Interview with Alan Bell

Alan Bell is Team Leader for the UK Local Community Team.  I must admit I didn’t really know a lot about him before this interview, so I am glad he agreed to do one.  Thank you Alan!

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

Hi, I am Alan Bell, a 36 year old geek from Surrey in the UK, where I live with my family and pet chickens. My day job is helping organisations to use and get value from Free Software. As for education, I pursued a degree in Computer Science at Nottingham University, but never quite caught the thing.

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

My first home computer was a ZX Spectrum +2 (the one with the built in tape drive) which I loved, especially the manual which taught me programming and trigonometry and calculus and electronic logic circuits. I was quite disappointed when I got a Commodore Amiga and there were no circuit diagrams in the manual. Now computers just come with an EULA which doesn’t teach you anything useful. Kids these days don’t know what they are missing! When I first encountered Linux it didn’t have a GUI and I wasn’t that impressed (but I did like the GPL from the moment I read that). It was some years later when X worked on Linux and graphical toolkits became available that it started looking interesting to me, but it took quite a lot of additional years before I started using Ubuntu full time.

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

I met a bunch of folk from the Ubuntu UK loco team at an exhibition in London where we were demoing a range of Linux based computers, they dragged me on to IRC and I gradually got sucked in to the Ubuntu community.

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

Yes, I am a member, and quite pleased about that. I contribute to Ubuntu in a number of ways, I have recently been made the Point of Contact or Team Leader of the UK LoCo team (we are still figuring out which title it is) and with the UK team I am involved in organising events and keeping a steady stream of promotional and social activities running. In a more international scope I set up the Ubuntu-For-All project and team which provides continuity and support to a collection of other Ubuntu projects that address outreach and equality issues. In connection with that I am interested in getting more women engaged with technology and I produced and still maintain some interesting statistics on the number of women Ubuntu Members. With the Accessibility team I am working on a series of design personas, which are fictional characters designed to educate and motivate developers to ensure that their software works for everyone.

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

I only use Ubuntu really, it does everything I want. I keep intending to have a deeper dive into Debian in order to learn packaging and get some stuff I want into Ubuntu but I haven’t got round to it yet. My favourite application at the moment is OpenERP (sounds fun doesn’t it!) a python based system for doing pretty much everything imaginable in a business context, including finances, bill of materials, inventory, stock control, HR, warehousing etc. My least favourite application would probably be Gwibber, not because it is especially bad, but every time I use it I end up thinking I would have built it completely differently if I was writing it.

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

I have great memories of the Ubuntu Developer Summit in Brussels and I have made some great friends in the community. As for worst memories, I tend not to dwell on negativity!

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

I tend not to go out looking for people to convert! If someone has decided that Ubuntu makes sense for them or their organisation we help them make it work in practice. It is the same process for all the Free Software we support, customers decide for themselves that they want it, we help make it work.

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

I would like to see more of a business focus in innovations such as Unity, there has been quite a lot of focus on Ubuntu as a consumer operating system for getting to social networking sites and buying music etc. but not so much attention on using Ubuntu in the office environment.

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

Get involved in your local community team, you will meet all sorts of interesting people online or in person who are doing amazing things with Ubuntu.

Originally Posted here on 2011-06-16

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