Today marks the end of the Era of Zonker at Novell, as Joe Brockmeier ends his tenure as Community Manager of openSUSE.
Brockmeier has done a pretty good job while at Novell, coordinating the community and marketing efforts around the popular openSUSE distro. It goes without saying that getting him on board lent a lot of legitimacy to Novell's business deal with Microsoft in 2006. Brockmeier has a lot of respect in the community, so when he calmly explained why Novell hadn't made a deal with the devil, people listened.
I personally did not like Novell's decision to partner with Microsoft--in particular the patent protection agreement that prompted a knee-jerk response from the free software community to change GPL v3 during its draft phase. At the time, I voiced the opinion that if Microsoft wanted to have integration so badly, it could do it without patent cooperation agreements.
I still believe that, and it's something on which Brockmeier and I disagree. But it doesn't change my respect for his work.
Plus, history has thus far demonstrated that the sky hasn't fallen in now that Microsoft is playing in the open source sandbox. There has been some friction, but overall the corporate attitude towards open source in Redmond seems to be thawing. Microsoft's relationship with Novell and watching the success of Google using open source tech likely play a big part in that thaw.
Brockmeier hasn't publicly cited his reason for departure, save to indicate in his blog that "one of the most important responsibilities any employee has -- especially a community manager--is to know when to move on, and not remain in a role just for the sake of having a job."
It will be interesting to see who lands in the now-open Community Manager spot at Novell. Those are going to be some big shoes to fill.