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You appear to be one of the few people in FOSS (whom I've encountered anyway) who manages to keep the personal and professional aspects of life separate - your personal likes and dislikes do not appear to impact on your professional judgement. Has this been a conscious decision on your part or did it come naturally?

Thanks, I take that as a compliment, though I'm no angel and I have to work at it. People piss me off sometimes, and I doubt I am as fair as I would like to be. But that's life, and it's too short to hold grudges, and certainly too short to be vindictive over dumb stuff. People have forgiven me for some pretty rotten behaviour, so I try to keep the high-level perspective and not get caught up in things that aren't worth it. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, and the person who vexed me greatly yesterday may turn into a cool friend tomorrow. You just never know.

How do you think women can be encouraged to take part in activities in and around FOSS?

I see three different demographics: young women who are already interested and maybe already in tech, young girls who could be exposed to FOSS and its many opportunities, and mid-life career changers. For the first group the main thing is not put all kinds of roadblocks in the way; just get out of the way and treat them like normal people.

The second group I'm not sure. I don't have kids of my own, and I was always the odd little outcast nerd, so I don't know what motivates young girls. I think computers and tech should be integral in primary education, including math, hardware, simple coding and scripting, and learning to how control the technology rather than being a passive consumer. I'd like to see young girls (and all young school kids) exposed to technology on a daily basis because it is fundamental to modern life, and encouraged to dream, to dream big, to figure out what they really want to do and then go do it, to put their own interests first.

I can totally relate to mid-life career changers since I have had multiple careers. FOSS has more opportunity than any other tech arena because the barrier to entry is low and the flexibility is limitless - just a computer, an internet connection, and your own smarts and effort. Most people don't really know themselves until they've been on their own for a few years, until they are in their 30s and 40s. FOSS is perfect for the independent soul who wants to follow her own path.

You have made a big contribution to FOSS through your advocacy, writing and other professional activities. Which one is your favourite (software)?

I hope I've made some meaningful contributions, because FOSS has given me a huge lot of good stuff. It's hard to pick a favourite. I love using Debian, Audacity, JACK, Ardour, and the Hydrogen drum kit are first-rate and endless fun, Digikam is the all-time best photo manager and editor, XFCE and Fluxbox, Python, Bash, Perl, PHP, the GNU tools and GNU development tools - it is a feast of riches.

 

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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