Interview with Elizabeth Krumbach

O’Reilly Open Source Award recipient Elizabeth “pleia2” Krumbach shares how she got her start in open source.

UU14_interview.pdf 103.19 kB

allows you to determine whether the environment

 

is one you’re comfortable

 

with, some are more friendly than others.

 

Q You are active in many open source

 

projects. Can you tell readers a little

 

about those projects and how they can

 

contribute?

 

A The big projects I’m involved in on

 

the Ubuntu side are probably Ubuntu

 

Classroom [7], News [8], and Women

 

[9]. For all these projects, we have chat

 

channels and mailing lists where you

 

can learn what we do, and new contributors

 

are welcome.

 

In Xubuntu [10], I am the website and

 

marketing lead, but we’re a small team,

 

so I pitch in with testing, documentation,

 

and whatever else comes along. There are

 

tasks that often come up during team

 

meetings, which everyone is welcome to

 

attend, and on the development mailing

 

list. We talk about docs and art and everything

 

that goes into making Xubuntu

 

here, too, not just highly technical things.

 

I really love local community (LoCo) [11]

 

Ubuntu teams, so I do a lot of work with

 

Ubuntu California [12] these days and

 

run the server that hosts the US [13] and

 

Pennsylvania [14] websites.

 

Finally, I would caution against joining a

 

project and simply saying, “Hi, how can I

 

help?,” because most projects aren’t really

 

equipped to answer that question when

 

they know nothing about you. You really

 

want to find an area that interests you and

 

ask specifically if there is something you

 

can do, or better yet, find a task yourself

 

and approach them about it. My serious involvement

 

with Xubuntu began because I

 

noticed the website wasn’t updated much

 

and I offered to help maintain it.

 

Q Looking back over your time in

 

open source, do you have any idea how

 

Q Congratulations on winning an

 

O’Reilly Open Source Award [1]. For

 

readers who haven’t heard about that

 

award: What is it? What did winning this

 

award mean to you personally?

 

A O’Reilly gives five Open Source

 

Awards [2] per year at OSCON [3], and

 

this award is given to people who have

 

“demonstrated exceptional leadership,

 

creativity, and collaboration in the development

 

of Open Source Software.”

 

Although I do a lot of work in open

 

source, I have to admit to being surprised

 

by winning. I’ve never made an effort to

 

be a particularly public figure in the open

 

source world, and my work has been

 

driven by interest and digging into projects

 

where I saw things needed to be done. It

 

was quite an honor to be recognized.

 

Q If you could give one of these

 

awards to an unsung hero in the community

 

who would it be? Why?

 

A Many people I’ve worked with over

 

the years are exceptional. I’ve always

 

been impressed by the work and longterm

 

commitment of Daniel Holbach [4]

 

in the Ubuntu community [5]. Not only

 

does he have the skills as a true leader

 

within the community and is someone I

 

always know I can talk to, he’s also a

 

talented developer.

 

Q What advice would you give anyone

 

wanting to get started either using an

 

open source application or distribution?

 

A The first advice I’d give is to not

 

expect it to be a free clone of other software

 

you’re familiar with. Particularly

 

when you’re learning to use something

 

like the Unity desktop [6] environment

 

in Ubuntu, when you truly approach it

 

as something new, you’ll find yourself

 

learning new shortcuts and all kinds of

 

better ways to do things.

 

I’d also say don’t be afraid to try new

 

things or break things. You’ll be in the

 

process of learning and you never learn

 

so much as when you’re breaking things!

 

Q What makes getting involved in

 

Open Source projects and communities

 

so important? Do you have suggestions

 

for readers who want to transition from

 

user to contributor?

 

A The benefits of getting involved with

 

open source are pretty obvious from the

 

perspective of the project – they get your

 

expertise. There are also a lot of benefits

 

for you, including getting to work in an

 

interesting community with a variety of

 

people, real experience with whatever

 

facet of open source work you’re contributing

 

to, and it’s common for people to

 

get career boosts from contributing. From

 

my work in the open source world, I now

 

have friends all over the world – and

 

often visit when I’m in town – and my career

 

has certainly benefitted.

