Search Results: "Meike Reichle"

20 March 2015

Zlatan Todori : My journey into Debian

Notice: There were several requests for me to more elaborate on my path to Debian and impact on life so here it is. It's going to be a bit long so anyone who isn't interested in my personal Debian journey should skip it. :) In 2007. I enrolled into Faculty of Mechanical Engineering (at first at Department of Industrial Management and later transfered to Department of Mechatronics - this was possible because first 3 semesters are same for both departments). By the end of same year I was finishing my tasks (consisting primarily of calculations, some small graphical designs and write-ups) when famous virus, called by users "RECYCLER", sent my Windows XP machine into oblivion. Not only it took control over machine and just spawned so many processes that system would crash itself, it actually deleted all from hard-disk before it killed the system entirely. I raged - my month old work, full of precise calculations and a lot of design details, was just gone. I started cursing which was always continued with weeping: "Why isn't there an OS that can whithstand all of viruses, even if it looks like old DOS!". At that time, my roommate was my cousin who had used Kubuntu in past and currently was having SUSE dual-booted on his laptop. He called me over, started talking about this thing called Linux and how it's different but de facto has no viruses. Well, show me this Linux and my thought was, it's probably so ancient and not used that it probably looks like from pre Windows 3.1 era, but when SUSE booted up it had so much more beautiful UI look (it was KDE, and compared to XP it looked like the most professional OS ever). So I was thrilled, installed openSUSE, found some rough edges (I knew immediately that my work with professional CAD systems will not be possible on Linux machines) but overall I was bought. After that he even talked to me about distros. Wait, WTF distros?! So, he showed me I was amazed. There is not only a better OS then Windows - there where dozens, hundreds of them. After some poking around I installed Debian KDE - and it felt great, working better then openSUSE but now I was as most newbies, on fire to try more distros. So I was going around with Fedora, Mandriva, CentOS, Ubuntu, Mint, PCLinuxOS and in beginning of 2008 I stumbled upon Debian docs which where talking about GNU and GNU Manifesto. To be clear, I was always as a high-school kid very much attached to idea of freedom but started loosing faith by faculty time (Internet was still not taking too much of time here, youth still spent most of the day outside). So the GNU Manifesto was really a big thing for me and Debian is a social bastion of freedom. Debian (now with GNOME2) was being installed on my machine. As all that hackerdom in Debian was around I started trying to dig up some code. I never ever read a book on coding (until this day I still didn't start and finish one) so after a few days I decided to code tetris in C++ with thought that I will finish it in two days at most (the feeling that you are powerful and very bright person) - I ended it after one month in much pain. So instead I learned about keeping Debian system going on, and exploring some new packages. I got thrilled over radiotray, slimvolley (even held a tournament in my dorm room), started helping on #debian, was very active in conversation with others about Debian and even installed it on few laptops (I became de facto technical support for users of those laptops :D ). Then came 2010 which with negative flow that came in second half of 2009, started to crush me badly. I was promised to go to Norway, getting my studies on robotics and professor lied (that same professor is still on faculty even after he was caught in big corruption scandal over buying robots - he bought 15 years old robots from UK, although he got money from Norway to buy new ones). My relationship came to hard end and had big emotional impact on me. I fell a year on faculty. My father stopped financing me and stopped talking to me. My depression came back. Alcohol took over me. I was drunk every day just not to feel anything. Then came the end of 2010, I somehow got to the information that DebConf will be in Banja Luka. WHAT?! DebConf in city where I live. I got into #debconf and in December 2010/January 2011 I became part of the famous "local local organizers". I was still getting hammered by alcohol but at least I was getting out of depression. IIRC I met Holger and Moray in May, had a great day (a drop of rakia that was too much for all of us) and by their way of behaving there was something strange. Beatiful but strange. Both were sending unique energy of liberty although I am not sure they were aware of it. Later, during DebConf I felt that energy from almost all Debian people, which I can't explain. I don't feel it today - not because it's not there, it's because I think I integrated so much into Debian community that it's now a natural feeling which people here, that are close to me are saying that they feel it when I talk about Debian. DebConf time in Banja Luka was awesome - firstly I met Phil Hands and Andrew McMillan which were a crazy team, local local team was working hard (I even threw up during the work in Banski Dvor because of all heat and probably not much of sleep due to excitement), met also crazy Mexican Gunnar (aren't all Mexicans crazy?), played Mao (never again, thank you), was hanging around smart but crazy people (love all) from which I must notice Nattie (a bastion of positive energy), Christian Perrier (which had coordinated our Serbian translation effort), Steve Langasek (which asked me to find physiotherapist for his co-worker Mathias Klose, IIRC), Zach (not at all important guy at that time), Luca Capello (who gifted me a swirl on my birthday) and so many others that this would be a post for itself just naming them. During DebConf it was also a bit of hard time - my grandfather died on 6th July and I couldn't attend the funeral so I was still having that sadness in my heart, and Darjan Prtic, a local team member that came from Vienna, committed suicide on my birthday (23 July). But DebConf as conference was great, but more importantly the Debian community felt like a family and Meike Reichle told me that it was. The night it finished, me and Vedran Novakovic cried. A lot. Even days after, I was getting up in the morning having the feeling I need something to do for DebConf. After a long time I felt alive. By the end of year, I adopted package from Clint Adams and Moray became my sponsor. In last quarter of 2011 and beginning of 2012, I (as part of LUG) held talks about Linux, had Linux installation in Computer Center for the first time ever, and installed Debian on more machines. Now fast forwarding with some details - I was also on DebConf13 in Switzerland, met some great new friends such as Tincho and Santiago (and many many more), Santiago was also my roommate in Portland on the previous DebConf. In Switzerland I had really great and awesome time. Year 2014 - I was also at DebConf14, maintain a bit more packages and have applied for DD, met some new friends among which I must put out Apollon Oikonomopoulos and Costas Drogos which friendship is already deep for such a short time and I already know that they are life-long friends. Also thanks to Steve Langasek, because without his help I wouldn't be in Portland with my family and he also gave me Arduino. :) 2015. - I am currently at my village residence, have a 5 years of working experince as developer due to Debian and still a lot to go, learn and do but my love towards Debian community is by magnitude bigger then when I thought I love it at most. I am also going through my personal evolution and people from Debian showed me to fight for what you care, so I plan to do so. I can't write all and name all the people that I met, and believe me when I say that I remember most and all of you impacted my life for which I am eternally grateful. Debian, and it's community effect literally saved my life, spring new energy into me and changed me for better. Debian social impact is far bigger then technical, and when you know that Debian is a bastion of technical excellence - you can maybe picture the greatness of Debian. Some of greatest minds are in Debian but most important isn't the sheer amount of knowledge but the enormous empathy. I just hope I can in future show to more people what Debian is and to find all lost souls as me to give them the hope, to show them that we can make world a better place and that everyone is capable to live and do what they love. P.S. I am still hoping and waiting to see Bdale writing a book about Debian's history to this day - in which I think many of us would admire the work done by project members, laugh about many situations and have fun reading a book about project that was having nothing to do but fail and yet it stands stronger then ever with roots deep into our minds.

