OpenSUSE's new tech evangelist spells it out

Novell has joined the trend in appointing a community manager for its SUSE Linux distribution. Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier spells out what it is all about.


As a journalist, Joe "Zonker" Brockmeier had a job he loved. Since 1999 he brought passion to his coverage of Linux and open source. Now, he's taking his advocacy to a whole new level. His new role as community manager at Novell will enable him to further the cause of openSUSE, the Novell-sponsored community project to develop and maintain a general purpose Linux distribution.

Tell us about your new role. What do you see as the purpose of a "community manager"?

First and foremost, I plan to advocate the community's needs to Novell. I'll consult with users, openSUSE contributors and the upstream developers who work on projects that are rolled into openSUSE to discover pain points and what's working well. Novell can use that information to create tools the community can use to solve problems and improve openSUSE.

We'd also like to provide a roadmap into the community for potential contributors, and I know that existing community members will be able to help with that. Particularly for non-developers, figuring out how to get started with a project can be a bit difficult, and even intimidating. I want to remove barriers that inhibit people from using and contributing to openSUSE.

At the same time, I want to make sure people know about openSUSE, what's going on with the distribution, where improvements are being made, and why they should try openSUSE if they're not using it already.

What attracted you to the position?

A few things. First, I've been covering Linux and open source as a journalist since 1999, and I'm very interested in seeing Linux and free/open source software succeed, so the opportunity to be directly involved with a project like openSUSE is extremely exciting for me. It's a chance to have a direct impact on accelerating the adoption of Linux and open source. I'd like to do all I can to make that happen.

Second, I think although openSUSE is an excellent distribution, it hasn't been quite as well-promoted as it could be, so I want to have a hand in getting the word out about openSUSE (and Novell's other contributions to open source) and seeing that the distro has its due.

Third, Novell seems genuinely interested in strengthening the openSUSE community by giving people the tools they need to grow and build an even better distro, and Novell also seems interested in giving non-Novell community members a more prominent voice in openSUSE development.

The long-term success of Linux and open source rests on a happy balance between the community and the companies that use open source software as part of their product offerings. Novell is actively trying to find that balance, to both its benefit and the community's.

I'm also excited about learning from and working with the openSUSE team.

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