I’ve only met Zonker face-to-face once. It was back in 2001, when I was at the New York LinuxWorld Expo on behalf of Progeny Linux Systems. Progeny was sharing a booth with Maximum Linux magazine, and Zonker came around to ask if the company had any openings for technical writers (it didn’t). But in the following years, I came to recognize him as one of the half dozen or so best professional writers in the business. Then, for large chunks of 2006 and 2007, I interacted with him daily on Linux.com’s private IRC channel, where he went under the nickname of jzb. So, as happens on the Internet, I likely have the impression that I know him better than I actually do.
I suspect that jzb may not completely appreciate what I have to say here, but I hope that openSUSE appreciates what they’re getting. They’re getting a worker so dedicated that he makes me feel like a slacker – and I might as well be chained to my computer desk. I used to joke that Linux.com would fall apart if he ever got a life, and, although that’s not true – as we learned when he left last September to become editor-in-chief at Linux Magazine – it’s true that the channel has been quieter and not as much fun since.
So what else can openSUSE expect? They can expect a sarcastic wit that is acute without being nasty, and a thorough knowledge of science fiction and alternative music. They can also expect a sympathetic ear in private. Perhaps, too, they should expect some surprises, such as Linux.com’s last year when we discovered that he had been half of a long distance, intra-office romance for months without any of us suspecting.
But, most of all, they can expect someone who lives and breathes free software, and is more current about what’s happening in the community than anyone I’ve encountered (he used to regularly claim story assignments before I could, and, while he was aided by being two hours ahead of me, that wasn’t the only reason he consistently scooped me. I swear the bastard never sleeps).
I have no ambitions to be editor-in-chief or a community manager, and I would have personal reservations about working at Novell after its pact with Microsoft, so I can say without envy that I wish him nothing except success. I know that he has definite ideas about how to do things, and I suspect that, before he finishes, openSUSE will be a more organized and better known part of the community. And, for his part, I hope that being community manager is the position he’s been looking for.
The only thing I worry about is whether this is another setup by jzb, like those I’ve been the butt of in the past. You see, my comments about conspiracy theories have already caused some of the foaming mouth brigade to denounce me as secretly pro-Microsoft. By joining Novell, is Zonker arranging things so that Linux.com and Linux Magazine will be added to the Axis of Evil? After all, between the two of us, we must constitute a positive trend according what passes for logic in those circles. And is jzb sitting down in Florida, laughing about it?
You know, I wouldn’t put it past him – even if NOAFD (Not on a First Date), to use an acronym that he helped to coin and made into a punchline on IRC.