6 April 2012

Raphaël Hertzog: People Behind Debian: Francesca Ciceri, Member of the Debian Press & Publicity Teams

Francesca Ciceri, photo by Andrew McMillan, CC-BY-SA 2.0

I met Francesca in Debconf 11 in Banja Luka. If I recall correctly, it s Enrico Zini who introduced me to her, because she was the madamezou (her IRC nickname) who started to get involved in the publicity team. Since then and despite having a bachelor thesis to complete she got way more involved and even gained official responsibilities in the project. Before starting with the interview, I wanted to mention that Francesca is drafting a diversity statement for Debian I was expecting the discussions to go nowhere but she listened to all objections and managed to improve the text and build a consensus around it. Thank you for this and keep up the good work, Francesca! Rapha l: Who are you? Francesca: My name is Francesca, I m 30 and I studied Social Sciences. Currently I live in Italy but I m planning to go abroad (not a lot of jobs here for geeky social scientists). Apart for Debian and FLOSS world in general, I have unrestrained passions for chocolate; zombie movies; sci-fi; zombie books; knitting sewing crafting and DIY in general; zombie videogames; bicycles; pulling apart objects to look inside them; splatter B movies, David Foster Wallace s books, playing trumpet, and did I already mentioned zombies? Days are too short for all this stuff, but I try to do my best. Raphael: How did you start contributing to Debian? Francesca: Some years ago I was stuck in bed for literally some months, due to a grave series of migraine attacks. I wasn t able to do anything: no social life, no books or television. So, I decided to turn on the laptop and do something constructive with it: I was already a Debian user and it seemed quite logical to me to try to give back to the community. I am not a coder and I ve not studied Computer Science, so my first step was to join an Italian Debian on-line community (Debianizzati) and help with tutorials, users support, wiki management. In a couple of months I learnt many things: helping other users with their problems forces you to do lots of research! My first contributions to the Debian project were mostly translations of the main website. Translators are the perfect typos spotters: they work so precisely on the text to be translated that they finish to do a great QA job. This is how I ve started to contribute to the Debian website: with very simple things, fixing typos or wrong links or misplaced wml tags. I still remember my first commit to the website: the idea was to undercase some tags, but it ended up that I misplaced some of them and in addition I fixed them only in the English page and not on the translations as well. When after a couple of minutes, K re Thor Olsen a long time contributor of the team and now webmaster reverted my commit, I felt so stupid and full of shame. But, to my great surprise, no one treated me like an idiot for that error: Gerfried Fuchs, one of the guru of the team, replies me in a really helpful and polite way explaining what I did wrong and how to do things correctly. I think this episode was a turning point in my Debian life: there s this idea that Debian Developers are just a bunch of arrogant assholes and maybe it was true in the past, but for my experience they are not. Well, at least the ones I met and work with ;) .
To my great surprise, no one treated me like an idiot for that error.
Since then, I joined the WWW team and helped them apply the shiny new design provided by Kalle S derman. A lot of work was done during the week immediately before the release of the new website. Oh that was a week! We worked night and day to have the new design ready for February 6th, and it was fantastic when we finally published it, simultaneously with the release of Squeeze. At the same time, I started to contribute more actively to the Debian Publicity team, not only translating news but also writing them. It can sound scary for a non native English speaker to write something from scratch in English, but you have to keep in mind that your text will be reviewed by native speakers before being published. And we have some fantastic reviewers in the English localisation team: particularly Justin B Rye, who is tireless in his effort and more recently Moray Allan. I think I m particularly lucky to work with all these people: there s a special mood in both Publicity and WWW team, which makes you feel happy to do things and at the same time pushes you to do more just because it s fun to work with them sharing jokes, ideas, rants, patches and hugs. Rapha l: I believe that you have been trough the new member process very quickly. You re now a Non-Uploading Debian Developer. How was the experience and what does this mean to you? Francesca: Becoming a Debian Developer was not so obvious for me, because I didn t need to be a DD for the work I do in Debian. For instance, I don t maintain packages, so I had no reasons to want to become a DD in order to have uploading rights. For a while I didn t really feel the necessity of being a DD. Luckily, some people started to pester me about it, asking me to apply for the NM process. I remember Martin Zobel-Helas doing this for an entire week every single day, and Gerfried Fuchs doing it as well. Suddenly, I realized that people I worked with felt that I deserved the DD status and that I simply had thought I didn t. As a non coder and a woman, there probably was a bit of impostor syndrome involved. Having people encouraging me, gave me more confidence and the desire to finally become a DD. And so I did. The process for non uploading DD is identical to the one to become an uploading DD, with one exception: in the second part of the process (named Tasks and Skills) instead of questions about how to create and maintain packages, there are questions about the non packaging work you usually do in Debian. The general resolution which created the possibility to become a non uploading DD gave us a chance to recognize the great effort of Debian contributors who work in various area (translations, documentation, artworks, etc.) that were not always considered as important as packaging efforts. And this is great because if you are a regular contributor, if you love Debian and you are committed to the project, there are no reasons to not be an official member of it. With regards to this, I like the metaphor used by Meike Reichle in her recent talk about the Debian Women Project (video recording here):
a Debian Developer status is a lot like a citizenship in a country that you re living in. If you live in a country and you don t have citizenship, you can find a job, buy a house, have a family [...] but if this country at any point in time decides to go into a direction that you don t like, there s nothing you can do about it. You are not in the position to make any change or to make any effect on that country: you just live there, but there s no way that you can excercise influence on the people who run this country.
