Recently, Deryck Hodge took over from Bjorn Tillenius as the leader of Canonical’s Launchpad Bug Tracker team. That seemed like a good chance to catch up with Deryck. I’ll post an updated interview with Bjorn soon covering his new role as Launchpad Technical Architect.
Matthew: What do you do on the Launchpad team?
Deryck: I work on the bugs application in Launchpad and am also, as of two weeks ago, the bugs team lead.
Matthew: Can we see something in Launchpad that you’ve worked on?
Deryck: I’ve been doing Ajax work on the bug page mostly. All of the inline bug subscription work is by me, and the inline description editing as well.
Matthew: Where do you work?
Deryck: I’m in Dadeville, Alabama, a very small town no one has everheard of. It’s not far from Auburn, a university town in Alabama. It’s a nice rural community around Alabama’s largest man-made lake.
Matthew: What can you see from your office window?
Deryck: The short answer is my drive way. The longer, more accurate, answer is a Barbie go-kart and two little tyke
four wheelers (of which none of them run), a pile of old lumber, some cardboard to take to recyle, and my dog, lying under the steps of my porch. I’m hesistant to tell all this as it makes me so much of a Southern cliche here in the U.S.
Matthew: What did you do before working at Canonical?
Deryck: I worked for several media companies. I worked for a company in Las Vegas called Greenspun Media most recently. And before that, I worked for the Washington Post Company and Scripps. I worked on all manner of web apps, but I had particular experiences in social applications — Facebook Platform, Open Social, iPhone, etc. I was even Emmy nominated as a developer if you can believe it (along with two colleagues) for a project I did while at the Post.
Matthew: How did you get into free software?
Deryck: Initially, a friend of mine gave me a RedHat CD. He was a Samba dev and was constanly talking with me about FOSS, so I knew a bit just from conversations with him. I was interested in learning to code and really getting into the
personal freedom FOSS granted. I tried RedHat for a while, then left it. Then, I came back to Linux as I was learning more about coding, spent some time on Suse and then settled on Ubuntu early on after it appeared.
Really, my interest in coding and FOSS are intertwined. I wouldn’t have learned to code had I not had access to free software and friends in FOSS who mentored me.
Matthew: What’s more important? Principle or pragmatism?
Deryck: I’m pragmatic in my pursuit of principal. Seriously, though, principal drives everything for me, but I think you have to be pragmatic in achieving the goals that are derived from your principals. Some things are possible now, some in the future, and I try to be realistic about what can be achieved in the pursuit of my principals.
Matthew: Do you/have you contribute(d) to any free software projects?
Deryck: I have been a Samba Team member for a little over 5 years now. I don’t work on Samba itself, but I have done a fair amount of work in supporting the project through maintaining its web sites, web apps, and related servers. I have some
minor, older contributions to Samba itself for SWAT and a couple of the VFS modules. I also have done some small contributions to Django in the past. I wish I could get back to helping on Django more. It’s one of those projects that’s just close to my heart.
Matthew: Tell us something really cool about Launchpad that not enough people know about.
Deryck: It’s open source! Okay, so maybe some people have heard of that, but we should say it again. Launchpad is open source! Come hack on it with us!
Matthew: One of your favourite bands is Marillion. They’re about to release a stripped-back accoustic album. Are you ever tempted to take a stripped-back, simpler, almost “accoustic” approach to your code?
Deryck: I would love to be simpler, more “accoustic” as you say. But I wonder if my code isn’t more like Marillion’s Brave — a bit winding with some personal digressions, but (hopefully) a satisfying piece of work all the same.
Matthew: Okay, Kiko’s special question! You’re at your computer, you reach for your wallet: what are you most likely to be doing?
Deryck: I’m addicted to buying online. I’m an easy sell for digital work — music, books, art. Anything I can carry on my phone, ebook reader, or laptop. I’m a bit of a virtual worlds addict, too. So I probably spend too much on Second Life. I’m the poster boy for funding the web via micro payments.
Matthew: Thanks Deryck!