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Introducing Ubuntu Community Interviews

Since September 2007, my friend and co-worker in the Ubuntu Forums, K.Mandla, has been doing interviews with forum members on his blog, Motho ke motho ka botho, giving all of us an opportunity to get to know some of the people who are consistently helpful and friendly contributors to our community. This has been a fun way to introduce the wonderful members of our worldwide forum community to one another in a little bit deeper way, with posts coming once every two to six weeks*, depending on the time of year, how busy everyone is, and how easy or difficult it is to get a response at a given time.

A large number of the forum staff have already been interviewed, as well as many of the most popular and helpful members of our forum community. Many current forum members have been around since the forums’ inception, the same month that Ubuntu itself started, October 2004, and have become fixtures in the community, so they were the ones we started with. Others are much newer, but bring a new energy and life to the community that longs to be shared. Some interviewees are Ubuntu members, others aren’t. Some are Linux system administrators, some are homemakers. Some are rabid technophiles, some are free software purists, and some just want to check their e-mail in a safe and stable way.

Of late, K.Mandla has found himself taking on more and more responsibility in the real world. This has the downside of forcing him to release this project to someone else so that he may continue to be a consistent contributor in the forums community, helping new users with problems and helping keep the forums community clean and welcoming for newcomers. The positive side of him stepping down is this, I get to be the one to continue the project.

As I take this over, I would like to expand the interviews to include people from the larger Ubuntu community as well, some who are well-known, and others who have been mostly anonymous so far. I will continue to focus on people with a consistent and positive presence in the Ubuntu Forums, as that is my main role in the wider community and where I know the most people, however, I don’t want to limit us to only including forums people. So, to all of my friends on Planet Ubuntu, we would love to include you in the project so you may find an email from me in your inbox someday asking if you are interested in participating (I’m also open to volunteers, so feel free to email me).

The bottom line reason for doing these interviews is that everyone has a life beyond the nickname and avatar that we see, and it’s interesting to find out a little bit more about the human being behind the screen, the blog, or the reputation. To that end, I’m picking up on an idea that was borrowed from an idea originally suggested by forum staff member extraordinaire aysiu, and given legs by K.Mandla. I will be asking the same simple series of nine open-ended questions.

  1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.
  2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?
  3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?
  4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?
  5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?
  6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?
  7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?
  8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?
  9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

The questions are intentionally generic; that gives everyone a common ground to start with, and allows them to direct their replies in whatever way they see fit. Interviewees can answer as fully or as briefly as they like, and might even skip questions. Replies are only edited for punctuation, grammar or clarity, and so what you read is what they responded.

* Just in case anyone gets scared that I am about to flood the Planet Ubuntu feed with these interviews, let me ease your mind. I will be keeping to a similar schedule of one interview every two to six weeks, give or take. That should be infrequent enough for disinterested people to ignore them easily.

Early responses can be found here on K.Mandla’s site, including my interview last November.

EDIT/UPDATE: I have had a wonderful time leading and hosting these interviews, but time constraints in real life compel me to pass the project on to a new leader. Joe Barker is that person and I’m sure he will do a fabulous job on his blog. Thanks to all who have participated during my time! I appreciate it!!

All contributors whose interviews have been posted here on Matthew Helmke (dot) Net from 07/2008 to 08/2009 are listed below, in chronological order.


Mark Shuttleworth, SABDFL


Alan Pope

John Crawford



Nicolas Valcárcel






Travis Newman


  1. […] Community interviews Published July 4, 2008 Ubuntu If you’ve already read Matthew Helmke’s blog, you’ll have heard that I’m passing the community interview project on to him. […]

  2. […] events have convinced me that I need to pass this project on to someone with more time available. Matthew Helmke has agreed to manage it from now on, and as I discussed here, I think it’s a great opportunity for the project to become even […]

  3. maniacmusician

    Congratulations! It’s sad that K.Mandla won’t be able to continue doing these, but it’s at least been passed into good hands. I’m looking forward to learning more about our unsung heroes.

  4. Thanks everyone.

    nick: I didn’t even know that site existed. Our interviews are a bit less formal and less detailed, but I will definitely put a link to Behind Ubuntu in my blogroll.

  5. Dr Small

    I’m sad to hear that K.Mandla is giving the project up, but in the same token, I am glad to see it will continue.

    Keep up the good work. I love to read these interviews 🙂

    Dr Small

  6. nick

    Why not add the interviews to Behind Ubuntu?

    nick (aka boredandblogging)

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