could you post us the link to the source code for Tab Sidebar? I’d like to add a scrollbar back to it, and possibly to a couple of other things. Thanks!

  14. I too am saddened by this loss. I have recently gotten a new computer, upgrade from slow processor to Phenom Quad-core, and all the neat things that go with it. Even upgraded to Vista.
    I was so used to using the THINGER that I didn’t even know it wasn’t compatible with the new FireFox (which is what is on the new system) I’ve been going bat-sh*t crazy trying to find this add-on, and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working.
    I hope that it does get picked up by Mozilla as a feature, that would be a godsend.
    I could list the add-ons/plug-ins that I use daily, that I’d be willing to trade for a new usable Thinger!
    I was wondering, would there be any interest in the developer community to develop this? I’m even willing to set-up a donation board to fund it. Could that entice a developer, or indeed get Dave to do one more update?
    Besides wrongdoer’s clumsy attempt at reverse psychology, the general consensus seems to be that this was too useful and helpful a tool to lose.
    Any takers on my donation/payment/incentive?
    Contact me:

  15. To Wrongdoer..

    Wow, you sound like a real wanker.
    Hmm, Or maybe I should pay homage to your superior and
    massive intellect..
    I prostrate myself before your Great Vanity.


    1. Yeah, BUT, “wrongdoer” is pretty much on to something, there.
      Will somebody else pick up the updating of the Thinger app to keep it compatible?
      I am keeping a “less than 3.0″ Firefox Browser just to keep the Thinger” working.

  16. So in essence mozilla is killing add-on community by hiring the add-on developers. Hmmm…

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