Floor Drees

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Tags:   postgresql (165)   open-source (3)   community (23)   conferences (14)  
Category:   Interviews   
Interview conducted by: Andreas Scherbaum

PostgreSQL is the World’s most advanced Open Source Relational Database. The interview series “PostgreSQL Person of the Week” presents the people who make the project what it is today. Read all interviews here.

Please tell us about yourself, and where you are from.

I was born in Leiden, in the Netherlands. Always had an appetite for learning and reading, but went to art school instead to explore that side of me that likes to create. I worked in design at a newspaper (NRC and nrc.next for the Dutchies), and as a community manager for agencies after falling in love with the Internet.

I moved to Vienna, Austria, for a job, thinking I’d stay a year and move on. I ended up living little over 7 years in Vienna, with an intermezzo of almost a year in Berlin. I ran a coworking space and an incubator program, learned how to program properly (Ruby, I had literally abused PHP in the previous years, to make my WordPress blog do what I wanted it to do), and became a mom.

In 2018 I moved back to the Netherlands. All my jobs had effectively been in developer relations, but only around then did we start using that term in Europe. In 2019 I started with Microsoft, and in 2021 I worked at Grafana Labs (through an acquisition of a small startup that does load testing). In 2022 I started at Aiven, where I got to take a closer look at data tools that I had so far kind of taken for granted. Fast forward a year and a bit, and here we are!

Floor Drees

Floor Drees

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I have a kiddo, dog, and chickens, and in the very little free time that’s left I like to knit and read books. But I also do a lot of community organizing: (beginner) workshops on web dev and DevOps topics, technical conferences… many conferences…

Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?

Last book you read? Or a book you want to recommend to readers?

“Working in Public: The Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software” is a fantastic book everyone working in and with open source should read. Nadia Eghbal describes the OSS ecosystem (or: complicated and loosely connected collection of ecosystems) formidably.

Otherwise I read a lot of non-fiction, mostly about historic and more recent events. Like the one about this Dutch entrepreneur (Gerard Sanderink) who got defrauded by a con-woman. His company/companies deals with sensitive data, and it’s scary to realize that one man can be a single point of failure.

What’s still on your bucket list?

Professionally I would like to start an OSPO (Open Source Program Office) at a company that’s just starting to walk their path in open source (while likely their developers have been using and creating open source software for ages). I’d also like to do more around open source sustainability, not the “green” thing (although, they might overlap), but making sure that we can all continue to create and benefit from quality open source projects. Maybe that’s with an organization, or maybe that’s in politics…

Privately my goal has always been to live somewhere remote-ish, have a bunch of farm animals, 5 dogs, and live sustainably.

What is the best advice you ever got?

“Maybe that’s not your hill to die on.” Or basically anything Eva Casado de Amezua (my manager at Microsoft) ever told me - oddly enough most metaphors were food-related. I can be quite the hot head and while I might be justifiably angry, in that state I can’t actually help anyone.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

That must have been in 2011 or 2012, when I first started with Rails and Ruby and the guides I followed used the Postgres gem. No idea what version we were on at that time, but I guess I could look it up from the commit history…

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?

My main contributions to any project are mostly community and event organizing: beginners workshops, meetups, conferences, room hosting, promoting content and CfPs, suggesting speakers…

Same goes for Postgres, which is definitely one of my favorite groups. It reminds me of what the Rails community was like back in the day. And it’s also intriguing, with its free software vibe, rather than the open source “the GitHub way” and its mailing lists.

Which skills are a must have for a PostgreSQL developer/user?

I think skills that are a must for any developer are a willingness to learn and to change one’s mind. And also: writing documentation, and contributing to documentation when it’s lacking (or when it’s too verbose). Good docs can really unblock someone, so not-exactly-code contributions like that are a great contribution to the project.

What’s in your toolbox?

What isn’t in there? I can mostly work with what’s required in any given context, but for private stuff I prefer VS Code and Codespaces, CLIs, and all that git has to offer. I’m using Windows on my Thinkpad, so that means Git for Windows.

Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?

I’m considering submitting a talk to PGConf.EU, partly because I love Prague. I’m hoping I can go to one more pgDay until then, and I wonder if I can help organizing teams find sponsors to cover and/or organize live streaming.

Do you think PostgreSQL has a high entry barrier?

Not as a user, but as a potential contributor: absolutely. I understand the argument that big and popular projects get a lot of “drive-by contributions”, but you’re not exactly giving people a chance to add value. Having the time to contribute to open source is a privilege frankly few people have - you need free time that you can spend however you wish, or your employer needs to support your open source work.

To avoid contributions that don’t add value there are other ways than adding friction: triage and label your tickets. Talk about what areas you’d appreciate other perspectives. Add PR templates that list what you consider a complete contribution. Does it need to contain tests, documentation? Attribute and highlight the contributions you think are exemplary.

What other places do you hang out?

I’m in some Discords (like the Microsoft Open Source one), some Slack’s (like TODO Group), and of course the Aiven Community forum.

Which other Open Source projects are you involved or interested in?

I’ll add stuff to confs.tech, and I have merge rights for the devopsdays project. Otherwise my contributions are opportunistic, or context-driven, but I do have a project coming up at work where we’ll split up GitHub organizations and do a health-check for all repositories.

Anything you’d like to add?

Borris Mejias thought I should answer the following 2 questions:

  • If I were a music album, which one would I be?
  • If I were a work of art, what painting would I be?

So here we go. I’d be “Sky at Night” by I am Kloot. It’s my go-to album - I have it on vinyl - for any kind of mood. And I’d be Vincent van Gogh’s Night’s Sky. I didn’t intend for these to be themed so neatly, but I’m an evening person, most creative in the late hours. And of course Vincent is Dutch and was very productive, maybe to his own detriment.