Rapha l: You recently joined the Debian Press Team. What does it involve and how are you managing this new responsibility? Francesca: The Press Team is basically the armed wing of the Publicity Team: it handles announcements that need to be kept private until the release, moderate the debian-announce and debian-news mailing list and maintain contacts with press people from outside the project. The real job, so, is done within the Publicity Team. The most important part of our work is to write announcements and the newsletter: while the newsletter is published bi-weekly, the announcements need to be write in a shorter timeframe. Localization is really important in spreading Debian word, so we work closely with translators: both announcements and DPN are usually translated in four or five different languages. The publicity work could be stressful, as we have strict deadlines, we need to take quick decisions and often do last-minute changes. Personally, I like it: I work better under pressure. But I know that is sometimes difficult for contributors to accept that we can t debate endlessly on details, we have just to go on and do our best in a given timeframe.
The publicity work could be stressful, as we have strict deadlines, [ ]. Personally, I like it.
Raphael: You re one of the main editor behind the Debian Project News. What s the role and scope of this newsletter? Francesca: Debian Project News is our beloved newsletter, direct successor of the Debian Weekly News founded by Joey Hess in 1999 and later kept alive by Martin Schulze. In 2007, Debian Weekly News was discontinued but in 2008 the project was revived by Alexander Reichle Schmehl. The idea behind DPN is to provide our users an overview of what is happening inside and outside the project. As the core team of editors is formed by three people, the main problem is to be able to collect enough news from various sources: in this sense we are always glad when someone points us to interesting blogposts, mails and articles. DPN is also a good chance for non coders to contribute to Debian: propose news, write paragraphs and review the draft before the publication are quite easy tasks but very useful. English native speakers can do a proofread (as no one of the main editors is a native speaker) while others can always translate DPN in their native language. People who want to help us can take a look at our wiki page.
DPN is also a good chance for non coders to contribute to Debian.
Just yesterday I realized that since January we don t miss or delay an issue: so I d like to thank the fantastic team of editors, reviewers and translators who made it possible. The team is now working on another way of spreading Debian s message: a long-time project is finally becoming real. Stay tuned, surprise arriving! Raphael: You re trying to organize IRC training sessions but that doesn t seem to take off in Debian, while it s quite common in the Ubuntu community. How do you explain that? Francesca: I m not sure about it: both Debian users and contributors seemed to appreciate this initiative in the past. I was quite surprised by the amount of Debian members present during the various sessions and by the amount of interesting questions asked by the users. So the only reason I can think about is that I need to put more enthusiasm in convincing the teams to do it: they need more encouragement (or to be pestered more!). I, for myself, think that IRC training sessions are a great way to promote our work, to share our best practice, to talk about our project to a wider audience. And I ll sure try to organize more of them. Help, suggestions, ideas are really welcome! Raphael: If you could spend all your time on Debian, what would you work on? Francesca: There is a project I d like to give more love, but I always end up without the time to do it: the project. Back in 2007, Holger Levsen founded it with the aim of reducing the gap between Debian contributors and Debian users, giving all an opportunity to contribute, share ideas and more. The project was discontinued and I d really like to revive it: in these years various things have changed, but I think that the core idea of having a node to connect existing local communities is still good and doable. In Debian we don t have the wide and well articulated local infrastructure present in other distributions (Ubuntu, particularly, but also Fedora): even if I don t like too centralized structures, I think that a better connection between the project and local groups of users and on-line communities would be a step forward for the project. Being part of the Events Team, I m aware of how much we need to improve our communication with local groups. An example is the events organization: sometimes, Publicity and Events teams even don t know about regional Debian related events (like booth at conferences, workshops, talks, install parties, etc) and this is a shame because we could offer a lot of help in organizing and promoting local events. What we lack is better communication. And project could give us exactly this. Could be a cluster of local groups, a platform for events organization and even a useful resource for newbies who want to find a local group near them. I started some effort in this sense, sending a proposal about it, working on a census of Debian local groups. Any help is appreciated! I m really curious to see how many Debian communities (from all around the world and the web) are out there, and I d love to have members from these communities better connected with the Debian Project. Raphael: What s the biggest problem of Debian? Probably the bikeshedding feticism of almost all of us. It s the other side of the coin of Debian s commitment to technical excellence and our perfectionism, but sometimes it leads just to endless discussions about details, and it is a blocker for various initiatives. In Debian, you have to be really patient and in a way stubborn to push some changes. This is frustrating sometimes. On the other hand, I really appreciate how people take some times to think to each proposals, give some feedback and discuss about it: the process could be annoying, indeed, but the result is often an improvement of the initial proposal. Raphael: Is there someone in Debian that you admire for their contributions? Most of my teammates are simply brilliant and adorable and hard-working. But I have to admit that I particularly admire David Pr vot: beside being a webmaster he does a lot of things, from French translations to DPN editing. All his contributions have a great quality and he s able to push you always further in doing things and doing them better. He is a good example of how I d like to be as contributor: smart, tireless, friendly.
Thank you to Francesca for the time spent answering my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading her answers as I did. Note that older interviews are indexed on

