ROSE Blog Interviews: KDE Project's A. L. Spehr

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Oct 06, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Q: Who are you?

A: A. L. Spehr, "Alex" – blauzahl online.

I co-founded KDE's BugSquad, a bug triage group. I've done all sorts of other little things for the KDE Project as well. Through people I met working with the KHTML (browser rendering) people, I was hired into my current job at froglogic GmBH.

Q: What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

A: Lately I've been coordinating the KDE presence at various conferences in the USA. Our country is lagging behind the rest of the world in our publicity outreach. The first half of this year, between development and promotion work, I was going to at least a conference a month. After having three in a row, I'm taking a break from that for a few months. I also coordinate BugDays, which are held by BugSquad to go look through old bugs. You don't need any programming knowledge, so it is a good place to enter the KDE world. Many of the people who started with us are now regular contributors.

In both of these roles, I direct people towards where they can go for more information about what they are interested in. We need more than just coders! There's also people who do usability, translations, art, promotion and marketing, and more.

Q: You're speaking to a group of women from other fields who are considering switching careers. Why should they consider moving into an open source related career? What should they know about the open source environment to prepare them for the transition from a different field?

A: I'm not entirely sure what open source-related careers are, so this is hard for me to answer, but I can give some general advice for starting in the open source world.

Everything you do is archived on the internet forever. This is scary. Especially when you realize that will include your newbie contributions that won't be as good as your later ones will be. Both will stick around. But you'll get better as you gain more experience.

Submitting a patch means someone will review it, and they might say something that doesn't seem nice. Ask someone else in the project if that person is like that in general before assuming they are specifically targeting you. Odds are they just aren't happy with something in the patch, and if you fix it, they'll be happy to use it. You'll find that some people are happy to help. Figure out who those people are, make sure they are technically competent, and then use them as tutors/mentors. Your project lead will probably be one of them. If they aren't friendly, switch projects/groups!

Q: You're speaking to a group of high school students. Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

A: Working with open source projects means that you'll always be on the cutting edge of using new technologies. You'll find this is good for your resume. But doing Free Software is volunteer work – you get to pick your own projects based on what you are interested in. So take advantage of that and follow your interests. Meet as many people as you can. You'll find it might turn into paid work, either in or outside of open source.

People are one of the strong points. In a large project like KDE, you'll find people from all over the world. It's neat to be able to say that you know someone from Iran, and to get an eyewitness account of current events there. And it's fun to travel to conferences. I've met all kinds of great folks, and some have turned into close friends.

Q: What question do you wish I'd asked? And how would you answer it?

A: Keep your eye on http://dot.kde.org for our next BugDay! You just need a current version of KDE to help out.

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