Libre Graphics Meeting 2019 kicked off with talks and workshops today, but in some ways, it’s not the same as before. Earlier this year, in March, we lost Peter Linnell to cancer. And it’s something I want to talk about.
As some of you know, Peter was instrumental in setting up several projects, such as Scribus and OpenIcc. He contacted Franz Schmid back when Scribus was a tiny program not targeted at professionals at all, and explained to him the need for PS and PDF support.
As the project's mythology goes, Franz then printed out the copy of PDF reference and meticulously read all of it, writing down comments with a pencil. The rest is history.
Peter didn't leave it at that though. He helped organizing Scribus community, set up the website and development infastructure, and he was the person who started writing documentation for users which is where his 'mrdocs' nickname stems from.
Peter also played an important role in helping to organize Libre Graphics Meeting. Later on, Peter joined openSUSE project and was on the project's board in 2011 and 2012, then stayed as project's alumni until his death.
The reason I'm talking about this is... The community is made up of all kinds of people. The ones easily triggered by perceieved or actual injustices and giving other people hell for it. The bad-mouthed outspoken ones like myself... And then there are people like Peter who quietly get shit done and thus easily become the backbone of any community they enter.
To me, Peter was one of the voices of reason in the community. He didn't need to argue loudly to get his point across and he had a bottomless supply of empathy. I think, we can all learn from him, even post-mortem. In fact, I think we absolutely have to do that if we expect to get anywhere.
I last spoke to Peter in late 2017. He had recently moved back to USA with his family after living overseas for a long time. He seemed exhausted yet happy because he was back at home, close to his extended family on Cape Cod where he was born and where he found a home again.
Here is how people across the community remember Peter.
Boudewijn Rempt, Krita
I remember meeting Peter in Montreal at the 2009 LGM, and immediately getting a huge boost: his confidence that we'd all do well was so infectious. His deep knowledge, too... Later on, he actually made me blush when reading my morning dose of Linux news.
He was also a man you could not have met withoug loving him; at least, I cannot imagine anyone not remembering him like that, if he engaged with one, he left a deep impression of caring.
Thank you Peter, for all you've done for us, and for all that you've been for all of us.
Liam R E Quin (GIMP, ex-W3C):
Years ago at i think my first libregraphicsmeeting Peter greeted me with a huge grin and bouncy enthusiasm; after years on IRC it was the first time we had met.
When we lose someone wonderful, for a while, the world is the poorer. We all have to remember to be as welcoming and kind as Peter was, so that the world can become a better place once again.
Bryce Harrington (Inkscape):
I was very stunned and saddened to hear about mrdocs' passing today. My sympathies go to his family, and to the extended graphics community that he did so much to help build. I lost my own mother to cancer in December, so this hits home.
Peter played an instrumental role in Inkscape's early days to connect us with Scribus and other projects. In those days, Qt and Gtk seemed polar opposites but he demonstrated that the things we had in common — a love of graphics, a belief in Open Source, and the camaraderie of collaboration — was far stronger.
I think I speak for the Inkscape team to say thank you, Peter, you will be missed but we share your passion for our extended FOSS graphics community, and will strive to bring welcome to our sister projects as you brought welcome to us.
Josh Andler (Inkscape):
I was really caught off guard by his passing. I had looked for him at SCALE this year as that's the event I got to see him at the most, but chalked it up to he couldn't make it (not knowing why). Peter was a really great guy from my handful of interactions with him at SCALE over the years (and my many more interactions with him on IRC for many years leading up to meeting him). My condolences.
Andy Fitzsimon (Red Hat)
This is heartbreaking. Peter was the most welcoming soul and the most enthusiastic about any contributor's ambitions and changes.
He wouldn't only celebrate software improvements. He would celebrate the people, and made sure their efforts were recognised. And that they KNEW how much they were appreciated.
I wish all communities knew his unique style, his force for good, and his center of gravity.
My friends, it's been a long time; but I'm glad so many of us got to share in knowing mrdocs online and IRL.
Raising my glass from this side of the planet.
Ricardo Lafuente (Manufactura Independente, ex-Libre Graphics Magazine):
I can still remember his lecturing us on the bliss of justified text for our magazine, and his always-on commentary whenever an unusual car passed by. What a sad bit of news :(
I always appreciated how mrdocs handled release announcements when reaching out to me as press: with real conversation and actual interest in what was useful/interesting — helpfulness even when no one in public would see it.
Antonio Larrosa (SUSE)
Sad to read that Peter Linnell (mrdocs) has passed away. He was a great colleague at @SUSE where I had the luck to work with him a few times. He was founder of Scribus and Libre Graphics Meeting and contributor of Inkscape and many others. He'll be missed.
Very sorry to hear this. Although we share the same last name we’re not closely related, but he was so helpful and welcoming to me when I joined SUSE you’d have thought we were. I’ll miss my “long lost cousin” Peter.
Had the good fortune of working with Peter Linnell here at Cloudera. Shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. My condolences to his family and friends.
Henne Vogelsang, openSUSE:
We will always remember Peter as fellow tinkerer, with an boundless passion to understand the inner workings and meanings of software and people. Farewell Peter, you’ll be missed by the openSUSE Community.