Benjamin Mako Hill
Debian developer: yes
Debian login: firstname.lastname@example.org
IRC nickname: mako
Canonical employee: previously, but not currently
What were you doing in Debian before joining Ubuntu ?
I've worked in a Debian in a variety of places. I have maintained a handful of packages for several years, contributed through a few Alioth teams, started a now defunct Debian subproject called Debian-NP, served on the DPL team under Braden Robinson, acted as Hardware Donations Manager and project Accountant, and served as Vice President of Software in the Public Interest, Inc.
Why did you join Ubuntu and what are you doing for Ubuntu ?
I joined Ubuntu early on as a Canonical employee in charge of building the Ubuntu community (both users and developers) in the first year. I liked the vision of building on Debian to provide frequent releases, corporate support, and a number of things that Debian could not easily do as a volunteer organization. I thought this would let Debian focus on what it does best -- motivating and organization a massive volunteer pool to do great work and create a high quality distribituion representative of the entire free software universe. Something that Ubuntu respected and could not replicate.
What are you doing nowadays in Debian ?
The same as before. I continue to actively maintain packages like most, aub, mairix, libtemplate-perl, and a few others. I am no longer particularly active on the DPL-team which is, as a whole, largely inactive (I joined this after joining Ubuntu). I am not active on the Debian-NP project which was largely inactive before the Ubuntu project began. Everything else continues as before.
Can you explain the change (if any) ?
My work has stayed level or increased slightly since working on Ubuntu. Every upload of my packages has been to Debian and then it is synced from Debian into Ubuntu.
I have left Canonical to work at the Media Lab at MIT full time although the major reduction has been in my work spent on Ubuntu. My work on Debian has maintained relatively standard throughout.
What do you think of the Debian-Ubuntu collaboration ?
I think Ubuntu has had more success in the last year than anyone had imagined. I think many people have been frusterated by a precieved lack of movement on several important issues in Debian and Ubuntu has provided a visible target through contrast. Ultimately, this had led to vicious circle in some situations with blame shared equally on both sides. It's ultimately very sad because it has put up barriers to collaboration between the two groups. These groups should not, in my opinion, even be as seperate as they are now.
What do you wish for the future ?
I think Debian has the opportunity to become the most central point in an ecosystem of distributions. It seems that Ubuntu will also be extremely important in this process and the two groups will need to work together. A healthy relationship between the two projects is essential for either project's success.
As someone who, at this point, has an interest in seeing both sides succeed, I'd like to do whatever I can to make that happen. At this point, I don't think that either Ubuntu or Debian can reach it's full potential without the other one.