Ambition & Individual Responsibility

The light and dark of America’s two most dominant traits

As a Canadian, I grew up in a place that is almost but not quite the USA. We consume the same culture, eat the same food, work in the same industries. American and Canadian values are closely aligned. But they differ in two big ways.

Through a Canadian lens, Americans are distinguished by their innate ambition and sense of individual responsibility. At their best, they represent America at its best. But their echoes can be held responsible for this country’s dark side.

Ambition underpins America’s innovative industries, its dominance in sport, the (eroding) strength of its middle class, its cultural force around the world, and its remarkable universities.

Walk into any coffee shop and you’ll find two American 20-year-olds working on a start-up to take down Citibank. In the USA, they’re cheered on. In Canada, they’d be politely patted on the head.

The belief that anything can be accomplished is uniquely American. It’s what has drawn me and countless other immigrants to this place: the promise of unbounded, global opportunity.

Similarly, a profound sense of individual responsibility is what makes America one of the most philanthropic countries in the world. Americans are dedicated and loyal to their families. They volunteer their time and join community organizations. They hold a deep reverence for public service.

Americans do things because if they don’t, no one else will. They step up.

But ambition is also responsible for the idiocy of Donald Trump and the dumbing of political debate, capitalism’s devastating interventions in the Middle East, nuclear weapons and the military industrial complex, the damaging and divisive myth of American Exceptionalism, the unprecedented consumption of natural resources and the resulting environmental damage, the 21st century crusade against Islam, and Kim Kardashian and the worship of fame.

You’re with us or against us. USA! USA! USA!

Similarly, individual responsibility is why America has no social safety net, imprisons more of its citizens than any other major country, is the only western democracy to still have the death penalty, fails to recognize systemic injustice, champions the second amendment, has 6 of the top 15 cities with the most homeless residents, sees poverty as a sin, and believes that a black President marks the end of racism.

They had it coming. Sink or swim. Should’ve known better.

Still, I find myself drawn here. I love Canada but ran into its limits.

I hope my daughters grow up with the best of this country and deep, personal ambition to fix the rest.


Next Level Astroturfing

The for-profit appropriation of social movements is in full swing.

Obama’s election victories, the marriage equality victory, and the Net Neutrality victory have served as rapid incubators for internet-based activism. They’ve created an unprecedented level of talent, tools, and tactics that, so far, are pretty much undefeated. The allure of that record has caught the attention of the private sector.

The use of mission-driven rhetoric by Valley tech companies and start-ups – ‘But what we’re really trying to do is save the world.’ – is a truism at this point. It’s referenced in countless articles on how to recruit and retain millennial employees. It’s the central tenet in the cults of Jobs and Musk. (Though I’m an admitted fan of Musk.) And it’s the frequent object of ridicule.

But the for-profit appropriation of the tactics of social movements makes mission-driven tech rhetoric, greenwashing, and corporate social responsibility cause-related marketing seem harmless in comparison. It’s a real threat to those of us who wield those tools for good.

Overuse will blunt their impact. Misguided use will undermine public faith. And the private sector has more resources to throw at the innovation required to stay ahead of both these trends.

The Republican use of working class rhetoric to dismantle the labour movement demonstrates what can happen when organizing falls into the wrong hands.

Here’s hoping the Election Workers Class of ’16 stay true to their beliefs and resist the siren call of stock options.


#149 – 1159 Dundas Street East

Those who know me well know I spend every free minute and dollar working on the design and construction of my home. It’s a passion I inherited from my mother, my frequent companion on adventures to salvage yards.

My family is moving to New York. I’ve been offered an amazing role, which I’ll post about shortly. But it means that my design project of the last 15 years is complete.


The good news is that if you like what you see it can be yours. We listed our home for sale this week, bringing an end to our time in Leslieville and Dundas Street East.

I designed and built everything in these photos, including the walls, layout, and cabinetry; even much of the furniture. I’ve spent countless hours in workshops and at the wheels of rented vans reclaiming salvaged materials and re-purposing them into contemporary design.

