COMMUNITY COMPUTING
Linux Format|July 2020
Erstwhile scourge of the community Jonni Bidwell meets  community hacker Jona Azizaj at the Open Source  Summit to talk hacking and happiness (packets).
Jonni Bidwell

Jona Azizaj is a FLOSS evangelist and community advocate for Kiwi.com, the virtual online travel agent. She’s a Fedora ambassador, mentor and diversity advisor. And she’s also co-founder of Open Source Diversity, which promotes inclusion in free software communities, and a contributor to Nextcloud (having been introduced through a Rails Girls Summer of Code internship) and LibreOffice.

Jona lives in the Czech city of Brno (where the Kiwi.com HQ is), but hails originally from Albania. Working with the Document Foundation, Jona was involved with migrating the Municipality of Tirana (Albania’s largest) to open source software and in particular LibreOffice (read more about this at https://bit.ly/lxf264-tiranalibreoffice). Jona was kind enough to chat with Jonni at the Linux Foundation’s Open Source Summit in Lyon in October 2019. And then she had to scurry off to address a room full of people.

Linux Format: You seem quite calm for someone who has to give a talk in about an hour. The numerous display panels tell me your talk is entitled ‘Why we care about open source at Kiwi.com’. What are you going to cover?

Jona Azizaj: I’m going to talk about how we contribute to open source at my company, and specifically Sourcelift, which is a project of ours that supports open source communities and developers. It helps them get together and so on. Kiwi.com is an online travel agency and people don’t usually relate that with open source. So I thought that it would be good to talk about what we do with it and why we care about it.

LXF: How long have you worked at Kiwi.com?

JA: Not that long actually, only seven months. That’s when I moved to Brno in the Czech Republic, where its headquarters are. It’s been an interesting adventure. I really enjoy the enthusiasm for open source at my work, and people really embrace it. That kind of makes work easier, being around people who share and understand your interests.

LXF: One open-source project that I rely on, and to some extent that my life depends on in fact, is Nextcloud. This audio I’m recording now gets beamed to a Nextcloud instance, so we’re not sending your voice to Google. This phone I’m recording on is awfully old, and I sense it is not long for this world, so it’s not what you would call reliable storage. (Noteworthy fact: Three days later the phone met a concretey end. And now we suspect Jonni sees things before they happen). Anyway, I digress, you’ve contributed to that as well, right?

JA: My friend and I were part of Rails Girls Summer of Code in 2017, so we got to be an intern at Nextcloud for three months. We worked mostly on the Contacts app, and we mostly used JavaScript and Angular.js. Again, it was another interesting experience, coding in such a huge project. The community is amazing.

In the beginning we were quite nervous, especially being new and having to ask strangers questions over IRC. However, when we attended its annual conference, the hack days were fun because we could ask our questions face to face. People would explain to you how everything worked, what was the correct way to do this weird thing in JavaScript. It was great!

LXF: JavaScript, and all things ending in dot js scare me nowadays. It just used to be this innocent thing for making web pages for interesting things and now it’s become something totally different. On the rare occasions when I’m allowed to code, I pretty much only use Python. And it’s usually more about math than code…

JA: Yes, your fear of JavaScript is probably reasonable. I’ve seen some scary complicated things. I used Python for Fedora Happiness Packets actually. Ah, math was my favourite subject when I was at school.

LXF: Mathematics is what got me into open-source actually, although I’m not sure at what point algebra turned into this weird intersection of print media and Linux (you needed a job–Ed). Wait. Tell me more about these Happy Packets.

JA: Oh, Happiness Packets – yeah, there’s a project called Open Source Happiness Packets (www.happinesspackets.io). It’s not a Fedora project, but we really liked the idea behind it: you can write a short message of gratitude to a project contributor. We wanted to do this in our projects, we wanted to be able to thank people, whether they’d made a big contribution or just something small, it doesn’t matter. We just want to be able to say thank you and we really appreciate it, and your work is really valuable for the community.

So we ported the project to be able to do this specifically in Fedora. In 2018 we got an intern on board for three months through the Google Summer of Code (GSoc) programme, which Fedora Happiness Packets was a part of. Then we picked up two more interns, this time through Gnome’s Outreachy programme. So that all worked out rather nicely – we were doing something good for the community, but also getting more people involved in our project.

LXF: What is your distro of choice and what glorious open source tooling to you use in your day-to-day Linux existence?

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