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Introducing Your SmartOS Community Manager

photo by Brendan Gregg

About Me

I’m Deirdré Straughan. A great deal about my personal and professional life is available on my site, Countries Beginning with I.

I have been a community manager since long before the title existed, first for the Italian startup I worked for in Milan, then for Adaptec (when it bought us), then for Adaptec’s software spinoff, Roxio. The website I designed for Roxio was probably one of the first (in 2001) to explicitly describe its customers as members of an online community.

Before I ever heard of The Cluetrain Manifesto, I was acting upon my belief that companies and customers have shared interests in the success and usefulness of products/services. I found that customers had better ideas than I did about how to help them use our stuff; my role was less about leadership than about enabling and facilitating them to work with us and each other.

The open source movement takes this attitude a logical step further: though some open source projects originate largely with a company, they need a real community (comprised of both insiders and outsiders) to thrive and grow. And I enjoy nurturing such communities.

As for this specific community… I have been working closely with Solaris and many of its creators since I joined Sun Microsystems in 2007. Though my title changed a few times, my work at Sun (and then Oracle) was always fundamentally about helping engineers communicate, both internally and externally. Part of my job was to help the OpenSolaris community, including a stint as the secretary to the OGB shortly before the end.

Specific tasks included filming hundreds of hours of experts talking about technology, and teaching others how to use video. I also did social media production for technical conferences worldwide. I also do text: among other things (blog writing and editing, articles), last year I edited (the non-code parts of) the DTrace book.

Putting it all together, I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with hundreds of smart, interesting people in tech, and that’s something I very much enjoy doing.

About the Job

Last December I began working for Joyent - once again, helping engineers and other technical types communicate what they know, including using video. Then, about a month ago, I had the chance to change roles and managers while still at Joyent. Here’s the job description as Bryan Cantrill gave it to me:

Especially as we integrate native KVM into SmartOS, we have a great opportunity to build a community around the operating system: we are the first OS to unify DTrace, ZFS, Zones and KVM under one OS kernel, and we believe that that makes us the preeminent OS for cloud computing.  But to make that happen, we need to build and manage community around it. This means a bunch of things, and I’m flexible on the definition — that’s part of why I want you heading this up.

It means making available resources to the community that explain these technologies and why they are a giant win for cloud computing; making sure that we have an awesome experience for the developer and community member to download the system, learn more about it, and start building with it (which in turn means a web presence, documentation, the right downloads, etc.); that we are engaging with the illumos community to both strengthen that community and to leverage it to strengthen SmartOS, etc. This role is reporting to me because I expect it to have quite a bit of interface with the engineers.

…I was happy to accept the job, and that’s what I’m doing now.

A few words about what I am not:

  • I am in no sense a computer scientist / software engineer. I’ve attempted only one programming course in my life to date (Pascal, my freshman year at UC Santa Cruz – so long ago that I narrowly escaped having to use punch cards!). I had no particular talent for it. I see software, like music, as an art which I can admire and enjoy, while being damned near incapable of producing it myself.
  • I’m not a sysadmin. I can just about find my way around a command line, given a cheat sheet. (I took a Solaris Sysadmin course 18 months ago, but never had the opportunity to practice any of what I “learned” – and I’m more a hands-on learner.)

So you may have to be patient with me sometimes – I don’t know a lot of what you know. But I am not afraid to admit when I don’t understand things, or to ask questions until I do understand. If you’re willing to teach, I’m happy to learn.

Right now I’m just starting to learn who you are, what you want from SmartOS, and how we can help you. You can reach me at smartos [at] joyent [dot] com, and I often hang out in #joyent, #illumos, #openindiana, and related chats on irc.freenode.net. I’m a prolific Tweeter at@deirdres, and can be found on Google+ as well.

I look forward to working with you to help make SmartOS great!

Note: I should have had this post ready on August 15th, when we began telling the world about SmartOS and KVM. Unfortunately, I was then distracted by personal circumstances.

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