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26 March 2012

Meike Reichle: To those who wondered ...

why I ... The answer is this little lady, who has been turning our priorities (and daily/sleep routine) upside-down for the last weeks and made us incredibly happy ... and equally unresponsive. a baby in a carry-sling Please bear with us, we won't be off the face of the earth forever. :)

5 December 2011

Meike Reichle: Bug Squashing Party in Hildesheim is over

Alexander has already announced the final results of this weekend's BSP, but I'd like to add my personal thanks. So, kudos to all attendees, for helping to make the BSP such a success and also to my employer for the generous budget and my colleagues, especially Wolfram to whose initiative we owe this BSP, for helping out before, during and after the party. All in all it's been an event well worth repeating!

18 November 2011

Meike Reichle: Reminder: BSP in Hildesheim, Germany, 2-4 Dec 2011

We still have some free spaces in the Hildesheim BSP, which is scheduled in two weeks. (Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th of December). If you need any additional information or want to come by please check the wiki page.

24 October 2011

Meike Reichle: BSP in Hildesheim, Germany, 2-4 Dec 2011

My generous employer has kindly offered to host the first Bug Squashing Party of the now commencing Wheezy Release BSP Marathon. Yay! We'll meet during the first weekend in December (Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th) in Hildesheim, Germany. There's a wiki page listing all important information. Please also use this page to sign up if you want to join us.

29 July 2011

Meike Reichle: Slides of my talks

I attached the slides of my talks to penta but they don't seem to show up so here are a couple links:

