Last Tuesday (November 27, 2012) was the 15th birthday of KDE e.V. (eingetragener Verein; registered association), the legal entity which represents the KDE Community in legal and financial matters. We interviewed two of the founding members (Matthias and Matthias) on the why, what and when of KDE e.V. in the beginning and presented a video interview with emeritus board member Mirko Böhm. Today, we focus on the present with interviews with two current KDE e.V. Board members, Lydia Pintscher and Cornelius Schumacher. On the bottom, we've got a nice puzzle for you. And next week, we'll present an impression of the day to day activities of KDE e.V.
Lydia Pintscher on being a board member
In this interview, Lydia points out the importance of the e.V. in explaining to people what KDE does and how it is worth supporting it in this world with increasingly high-walled gardens and vendor lock-in.
Why did you choose to volunteer for the KDE e.V. Board of Directors?
How would you describe the job of KDE e.V. and its Board today?
The Board decides on the direction, distributes money, and does a lot of the day-to-day tasks to run a non-profit. Generally speaking, the Board makes sure things happen. Claudia Rauch, KDE e.V.'s Business Manager (and only employee) supports the Board a great deal in these tasks.
You have been involved for quite a long time both within the community and the formal organization of KDE e.V. Please tell us a bit about how both have changed over the years?
What challenges do you see for the future of KDE e.V.?
How does it make you feel thinking about what KDE has become?
Cornelius Schumacher - President of KDE e.V.
Camila Ayres interviewed Cornelius to get the views of the President of KDE e.V. In the process, it comes out that the work on KOrganizer never seems to be finished. And Cornelius gives us a glimpse of 2013 and the future of KDE beyond next year.
Camila: I’m here with Cornelius Schumacher to talk a bit about KDE e.V. How did you start with KDE?
I started hacking like crazy for a couple of years and then I got involved in the organization behind KDE, KDE e.V.
How did you get to the KDE e.V. Board of Directors?
Tell us a bit more about KDE e.V. and its Board.
The second is support. The main goal of KDE e.V. is to support the community in creating great software. Great KDE software. We do that mostly by organizing Akademies, an annual event, and by supporting people to go to sprints. These are focused events where people can get together for a short time in small groups to write code, inject creativity and momentum into the community. That’s where we can do a lot as KDE e.V. using the money we get from donors and sponsors. This is a really important aspect of the community because we can support people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to contribute to KDE in the same way.
Third area is the governance aspect. Of course KDE is an open source project. We are doing Free Software. We are using normal governance mechanisms which are typical for these kind of projects. The important aspect of our way of governance is that the people who are doing the work decide what is happening and what is done. That’s where KDE e.V. took the conscious decision to not interfere with how these processes work. The people who write the code take the decisions about the code. KDE e.V. does not get involved with control over how development is being done.
This is an important decision that KDE e.V. made. We support the community, we represent the community, but we don’t control the community. So we don’t get involved in development. About the concrete questions of development, we are only involved in the support part. In this way, we don’t introduce friction in the community by trying to decide things that should be decided by the people who are doing the work.
So that’s what KDE e.V. is about: representation, support and governance.
You have been active for quite a long time in KDE. Please talk about how both have changed over the years... the Community and KDE e.V.
It was an interesting situation when I started, because in this transition, everything was broken. People were just hacking like crazy and putting things back together again. We wouldn’t do it this way any more. Look at KDE. How it is now. Much bigger, much better organized. We have unit tests, we have continuous integration. We have all this stuff that’s needed to run a big project that has a lot of code.
And of course the growth of the community is showing. So at Akademy, there are more people. I remember at the first big gathering in a small village in the Czech Republic. We had about a hundred people there, and everyone was sitting in 2 big rooms and hacking. There will also a couple of talks, but hacking really was the focus. Nowadays at Akademy, there are more people, and also more interaction and more coordination needed. There is still a feeling that we are one community. But now there are subgroups that work on a specific part of KDE. So it’s not just one group of people where everybody is knowing everybody. But groups of teams that work together to create something bigger. That’s also an interesting development.
