Interview with Elizabeth K. Joseph of the Ubuntu Community Council

The Ubuntu Community Council is the primary community (i.e., non-technical) governance body for the Ubuntu project. In this series of 7 interviews, we go behind the scenes with the community members who were elected in 2013 serve on this council with Mark Shuttleworth.

In this, our sixth interview, we talk with Elizabeth K. Joseph who shares some details about her systems administration work, and efforts with the Ubuntu News Team, local Ubuntu teams, Xubuntu and more.


What do you do for a career?

I work as a systems administrator and frequently write and speak about my work in that role. My current position is with HP on the OpenStack Project Infrastructure where we maintain dozens of static systems that developers interface with for their work on OpenStack and a fleet of hundreds of worker servers that run all of the tests that are done against the code before it’s merged. This infrastructure is fully open source, with all of our system configurations, Puppet tooling and projects we used available via git here. Since I have a passion for both systems administration and open source, it’s been quite the dream job for me as I work with colleagues from around the world, across several companies.

What was your first computing experience?

In 1991, when I was 10 years old, my uncle gave our family an IBM PC that was as old as I was. DOS-only, I spent hours writing stories on WordPerfect and playing games from 5.25″ floppy disks. In 1993 we got a system that had a graphical interface and that’s when I inherited the old IBM for personal use and really got to digging around into the guts of that old system and breaking things. Throughout my teenage years my interest in computers grew and I found myself buying really cheap old hardware at garage sales so I could play around with it.

How long have you been involved with Ubuntu? And how long on the Ubuntu Community Council?

I first started using Ubuntu in March of 2005, which I only know because that’s when I also created my account for asking a question about the laptop I was installing it on. Involvement began in early 2006 when I got involved with Ubuntu Women to help with the website and to consolidate resources from the officially recognized project (mailing list, web site) and the earlier created resources (forums, IRC channel). In 2007 I got involved with Ubuntu Pennsylvania where we did everything from release parties to working with local organizations to deploy Ubuntu on recycled computers for non-profits.

I joined the Community Council in 2009, so it’s been nearly 6 years! It’s been an amazing opportunity to play an important role in our community where we work with all kinds of teams I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. I highly recommend to others that they apply for a position on the council when elections for the next two year term come up in the fall.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on in Ubuntu over the years?

I’ve done a lot of work with LoCos over the years, first in Pennsylvania and now in California, where I served as part of the leadership team for a few years. I spent several years working on Ubuntu Classroom, which has now been largely replaced by video-based Q&A sessions and tutorials, but were valuable to the community when we were more text chat focused. The work with Ubuntu Women was a pretty major part of my work for a long time, as we sought to encourage more women to get involved with Ubuntu through online events, giveaways, informal mentoring and general social support. I also served on the Ubuntu Membership Board for 4 years, which was a really valuable and inspiring experience for getting to know some of our latest, strong contributors.

What is your focus in Ubuntu today?

I host local events for Ubuntu California, including monthly Ubuntu Hours when I’m in town and events like the Ubuntu Global Jam back in February where we brought together local folks for doing Quality Assurance testing on the latest ISOs for Xubuntu. I also give talks about Ubuntu or Xubuntu, typically focused on getting involved or features about the latest releases. I also am the lead editor for the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter which collects news from around our community and around the world about Ubuntu for publishing each Monday – it sure keeps me busy! Finally, I’m the Marketing lead for Xubuntu, so I manage relationships with companies who provide stickers and shirts for our community, help coordinate giveaways, make sure project announcements reach our broader community and manage our social media accounts.

Do you contribute to other free/open source projects? Which ones?

Since my actual day job is working on OpenStack, OpenStack is a big one! And where the vast majority of my code and infrastructure commits are these days. Over the years I’ve also contributed to Debian and various patches to small projects like BitlBee. I’m very fortunate to have always had employers who encourage open source contributions, so it’s been easy for me to continue contributions as my career has evolved.

If you were to give a newcomer some advice about getting involved with Ubuntu, what would it be?

Jump right in! The Ubuntu Community Portal has extensive documentation for various parts of the project you can get involved with based on your interest and expertise. From tasks that anyone can do, regardless of technical expertise, to more specialized ones, the site gives an overview of resources and links to more if you find something you’re interested in. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I gave a talk last year about five specific places to get involved, which you can read about here. You can check out extended slides (pdf) for a ten ways to get involved talk I gave with Nicholas Skaggs at Fossetcon back in September.

Do you have any other comments else you wish to share with the community?

Shameless plug: The Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter always needs volunteers! We need folks who can write short summaries for articles and do editorial review, so drop me a line at if you’re interested and I can get you details.

New to this series? Check out our previous Community Council interviews:

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