 

When you start out, I’d suggest finding

 

a project you’re interested in and visiting

 

the project website to see if they have any

 

kind of “get involved” link that may have

 

lists of things you can work on to help. If

 

not, I’d say join their mailing list or chat

 

channel to get a feel for the community.

 

Tasks will often surface – my first contribution

 

to open source was writing docs

 

[documentation] for a project after the

 

lead developer mentioned in chat that

 

they really needed to be rewritten. It also

 

O’Reilly Open Source Award recipient Elizabeth “pleia2” Krumbach

 

shares how she got her start in open source. By Amber Graner

 

Community Contributions:

 

Beyond The Technology

 

Image courtesy of O’Reilly & Associates

 

[CC-by-SA].

 

News Interview: Elizabeth Krumbach

 

12 ISSUE 14 Ubuntu User www.ubuntu-user.com

 

many volunteer hours you’ve invested in

 

these projects? What drives you to keep

 

doing it?

 

A I’m almost afraid to guess. For the

 

first several years I was working with

 

open source it wasn’t a lot – maybe a

 

few hours a month. For the past four

 

years or so, it’s been like a second job. I

 

put in at least 10 hours a week, sometimes

 

upwards of 20.

 

The more you get involved, the more

 

you’ll see places where you can help, so

 

it’s easy to become more involved. After a

 

while, it’s saying no to new opportunities

 

that becomes hard. I think what keeps me

 

going is that I honestly care about the success

 

of the projects I work on, so I do

 

whatever I can to make sure they are sustained.

 

I’m also fortunate to be at a point

 

in my life where I have the resources and

 

means to spend so much time working on

 

things I’m passionate about.

 

Q You are a member of Ubuntu Community

 

Council. Can you tell readers

 

what that council is, how you get to be

 

part of it, and what the council does?

 

A The Community Council (CC) [15]

 

is one of the two governing bodies of the

 

Ubuntu community, the other being the

 

Tech Board [16]. The CC pretty much

 

handles non-technical decisions and disputes

 

within the project, including

 

changes to the Code of Conduct, helping

 

other projects, and staffing smaller

 

boards and councils. We’re also available

 

to talk to when people need advice

 

about the direction of a project or are

 

having problems in their community or

 

finding blockers that they need help getting

 

through. At our meetings every

 

other week, we invite feedback about

 

the state of the Ubuntu project from anyone

 

in the community.

 

The Community Council is, with the

 

exception of Mark Shuttleworth who is a

 

permanent member, elected by Ubuntu

 

Members [17] every 2 years. Any

 

Ubuntu Member can be nominated for a

 

role on the CC, but those who are

 

elected tend to be those who have a history

 

of being well-respected for their

 

fairness and dedication to the project.

 

Q What is your current distribution of

 

choice? What operating system did you

 

start with?

 

A I’m currently using Xubuntu on most

 

of my systems at home, and Debian [18] on

 

most of my servers. My first Linux distribution

 

was Red Hat 7.2 [19], and 10 years ago

 

I started using Debian. When I discovered

 

Ubuntu in 2005, I put it on a laptop and

 

WiFi worked out of the box, so I kept with

 

it, installing the Xfce desktop [20] because

 

it was an older system. My day job is as a

 

systems administrator, and we use a debbased

 

distribution, so it was easy for me to

 

stick with the same at home.

 

Q What have been some of the most

 

exciting and rewarding moments for you

 

as part of the Ubuntu Community? Also,

 

what are some challenges you’ve had to

 

overcome? What did you learn about

 

yourself and about being a better leader

 

because of those experiences?

 

A The local community (LoCo) teams

 

are where I really have found the most

 

exciting and rewarding moments. From

 

meeting people from other LoCos when

 

I’m traveling to attending events put on

 

by the local team during the Ubuntu Developer

 

Summit (UDS) [21], it never

 

stops being an inspiring source of involvement.

