This coming Monday, May 11th, marks the start of the first annual openSUSE Community Week, an event conceived of by openSUSE community members to help mentor folks who want to get involved with the openSUSE open source Linux project, but don't know how to get started.

The virtual conference will be conducted almost entirely in IRC and runs from May 11th through the 17th. I asked Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier, the openSUSE Community Manager (whom I interviewed in Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier Discusses openSUSE 11.1) how it came together and what the virtual event entails.

RM: Describe the openSUSE Community Week concept.

JB: It's very straightforward -- contributing to an open source project is easy, in theory, but in practice there's a lot of knowledge that helps contributors to become efficient.

One way to get that knowledge is to go to the project's Web site, read the pages, how-tos, go into the mailing lists, ask questions and sort of poke around to become familiar with the project. This works for lots of people, and that's great. But, we think we can help a lot of people accelerate the process of becoming contributors by having the Community Week and giving tutorials and being available for questions and generally getting experienced contributors together to mentor newer contributors.

We'll also be "recording" sessions so that people who miss the live sessions can go through the tutorials and so forth to benefit from the sessions as well.

RM: This is the first openSUSE Community Week. How did this come together and why did you decide to do it?

JB: It started out as a discussion on how we could improve community participation in openSUSE. We decided to do this because we think it'll be a good way to pass on knowledge about working in the openSUSE Project. We have some really knowledgeable contributors, and this is a good way for them to pass on some of their expertise to new contributors.

RM: What do you as community manager hope to accomplish this week?

JB: Probably the same thing as everybody else participating -- that is, to help newer contributors come up to speed more quickly and help enable them to make contributions and shape the project.

RM: Is this a virtual event or will people be gathering together at a conventions somewhere? How many people will be attending?

JB: Totally virtual. Mostly in IRC, though we also have a web presentation tool we may use for some sessions. We'll also put up material on the openSUSE wiki that can be used for some of the tutorials.

Not sure how many people we'll have, I hope hundreds. Since it's a distributed event in multiple channels (packaging presentations will happen in one IRC channel, marketing discussions in another, and so forth) that take place over an entire week, I think we'll see quite a few people by the end of the Community Week.

RM: This is obviously important for openSUSE, but what are the broader implications for FOSS in general?

JB: World domination for Linux, obviously. :-)

Actually, I'm not sure this has broader implications for FOSS in general, except to help promote contribution. Just as we've taken some ideas from other projects, I hope our community week is successful and inspires other projects to do similar things.

RM: Why do you think you're the first openSUSE community manager to organize an event like this? Are other distros doing similar activities?

JB: To be clear, I don't want to take the credit for organizing the Community Week. I'm doing *some* of the organization, but so are many other people -- Michael Loeffler, Bryen Yunashko, Sascha Manns, Jan-Simon Möller, Will Stephenson, Vincent Untz, Holger Sickenberg, Vladimir Nadvornik, and many others. That's the beauty of community activities -- lots of people pile in and help out.

Other distros do similar activities. It's not unique to openSUSE. I think when most projects start to scale they find it useful to hold real-time events to reach out to their community and try to mentor new contributors.

About the Author

I am a Freelance Technology Journalist, blogger, FierceContentManagement editor and Contributing Editor at EContent Magazine. I have been writing about technology since 1988 and publishing credits include InsideCRM,, Streaming Media Magazine, eWeek, BusinessWeek SmallBiz and Network World. I have also written White Papers, documentation and training for a variety of corporate clients, big and small. I co-founded [url][/url] in 2009 and contributes regularly to its content. You can learn more by visiting my blog, by Ron Miller at [URL][/url].

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