Interview with Jos Poortvliet
Jos Poortvliet , tell us about yourself. Who are you?
Hey, I’m a Dutch Free Software enthusiast living in Berlin with my Brazilian
wife Camila. I’ve been around Free and Open Source for over 10 years, mostly
active around marketing and community related things.
I’m active in marketing, helping the project communicate to the outside
world. But also internally and between SUSE and openSUSE. I am also active
on the governance side of the project, with strategy or board related things
and helping to handle conflicts if they arise.
He, good question. In the beginning, many people expected me to take charge
and play a leadership role. As that is clearly something which does fit
neither openSUSE nor me, I did not do that and made very clear that I did
not see that as my job. Instead, I presented myself as a contributor who had
to earn his place like everybody else. I think I did that, in the last
years, and today people come to me for advice mostly in the areas of
communication, marketing and conflicts – and I happily stay out of
especially technical decisions.
Depends on what you are looking for, what you want to create. If it is
something like the ARM project or a new openSUSE derivative, it SHOULD
affect the project – ARM is adding something to openSUSE, so are the
derivatives. That is good!
So, just announce it as that – a cool, new thing in openSUSE. That is not
particularly hard to communicate. I would not communicate it before it has
something to show for and in most cases that means first gathering some
people who want to work on it and making a ‘first release’, then announcing
where you plan to take it and inviting people to join.
Of course, it would be possible to create a project which might not be
naturally seen as an addition. Say, you want to ‘fork’ openSUSE into a more
stable (or more bleeding edge) version. That is an entirely different thing
and should be handled with a little more care: one can imagine that this
takes up resources which otherwise might be put in openSUSE Factory, for
example. But here, too, I think it is important to first talk to some core
people, get a team up, create a ‘proof of concept’ and simply have a clear
plan. Then, based on what objections you expect, make sure to communicate it
in a non-threatening way.
We have some statistics but these focus around the release, marketing and
user base (number of downloads, page views to our sites, number of active
installations, things like that). And we have some idea about development
(number of commits to Factory, amount of work in devel projects). We have
very little, if any, info on communication related things.
“assigned” tasks per volunteer and successfully finished task per volunteer?
I have very little idea here. First of all, because I am restricting myself
to a subset of the community: the marketing area. Second, because my work
frequently shifts and I don’t always interact with the same people. And
last, because I don’t keep metrics like that – I work very much on a one-on-
one base. I’m not saying that that is the best way to do it but I’m not much
of a number man 😉
It depends quite a bit in what area and what skills he/she brings. But you
are often looking at quite a long time – a minimum of a month but easily
half a year.
Sometimes, when I’m actually mentoring new people…
I try to catch it myself but often, I delegate based on trust. So if a
volunteer doesn’t do something, well, it doesn’t get done. That is
There are a lot of reasons – but for me, the most important part is the open
mind. Every project has people angry at the world, every project has
friendly and unfriendly people. But overall, openSUSE as a community is very
open to both newcomers and working with others. We’re not such a navel-
gazing community, we pragmatic and willing to look outside our borders,
adopting technologies from other communities and working with them on it.
That is maybe not totally unique, but certainly rare.