Jiří Kovalský, Community Manager

NetBeans is an IDE, a platform, and a community. And the full time NetBeans team at Oracle plays a very important role in all of that. However, the people that does all the great work are also very modest about their accomplishments. And so the community doesn’t know all the interesting people that are involved and what they do every day. This is the first in a series of interviews with the various team members, to introduce them to the community. Today I am priviledged to introduce Jiří Kovalský.

Jiří Kovalský on vacation in the Jizerske hory mountains
Jiří Kovalský on vacation in the Jizerske hory mountains

Hermien Pellissier: How long have you been a part of the NetBeans team?

Jiří Kovalský: I am proud to work for the NetBeans project already since July 2000 so it will be 13 years this summer! Being part of one team for such a long time has both good and bad aspects. On one side you watch the fantastic progress of the project while on the other hand it also brings sad moments like seeing your good friends leaving the road you walked together for years.

HP: What is your role in the team?

JK: I am actually sitting on two chairs. My job title reads “NetBeans Community Manager” so I should be managing NetBeans community but I prefer to call it cooperation or coordination at maximum rather than any kind of management. In open source world people contribute voluntarily, right? NetBeans has a huge community which by the way reached 1.3 million active users last year and it’s logical that there are many people who want to give something back for the free tool they use daily. So, I for example try to do my best to help those active users contribute where it makes sense and coordinate such efforts to maximize productivity.

You might have probably heard of NetCAT program which is now an essential part of the NetBeans stabilization phase. Imagine there are ~100 NetCAT participants who test NetBeans development builds. Such a crowd needs a bit of coordination to distribute the work load, you must provide clear instructions to avoid misunderstandings and of course empathy is handy too. And that’s my job.

Besides NetCAT, I for example “manage” team of Plugin Verifiers. These are volunteers who constantly test NetBeans plugins which aim to the NetBeans Update Center. I am also responsible for processing Oracle Contributor Agreements.

HP: And what’s the other chair?

JK: Secondly, I am member of the NetBeans Quality Engineering team responsible for Java/Ant Debugger and JUnit/TestNG support. This includes testing these features, reporting bugs, updating test specifications or maintenance of automated tests. Since the beginning I have been also involved in design of the Plugin Portal so I feel responsibility for that web too.

HP: What is a typical work day like for you?

JK: Firstly, I must explain that I work from home 4 days a week. Since I live in a small town called Bohumin, I travel to the office in Prague every other week for two days.

I wake up at 6:00 AM, make some tea and prepare a breakfast for kids. Then I wake them up and prepare my breakfast and a snack for the children. At 7:30 we drive to school. On my way home I sometimes do some shopping. After my return from the school I finally turn on my computer. Yes, its uptime is 24 hours at maximum. 🙂

I know some mentors would disagree with it but I start my working hours by reading e-mails. Being the NetBeans Community Manager I have to communicate a lot and morning is the perfect time to resolve things from those community members who live on the other side of the Earth. Requests from those in my time zone or near enough can wait till the afternoon, can’t they? 🙂 I dedicate ~1 hour to e-mails and then switch to the most important task planned for the day. This can be for example testing latest NetBeans IDE and JDK bundles, calculating activity of NetCAT participants, searching for new plugins to be featured on the web site, verification of bug fixes planned to an update release, writing a speech for an online chat with community members or stabilization of Debugger sanity automated test suite.

Around noon I eat lunch in advance cooked by my wife or prepare something myself. One of my bad habits is reading Facebook or some newspapers during lunch. 🙂 In the afternoon I again check my e-mails and try to fully clear my Inbox. Then I sometimes prepare for meetings if there are any. If not, I switch to another priority task on my Todo list. Typically it concerns some communication with NetBeans community which needs concentration and time. I am not fan of multitasking so I prefer finishing my task at all costs before going further. Downside of this approach is that I sometimes end my day with more duties than I had in the morning.

At 4:30 PM I often interrupt my work and drive for kids and wife. If there is something critical I continue working in the evening when our house goes silent. This happens when I for example write a NetCAT status report which takes around 6 hours in total. I try to shutdown my computer no later than 10:30 PM. Just out of curiosity, in 2012 I spent 18.9% with e-mails, 28.4% with NetCAT or 14.3% on testing.

HP: Which aspect of your job do you enjoy the most, and why?

JK: You know what’s exciting? That so many different people from variety of cultures with almost no chance to meet in person cooperate together to build a better product. I like that although I am just a tiny bit in this big puzzle I can make a difference. Just as anyone who feels strongly about NetBeans too. That’s what I like about my job.

HP: Which new NetBeans feature(s) are you most excited about?

JK: How many you want to hear? Just one? 🙂 Oh, it will be difficult. So, just briefly:

7.3: New web client development support and the integration with Chrome is simply amazing.
7.2: Background indexing using transactions which lead to vastly increased performance.
Overall: It may sound stupid but I like small Editing features like Hippie Completion (Ctrl+K), regular expressions in Find & Replace tool and Macros. These are some quite good time savers.

HP: What are your other interests?

JK: First of all family comes to my mind. I like to spend my time with my wife and kids. I like reading books for Ondrej (6 years old son), I like listening to Zuzana (8 years old daughter) playing violin, I like programming with Barbora (10 years old daughter) and of course I like for example skiing or going to a theatre with my wife.

Sport is significant for me in general. I am especially keen on playing volleyball (Fridays) and squash (bi weekly). I do weights once a week. I am also kind of interested in arts – I collect old paintings for instance. I don’t have any from Pablo Picasso or Claude Monet yet 😀 but these were really great painters.

HP: Which movie/book genre(s) is/are your favourite(s)?

JK: I know it is scary but I don’t read books. I am sure though I will enjoy it when I retire. 🙂 However, I like Sci-fi genre which fascinated me when I first saw the Aliens movie by James Cameron in 1988. The Matrix from 1999 was another hit and recently I liked Avatar a lot from 2009.

HP: What is your favourite holiday destination?

JK: I don’t have any concrete preference but since the Czech Republic is a landlocked country I like for some reason sea, waves and the fresh air. My wife prefers mountains so we made a compromise and go to mountains one year and fly to some coast next year. 🙂

HP: Are there any blogs (NetBeans related or otherwise) that you would recommend?

JK: I don’t watch blogs much but Geertjan’s blog keeps surprising me with its useful content and has the most hits in my browser’s history. Otherwise I am happy subscriber of PHD Comics by Jorge Cham. It’s not only entertaining but educative at the same time.

HP: Thank you very much for the interview!

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