5 May 2011

Meike Reichle: Finally finished my registration for DC11

Let's see ... ... I guess I am going to DebConf :D I am going to DebConf 11

3 May 2011

Raphaël Hertzog: My Debian activities in April 2011

This is my monthly summary of my Debian related activities. If you re among the people who support my work, then you can learn how I spent your money. Otherwise it s just an interesting status update on my various projects. GNOME 3 packaging Right after the GNOME 3 release, I was eager to try it out so I helped the pkg-gnome team to update some of the packages. I did some uploads of totem, totem-pl-parser, gvfs, mutter, gnome-shell, gnome-screensaver. I also kept people informed via my blog and prepared a pinning file for adventurous users who wanted to try it out from experimental (like me). One month later, I m still using GNOME 3. There are rough edges still, but not so many. And I m starting to get used to it. Debian Rolling planning Debian Rolling is a project on my TODO list for quite some time. I decided it was time to do something about it and started a series of articles to help clarify my ideas while getting some early feedback. My goal was to prepare a somewhat polished proposal before posting it to a Debian mailing list. But as usual with Murphy s law, my plan did not work out as expected. Almost immediately after my first post the discussion started on debian-devel:
At this point it s a discussion thread of several hundreds of messages (there are several screens of messages like the one above). Many of the sub-threads have been interesting, but the general discussions mixed too many different things so that there s no clear outcome yet. Lucas Nussbaum tried to make a summary. Obviously I must adjust my plan, there s lots of feedback to process. I accepted to drive a DEP together with Sean Finney to help structure the part of the discussion that focuses on allowing development to continue during freezes. But I m also eager to fix the marketing problem of testing and have the project recognize that testing is a product in itself and that end-users should be encouraged to use it. Package Tracking System maintenance The Package Tracking System is an important tool for Debian developers, and it has been broken by some change on the Bug Tracking System. I worked around it quite quickly so that few people noticed the problem but Cron kept reminding me that I had to properly fix it. I ended up doing it last week-end. While working on the PTS, I took the opportunity to merge a patch from Jan Dittberner to enhance the news RSS feed that the PTS provides. And I also integrated information from (thanks to Mehdi Dogguy for reminding me #549115). Multiarch update Not much new this month. I fixed two bugs in the multiarch dpkg branch thanks to bug reports from Ubuntu users (LP 767634, LP 756381). I m still waiting on Guillem Jover finishing his review of the multiarch branch. I m pinging him from time to time but it looks like multi-arch is no longer in his short term priority list. :-( I ve been running this code for more than 2 months and it works fine. I want to see it merged. I m ready to update my code should anything need to be changed to please Guillem. But without any feedback we re in a deadlock. Misc dpkg work While fixing a bug in update-alternatives (found in one of the valid reports on launchpad), I noticed that there was room for improvements in the error messages output by update-alternatives. I changed them to reuse the same strings that were already used in other parts of dpkg. The result is that there are a few strings less to translate (always a nice thing for the poor translators who have to deal with the thousands of strings that dpkg contains). I also tried to fix some of the most cryptic error messages in dpkg (see #621763) but that work is stalled at the request of Guillem. Book update We (me and Roland Mas) are almost done with the update of our French book for Debian Squeeze. It will hit the shelves in July or September. I m starting to prepare the fundraising campaign to make an English translation of it. We ll use for this. On my blog I have been pleased to interview Meike Reichle, it s the first women that I have interviewed in the series but it s certainly not the last one. I also interviewed Adam D. Barratt, one of our tireless release managers. Thanks Many thanks to the people who gave me 180.35 in March and 235.37 in April. That represents 1.5 and 2 days of work for those months. See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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28 April 2011

Meike Reichle: What it's like to do Debian Press Work

A few days ago I did an interview for the People Behind Debian series that, among other things, covered my Debian press work and asked what it's like to do that kind of work for Debian. Here's a little addendum: Sometimes Debian Press Work is great: All these people do all this amazing stuff and it's a pure pleasure to talk about it. Our last release was such an experience for example. I was clamped to my laptop for almost 20 hours straight and I had a great time! There was this great common feeling of community, achievement and pride in our work and I was proud and happy to be a part of it. And then there are times like the last few days, where Alex and I went South for 4.5 precious and long-awaited days of vacation and ended up spending the first two of them working on an obituary for a dear and much valued member of our community and once this was done spent the remaining days of our holidays nervously watching the net and drafting and re-drafting press announcements because some <bleep> thought it might be oh-so-hilarous to send out faked cease and desist orders to a Debian user, ostensibly as a funny prank but along the way causing a huge amount of completely unsubstantiated FUD that we'll probably spend weeks clearing up. Somewhere in between these events is what Debian press work is like.

21 April 2011

Rapha&#235;l Hertzog: People behind Debian: Meike Reichle, member of Debian Women