I’ve loved every minute of it. Especially spending time with my friends – Alan, Gregor, Chris, Marty, and Martin – who’ve made the time to lift their side of things and my family – Powell, Catherine, Claire, Simon, D’Arcy, Nancy, David, Linda, Adelaide, and Audrey – who have helped and tolerated me in equal measure. Finally, a big thank you to Stephani Buchman,  Christopher Hazard, and Trevor Black for helping me document it all.

Wherever we land in New York, I’m looking forward to the next project.


Ultimate Leslieville Food Guide

My wife and I have lived in Leslieville since 2001. We’ve seen the neighbourhood evolve and restaurants come and go. We’ve eaten pretty much everywhere. This post is to save you the hassle.

Best Coffee: Mercury. It was the first high end coffee place to open and remains the best.

Best Breakfast Sandwich: The Winter Warmer with a fried egg at Rashers. It’s all made fresh and the Sriracha gives it an amazing kick.

Best Breakfast: Is at Jim’s. Keep it simple and go for the basic fry-up. The Leslieville Diner is also a good bet.

Best Brunch: There is always a line at Lady Marmalade. We’re never really sure why. We much prefer the brunch at Lil’ Baci. The Eggs Benedetto is really good.

Best Lunch Sandwich: Brick Bakery makes the best tuna sandwich on the planet. Fresh bread and perfectly seasoned.

Best Bakery: Also Brick. The cinnamon roll, the blueberry cheese turnover, and the sourdough.

Best Ice Cream: Can’t go wrong with Ed’s Real Scoop.

Best Pizza: If you’re after traditional, cheesy, comfort food for movie night its Danforth Pizza House (get extra cheese). If you’re after a big, classic Italian pie go to Tommaso’s. And if you want hipster goodness go to North of Brooklyn. The delivery options are generally all poor.

Best Burger: I have to go with Great Burger Kitchen. The burgers are big, very well spiced, and made with fresh ingredients.

Best Chicken: Best roast chicken is at George’s Deli & BBQ at Sherbourne & Dundas. Best fried chicken is at Chick-N-Joy. Absolutely perfect.

Best Greek: Best kebobs are at Astoria. Best pastries are at Athens.

Best Vietnamese: It’s Pho House. Trust us. We eat here twice a week. My daughter’s favourite food in the world.

Best Indian: Is Makkah. The butter chicken has a smoky note to it. The samosas are amazing. But the best is the chili chicken.

Best Chinese: Kaka Lucky Seafood BBQ. Eat anything with the pork in it.

Best Thai: The original Sukhothai location on Parliament.

Best Date Night: It’s at Goods & Provisions. Run by a local couple, service is impeccable, cosy atmosphere, and amazing food. A true treasure.



mozillaI’ve let my long-time friend and Executive Director, Mark Surman, know that April 10th will be my last day as an employee of Mozilla.

The last 5 years have been an amazing ride. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.

There are learning, fundraising, and advocacy programs where there weren’t before. We’re empowering hundreds of thousands of people to teach each other the web. We’ve built a $15M/y fundraising program from scratch. And we’ve helped Mozilla find its voice again, playing a lead role in the most significant grassroots policy victory in a generation and the largest ever in telecommunications: the battle for net neutrality.

I’m grateful to Mark and Mitchell Baker for the opportunity and trust to help build something great, to my colleagues for their focus and dedication, and to all of Mozilla for fighting the good fight.

While the 10th will be my last day as an employee, I’ll be around until the end of June as a consultant, helping with the transition of my portfolio to new leadership. I’ll announce my new home closer to that time.

For now, as always, once a Mozillian always a Mozillian.

Thanks again to all of you. I’m looking forward to seeing what we accomplish next.


Infographic: Contribution & Fundraising in 2014

2013 was an amazing year. Which is why I’m especially proud of what we accomplished in 2014.

We doubled our small dollar performance. We tripled our donor base. We met our target of 10,000 volunteer contributors. And we matched our exceptional grant performance.

We also launched our first, large-scale advocacy campaign, playing a key role in the Net Neutrality victory.

But best of all is that close to 100 Mozillians share the credit for pulling this off.

Here’s to 2015 and to Mozilla continuing to find its voice and identity as a dynamic non-profit.

A big thank you to everyone who volunteered, gave, and made it happen.