My responses…

As promised…

The rules:
  1. Copy/paste these rules and questions into a blog post, answer the questions, then tag some other people (however many you like) and encourage them to do the same.
  2. Include a link to the original post.
  3. You don’t have to be tagged to take part — if you see this post and want to play, just dive on in. Simple!
The questions:

How (and when) did you originally get involved with an open source project? Which projects have you contributed to?

I first got involved with open source-related stuff in 1999 when I started Linuxchix (still going) and the Open Source Writers Group (long since dead). In addition to those, I’ve contributed to the PA-RISC/Linux project (about forty million years ago), and the Mozilla project, plus little fiddly-bits here and there.

Why did you choose to contribute to an open source project?

Because I could. I had been using Linux for a few years at that point and I loved it — I loved the community and the openness and everything else about it. When I realized that I had the skills and ability to make real and useful contributions, I got involved. Linux and the open source community had given me a lot, and I wanted to give back however I could.

If you were to pick one or two people who have had a major influence on your involvement with open source, who would those people be? Why?

Chris Beard: Some 10 or 11 years ago, I read about Chris and the Puffin Group (a small Linux consulting company) on Slashdot and sent Chris (a complete stranger) an email asking for a job. He hired me. This is a pretty short story for what has ended up being a decade-long friendship. I have an enormous amount of respect for Chris and the work he does — easily one of the most visionary and driven people I’ve had the privilege of working with.

Mike Shaver: Some 10 or 11 years ago, I met shaver the day before his wedding to which he immediately invited me (a complete stranger). I declined, and I regret that decision to this day because Mike has turned out to be one of my best friends. I’m going to stop now because I’ll just get teary-eyed, and it would take more than a few hours to talk about how his friendship has (actually, and for reals) changed my life.

Both Chris and Mike are why I’m part of Mozilla now, and I believe I still owe them both a beer or two for that.

How have you personally benefited from being involved with open source projects?

Getting involved with open source turned into a career for me. Mozilla, in particular, has been spectacular because this project encourages people to push beyond themselves and to reach for and learn new things all the time. I’ve learned more and done more in the past five years of being involved with Mozilla than I would have been able to do in any traditional organization, had I been able to wedge a foot in the door.

Not only has it become a career, being involved with open source has (as I foreshadowed before) lead to some of my deepest and most lasting friendships. It turns out that open source projects are a fantastic way to meet like-minded (but oh-so-entertainingly diverse) people. I know, talk to, and work with incredibly brilliant and passionate people all over the world, every day. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

What advice and/or encouragement would you give to someone who is considering getting involved with an open source project?

Do it! Get involved. Persevere. Step up. Be brave. It can be awfully intimidating and overwhelming when you first start out, but don’t give up. Find some niche where you can make a contribution, then just get started. It could be the best thing you’ve ever done.

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