Meike Reichle is a Debian developer since 2008 but has been involved for longer than that, in particular in Debian Women. She s a great speaker and shared her experience in a Debconf talk. She s also part of the Debian publicity team and managed the live coverage of the last release on Enough introduction, learn more about her by reading the interview. My questions are in bold, the rest is by Meike. Who are you? My name is Meike Reichle, I am a studied information scientist and work as a project manager at Pengutronix, an embedded Linux company probably best known for their ARM kernel work. I live in Germany, more exactly in Lower Saxony, but I was originally born and raised in Swabia. Although I moved here ten years ago I still have a rather strong Swabian cultural identity. (Among other things I pride myself on having introduced a number of fellow DDs to the true promise that are real hand-made Sp tzle ;-) ) I am married to Alexander Reichle-Schmehl, we ll have our third wedding anniversary this summer. Apart from Debian most of my spare time is used for all kinds of crafts and DIY activities. Making things with my hands always gives me a great sense of accomplishment. My Free software history is summed up pretty quickly. Like most women of my age I wasn t introduced to computers until well into my teens. I didn t have a computer of my own until I started studying at the university in 2001. From there on things developed rather quickly: Working on the University s Unix terminals got me hooked on *nixes, so I got me one of those Linuxes everyone talked about. I tried a couple of different distributions, ended up with Debian around 2004, started contributing in 2005, and finally became a full DD what a nice coincidence! exactly this day (Apr 18th) three years ago. You re part of Debian Women. How is the project going? I have the feeling that the number of women involved in Debian has not significantly increased. The amount of women active within Debian is a tricky thing to judge. Here s a quick example why: When the DPL was elected in 2004 there were 911 Debian Developers eligible to vote, 4 of them were female. Shortly after, during DebConf4, debian-women was founded. When the current DPL was reelected last month, there were again 911 Debian Developers eligible to vote, but this time 13 of them were women. You can look at these numbers and say The number of female DDs has more than tripled, what a success! Or you can pull out your calculator and it will tell you that in terms of ratio this puts us from a measly 0.4% to an only slightly less measly 1.4% ratio of female DDs. This still is pardon my language a bloody shame, but sadly also pretty close to the average ratio of women in Free Software. So, while I do think that the debian-women project did already have a significant impact on the Debian project as a whole, I don t think it has achieved its goals yet. Not for a long time. There s still a lot to be done but unfortunately the debian-women project has somewhat run out of steam at the moment. The seven years of its existence divide quite equally into the first half, which was very active and saw great results, and the second half, which was very slow and much more passive. In my impression debian-women is currently undergoing a rather bumpy generational change. On the one hand a lot of the original members, including myself, have reduced their involvement. Speaking for myself this is caused by shift of interests as much as general weariness. On the other hand there are only very few women following up. This development is also reflected quite harshly in DD numbers: If I don t misjudge any first names (and I desperately hope I do!) for the last three years not a single woman has joined Debian as a developer! After the great start debian-women has had, this is a very painful thing to see! That said, things don t look all bad. There is a number of women maintaining packages without being DDs and there s also at least one woman currently in NM, so there s hope this standstill won t last very much longer. But still, the fact remains that debian-women is suffering from a rather serious recruitment problem and I hope that this interview might actually help to spur some new or not yet active members into action. The aim of debian-women is far from achieved and now that its initial members are receding its time for new members to step up and take initiative. What should Debian do to be more attractive to women ? I think the general atmosphere has improved, we re less tolerant with rude behaviour, the usual tone on mailing lists has improved. Yet it doesn t seem to be enough. If there was a female DD for every time I answered that question First of all, I agree, Debian as a community has improved tremendously! Our general tone is much more friendly and cooperative and there is now a much better awareness of the impression we give to outsiders and newcomers. Now on to the difficult part: The question what should be done to get more women into Free Software has been around almost as long as Free Software exists, and it has been answered very well by a lot of people: Twenty years ago Ellen Spertus wrote Why are There so Few Female Computer Scientists? and most of it still holds true. Almost ten years ago Val Henson (now Aurora) wrote HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux and that also is still pretty accurate. In 2006 Floss Pols undertook extensive research to find out why there were so few women in Open Source and Free Software and how that could be changed. They also came up with a very good set of recommendations. All of these texts highlight different aspects of that question and all of them have very good points. I personally have, over the years, arrived at a rather sociological, not to say holistic point of view. In fact I answered the exact same question a few days ago, and the answer I gave then was this: After ~10 years of women in tech advocacy I d say the ultimate and final measure to get more women into Free Software is by finally achieving a truly equal society and at the same time dramatically improving child care support in almost any country. I ve come to the conclusion that what really holds women back in practice is not so much a lack of skill or interest but a simple lack of opportunity. For most of us Free Software is what we do in our spare time and that s something that women, even today, have considerably less of than men. Even in couples where both partners work full-time it is still mostly the woman who does the majority of the housework and child care duties. In most cultures men have a perceived right to their leisure time that does not to the same degree exist for women. That is one major reason, the other is instilled modesty, which has kind of become my personal arch-enemy by now. I ve talked to so many girls and women at all sorts of events about why they won t take up Computer Science studies or join a Free Software project and the answer I hear most often is that they do not consider themselves good enough in one or another aspect. Sometimes they will doubt their technical skills, sometimes their language skills, sometimes their stamina. Needless to say these girls and women were not any less qualified than the people already active in Free Software. So, yes, in the short and medium term making Debian a more welcoming and friendly place is the way to go. As many others pointed out already this will not only benefit prospective contributors but the community as a whole: those new to it as well as those who ve been in it for a long time. In the long term however what we need is empowerment! Women who are just as confident about their skills as men and are not discouraged by uncooperative environments. This is of course something that is culturally deep-rooted and can only happen in a very large time frame. So, for the moment the way to go in my view is accessibility: a cooperative atmosphere, a code of conduct, comprehensive documentation not only of technical aspects but also of structures and processes. The other thing we need to do is to have as many already active women as possible attend as many Linux/Debian/Free Software/Whatever events as possible. In my experience it happens quite often that other women see these women, feel very inspired by them, get to talk to them and then a few days later show up on some mailing list or IRC channel. From what I ve seen personal contact still beats any other kind of recruiting measures. You re a Debian developer but you re also married with a Debian developer (Alexander Reichle-Schmehl). Did you meet because of Debian? If not, who introduced Debian to the other one? :-) We did in fact meet because of Debian. More specifically during our booth shift at the Debian booth at LinuxTag 2005, where I did a talk on the debian-women project and Alex organised the DebianDay. After that our relationship developed pretty much along our Debian activities: After our initial meeting we talked a lot on, when Alex went to DebConf5 and I didn t we noticed that we kind of missed each other. The first gift he ever gave me was a Debconf5 shirt and a box Finnish chocolates (I still have one of them today. :) ) Our first secret kiss was at ApacheCon 2005, where we were both staffing the Debian booth (kudos to abe for pretending not to notice). We then became an official couple at Berlinux 2005 where we were both staffing the Debian booth and giving talks on packaging and user motivation. Our first real relationship stress test was when we both joined the DebConf6 orga team. It was a stressful time, but we passed it with flying colours! About a year later we announced our engagement via Our wedding was a veritable MiniDebConf, one of the best gifts we got was a Debian cookbook including the favourite recipes of DDs from around the world. By now we ve both finished university and work full-time jobs, so we don t do as many talks and attend as many Debian events as we used to. Instead we now mainly focus on press and publicity work, which is quite practical to work on as a pair. It s actually rather funny that way, Alex and I get confused with each other quite often, since we have almost the same name, often pick up on each other s E-Mail conversations and are most often quoted by our function rather than by name. Because of we have kind of merged into this virtual Debian Press Person in the perception of many of our contacts. You also have another hat : Debian Press Officer. What is this about? What would you suggest to people who would like get involved in that domain? Debian press work is mainly about providing an official and coordinated point of contact to anyone wanting information from or about Debian. The press team answers all sorts of inquiries (the most popular one is is of course always the next release date) and makes sure all important events and developments within Debian receive the attention and recognition they deserve. Debian is a diverse project where every sort of contributor is free to voice his or her opinion in any way. We don t have NDAs or prescribed terminology. That s one of the things I love about Debian but also something that makes us difficult to handle for conventional media. They want official statements, in generally understandable terms, at appointed times. That s what the press team takes care of. Almost all of the press work is done in the publicity team, which coordinates using IRC, Mail and SVN. The publicity team also publishes the Debian Project News, which are very popular among our users and developers. Press work is also an area of work that offers lots of possibilities for non-technical contribution. lists a number of possibilities for contribution and, like most Debian Teams, we d be more than grateful to get some more helping hands and happy to introduce interested newcomers to our work. What s the biggest problem of Debian? In my view: Overwork. Debian has thousands of contributors but still a lot of the main work rests on very few shoulders. We need more contributors, especially, but not only in the key teams. In order to get more people we need to do some marketing which is very hard for us, since we are very proud of our independence and have a strong focus on purely technical aspects rather than aiming for popularity. However, with the current amount of Open Source and Free Software projects to join we find ourselves not only in a contest on technical excellence but also a sort of popularity contest that is about perception rather than hard facts. This popularity contest is difficult for Debian and currently costs us quite a bunch of very capable people. Do you have wishes for Debian Wheezy? My answer to that is a non-technical one: I think Debian is currently very under-appreciated, we do a lot of great work and maybe even more importantly we do a lot of important work for Software Freedom, sometimes even at the cost of our above-mentioned popularity. I hope people will appreciate that more again in the future. Is there someone in Debian that you admire for their contributions? Over the years I have made a lot of friends within the Debian community, some have even become family. That makes it somewhat hard to single out individual people. I think what I admire most is continuous commitment. I am very impressed by those among us who have kept up a high level of commitment over many years and at the same time managed to bring that in line with a fulfilled personal/family life. That s something that I hope I ll also be able to achieve in the years to come.
Thank you to Meike for the time spent answering my questions. I hope you enjoyed reading her answers as I did. Subscribe to my newsletter to get my monthly summary of the Debian/Ubuntu news and to not miss further interviews. You can also follow along on, Twitter and Facebook.

