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 An Interview with Jeremy Garcia of LinuxQuestions

Every once in a while I like to pay homage to some of the pioneering folks who I feel express the spirit of the potential of Linux. Linux is an experience that is best exemplified by the helpful souls, willing to provide answers to those who are just starting out on the path to freedom. It is my great pleasure to have interviewed just such a person recently, and someone I think is doing excellent work for all. That person is Jeremy Garcia of Linux Questions.

Chuck Talk: Hi Jeremy. So, what is it that makes you tick, what is it that makes you want to share the LinuxQuestions.org forum with everyone?

Jeremy Garcia: I started LinuxQuestions.org as a way to give something back to the Linux community. I had been using Linux for a while at that point and wanted to offer help to existing and potential Linux users. To this day, the main goal of the site continues to be helping people learn, deploy and support Linux. We've been fortunate enough to be able to take an active role in Linux advocacy, which is great.

 (Submitted by Chuck Talk Thu Oct 28, 2004 )

  Chuck Talk: Is LinuxQuestions a full-time gig, or is it more of a labor of love? If you do have a full-time gig, what do you do there?

Jeremy Garcia: I have a full-time job in addition to LQ. By day I'm a UNIX/Network/Security Admin.

Editor's Note: And by night he runs one of the best peer knowledge exchange portals on the web!

Chuck Talk: I notice that your site accepts donations to help defray the costs of what must be a heavily trafficked site, are the costs being met by donations, or do you have any sponsors besides advertisers who are willing to help out with donations?

Jeremy Garcia: Donations are a bit sporadic, but are always appreciated. We'd nowhere near cover our costs if we solely relied on donations unfortunately. If there is anyone out there that would like to help sponsor LQ, feel free to contact me ;)

Chuck Talk: Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that one day you would be running a self-help forum for geeks seeking answers? :) Do you find that you spend more time moderating the forums, or do you let the freedom of speech pretty much run the forum itself?

Jeremy Garcia: I never in my wildest dreams thought the site would ever become what it is today. If I would have expected it, it probably wouldn't have happened anyway. As far as moderation goes, LQ has a team of over 20 mods who do a fantastic job. Because they are so good, I don't have to spend a lot of time on moderation and can focus on other things. We are huge proponents of free speech at LQ. The mods aren't there to censor, they're there to stop flamewars, make sure the few rules we have are followed, etc.

Chuck Talk: Given that so many companies are outsourcing jobs overseas, do you think that Linux can provide entrepreneurs in America an opportunity to compete by providing services and software (and jobs) at a reasonable rate to academia, business and government?

Jeremy Garcia: I think Open Source can definitely be used to provide cost effective solutions. People overseas can leverage the same Open Source solutions though, so you have to make it about value, not just about cost.

Chuck Talk: What one piece of advice would you offer to anyone seeking help from public forums on their use of Linux? What is it that you would advise them to know before they ask a question?

Jeremy Garcia: One thing people often underestimate is the importance of the thread title or email subject. On a busy site or mailing list, the first thing people will see is the title/subject. We'll often see a title such as "help!!!". This doesn't give any indication what the question is actually about. People are less likely to even read an item with a title like this, let alone try to answer it. An expert on the topic your question is about may pass it by without ever knowing they could have helped. It's also important to clearly state the problem you are having, what you were doing when the problem happened and the exact error message(s) you are getting, etc. In general, the more information the better. You should also include the steps you have already taken to try an solve the problem. It's frustrating for a person who is trying to help to keep getting responses like "Already tried that".

Chuck Talk: What one piece of advice would you offer to those who provide help to others in public forums such as LinuxQuestions.org? How could answers be improved?

Jeremy Garcia: It's important to understand that some people are extremely new to Linux (and possibly even computers). Assuming too much knowledge is often a problem. It's also easy to get frustrated by seeing the same or similar questions over and over again. Telling them to RTFM and go away though is likely to drive them away from Linux entirely, and at LQ that's the last thing we want.

Chuck Talk: What vision do you have for LinuxQuestions future? Is this community site to maintain a vast repository of knowledge, or is the development pace such that all knowledge stored there is but transitory?

Jeremy Garcia: My vision is to continue to serve the LQ community the best we possibly can. We'll continue to add features to the current site and expand into new sites. One example of this is LQ ISO, which is a great way to find fast Linux download mirrors (http://www.lqiso.org/). I think it's important to keep a repository of knowledge. We have over 1,200,000 posts and my very first post introducing the site is still available. We have also recently added the LQ Wiki, which is a collaboratively built, Creative Commons licensed Linux knowledgebase in wiki format.

Chuck Talk: What is the biggest motivator behind the adoption of Linux in your area of the nation?

Jeremy Garcia: The reason that I always push for Linux adoption is the fact that it is the best solution for the jobs I recommend it for. Nothing, at any price, would offer a better solution. The libre aspect of Linux is also extremely important, especially for companies and individuals who have been bitten by vendor lock-in before.

Chuck Talk: What would you want to see improved in Linux, and/or what project most interests you in the open source world today?

Jeremy Garcia: LQ is pretty high on my interests list ;) Seriously though, there are so many projects that are so useful, that I couldn't realistically pick ten, let alone one. The areas I'd like to see improved are hardware support and the ability for me to buy a laptop or PC off the shelf with Linux preloaded (and at this point I'd settle for just not having to pay for Windows, as I recently had to with my Thinkpad).

Chuck Talk: Well, I was going to ask what the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow was, but I think we can hold on that one for now.

Jeremy Garcia: What do you mean? An African or European swallow?

Editor's Note: Fortunately, we lack a Bridge over the Gorge of Death here, else I'd be in real trouble right about now. ;)

Chuck Talk: Is there anything else you would like to say to my audience?

Jeremy Garcia: Thanks for reading this ;) If you'd like to keep up with my ramblings, you can do so at my blog (http://www.jeremy.linuxquestions.org). If anyone has any suggestions on how the site can be improved, don't hesitate to contact me. We're always striving to improve and feel that listening to our members is the best way to do that.

Chuck Talk: Thanks Jeremy for your time, and for LinuxQuestions. I have found the site and the people both helpful and am glad to have met you. Maybe someone out there in my audience would be able to help sponsor LinuxQuestions? If your company has the resources and can do so, I would ask you to help, as that site is probably one of the more useful sites to help promote Linux to new and even experienced users of Linux.

Until next time folks, remember to stay safe out there, and never match wits with a hoopy frood dude who knows the difference between an African or European swallow. He probably knows where his towel is as well. ;)


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