Apereo Foundation Fast Interview with Katrin Ihler

Katrin Ihler
December 5, 2023
Michelle Hall, Apereo Communications

Apereo Foundation Fast Interview with Katrin Ihler, November 2023

Katrin Ihler was named an Apereo Dolphin Fellow in 2023 for her long commitment to the Opencast project in support of both software development and maintenance tasks. Of particular note was her organization and leadership of Opencast Review Fridays. During the decision process, the Apereo Board also recognized Katrin’s work promoting Opencast at different conferences and overall advocacy for open source software. 

Katrin has been working as a software engineer at E-Learning Academic Network (ELAN e.V) since 2017. ELAN e.V. is a German non-profit organization helping universities and other higher education organizations with all things related to e-learning. Katrin obtained both her Bachelor's and Master’s in Computer Science from Osnabrück University.

Michelle Hall (MH): Thank you, Katrin, for joining us on Apereo Foundation Fast, and congratulations again on your Apereo Dolphin Fellowship. 

Katrin Ihler (KI): Thank you. I very much appreciate becoming an Apereo fellow this year. 


MH: Katrin, please start out by telling us how you became involved in the Opencast project.

KI: I became involved with the Opencast project when I first started working for my current employer, the ELAN e.V. The very first thing I did after setting up my computer was actually a tiny feature for Opencast. And I’ve been supporting and developing Opencast ever since.


MH: What has kept you involved in Opencast for several years?

KI: The ELAN e.V. actually has quite a few people working on Opencast, and is responsible for a significant amount of things that are going on in the Community: Additionally to working on Opencast itself we are responsible for or involved in a number of side projects, for example the video portal Tobira, the new Opencast Editor and the new Admin interface for Opencast as well as Opencast Studio. However, not all of that activity is visible from the outside, as we also support Opencast installations for a number of customers, a job which I’ve also been doing from the very start. However, I’ve always been interested in being part of the Community and working on the Opencast code as well, and I’ve been able to do that in my current position.


MH: What is Opencast Review Fridays? Tell us about what it does for the community.

KI: The goal of Opencast Review Fridays is that once a month, on the very last Friday, the community comes together to review pull requests aimed at the Opencast repository as well as a number of other projects related to Opencast. By getting a greater number of people involved, instead of the usual developers, we aim to increase the quality of contributions and to make certain that changes are useful for the whole Community.


MH: You’ve been working at ELAN e.V. for several years. Tell us about your role and what you like best about it.

KI: My current role mostly consists of supporting the Opencast instance of one bigger client of ours - this ranges from updates and maintenance all the way to bug fixes or the development of new features (although bigger projects are outsourced to a separate team). However, my job allows me a great amount of freedom in the way I spend my time, so I can also attend Community meetings, help out colleagues or work on Community issues, which is something I appreciate a lot. Working with my current client has also been very enjoyable.


MH: What is one “pet project” you would like to spend your time on during your year as an Apereo Dolphin Fellow?

KI: I don’t think I have one project I would like to focus on. However, I still have some things lying around that I would like to contribute, for example, I would like to submit a migration script I wrote a while ago to our scripts repository, but I still have some cleaning up to do first. I guess that’s a good place to start.


MH: Any special plans for your Fellowship stipend?

KI: I will definitely spend some money on Opencast merchandise - I own an Opencast t-shirt that I love very much that I got a couple of years ago, and multiple people have expressed to me at conferences and other meetings that they would like one as well, so I plan to do some research to get the same good quality again.


MH: We are going to need a photo of you in that Opencast t-shirt at the next event!


MH: What is one thing you would like the Apereo community to know about the Opencast project and community?

KI: I guess that the project as a whole can appear kind of intimidating to newcomers, but there are always helpful people available in the chat or via the mailing lists that can help you out if you get stuck, and tons of webinars from past conferences on all sorts of topics (after all, lecture recordings are our thing). 

There are also regular video conferences where you can just show up, e.g., the weekly developer meeting or the new monthly meeting for system administrators (just check the calendar link on the website). If you want to start contributing, there are always small things to do, even if it’s just a docs change. Just ask, and we will point you in the right direction - I promise we don’t bite!


MH: Could you please give us your reflections on the value of open source within your own career?

KI: I definitely enjoy working in an environment that values cooperation over competition. It is always a delight when I can tell a client that a feature they desire is already in the works for someone else or when I can help connect people to achieve something they wouldn’t have been able to do on their own. I don’t have to sell people stuff - the code is already there and can be used by anyone. All I sell is my time, and everything I do for the project is something the whole Community profits from. It’s very satisfying work, and I think more things in the world should function like this.


MH: What do you see as the importance/the role/the value of women software engineers and women leading in the world of open source? 

KI: I think it’s important to increase the number of women in IT and their visibility in Open Source to put female newcomers more at ease. My workplace and the Community as a whole have never made me feel uncomfortable about being a woman, but if you step into a room full of people and you’re the only woman, it’s hard not to feel conscious of your gender. You’re just very aware of it at that moment and maybe also concerned that any mistakes you make will not just reflect back on you, but on women as a whole. Even one other woman in the room will help dissipate that feeling. The same, of course also goes for other minorities as well. Also, different people will bring different perspectives to a project, and that is a valuable thing.


MH: Katrin, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. We appreciate your time and all you are doing for the Apereo Foundation and the Opencast projects. 


More information about Opencast documentation, meetings, and points of contact can be found at https://docs.opencast.org/

Contact membership@apereo.org to find out more about how you can support the Opencast project and the Apereo Dolphin Fellowship program. 

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