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6 February 2011

Meike Reichle: Squeeze Release Live Dent Finished

That's it! Squeeze is released and the website's new design is in place. What a great day! In addition to the usual announcements on the website and mailing lists we decided to also do a live coverage of the whole process using this time! Alex and me have been doing a live coverage of Debian's release process for almost 19 hours straight and, although we're dead beat now, I think it was well worth it! People seemed to enjoy being included in the process and many expressed their admiration for Debian's well-coordinated and purposeful proceedings. Congratulations to all involved: the FTP team, the release team, the CD team, the www team and the publicity team! Great work everyone!

5 February 2011

Meike Reichle: Squeeze Release Live Dent

The Debian Press Team will provide a live coverage of today's squeeze release (Yaaay!) via Follow us at

21 March 2009

Meike Reichle: Chemnitz Linux Days 2009

This is my fourth CLT report and they surely are becoming repetitive! But every good event deserves a good report, so here goes: Contrary to previous years we already arrived on Friday this year. Since we were also not up for another stint with the gym (Aaah the sissifying effects of marriage!) we booked a room with a nice little guesthouse about 15 bus-minutes from the venue. The conference was great as ever: I usually visit the CLT mostly for networking but I also managed to see a few talks. I moderated the session on High Performance and got to see three very nice talks on GPU programing, cluster computing and parallel programming. This year also featured the first talk on (the lack of) women in Free Software. Unusually enough this one was even given by a man. I was quite curious about that talk, which was (how fitting!) scheduled in direct succession to my own. I am kind of torn on that topic myself. On one hand women in Free Software is a topic that is very important to me and deserves any attention it can get. On the other hand instead of talking about how evenly capable women are in Free Software I'd rather just demonstrate it, for instance by giving a good Free Software related talk. And instead of talking about how there should be more women in Free Software I'd rather just be one and try to encourage others with my example. The usual quota of female speakers at linux events is somewhere between 2-4% and I just don't like the idea of having a conference with n men talking about Free Software and 1 woman talking about women. I've had these settings before and it just doesn't sit well with me. Because of this I was quite please to find the topic being tackled by a man this time.
The talk itself, in my impression, left a few open issues though. It was rather brief and focussed mainly on stating the usual numbers, asserting that the Women in FLOSS movement wasn't about affirmative action or discriminating men and explaining how women feel discriminated by sexist behaviour and advertising and how objection to such things should not be mistaken as prudery. It's general advice on how to improve the quota of women in FLOSS mostly boiled down to the linuxchix slogan "Be Polite. Be Helpful.". What I missed most was practical advice to projects wishing to attract more female contributors, such as mentoring programs or low-threshold entry points. Also I felt that the talk lacked a real motivation beyond "gender balance is a Good Thing". However, I was glad the topic finally found its way into the CLT as well and I had a couple of very interesting discussions afterwards. Concerning my own talk I was rather satisfied as well. Attendance was - as usually in Chemnitz - very good, according to the organisers I got around 200 people. Since I designed the talk as a collaborative project and its feedback was predominantly good I'll continue developing it with the feedback I got and submit it again to other events. I think the topic is very worthwile and there's still a lot in it. Some people asked for a more collaborative way of contributing their thoughts and ideas so I'll just create a wiki to collect the new ideas. I'll of course announce it here as soon as it's in place. The slides and audio recording (both German) are as usually available from the talks page at CLT or my own talks section.