For KDE e.V. as an organization, we have achieved the ability to run our business in a professional way. We have supporting members. An office in Berlin. An employee who is helping the community by doing all the administration and organizing. These things would be really hard without somebody who can spend full time on it. We have a professional organization behind KDE to support those things. That reflects the relevance of the project. KDE is one of the biggest open source projects on the planet. We are in a situation where we can actually sustain this organization to support the community to write all the wonderful KDE software we have.
What challenges do you see in the future of KDE e.V.?
People also have phones, tablets, all kinds of other devices. So that’s an area where a lot of development is going on. If you look at how Android developed, you see an interesting way that Linux became very popular that no one expected a couple of years ago. And certainly not when KDE was founded. So we’re dealing with these challenges. Finding a place there for KDE. There are a lot of things going on. People working on Plasma Active and other stuff. There we see challenges where KDE as a project has to extend its reach and write software that is not only important and focused on the desktop but in new areas as well.
And for KDE e.V. Our mission is to support those changes, so of course this is a challenge for us as well. In general for KDE e.V., we had some good times from the financial point of view over the last couple of years when Nokia bought Trolltech and jumped in heavily, betting on Qt. There were more resources available than there are now. Things are getting a bit smaller. We have be more careful with our planning and with our expenses so that we actually can sustain the activities we have built up over the last couple of years. That is certainly one of our biggest challenges--to make sure that KDE e.V. is organized enough to be able to support the community the way the community needs.
I see that there’s still a lot of enthusiasm out there. I was really excited about the donation campaign for the Randa Sprints a short while ago. We reached out to people in the KDE community and outside the community, to KDE users asking them to support the sprints and KDE with donations. We got the donations we needed for those sprints. So I’m pretty confident that the community is strong to sustain all those activities we have put in place. But it certainly will take some effort. So from the KDE e.V. point of view, that is the most challenging part of the next few years.
What are the plans for KDE e.V. for 2013?
Another particular goal for 2013 is that we want to get closer to the Qt community and work closer together with that group. Obviously Qt is an important part of KDE. That’s the library that all KDE applications are based on. Now Qt is more independent and also has open governance. KDE has an opportunity to contribute there in a way that wasn’t possible before. We want to remove barriers which were there for historical reasons or perhaps because of a corporate structure. I was at Qt Developer Days which just happened. There we had a lot of interesting conversations about KDE and Qt and how the future could be. I’m seeing a lot of opportunities there. Together KDE & Qt make a strong team. If you look at who’s active in the Qt community, there are a lot of KDE people or people who have some KDE history. There are people working on things where we can work together. So that’s something that KDE e.V. could potentially support. We could get people involved to grow the contributor base. It’s important that we get rid of barriers that prevent us from being the most effective. And then, of course we will run sprints again and are trying to reach the same level as we reached this year. It was a bit tougher to run the sprints from a financial point of view. Things will be different next year so we have to be careful about what we support. We want to do as much as we can. So that’s one of the goals for the next year.
You have been involved with KDE for quite a long time. How does it make you feel when you think about what KDE has become?
I also didn’t imagine that we would reach this level of professional organization. A nice office in the middle of Berlin together with the FSFE. That we would run something like the Desktop Summit two years ago in Berlin together with GNOME. We had hundreds of people working on the Free Desktop in one place. That’s really exciting.
What always surprises me is how strong the ties of the KDE community are. That’s something which actually hasn’t changed over the years. I’m a bit surprised that it doesn’t really change that much. If you go to a meeting with other KDE people, it still feels like meeting old friends. That’s the same as it was at the beginning. That feeling comes from having a strong community and bonds between KDE people, which is quite impressive. That’s something that makes me happy.
Thank you very much for your time. It is awesome to talk with you. It’s great to get the perspective of the past and get some ideas about how the future might be.
Recorded interview transcribed by Carl Symons
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Quest of the 42
The first article featured a collage of images from 'the early days' as well as one outlier. We've now slapped some numbers on it - it's up to you to assign names/descriptions/memories/etc to them in the comments!