Wednesday, May 31, 2023 - 06:00
  • Share this article:

At a Glance:

  • Involved in open source since: 2010
  • Works for: Open Elements
  • Eclipse Foundation contributor since: 2017 
  • Involved in: Eclipse Adoptium, Eclipse Adoptium Incubator, Eclipse AQAvit, Eclipse Temurin, Jakarta Bean Validation
  • Committer to: All of the above
  • Eclipse Foundation committer since: 2017 
  • Fun fact: He owns more board games than he’s done pull requests.

What’s your background with open source?

I got my first job as a developer right after I finished my studies in 2009. As part of that job, every month I’d drive 45 minutes to a Java User Group meeting in Dusseldorf. I was speaking with one of the organizers who suggested I could start one in my own town, which I did in 2010. It started fairly small but by the end we had some pretty large events with over 100 people attending. As part of that, I got to talking with a lot of the speakers about open source and got more and more interested in it. 

These days, I also run my own company, Open Elements, which is really focused on helping people get into open source and helping open source have a bigger impact. 

How did that lead to your involvement with the Eclipse Foundation?

It was really through Java EE, which of course is now Jakarta EE. I was working on Java EE specifications and when it made the leap to the Eclipse Foundation, so did I. My involvement with Java is also what got me involved with the Eclipse Adoptium project, which I was involved with in the form of AdoptOpenJDK initially. 

I work on several things in the Adoptium project, though principally I’m involved with Eclipse Temurin. It’s also not only technical work: I was closely involved with the creation of the marketplace for OpenJDK binaries, as well as documentation and translating documentation from German to English. 

This year I also became a member of the Board of Directors of the Eclipse Foundation. In that role I want to help companies use and introduce more open source software (OSS) and make it easier for newcomers to start working on open source.

How have you found the experience of being part of the Eclipse Foundation?

I always liked the idea of having these centralized foundations or areas for multiple people or companies to work together on open source. Having a small open source project that you just work on yourself is fine, but if you want to do something larger, you need a community. That can come in the form of a company or foundation. 

The advantage of a foundation is that small and large companies alike can work alongside one another and collaborate. This really helps every player involved in an open source project shine and contribute their strengths. Often, some of the most innovative ideas come from smaller companies. But larger companies often have more experts or expertise, not to mention they have the financial capability of backing larger projects. This makes working in a space like the Eclipse Foundation quite exciting. 

Any advice for someone looking to get involved more with open source?

A great place to start is locally. Look for a hackathon or something going on. Get your feet wet, get a feel for some of the processes and workflows involved in open source and different projects. It’s really important to understand the workflows, such as pull requests. 

Another good place to start, or to follow-up, is with something non-technical. Projects are always looking for documentation or translation, and that again lets you get familiar with the workflows and what’s happening in the project without having to worry about the code you’re trying to contribute. That’s where I got started, and I still spend a part of my time making non-technical contributions. 

Once you’re familiar with the workflow, look for a project that you like and start there. In that project, find issues that have been labeled either “good first issue” or “help wanted.” These are generally targeted at newcomers and if they’re there, it’s usually a good sign that the community involved in the project is willing and able to help new people get involved. It’s totally OK to even just comment something like, “Hey, I’d like to work on that, but I have no idea how — can someone give me a clue or help me out?” Speaking for myself, I’d be happy to sit down with someone over 10 or 15 Zoom meetings to help them work through an issue.