Get to Know Julita Inca – Building a GNOME Community

As GUADEC draws near, we’ve been curious about the people behind community events. We’ve sat down with Julita Inca to learn more about what it takes to rally a community and organize and plan events. Julita is a professor in Peru, teaching database and operating systems, and is also involved in High Performance Computing (HPC) research. She’s been organizing and hosting events in Peru for the last 6 years. Read on to learn more about what it was like to start and build GNOME’s community presence in Peru!

Image courtesy of Julita Inca

Where are you from and where are you based now?
I’m from Perú, and I’m based in Lima.

How long have you been contributing to GNOME?
Since 2011. Before joining I began preparing myself by learning more about Linux Programming starting in 2009. I officially started contributing in 2011. I started getting involved in communities. In universities here they have the philiosophy to share knowledge, so I started getting in touch with friends at other universities who were also studying Linux, and I met a member of the board in 2010, Diego Escalante, who is also Peruvian. He started to get me interested in combining both work with Linux and communities, and he told me about GNOME. I was using GNOME, but I didn’t know it! So I applied in 2010, read more, got to know more about the community, and entered officially in 2011.

You’re very active within your community, especially when it comes to planning events. What motivated you to become so involved?
I won an internship, and it was my first travel abroad. I went to Cincinatti because Shaun McCance organized Open Help 2011 and gathered all of the GNOME Documentation guys there in his event. I started understanding how people behaved, which was different from how Peruvians do. Three months later I traveled to Germany to present my work with GNOME. There I met more people, and attended GUADEC, and I saw a very active and huge community. I hadn’t seen that here- the conferences in Peru were just based around lectures, but at GUADEC it was more about people, how they knew each other. In Peru we just didn’t have that.  I’m trying to get that here.

What are some challenges you have faced in planning events and unifying your local community?
I have faced many ones. The first one is to get partnerships or allies. Every year I try to get bigger and bigger events. The first one in 2011 was with 13 people. I was contacting friends, “Come on, we’re going to do Linux!” The first ones all said, “No, thank you, not today!” Those first 13 were a challenge for me. The next year I went to Spain for GUADEC and it was different, with different resources, so I started applying those. In 2012 I organized a Linux camp. GNOME sponsored my event with $400, and we celebrated Linux for one day, in a place 2 hours outside of Lima, and that was with 30 people. I knew the best way to start projects was by having a good time. The third year in 2013, I hosted one at my university with 86 people, in 2014 at IBM with more than 200 people, and in 2015 it was the biggest, with more than 300 people. Wherever I am I try to get along well with authorities so they let me host my events. Now it’s part of my life. When I worked at IBM, it took me 6 months to convince the authorities to let me host the event there. They were hesitant to have the IBM name paired and partnered with GNOME. I knew their name would attract people, and we had more than 200 people that year!
Linux Camp 2012, Image courtesy of Julita Inca
Linux Camp 2012, Courtesy of Julita Inca
I also want to get more Peruvians involved in GSoC and other things like that, but it has been a challenge. I’ve known 13 countries because of GNOME, and I try to tell people my story. I’ve realized that people don’t come just for install parties, they want more than that. I started to develop strategies. For example, the 6 of us who organized the event in 2013 presented our jobs and how they relate to GNOME. There was a movement, the Harlem Shake, and we did that there! This year my camp was 5 days long, and I helped them do everything for their applications for GSoC, even fill out the forms! I got more people applying to GSoC, nobody was chosen, but they promised me that they will apply again next year. So I have a plan now- it’s not just one event, its a plan with many different projects.

Do you have any tips for people who want to plan events or get their local community interested and involved in GNOME?
One is getting good sponsors that believe in Linux. That Linux is education. Sponsors give gifts and little things, but they have to believe in the event, so it’s important to present benefits and give a talk on it. For Peru it’s a social thing. I opened my mind with Linux, it fostered me to do my PhD, and it has encouraged me to want to use Linux in all aspects of my life, it developed the sharing philosophy, and to be grateful with the people that helped me, contacts from around the world.
The last event that I did this year, I didnt want just users, I wanted developers too. I had contact with HackSpace Perú, which does similar things, training people, and doing volunteer things related to any operating system. I decided to do the event with them. They gave me people who develop, I showed them Linux. And something that really helped me a lot to have more audience to my conferences was local news. One of my tips, besides having people that believe in you, have the same interests, it’s also kind of a business. It’s important to have those allies and partnerships.

And now for some fun questions…
What is your favorite place on Earth?
The beach. Anywhere with sand, beach, a laptop… and wifi if possible!

If you were an ice cream flavor, which one would you be, and why?
Maybe Lucuma, because it’s native from Peru, originally. It’s so intense, like me!

What is your spirit animal?
A bee. I’m always in movement, I like to do many things, and I believe that if people do something together as a team they do many amazing things. Alone you cannot do anything. …And I like sugar! *laughs*

Finally, our classic and important question; what do you think cats dream about?
They’re thinking about what to do next… they’re cold thinkers. Calculating what’s next! They are mischievous, they are so smart!

