Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Running a Hybrid Event with Open Source

The Plumbers Experience

Over the pandemic years, conference organizers have had a crash course in running online events, but now that the world is returning to normality, they're under pressure to keep the on-line portion of the conference for a hybrid remote/local event. Linux Plumbers Conference is a usually in-person event that specializes in direct in-person interactions as well as more traditional presentations. This year was the first time we tried to take our on-line infrastructure and repurpose it for hybrid in Dublin in September. One of the big factors in running a hybrid conference is that it's no longer just the committee and a server farm, you have a venue, a local audio team, an external A/V handler and the technology all to plumb into a seamless experience.

Plumbers online was based on BigBlue Button and Matrix, which is what we also used for hybrid. This presentation will be the story of how it was put together, how the in-person and local components were designed to interact, how it worked in the field and, although plumbers received universal acclaim for being one of the most successful hybrid conferences, the many things that went wrong during the conference and how we surmounted, or at least worked around, them.

Our technology infrastructure was set up identically to virtual: BigBlue Button (BBB) handling the audio/video but with the in BBB chat element replaced by matrix. The reason we have an external A/V company in the mix above is because we've always done streaming from the in-person conference, and this was planned to be our free tier of the conference; view the stream and be able to interact with the room chat over matrix. We've discussed before [1] the scaling problems of this setup (and so won't go over scaling in this presentation), but we'd fixed this in virtual and had no scaling issues in hybrid. Of great importance to getting the interaction to function was audience training. We used the same methodology for virtual (essentially only unmute your video if you want to interject) and hybrid, so we already had the on-line training ready to go.

Part of the on=site issues were caused by the steep learning curve the external A/V company had to go through to manage the room BBB console as well as getting the in room sound setup correct (onsite audio isn't used to having a remote feed, but they can be persuaded to treat it like an audio feed from the presenter). Our biggest problem actually turned out to be the size of our onsite committee tech team (2 people) which was insufficient to the number of live rooms (six) we were running.



Photo of James Bottomley James Bottomley