18 March 2009

Meike Reichle: Release consequences, as seen at CLT'09

Hey Martin, I think you better get that new edition finished real quick! A whole pallet of sarge books, given away for free Translation: Picture taken at Chemnitzer Linuxtage 2009.

5 February 2009

Meike Reichle: Looking for free projects!

Dear all, I am currently assembling a talk that discusses if and how the principles of free software can be applied to topics beyond operating systems and software. The first things that come to mind are surely the Creative Commons, free music, free films, free books etc. but I am sure that there is more, also even beyond the digital world. I already know a couple projects but I am looking for many many more! So, what examples do you know for applications of the free software philosophy that go beyond the usual software/OS area? I'd be happy for any hints, urls, projects, authors, bands, names etc. that come to your mind! To contact me, simply drop me an e-mail or prod me on irc (alphascorpii on OFTC and freenode).

14 September 2008

Meike Reichle: How to know ...

In response to Lior: How to know you're dating a free software guy? You can recognize you're dating a free software guy by: And the #1 way is:

13 September 2008

Meike Reichle: More Blatant Advertising: Eleonore Digital

Here's one more post for my own little "advertising section", where I introduce gender-related projects that I think are a good idea but deserve some more publicity. So, last time we had, this time I'd like to introduce to you the Eleonore Digital Project. In a nutshell they are organising a project where groups of students all over Europe work together in creating an educational 3D computer game that deals with the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Each team is assigned an episode or a certain aspect of Eleonore's life and they will research this, draft a concept and finally create their respective part or episode of the game. Doing this they will only work with free software, namely Debian as the Operating System, OOo, Blender etc. A longer (and better) description of what they want to do and the motivation behind all of this can be found in their project description or on the Eleonore Project site itself. In my opinion the project seems to be a really good idea and I wish them the best of luck! What I like most about it is that it is not exclusively for girls, so that it does not create a kind of "artificial biotope" for girls to work in. Instead it aims to rise the girls ratio by means of a project topic that (so I assume) mostly appeals to girls. And I am especially happy that when looking for a topic that appeals to girls they came up with something better than fan homepages, foto love stories, and what else you find in "girls IT projects" these days. I am pretty sure that reading and researching on the life of one of the most influential women in European history is going to do them much more good that creating princess-themes webpages! I am also quite happy that they picked Debian as their operating system. I think Debian being used in a school project is a nice example that it is in fact not as "user-unfriendly" as it is often claimed to be! I've also introduced the project to the Debian Women Project and Miriam had the very good idea to also forward it to the Debian Games Team, so I hope we'll get some good cooperation here.

29 August 2008

Meike Reichle: Where's Meike?

As September is traditionally the "conference month" I'll be travelling all around Germany within the next weeks. So, inspired by Matthew, here's a short list of events I'll attend in September 2008. If anyone's up for a coffee, keysigning or something let me know!

Meike Reichle: 3rd Congress on Solidary Economy Bremen

Poster for the 3rd congress on solidary economy in Bremen If you happen to be near Bremen, Germany around the 5.-7. September 2008 and have an interest in solidary economy, free software, renewable energies and the like you might want to stop by at the 3rd Congress on Solidary Economy (German website). I haven't been at the first two of these congresses but I was invited as a speaker for this one, so I'll be around at least on Saturday and probably also on Sunday. I'll mainly be on a panel on free and open source software which will take place on Saturday evening at 20:00. (Prime Time :)) But I've also let myself be talked into joining another panel at 17:00 which is somehow ubuntu-related (Communtu). I am not yet sure if I'll have much to contribute there, I am neither a ubuntu specialist nor particularly fond of it, but the organiser said he wouldn't mind and he'd welcome critical remarks just as much, so, we'll see. I am really looking forward to being a speaker on an event again! Ever since I started my PhD I've been much too busy to attend (leave alone prepare talks for) as many events as I'd have liked. I hope the situation will improve next year when things get rolling with my PhD. (Currently still in a "topic orientation/find a project/write proposals" state ...)