ROSE Blog Interviews: Ohio LinuxFest's Moose

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Aug 19, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Meet Moose – When it comes to Ohio LinuxFest, she's a juggler extraordinaire and a woman who wears many hats.

Q: Who are you?

A: I am Moose: unemployed, disabled, System Administrator. I am the Speakers Chair for Ohio LinuxFest 2009, as well as coordinator for part of the training day the day before the conference (OLFU) and the Diversity in Open Source Workshop on Sunday.

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

A: I organize and encourage. I do the above stuff for Ohio LinuxFest. I work with an organization called the League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA) to organize training events – we mostly pair with OSS conferences such as OLF and SCaLE. I attend OSS conferences to speak about my One Big OSS Passion, OpenAFS, which I've been working with since (long) before it was open source, and I help organize a yearly conference about OpenAFS, too.

I'm not a coder, I've never been a coder, and I'm not even going to play a coder on TV. I put in my energies where I can and I hope folks are happy with what I can do. Sometimes it's tough. It's common in the OSS world for people to assume that if you can't code you're worthless to the project(s). Dare I mention the time a(n in)Famous Perl Person told me that if I can't code I should "go flip burgers"?

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: As a sysadmin, OSS can be a little daunting at first, especially if you've been used to "corporate run/licensed" stuff. While most OSS has support contracts available from somewhere, you're more likely to get your help online: from IRC, from mailing lists, from chat rooms, from friends.

You need to learn to not be afraid to network, even online; you need to learn to ask questions (and expect morons to ridicule them -– no matter where you go there are people [of all genders] who feel superior by mocking others); you need to press on until you find what you need. Eventually you will find an ally, then more. There are usually multiple places for help. If one becomes too overwhelming, put your energy into another.

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

A: More and more companies are turning to Linux and *BSD variants to fuel their computing infrastructure – heck, even supercomputers today are running them.

The nice thing about learning one variant of Linux or BSD is that once you've got a handle on one you can quickly come up to speed on another variant. Sure, there are some serious differences (kickstart vs. fai, rpm vs. yum vs. apt, etc.), but once you've got the basic understanding of how Linux or BSD works, you can pick up the differences as you go along. Startfiles are almost always in some version of rc*.d, config files in /etc, ps usually looks the same.

Best of all, all you need to try out a new OS is a computer and a network and/or a boot disk. Been using Linuxes and want to start learning NetBSD? Go play!

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

A: Actually, I want to grab the soap-box for a moment and talk about "diversity." The reason the Sunday workshop at OLF is about "Diversity" and not just women is that OSS needs to be more diverse as a whole. And it's not just about gender or ethnicity.

Working with the OLF crowd has been interesting, but some have clearly shunned me because – gasp – I don't really like Linux. It doesn't mean I'm not a fan of OSS, or don't use OSS. But even if I did – so what?

Why do we shun people who use Windows (or Apple) machines? There's a lot of OSS for both – isn't this a chance to teach without insisting they reinvent their world with a whole new OS right off the bat?

Why do we think people with college degrees are automatically somehow smarter or better than those without?

Why is it acceptable to think that workers in other countries are somehow less competent than those in the US?

I could go on, but the point is, a truly open community is open to all.

If you are a woman in open source, I'd love it if you'd take a moment to answer these interview questions and send your responses to me at rkite AT linuxpromagazine DOT com. (Otherwise, I'll try to track you down at an event or online!) If you'd like me to interview a particular woman in open source, drop me a line and let me know who she is and where to find her.

Additional reading:

Interview with Carla Schroder

Interview with Kelaine Vargas

Interview with Beth Lynn Eicher (Ohio LinuxFest)

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