Interview With Melissa

Melissa Draper: I am Australian. I have lived my entire life in NSW, but I was born in Victoria.

Once upon a time I wanted to be an environmental scientist, but during one of the projects for a related course, I ended up with the task to create a website. I learned HTML one weekend, and realized I preferred computers to trees.

PS: How did you get involved with Ubuntu and free software in general?

MD: Whilst doing a web development diploma, a teacher, a BSD fanatic and probably the most influential teacher I ever had, was in the habit of interpreting syllabi modules such as "install an operating system" fairly openly. He taught his students how to install Linux and BSD as well as Windows (amusing aside: he also taught my mother to do the same!) and so began my obsession with Linux. I played around with live distributions for a while then installed Ubuntu on an old computer. I soon found I did not need XP any more.

Another teacher was was supposed to teach us as per the whole web development thing, but was unable to teach for peanuts. Essentially the entire class taught ourselves PHP instead of, and following the lead of the OS teacher argued that it was still valid under "dynamic websites". In the end I don't think I even got around to buying the ASP software. Free software is accessible like that, and as a resource is awesome.

PS: Why Ubuntu?

MD: When I decided I wanted to use Linux I asked around. A friend had been using Ubuntu since Warty so I installed Hoary on an old computer. I've tried other distros, and despite using Fedora or CentOS for work, I've been with Ubuntu ever since.

PS: You've been around for several years in the Ubuntu community, what projects are you involved with or have you been involved with in the past?

MD: I was quite active on the marketing team for a while, writing for UWN etc. I also did a lot of coordination in laying the foundations for the LoCo ecosystem we have now. Now I do IRC management and Membership Board for Asia/Oceania.

PS: You've worked hard with Ubuntu Women, including applying for Ubuntu Women leadership. What would you like to see from the project?

MD: I'm hoping to have more visible initiatives to balance out the current focus on commentary. Commenting on bad behavior is a critical part of the aim and I'd rather not have the attitudes against it continue. I'd like to see folks within the team engaging more with aspects like enhancing the wiki pages and conference materials and contributing the attributes they do want from the team rather than dragging down the stuff that others put time and effort in to making happen.

PS: Are you involved in other activities outside Ubuntu relating to women in open source or computing?

MD: I'm involved in LinuxChix and used to organize the local chapter's pre-LUG meet-ups. I'm also my LUG's secretary. I was also on the Linux Australia Council (the group that oversees the organization of every year and helps FOSS-based groups with grants etc) for 2 years, but I chose to not run for a third consecutive year as I felt I needed to take a break from that. I'm also running a Linux retail and web shop in Sydney, Australia called Everything Linux.

PS: Where do you see yourself going from here with Ubuntu and free software? What are your goals both personal and for Ubuntu/free software in general?

MD: There's some odd politics going on and I've been pushed away from a few things within Ubuntu lately. It's a complicated matter and I feel like I'm left holding loose ends. I'm still trying to figure how where I stand with things. At this point, I intend to continue with Ubuntu Women as it's an important part of the community, regardless of what others think.

Ideally I'd like to see the Free Software community in general set the tone for how online communities can be run.

PS; Do you have any other interests or activities you'd like to tell us about?

MD: Currently I'm rather infatuated with fountain pens and good paper. I think the act of hand-writing actual paper letters is something we ought to try keep relevant.

[Discuss Melissa Draper’s Interview on the Forum]

Originally posted by Penelope Stowe in Full Circle Magazine Issue #34 on February 27, 2010

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