openSUSE community manager Jos Poortvliet joins ownCloud: Exclusive Interview

Jos Poortvliet, the most friendly face of the openSUSE community, is joining ownCloud as Community Manager. ownCloud doesn’t need any introduction; it is one of the most promising Free Software technologies which lets users benefit from ‘cloud’ without losing the ownership of data and computing – something that happens with public cloud services offered by players like Dropbox or Google Drive. We have been covering ownCloud from its early days so I was curious about Jos joining ownCloud.

When I asked what value would Jos Poortvliet bring to ownCloud, Frank Karlitschek, the co-founder of ownCloud said, “Jos has a huge amount of experience with open source communities and how to push free software forward in general. As a Community Manager he will help to grow the ownCloud contributor community and will also help to spread the word beyond the usual open source crowd. I think that ownCloud and decentralized web services are super important nowadays to protect a free internet.”

ownCloud works very closely with other Free Software communities like the KDE Community,, etc. and Jos is also a strong supporter of collaboration between the free software communities so it seems like a perfect match. Frank says, “Yes. ownCloud is working closely together with other free software projects like KDE, GNOME, openSUSE, Fedora and many others. I think we all have to work together to provide a free computing environment for users including free cloud infrastructure. So collaboration is absolutely key.”

ownCloud has created a model similar to Red Hat model. ownCloud has a very strong community around it which is continuously growing, while the company is also raising funds by getting more investors. “No Free Software project can survive without a strong community and looking at Jos’ contribution to openSUSE and KDE I am positive about ownCloud benefitting from his experience.” Frank agrees and tells me more about the ownCloud community and Jos’ engagement with this community, “ownCloud already has between 200-300 contributors from all over the world who help with improving the ownCloud core, 3rd party app, translations, testing and many other areas. Jos will work together with all the other core people to grow this even more.”

Here is the first Exclusive interview of Jos Poortvliet as the Community Manager of ownCloud

The Interview

Swapnil: What will be your role at ownCloud as a Community Manager?
Jos: ownCloud is of course very exciting, with the ambition of bringing control over your cloud data back into your hands! I think it is incredibly important for consumers that this is available for everybody.

I hope to help make that happen in a few areas. Certainly a big part will be to help the community with marketing and promotion, not just of the project but also the people who make up the community. There are great things going on around ownCloud and that is worth talking about! I will be going to events, writing, working on marketing materials. And I don’t like to work alone so I’m sure to kick some others into helping out with this!

Another part of the job will be to help Frank (and others) out with the social side of the community. Dealing with differences, perhaps, or helping the community find directions and make choices.

Swapnil: What actually is the role of a Community Manager? Why does someone need to manage a free software community?
Jos: I guess the term community manager means a lot of things – and in most companies just boils down to the person who tweets a lot ;-)

There is a big PR aspect to community management, of course – a primary part of the job is to grow the community. So marketing, talking, writing, and yeah, social media I suppose. The ‘management’ part of the job is about handling the relationship of the company with the community. So it is not about managing people or anything like that but taking care that the company takes the right steps with regard to the community. Answering questions like “should we do X, what will the community say?” or “how can we help the community best?” for example. Explaining how the community works to new employees, trying to improve collaboration with the volunteers, things like that.

Swapnil: ownCloud works very closely with the KDE and FreeDesktop community as Frank being an active developer there, so how will your joining ownCloud affect these two projects?
Jos: You forgot openSUSE ;-)

But yeah, we have relationships to communities in the Free Software ecosystem, of course. Not just with those, but many more. How this affects them? It will become even easier to talk to each other.

Swapnil: ownCloud is yet trying to gain momentum within the community but still doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time, as it does lack a lot of prime time features, so what changes do you expect in the community version?
Jos: First, I don’t agree it is not ‘ready for prime time’. Yes, there is a great opportunity for ownCloud and a lot of work to be done to seize it. But we already have easily over a million users, a huge and active community and technical abilities that satisfy most important use cases.

ownCloud Inc is hiring developers all the time. You might have seen the closing of a funding round last month: we are growing, and fast. We have over a 100 well known customers (including the atom smashers at CERN) and we are always adding features and improving the existing functionality. Of course, much of this work goes directly into the ownCloud code, only a little is in enterprise-only features.

Swapnil: Are you looking for developers for ownCloud, if yes why would someone join ownCloud, are there any job opportunities that arrive with gaining exp in ownCloud?
Jos: Yes, we’re hiring and mostly from the ownCloud contributor community. But it is not just us – we have some big customers and companies involved in ownCloud which might hire good people as well. And of course, being involved in a well known project like ownCloud looks great on anybody’s resume.

Swapnil: When one looks at the ownCloud community what are we looking at – just the developer or more than that? What are the areas where ownCloud needs more help from the community?
Jos: Well, I obviously would like to build up a bit of a marketing team! It would be great to have people write more blogs about what is going on inside ownCloud development. And how about getting a bit of writing done for magazines perhaps, explaining their readers what we are up to? And there is documentation, bug finding and triaging… Loads of work to be done outside of PHP development.

Swapnil: How can someone join ownCloud as a community developer?
Jos: Oh, that is terribly easy: fork something on github, build what you want and send a merge request! Of course it is smart to hang out on the #owncloud-devel IRC channel and the mailing list and so on. In general, it is very smart to begin at this page and take it from there:

And while you’re at it – documenting your trip towards development into that manual would be appreciated, lots of things are not yet as well documented as we’d like!

About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.