Meet Sriram Ramkrishna

Sriram Ramkrishna, frequently known as Sri, is perhaps GNOME’s oldest contributor. He’s been around the community for almost as long as it’s been around!

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I’m one of the oldest members of GNOME having recently past my 50th birthday. I started in GNOME in late 1997, at the time I was a storage engineer working for Intel. I remember feeling amused when someone in GNOME heard my background and asked whether Intel was going to be involved. They weren’t, but it turns out they did later. In fact, it’s because of GNOME that my work life changed from being a simple engineer to a multi-faceted person with not just technical skills but soft skills.

I’m well known in a number of other communities — free software community primarily, but also corporate open source thanks working 20 years at Intel.

What’s your role within the GNOME community?

I primarily do engagement work — social media, public relations, and talks in the community. But I also try help solve specific problems within the project. One current project I’m working on is to help improve the GNOME extensions. I have an on-going project to help with developer documentation using HotDoc. That’s been somewhat lagged and I hope to find time to help lead that effort again.

Why did you get involved in GNOME?

Miguel was a charismatic leader, and attracted me that way. Plus I hate C++, and GNOME was C based. :D But more than that, GNOME was a project that if you think about it was audacious in its purpose. Building a desktop in 1997 around an operating system that was primitive in terms of user experience, tooling, and experience. I wanted to be part of that.

Why are you still involved with GNOME?

Because GNOME is always a forward thinking project. There is still a lot of exciting potential and it’s like we’re only now getting started. The past 20 years was all about getting to the stage so that we can start doing some real innovation. We’ve reached parity with OSX and Windows — mainstream desktops. But now we can leverage the power of ideas even further.

What are you working on now?

Well, right now I’m involved in building a market for Linux applications. It’s no more audacious than the concept of GNOME itself. Five years ago, I had this idea that now that we had come up with ubiquitous app technology, that we can start working on building models that allow for compensation for free software developers, application stores so that developers can know how popular their apps are, and build relationships with the users who use their applications. A lot of this is encapsulated in a conference called Libre Application Summit. We did two iterations of that, and this year we’re expanding the scope and changing the name. Linux Application Summit will be a joint collaboration with KDE and hopefully distros in the future to help create the conditions needed to build modern, useful applications on a free software platform.

What are you excited about right now — either in GNOME or free and open source software in general?

Other than the conference. I’m generally excited about where GNOME is going. I think we have challenges to overcome and I’m excited about overcoming those challenges. In the FOSS community in general, there are challenges with encroachment by big business who I think are still trying to figure out how to exploit the labor of developers and we should ever be vigilant that we keep things fair and balanced between all parties.

What is a major challenge you see for the future of GNOME?

I think for GNOME as a platform, our challenge is to make sure that we have relevant documentation for users and developers. If there is one effort that I wish we could all participate in, it is that. It comes down to how low the barrier of entry is. How one picks one platform over the other is almost always depends on how quickly you can put together an application. Building a library of code, videos, and documentation is what will make GNOME successful. The second thing is that projects like GNOME Builder will also be critical to our success. I’m excited by the idea that I can build an application and have it be easily distributed everywhere and I don’t have to use arcane tools to do it.

What do you think GNOME should focus on next?

Documentation I think is going to be important, building relationships with other organizations and a very active foundation that will put their resources into building a solid infrastructure. So it’s not just one thing, but many.

Edited for content.