About my journey to become a Nextclouder

Author's profile image

Jonas Sulzer

Written on January 9, 2019

Group pic Nextcloud contributor week Nov 2018
Picture: Nextcloud

It all started when I decided on my Matura paper topic. (The Matura paper is a graduation paper one does in Swiss high schools.) My goal was to improve the schools infrastructure or at least to come up with a possible solution for this. Our school's infrastructure for storing and distributing files was ― until now ― nothing more than a blank WebDAV-Server. Most not-so-techie students and teachers don't know how to use this and it has bugs and problems quite chronically. Honestly, you can't expect regular users to know how to set up and configure a network drive and if it has problems regularly, how should people know if they are doing it wrong or if it's a problem of the infrastructure?
As a person who is aware of privacy, I know there are other solutions to this than Google Drive, Microsoft Onedrive or Dropbox. There exist different open source software solutions providing not only file sync and share with easy to use mobile applications and a web interface but also different collaboration tools. On top of this, they can be hosted on your own infrastructure and therefore provide full control on security and privacy.
A detailed benefit analysis shows clearly that Nextcloud is leading in all points from UI/UX over license to extendability. So it is clear that Nextcloud would be the software of choice for my pilot project I've done with four school classes and about ten interested Teachers.

While doing my Matura paper, I got more and more in contact with Nextcloud ― I started testing prereleases and reported my own issues which I have encountered ― and it's source code. In the beginning, I was just looking at the code but soon my motivation to contribute something became bigger and bigger. The issues I had to post myself were too hard for me to start with, because I did not know yet where to look for the relevant source code. I wanted to try my luck with something simple, so I checked the issues labeled with "good first issue" for something easy to start with.
This led me to my first accepted tiny Pull Request (A PR is a proposal for an upstream code change): I added a Mastodon icon linking to Nextclouds Mastodon account into the personal settings "page". Yes, you heard it correctly; it was not my first PR. And that's totally normal and fine; don't be afraid and just try it again with something else if your first PR is not the best way to fix or enhance something. The Nextcloud team and probably all contributors are always supportive and helpful.

After a few more pull requests, I was very surprised but happy at the same time, that Jan (the design lead of Nextcloud) invited me to the upcoming Nextcloud Contributor Week (alias Hackweek).

Even though I already knew that all Nextclouders are motivated and helpful I was still amazed about it when I finally arrived in Stuttgart on Monday 26th November.
All in all it was a great week of coding and learning. I also enjoyed finally being together with all the people I already knew from GitHub and the other communication and collaboration platforms. All of them are focused but at the same time humorous and helpful in a therefore relaxed atmosphere.
I also really liked to meet so many different people from many different nations. There were people from Albania to the Czech Republic to Poland, the Netherlands or Spain. Even tough all of them are so different humans beings, they've all got the same interest and goal: Work on and improving open source software.
Right at the beginning of the week I was allowed to follow the planning meeting, where new features but also other ideas were discussed. I really liked how honest everyone was (including Frank, the founder of Nextcloud).
There was a perfect balance between productivity/focus and humour. For example as the idea of doing something with machine learning was discussed and Frank showed a simple example with statistics, the following joke was made:

What's the difference between machine learning or artificial intelligence and statistics? ― Marketing

At the beginning of the week, I started with some small tasks I'd already looked at at home. Even tough everybody was just working on his/her own, everybody always got help from the others if he/she had questions.
Later on, Jan talked to me about the new Social app for Nextcloud. The Social app can be compared to something like Twitter but it uses the Activity Pub protocol to communicate/federate with other servers like Mastodon. Therefore everything you post stays on your Nextcloud but you still have the possibility to communicate with users from other servers. Since this idea was very appealing to me, Jan asked Julius (one of the two main Social developers) if he had a task for me to work on. He obviously had some but not only that: Julius also became a great help to me and I was able to learn many new things thanks to his advices.

A big thank you to Jan, Julius, Morris and all the other Nextclouders who made this week possible the way it was.

There is already a next Contributor Week planned for March 11-15, 2019!!!

© Jonas Sulzer
Proudly presented by violoncello.ch