Interview: Karsten Wade

Red Hat's "Community Gardener" Karsten Wade is a SCALE veteran: A former keynoter and presenter, Karsten is an 18-year IT industry veteran, and has worked most sides of common business equations as an IS manager, professional services consultant, technical writer, developer advocate, and open source specialist. Karsten will be giving the presentation "How to build an open community infrastructure of participation" on Friday, Feb. 22, at 1:30 p.m. in room Los Angeles C.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

A: Hi SCALE folks, I'm glad to be coming back to L.A. this year for 11x. For the past 11 years I've been working at Red Hat in various roles, most recently I'm part of a growing team focused on making our open source projects wildly successful. We do this as community liaisons, organizers, and get-things-done-ers.

Career-wise, I left cheffing in 1995 to join a dinky boutique web design shop, and have learned my way up from scratch many times since then. My life took a turn in 2000 when I had two job offers, one from Creative Labs to be a Sr. NT Sysadmin, the other from VA Linux Systems to be a project writer. VA was the more wild-crazy choice to make, but it proved to be one of the best career and passion moves I've ever made. I met so many free/open source geeks there, and was able to move over to Red Hat in 2001 with most of my team. Since then, I've worked in professional services consulting, engineering technical writing, developer relations, and community architecture. These days I hang my red fedora in the Open Source and Standards team that works in the CTO's office.

Q: Without tipping your hand on the actual talk you're giving (unless you want to), can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: What I really want to do is show people that not only is it possible to run your FOSS project entirely on FOSS systems, but it is preferable.

First, you get the same assurance about data, community support, and ownership of the code that you get using open source in other ways.

Second, it's the best way to build an infrastructure team from the community. Many existing and up-coming sysadmin and devops people want to contribute to open source, but are blocked by the effort of contributing code. An open community infrastructure team is a way to play with the latest technology, earn root via merit, and participate in a global IT team in ways that are even more agile and advanced than many companies can offer, even start-ups.

Third, it provides an assurance to your open source developers and community that the lights will stay on regardless of who are the corporate sponsors. It's clear how they can participate and even provide infrastructure components that continue making the project self-sufficient.

Q: Is this your first visit to SCALE? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

A: My first SCALE was 8x, where I also happened to give the Saturday morning Keynote, "Being a Catalyst in Communities - The scientific facts about the open source way." It was also one of the first conferences where I brought my daughters, who proved to be very effective Fedora ambassadors. [Editor's Note: A year later at SCALE 9X, Karsten's daughters, Malakai and Saskia Wade, along with Mirano Cafiero, were the first teens to give a presentation at SCALE.]

I was honestly surprised at how well run of a show it was without having a huge corporate sponsor and professional event organizing staff. (Arguably, the SCALE staff *are* professionals at event organizing, but built up over the years of doing SCALE, not as part of doing dozens of random events in and out of open source.)

SCALE is one of the premier independent regional free/open source software conferences and expos. It is all about the open communities with a nice mix of projects and products, so it is useful for businesses, foundations, and all-volunteer projects.

It's also fun and easy to figure out. Some conferences can be confusing to attend the first time, figuring out what is happening and where. I feel the SCALE team and participants do a great job of using the conference space, and making it possible to do the most that you want and are able to do.

Q: What makes you passionate about free/open source software?

A: I think we all are drawn to passions that are truly very similar, just different acts in different domains. We all want a sense of control, freedom, ownership, belonging, craftiness (make stuff do stuff), and making a difference in the world. It just so happens that I feel that giddy feeling in my solar plexus when I think about all that stuff and software.

[SCALE Team interview by Larry Cafiero]