A huge thank you to Julita for taking the time to answer all of our questions, and for all of her hard work in organizing events and building GNOME’s presence in South America!
GNOME Peru Fest 2015, Image courtesy of Julita Inca
GNOME Peru Fest 2015, Image courtesy of Julita Inca

Cosimo Cecchi: Long-time GNOME contributor, first-time GNOME Board member

Meet Cosimo, a first-time member of the GNOME Board

Cosimo has a long history of contributing to GNOME, beginning in 2007. Since then, he has remained active in various development projects. Just this last year, in July of 2015, he joined the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors. Read on to learn more!

Cosimo Cecchi
Image CC-BY-SA 2.0 by Jakub Steiner

Where are you from and where are you based now?

I am originally from Florence, Italy, but I have been living in the US for the past few years. I am based in San Francisco, California.

What has been the most exciting part of being in the GNOME community?

It’s hard to find one single thing that made GNOME exciting for me.
I’ve been involved in many development projects over the years, and more recently with the Board of Directors, which made me approach the community from a very different angle.

I think the constant among all of this has been working with amazing people; who works in GNOME mostly does so because they chose it and not because someone told them so. That, together with the lack of hierarchy and the diversity of backgrounds creates an unique group that is hard to find otherwise. I feel like I always keep learning!

GNOME Foundation Board of Directors at GUADEC 2015. From left to right: Allan Day, Cosimo Cecchi, Jeff Fortin, Andrea Veri, Christian Hergert [no longer on Board], Ekaterina Gerasimova, and Shaun McCance. Missing: Alexandre Franke. Image CC-BY-SA 4.0 by Garrett LeSage.

What is your main role being on the board?

Technically I am vice-secretary, which means I’m responsible for taking minutes when the secretary (Andrea Veri) can’t attend the meeting. But I’ve also been involved with various other initiatives related to sponsors, fundraising and PR.

What have you learned from your time participating on the board?

Being on the board is a very different involvement than being a developer.
As an engineer, I’m always drawn to find optimal solutions to problems, and most of the times it’s very clear what can be a good or a bad way to face an issue.

However, most of what is discussed on the board are not technical issues, and sometimes a lot more care and empathy are needed to navigate them.
I feel that my time on the board has taught me to be more nuanced in the way I express my judgement, and more understanding of positions that are different from mine.

It also opened up a different perspective of how much goes on behind the scenes to organize events such as GUADEC, which are easy to take for granted when you’re just an individual contributor to a development project.

Overall, it has been a great experience so far, and since elections are upcoming, I encourage others that may be interested to take the plunge and run as candidates!

Do you have any advice for newcomers or for those who have been less engaged lately?

It’s never too late to start contributing, or to get back to contributing, if one has been involved in the past already.

While approaching a large and established project like GNOME can naturally be intimidating, we take pride as a community for welcoming everyone and any contribution.

One may also think that coding is the only way to get into the project, but that’s far from true! There are countless ways that one can make a difference, from translations to documentation to organizing a local event, and they’re all equally important in the eyes of the community.

And now to switch gears and ask you some silly questions…
If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?

Teleportation!! Wouldn’t it be cool?

What is your favorite dessert?

I usually like simple desserts. One of my favorites is an Italian fruit tart called “Crostata di frutta”.

What is your spirit animal?

Parrot. I have always loved how cheerful and colorful they are!

Finally, and this one is important; what do you think cats dream about?

I think they dream about being big tigers or lions, hunting large preys and just generally being a big boss!

Thanks Cosimo, for all that you do on the board, and for taking the time to answer our questions!

Meet Shobha Tyagi from GNOME.Asia Summit 2016

This month’s community spotlight is on Shobha Tyagi, one of the volunteer organizers of GNOME.Asia Summit 2016.

Courtesy of Shobha Tyagi
Courtesy of Shobha Tyagi

Shobha’s history with GNOME began when she participated in the Outreach Program for Women (OPW) internship in December 2013, with GNOME as her mentoring organization. She attended her first GUADEC in 2014 while she was an OPW intern, and met Emily Chen, who introduced her to the GNOME.Asia Summit.

Passionate about helping to spread GNOME throughout Asia, Shobha was resolute to rise to the challenge of bringing GNOME.Asia Summit to her home in Delhi, India. Fast-forward two years, Shobha is proudly leading the local organizing team of GNOME.Asia, which is ready to lift its curtain in Delhi, on April 21, 2016.

We chatted with Shobha about GNOME and her experience organizing GNOME.Asia.

Why did you choose to work with GNOME for your OPW internship?
To be honest, I thought that since GNOME organizes OPW, I would receive the most productive mentoring from GNOME. Sure enough, that happened! I decided to make my initial contribution to Documentation, and after that I met my guru and mentor, Ekaterina Gerasimova.

Courtesy of Shobha Tyagi
Courtesy of Shobha Tyagi

Do you have a favorite thing about GNOME?

My favorite thing about GNOME is its people. The same people who create it, maintain it, and use it – they are what makes GNOME really great. I really enjoy committing my patches directly to the upstream repositories and meeting the contributors in person. I also get great satisfaction whenever I tell people about GNOME and let them know how they can also contribute.

