Interview with Matthew East

Matthew East is a name which often appears in my inbox every few days,  I thought it a good idea to learn more about this Ubuntu Community Council member and his role in the community.

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

My name is Matthew East. I’m a 29 year old man living in London, UK. I’m married without children. I work as a solicitor specialising in international trade at a medium size law firm in London.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I’ve always liked fiddling with computers but am not and have never been particularly knowledgeable about them – I haven’t studied computer science and don’t know any programming languages but I am always willing to fiddle around to find solutions to problems. I didn’t try Linux until after I finished university. I used Mandrake for a year or so and then started to experiment with Gentoo, which I enjoyed for a year or so while I practised breaking and fixing things. By that time I was hooked on Linux and free software generally.

During 2005 I had gradually less and less free time, and Gentoo was becoming too time consuming, so I tried Ubuntu, which was quite young at that stage but had already been fantastically successful. I quickly found that it was exactly what I had been looking for.

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

I became involved in Ubuntu through visiting the Italian Ubuntu channel (#ubuntu-it) in 2005. I went to that channel as well as to the English language Ubuntu channel as I had spent two years in Italy, have an Italian wife and have a lot of affection for the country – I was curious to see whether Ubuntu was popular there.

At that time the Italian community was rather underdeveloped and fragmented and I became involved in mediating various discussions and eventually to establishing, with three other friends, a formal Italian community with website, forum, wiki documentation and planet. The Italian community has since developed into a flourishing community with hundreds of regular contributors. Between 2005 and 2010 I sat on the Italian Italian Locoteam Council and was team contact with responsibility for liaising with the international community. By 2010 my contributions to the team had
become minimal through having less free time and I stepped down, leaving the Council in very safe hands.

The other aspect of the community which I became involved in was the Ubuntu Documentation Team, which I also joined in 2005. Since then I have been involved in writing, but particularly in the administrative and team management side of the documentation team and have helped to develop the team’s processes, tools and websites. As with the Italian team my contributions have reduced in recent years as my free time has diminished but I still follow the team mailing list and contribute when I can.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

Yes, I am an Ubuntu member. My main contributions are listed under question 3. My other involvement in the Ubuntu community is as member of the Community Council, which I have sat on since 2007. More details of my contributions are set out on my Ubuntu wiki page .

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

I use Ubuntu at home. I don’t use too many different pieces of software – the software I use the most is Firefox, and I also use Rhythmbox and Empathy. For working on Ubuntu documentation I use gnome-terminal and gedit. My Ubuntu desktop and software packages are pretty much as per the default.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

I think that my fondest memory from Ubuntu is being involved in helping create the Ubuntu Documentation website and wiki. I don’t really have a worst memory, although there have been plenty of difficult issues and passionate debates over the years.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

I have a few family members using Ubuntu, with the occasional hiccup but a certain amount of success. Other than that I haven’t really done much advocacy for Ubuntu.

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

All those who contribute to Ubuntu would like to see it become market leader among operating systems. I would like to see Ubuntu achieve this while continuing to stay faithful to two key principles: freedom (software should be free and open source) and transparency (all work should be done transparently with volunteers welcome to contribute). I think a significant part of Ubuntu’s success is based upon its focus as a community product, with Canonical and other profit-driven companies fitting into that structure to complement community volunteer contributions. This balance isn’t easy to achieve. If Ubuntu gets it right, then it will continue to flourish from volunteer contributions which I believe have been the secret of its success to date.

For personal reasons I would also love to see Linux break into the legal market. Lawyers, particularly litigators, use a certain amount of specialised software and at present as far as I can see closed-source software completely dominates the market. It would be great to see open source software break into that market.

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

I would encourage every new Ubuntu user to read about the Ubuntu philosophy. Users of Ubuntu will always have the ability to experience Ubuntu’s features as a product but may not always necessarily be aware of the values which drive its development.

Originally Posted here on 2011-05-20

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