 

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is dealing

 

with conflict when I’m personally

 

friendly with people on both sides of the

 

conflict. As a leader, I’ve had to make and

 

stand by some personally painful decisions

 

that have impacted people I care

 

about. Similarly, I struggle with the balance

 

between giving people chances to

 

improve their behavior and the harm it’s

 

inflicting upon the community. Fortunately,

 

I work with a lot of other great

 

leaders, and my tendency toward personal

 

forgiveness is tempered by their

 

passion for making sure the broader environment

 

is a healthy place to work.

 

Q Is there anything I haven’t asked you

 

about that you would like to discuss?

 

A I didn’t talk much about Ubuntu

 

Women, but the goal of getting more

 

women using and involved with open

 

source has been a passion of mine for

 

many years. At first it was driven by selfishness

 

– I didn’t want to be the only

 

woman in the room – but I’ve since

 

learned from studies about diversity that

 

projects and teams simply work better

 

and are more successful when they are

 

diverse. Because I want open source to be

 

as great and successful as possible, I

 

think increasing diversity is a healthy way

 

to get there, and the struggles many

 

women face in open source is one I’m

 

personally familiar with. We never have

 

enough contributors, and ignoring half

 

the population because they didn’t have

 

the same opportunities or encouragement

 

to get involved with open source isn’t a

 

great way to fix this problem. I’m quite

 

proud of the work Ubuntu Women has

 

been doing to promote female role models

 

and mentors throughout our community

 

and to offer a space where women

 

can meet and collaborate.

 

Q Thank you, Elizabeth, for taking

 

time out of your busy schedule to talk to

 

us about Ubuntu and its community. n

 

[1] OSCON 2012 – O’Reilly Open Source

 

Awards video:

 

http:// youtu.

 

be/

 

szl‑_

 

D_HLTs

 

[2] O’Reilly Open Source Awards:

 

http:// tinyurl.

 

com/

 

cz2qoey

 

[3] OSCON 2012:

 

http:// www.

 

oscon.

 

com/

 

oscon2012

 

[4] Daniel Holbach:

 

http:// daniel.

 

holba.

 

ch/

 

blog/

 

[5] Ubuntu Community:

 

http:// www.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

community

 

[6] Unity: http:// unity.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

[7] Ubuntu Classroom Blog: http://

 

ubuntuclassroom.

 

wordpress.

 

com/

 

[8] Ubuntu News Team Wiki:

 

https:// wiki.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

NewsTeam

 

[9] Ubuntu Women:

 

http:// wiki.

 

ubuntu‑women.

 

org/

 

[10] Xubuntu: http:// xubuntu.

 

org/

 

[11] LoCo Teams: http:// loco.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

[12] Ubuntu California Loco Team:

 

http:// loco.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

teams/

 

ubuntu‑california

 

[13] Ubuntu US:http:// ubuntu‑us.

 

org/

 

[14] Pennsylvania Loco Team: http:// loco.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

teams/

 

pennsylvania

 

[15] Ubuntu Community Council: https://

 

launchpad.

 

net/

 

~

 

communitycouncil

 

[16] Ubuntu Technical Board:

 

https:// launchpad.

 

net/

 

~

 

techboard

 

[17] Ubuntu Membership Wiki: https://

 

wiki.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

Membership/

 

[18] Debian: http:// www.

 

debian.

 

org/

 

[19] Red Hat 7.2:

 

http:// tinyurl.

 

com/

 

d86ymbc

 

[20] Xfce: http:// www.

 

xfce.

 

org/

 

[21] Ubuntu Developer Summit:

 

http:// uds.

 

ubuntu.

 

com/

 

INFO

 

Interview: Elizabeth Krumbach News

 

www.ubuntu-user.com Ubuntu User ISSUE 14 13

09/04/2012