You submitted the winning bid to host GNOME.Asia Summit 2016; do you have any tips for those who are interested to bid for upcoming GNOME conferences?
Sure! It does help if you have attended a GNOME conference in the past, but once you have made up your mind to bid, have faith in yourself and just write your proposal.

Can you describe a challenge you faced while organizing the GNOME.Asia Summit and how you overcame it?
There are many challenges, especially when you are the only one who knows the ins and outs of the event and have a limited amount of time. I’m surrounded by very supportive people. Even so, people expect more from the person who lays the initial groundwork. I thank the summit committee members for their tremendous help and persistence through countless IRC meetings and discussion, without which, it would have been impossible to overcome all of the small obstacles throughout the entire planning experience.

What’s the most exciting part about being an organizer?
The most exciting part is learning new things! Writing sponsorship documents, calling for presentations, picking up basic web development skills, identifying keynote speakers, chief guests and sponsors, amongst other things. I learned first-hand what goes into designing logos, posters, and stickers. There were also other tasks that I wouldn’t have had to do in a normal situation like arranging a day tour to Taj Mahal for a big group.

Life after GNOME.Asia Summit Delhi; what is going to be your next project?
After the GNOME.Asia Summit, I would like to focus my efforts on establishing a GNOME user group in Delhi.

Advice for eager newcomers and first-time contributors?
My advice for them is to come and join GNOME! GNOME enables you and me to contribute, and when we contribute, we help each other improve our lives. If you are committed, you can commit patches too.

And now, some fun questions. What is your favorite color? 

Favorite food?
All vegetarian Indian food.

What is your spirit animal?
Cow! They have a calm demeanor, and symbolize abundance and fertility since they represents both earth and sky.

Finally, and this one is important; what do you think cats dream about?
Cats dream about being loved, cared for and pampered by their master.

Shobha is helping to organize the 2016 GNOME.Asia Summit while working as an Assistant Professor at Manav Rachna International University, and pursuing a doctorate in Software Engineering. She has been a Foundation member since 2014, and has previously contributed to the Documentation team.

Thank you so much, Shobha, for sparing some of your time to talk to us! We wish you a successful Summit!

Interviewed by Adelia Rahim. 

Learn more about Carlos Soriano, the main contributor of Nautilus

We sat down with Carlos Soriano, the main contributor of Nautilus in 3.20, to learn more about the man behind the project.
Courtesy of Carlos Soriano
Courtesy of Carlos Soriano

Where are you from and where are you based now?
I’m from Spain. I grew up in a city called Girona in Catalonia. Now I’m living in Brno, in Czech Republic.

How long have you been contributing to GNOME?
Three and a half years.

How and why did you get started at GNOME?
During the second or third year of university I joined a computer graphics research group and discovered the Linux world. I knew I wanted to gain practical knowledge, and when I saw Allan Day’s mock ups for GNOME shell, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I was really excited about it! I started reading the GNOME Wiki, and it took me about two weeks to get up and running.

A lot of hard work has gone into Nautilus for 3.20; what is your favorite feature?
The search! We have provided some new tools and interface, and almost everything we did revolves around the search. It’s the biggest work we did on 3.20.

What about Nautilus are you most excited about? Do you have any ideas on where it will go from here?
I joined Nautilus one and a half years ago. My dream goal was to rework the views. The icon view’s code is 16 years old, so it holds us back with everything. It makes it difficult to have the capabilities that phones and web have, like adjusting the number of items shown or the spacing between them. Also, we can’t use GTK inside icon view, so we cannot add any smart visuals, widgets, or animations. We’re set back because of the code, and need to redo all of it. It’ll take a lot of time, so as to implement new features, but it will be worth the effort, and we will likely have icon view for the file chooser as well. Making progress towards this goal is what makes me most excited.

How many contributors have been involved this release?
2 with GNOME. I have been the main contributor, along with Georges, my GSoC student. And around 10 people helped with random patches, including developers from distros and also newcomers.

We see you’re again a mentor for this year’s round of GSoC. How has mentorship factored into your own life and career?
I have always liked to teach. I started teaching IT to children in a school, and I would also teach a bit of math, physics, and other similar subjects. Whenever I have the opportunity to be a mentor, that’s the first thing I  want to do. Because I love to teach. Last summer I had a really great student named Georges Estravacas, and we created a great relationship. Not only my student learns, but I also learn how to teach and how to make people happy about contributing to GNOME. It’s something that helps both the student and me to make progress.

And now to switch gears and ask you some silly questions…
What is your favorite color? 
Azul marino! (navy blue)

Favorite food?
I went vegan 4 months ago. It was sushi before, but now I would say vegan burgers.

What is your spirit animal?
Dog! They’re always cheerful, they have a great attitude, and they always try to cheer everyone up.

Finally, and this one is important; what do you think cats dream about?
I think they’re always conspiring to take over the world!

Thanks to Carlos for answering our questions during such a busy time of the release cycle. We can’t wait to see what he and the rest of the Nautilus team have in store for us next!