Jos Poortvliet

Nextcloud

July 2021

Jos makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from July 7 to 14. Thank you, Jos!

Please tell us about yourself

So, I’m Jos and I do open source promo ;-)

I’ve been active in open source communities since early 2000’s, in KDE, Mandrake (jaja, I’m old), aMule, openSUSE and now Nextcloud! I live in Berlin with a very cute dog and almost equally cute wife.

What are you working on right now?

RIGHT now? Well, right now - just recovering from our big release! We pushed out Nextcloud 22 this afternoon (writing this on July 6) and boy, that was a lot of work the last weeks. Now, time to start picking up the pieces of the ’normal’ work! There’s a lot more to talk about around this release, so…

What is most interesting about that?

Well, Nextcloud - that’s a whole thing! In a nutshell - if you think it might be problematic that nearly all the data generated by humanity is under the control of about a dozen big, mostly American or Chinese companies, then you should know Nextcloud. We are building an alternative to the GAFAM spyware, so to say.

The cloud is awesome - it gives a lot of convenience. But it also is build on business models of spying and controlling your data. And even if the companies had better business models, all our data should just not be in the hand of so few. Knowledge is power, don’t they say? We have built an alternative to MS 365 or Google Workspaces that you can run on your own server. Be it a Raspberry Pi or, heck, if you’re a hosting provider, a big cluster. We hope the result will be that data gets spread out over many locations.

Of course, Nextcloud is open source, easy to use, has over 200 apps to extend functionality with and in general - we’re a great community!

How did you first discover FOSS?

In the dark ages I was looking for something more stable to replace my Windows 98. I settled for a short while on BeOS but that died, so Linux it was. First SUSE, then knoppix, kanotix, debian, gentoo, Arch, openSUSE and I stuck with that ;-)

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

Well, at a tech event in the Netherlands where I was to buy some hardware (back then you bought that at physical events, I know, crazy) there was a KDE booth. I talked to the team, stuck there for a while to answer questions from visitors. They asked if I could come back the next day to help, I did. Then there was this other event in Amsterdam…

Well, it went downhill from there, before I knew it I was writing for The Dot and my own blog, gave talks at various events and so on.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

Well, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I like doing certain things more than other things. And in open source, you can just start doing the things you like. There’s a decent chance you’ll get better at it, and it is far from unlikely that at some point, you will find somebody who wants to pay you to do what you are good at. That thing you like, know what I mean?

So that, in itself, is a big plus! FOSS is a great way to build a good career. One that doesn’t rely on fancy schools, but just how good you are.

Of course, if you’re the type of person that thinks they can make the world a better place, well, this is absolutely one way to do it.

And of course - FOSS tends to be on the bleeding edge of technology, doing things others don’t do. We in FOSS might not be so good at monetizing our inventions, but we ARE certainly good at innovating!

How should they get started?

Well, I got in for tech first. So find something you find interesting and fix it, or make it better! Going to real-life events is also massively helpful. SCALE in California, or FOSDEM in Europe are both VERY good. And FOSS Asia in Asia.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

Monetization. For a FOSS product to really be successful, there need to be resources to pay people a decent salary. And it is hard to build a business model. Seriously hard.

How can they be solved?

Two parts.

1 is education. Big businesses used to have a policy ‘against freeware’. Sensible, but they’d mix up FOSS with freeware. Not smart, of course. Now they get it, they can use it, but they want support. Unfortunately, they don’t get (yet) that support from a random local IT shop isn’t the same as from a company that is actually developing that product. We’ll get there - and if we do, monetizing FOSS becomes easier. So people can keep coding in open source after their studies ended and they need to get a job! That is important.

2 is government. I do think our governments, which are now pumping tens of billions into Microsoft, Google and so on, should stop doing that. Government money, money FROM the people, should go exclusively to the benefit OF the people. 100% open source. Not just public money public code - that’s a first step - if gov’t spends money on writing code, it should be open. But also - all software used should be 100% open source. Public money should be paid for improvements, maintenance and support. Not for licenses.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

Well, you need to be in a certain position to be able to contribute.

  • free time
  • knowledge
  • social skills
  • some help and support

Often, people from poorer countries, minorities in general - they don’t have one or more of those, so it is harder for them to get involved. But of course, even most well educated, well off tall white German 20 year old guys don’t have all of the above so it’s a challenge for everyone.

What does a perfect day off look like?

Well, I tend to start working even when I have day off. You see, my work and hobby - open source promo - they overlap way too much. So I guess the best day off is one that comes after I had a few days to wean myself off of ‘work’ and when I’m in a place with either mountains, forest or beach, no/little internet and a reader full of ebooks :D