I step back as organizer of Grazer Linuxtage [soon]

✍️ Written on 2022-05-11 in 1614 words.
Part of project glt reflection


Grazer Linuxtage is twofold: Grazer Linuxtage is legally a club with me as lead representative, but also the name of an annual event on free software / open source / open hardware platforms happening in Graz. We just had our last orga meeting for GLT22. After summer, the first orga meeting for GLT23 will take place and I will step down then. I announced this internally in 2020, when taking over the lead by Florian already. A reflection.

Grazer Linuxtage as a club

Grazer Linuxtage was established by a small group of volunteers. In 2002, they met on an afternoon to present topics to each other; but without proper announcement of the event. As such it was decided to name 2003 as founding date for Grazer Linuxtage. In 2012, it became a club to handle donations and payments properly within a legal framework (donating money bound to a specific purpose to a private person is not great). In 2014 it became a two-day event and since 2018, we were able to offer livestreams. In 2019 we moved from FH Joanneum to TU Graz as event location. Due to the Covid19 pandemic, we had to cancel the event in 2020 and turned it (temporarily) into a virtual event in 2021 when I took over the lead. I think I attended GLT09 first; when I did not live in Graz yet. The next year I became an angel and joined as orga member soon after under Florian’s leadership. My website claims this was in 2014.

These days, Grazer Linuxtage grew a lot:

  1. We have consistently above 50 proposals in our Call for Participation process.

  2. As a result, we have/had between 3 and 6 tracks.

  3. We organize workshops on Friday afternoon and the talk tracks happen the entire Saturday afternoon.

  4. We have an internal infrastructure: conference management software pretalx, GitLab for version-controlled files, a NextCloud instance, a mailserver, …

  5. We document much more steps than in the beginning.

  6. We have more cooperations (in particular C3VOC, Radio Helsinki, VulkanLAN) to get the infrastructure running.

  7. These days we organize foodtrucks to satisfy hungry visitors.

  8. We sell Linux-related merchandise and provide handcrafted goodie packages for speakers & info booth representatives & angels.

My positions

The switch to TU Graz was a good decision

The bureaucracy is worse and the infrastructural effort required is larger. However, I still think it is easier to acquire new members at TU Graz than from FH Joanneum. At both locations, support in certain areas was lacking (and I mean this only in relation to rules the event location itself enforced on us). In terms of the layout of the event locations: my votes for a different setting (e.g. more compact event in fewer buildings) did not find majorities and I think the orga has not yet found the optimal setting at TU Graz Inffeld.

Livestreams and recordings are worth the effort

I need to point out first that livestreams and recordings are heavily connected, because you can get properly cut recordings right away if you have infrastructure which recognizes when talks are finished. So in our livestream infrastructure, getting recordings is a minor task. So these are intertwined. On the one hand, supporting live streams is a huge burden. It requires several people from this field who commit already a lot of time before the event to this task. And a lot of expensive hardware is required. If we skip this part, a lot of financial resources as well as volunteers are freed. On the other hand, the effect for recorded talks is tremendous. I think people put more effort into the talks and use it to present topics they really care about. I personally think they take it more serious. Of course you also exclude a shy minority, which avoids publicity. But we always offered the option to skip recording you. In conclusion: Before 2018, the recordings were done with small digital cameras stored on SD cards and cutting the videos was an unpleasant task for volunteers. Since 2018, C3VOC helps us with this task and this working group is lead by Lucas and Christian. And it works very well. And I would like to keep it that way, but we heavily depend on some volunteers with the technical background.

Cooperations with local communities

There is some preliminary effort to offer some infrastructure to local communities (e.g. PyGraz, where I have been part of). What is the idea? So we have some equipment to enable presentations (to begin with: presenters, finally: recording equipment). How about enabling people, who hold talks at these communities, to have easy access to the infrastructure? My experience is that the burden on the speaker is high. Sometimes the speaker has to organize the location and every time the speaker has to organize the technical infrastructure. It would be nice if Grazer Linuxtage could offer equipment (they use only once a year) to those communities during the year.

Three tracks is a sweet spot

We tried several settings. With six tracks, the burden of decision for the audience is too high, the community is split, and the event is very stressful for angels (if even possible due to the limited number of volunteers). With one track, the event is conducted too much by the one active speaker and it is boring for some audience members.

Don’t give too much space to sponsors

One of the thriving fields during my time was the sponsoring working group doing a good job. Many companies invested into Grazer Linuxtage and we signed appropriate contracts with them. Financially, we always covered our expenses. However, these days companies post job applications at Grazer Linuxtage, send roll-ups to be placed on-site and the amount of sponsored talks increased. I would like to raise attention that sponsors (in particular non-FLOSS companies) do not get too much space to present non-FLOSS products and hire people for non-FLOSS work. As such I would like to see more constraints on promotion opportunities.

System administration issues

Cynically the worst part of the orga is system administration of our Linux systems. The infrastructure with virtual hosts was set up many years ago. There is little knowledge how certain aspects of the infrastructure work. First, I heavily documented the infrastructure. Then I tried to initiate some project to ansibilize our infrastructure (to get reproducible virtual machines where we also have machines for testing/debugging), but the progress was too slow. Finally I really failed to replace the dovecot+rspamd mail server infrastructure, nobody dares to touch. In the end, we have several emails per year which get lost in the spam folder and several user requirements were neglected because of a lack of knowledge how to adjust the server.

Keep communication internal

I received the proposal (externally) several times that we should make our internal communication public. As such we shouldn’t use Signal internally and then send emails/tweets for public information, but use something like a public mattermost for organization instead. I am a heavy proponent of structuring communication (to limit it for individual participants). I want to keep discussions about the schedule in a schedule group. I want to keep discussions on sponsoring in a sponsoring group. For outsiders, this structure in working groups is difficult to comprehend and adhere to. As such I think the structure is different for internal (separated) and external (messy) participants and this separation makes sense to me. Also IMHO important: a good work-life balance only comes with the possibility not to reply immediately. Therefore do not use synchronous tools for organizational purposes (however, this sync-async categorization is difficult with Signal/Matrix/mattermost/…).

Keep the status quo on social issues

I think internally we always spent some time to make the right decisions which were not always the quickest decisions. When it comes to contact to the community, I think we had some highs and lows. IMHO one highlight was paying tribute to Sven Guckes this year [admittedly the orga was not directly involved in this] which symbolizes a social community to me. One low IMHO was the real-name flamewar from 2018 which only led to some volunteers giving up and no positive outcome. Don’t feed the trolls, but never pretend the event is only about event management and technology. Invest some time to help those at need. In other words: keep the status quo on social issues.


Over the years, I invested a lot of time and effort into Grazer Linuxtage. It was quite good when I was a full-time student. And it got difficult when I was self-employed or it slowed me down on my PhD topics. This is an issue of recent years and it won’t get better. I need more time for project typho and thus resigned. During my time as lead, I just tried to make the best out of the pandemic situation and maintained status quo. But before, I think I improved several parts of Grazer Linuxtage. I would like to thank all involved people during my active time at Grazer Linuxtage. I am going to retreat from my orga membership and still plan to be a speaker.