Interview – Jeff Geerling – Open Source Catholic

Jeff ( @geerlingguy ) currently works for flockNote, an online communication company based in Texas, and collaborates on many projects outside of his work for flockNote. He contributes code to some open source mobile development tools for iOS and Android, and contributes code, documentation, and support to Drupal, and dabbles in many small projects for various needs. Jeff currently lives in St. Louis, MO, and has worked on hundreds of websites and online applications since 1997, when he bought his first Mac.

What is your preferred Open Source platform and why?
I use and contribute to Drupal, a web content management framework written in PHP that (normally) uses PHP, MySQL, and Apache, but can be run on Microsoft servers, Linux, Mac, etc.
I love the Drupal development community, and I have grown quite a bit in my understanding of programming, project management, and team-based development through my involvement in the Drupal community. Since using Drupal has given me many benefits when building most websites I build (not to mention time saved over using other platforms), I am compelled to contribute back a portion of my time (mostly during free hours outside of paid work) to help make Drupal better.
Drupal is extremely flexible, and continually improves at the pace of the web; for this reason, I can often incorporate snazzy new features in new and existing projects with minimal effort.

What other/upcoming Open Source technologies are you excited about?
I’m always looking for new projects that I can try out and help with. I’m most excited about trying to learn more of some of the platforms and languages upon which the web and web standards are built, so I can start working more towards advancing the web forward even further. While not specifically Open Source, standards like HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript libraries like jQuery, CoffeeScript, and Node.js are frequent diversions.

What Open Source platforms do you see as having the most importance potential in the coming 12-18 months?
Almost anything based on using HTTP and other online transfer protocols is important right now, and will be for at least the next few years. Even more so for those platforms that are focusing on mobile technology (app development, mobile media delivery systems, and mobile-friendly CMSes). I’m excited about Drupal, WordPress, and some other great CMSes that are already working to be the best solutions for mobile websites and services.

How do you think Open Source is affecting SMBs?
In the past year or two, a lot more SMBs have been inquiring about moving from proprietary, in-house systems, to ‘the cloud’ and to Open Source solutions—especially for public-facing services. A lot of times, they want to integrate their existing database systems, CRM solutions, etc., with websites and other online properties, and that’s where Open Source Software is becoming the go-to solution.

How do you think Open Source is affecting enterprise level companies?
Many enterprise companies are looking for cost-effective ways they can make their operations more streamlined, and many times, there are Open Source solutions to their problems. One area in particular that I see becoming more prominent is the deployment of an OSS solution where there were many different proprietary products being used in the past, with many interfaces that didn’t work so well together.
Because of the modular nature of many Open Source systems, it is easy to add them into enterprise environments and get them working with different sets of data and different applications—many times the majority of the work is already done for the company in the form of contributed plugins, modules, and drivers!

What do you make of Microsoft’s recent efforts in interoperability and to embrace the Open Source community?
Microsoft is a much different company than I remember from my earlier years developing for the web. ‘Standards’ used to be supported, but not very well. Microsoft software used to be very tough to incorporate in any environment that wasn’t Microsoft-only. Nowadays, there are many components in the Microsoft ecosystem that are easier to work with. Microsoft has also been making strides into OSS communities like Drupal’s by extending a hand to the OSS community, in the form of resources, more conformity to open standards, and presence at major conferences and events.

How did you first get involved in Open Source development?
Through my web development, I’ve been immersed in OSS development for many years; I’ve used many Open Source CMSes including Mambo, Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, and DotNetNuke. Since about 2005, I’ve almost exclusively worked with open source software in my web development work, and had begun contributing back. But even before then, I had benefitted from, and appreciated, many great Open Source projects.

What makes you passionate about Open Source technology?
I’ve benefited from hundreds of OSS projects like ffmpeg, Adium, Handbrake, and countless libraries for Mac and Linux systems. I don’t think I can ever repay all the development communities from which I directly benefit in my daily work. I do what I can to contribute back; sometimes I support a project with a monetary donation, sometimes I contribute code, code reviews, or documentation. I like the fact that a group of like-minded people can get together and make great software (and hardware!) that helps make the world a better place, without any hope for profitability!
I do it for the love of the code, for fun, for kudos from fellow developers, and to making my own life easier.