Fighting the misconceptions of open source | Opensource.com
Fighting the misconceptions of open source
After almost 10 years in open source, Robin Muilwijk is still fighting the misconceptions that come with working in the industry. He says the toughest part is finding the right balance between openness while continuing to promote the open source way of doing business.
At opensource.com, Robin is a frequent contributor—he recently wrote Building a scalable open source business model in the 90s and consistently adds insightful commentary to others' articles. He has earned the role of a comment gardner for the site, working to keep spammers at bay and our conversations of high quality.
Beyond his participation at opensource.com, there is more to Robin's open source story. Find out what makes him tick and why he chooses the open source way in this Community Spotlight interview.
- Name: Robin Muilwijk
- Opensource.com username: robinmuilwijk
- Location: Bleiswijk, the Netherlands
- Occupation/Employer/Position: Senior Application Administrator / Aafje Home Care
- Open source connection: Board member eZ Publish Community Project Board, former member of the Community Leadership Team at Joomla
- Favorite open source tool or application: eZ Publish and Joomla
- Favorite opensource.com channel: Life
Open up to us.
I am 43 years old, married, and have one son. We live in Bleiswijk, the Netherlands. My background is in Electronic Engineering as a Test Engineer, but I made a change to IT. I just started a new job at Aafje as Senior Application Administrator. This organization provides home care to elderly people. I am responsible for systems such as an Intranet and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Before this job I worked for almost five years in my local government, also in IT, with a focus on information management.
My involvement in open source will hit 10 years of contributing to several projects in October of this year. While discovering the Web in '97 I wanted to know how to build my own website. After some work in plain HTML, I thought there should be an easier way, and this is how I became to know more about Content Management Systems (CMSs). I tried a few open source CMSs and soon got stuck on Mambo. This is where I learned about open source software. I started sharing my knowledge about the CMS in their community. Once this project forked into what it is now, known as Joomla, I moved along and got more involved. I joined their Core Team and served several tasks such as forum administrator, forge (repository) administrator, and also ended up on the Community Leadership Team.
Once that leadership team was formed, I thought it was time to move one to another project, to seek new challenges and give room to new people with new ideas. This is where I first became a member of the eZ Ecosystem and eZ Publish Share Team. eZ Publish is a CMS, just like Joomla. The Share Team is the team responsible for the community platform e.g. forums, etc. It did not take long before I also became a member of the Community Project Board. The eZ Community Project Board mission is to lead the community, facilitate collaboration between the community and eZ Systems, and to foster innovation of the eZ Publish content management platform.
In both projects my focus has always been on the community. I like facilitating community members, helping them out, sharing my knowledge with them. In both projects, Joomla and eZ Publish, I am doing this through a leadership position.
My contributions to open source projects has always been voluntary. Next to my job, I spend most of my spare time contributing to whatever task is at hand with the project I'm currently active in. My biggest challenge: find a good balance between work, study, and my involvement in open source.
What open tools and data help you get things done, and how do they help you?
I use a variety of open source tools. Since my involvement in open source is primarily based on CMS projects, I rely heavily on the Apache/MySQL/PHP stack. With this stack, I can run the CMS locally and perform all the necessary tasks I have from the eZ Publish Community Project Board. This can be to simply work with the CMS, to get my knowledge of it to the required level. Or help with translations, or testing and bug fixing. For the latter, I also use GitHub, x-Debug, PHPUnit, and Netbeans.
Next to the CMS specific tools, I also use Mozilla Thunderbird, Firefox, and LibreOffice. These are for my daily tasks.
At my previous job, at my local government, I gained experience in working with Geographical Information Systems and similar data. This has also further developed my view on open data and its value. Especially since local governments host vast amounts of data, which in some cases are open. I still use this geographical data to sometimes update openstreetmap.org for my local municipality. For this I use the online tools from openstreetmap itself, but also Quantum GIS.
What do you wish were more open?
Employers, in general. If I look at my own country, and the companies I worked for, there is still a lot of ground to be gained when it comes to open source. This is not just the use of open source, open standards, and open data. But also the open source way; to apply key values of the open source way such as sharing, collaboration and meritocracy within companies.
Where possible, I advocate for those values and the open source way in my work. I try to do my bit to spread the open source way.
In the Netherlands, we do have programs initiated by the government, to promote open source software and standards. And in the last few years I can also see an uplift in open data. As a member of opensource.com, and seeing where other countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Sweden are with open source for example, I think the Netherlands can and should look at such examples. Share and learn, and take open source a step further. Be more open.
What are the biggest challenges to openness that you encounter, either at work or in your life?
At work, the biggest challenge is always to take away misconceptions about open source. And also the fear around open source, because some still see it as a religion while it has become mainstream for many years now. A few examples of misconceptions, which are very common, are that open source is 'free' so probably lacks quality, security, and support. The opposite is true. Through sharing, collaboration, and innovation, open source software can meet any other product when it comes to these aspects.
My personal challenge is to work at companies that do not use much open source software or apply the open source way. While being active in open source for almost 10 years, it can be difficult not to push open source wherever you think it could make an improvement. This is where my challenge is, to find a balance in my open source experience and daily work. I try to be a knowledgeable and sensible advocate in open source and not be seen as a fanatic, and always, to be open.
Why choose the open source way?
Why? Sharing, learning, fun, personal growth, and meritocracy. That is why I choose the open source way, every day.
Sharing is what I do best, what is in my nature, and it's what I've done for almost 10 years now in two open source projects. It is rewarding to help other people with open source, to see them gain a love for it. Next to rewarding, it is also fun. I got to know so many people through involvement in open source and the open source way. Some I have only met online, others in real life at open source events. We share knowledge and skills, for free.
Meritocracy is what got me into leadership positions, in both the Joomla and eZ Publish project. Meritocracy is what made me grow and it was the organizations applying the open source way that provided me with this opportunity. A few examples: I have been responsible for global software releases, maintaining community portals that vary from 50k to 500k users, coordinating teams, running projects, and helping to organize events.
I learn and grow every day, I share and I have fun. This is why I choose the open source way.