Meet Andri Steiner, TYPO3 Server Team Lead, Switzerland (Application Podcast S1E9)

Categories: Community, Podcasts Created by Jeffrey A. McGuire
By night, Andri Steiner is the TYPO3 Server Team Lead, where he focuses on hosting and configuring servers, and keeping the community’s digital infrastructure up-(to-date) and running. By day, he’s a CTO and Partner at Ops One, living and working in Zürich, Switzerland, where, he says, “We do our own web applications, like backends for mobile apps, or usual websites or whatever our customers want us for.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player here, watch the interview video below, where you’ll also find a full transcript of our conversation. Don’t forget to subscribe and send us your feedback and ideas!

Andri Started With TYPO3 During His School Days 

Andri started with TYPO3 in 2002, during an apprenticeship while he was still at school. He was immediately impressed with TYPO3’s image capabilities, which were ahead of its time. He says, “I used to do websites in HTML. It was just a logical step to follow. And I was very impressed with the system, especially because you were able to render images out of text. That's what caught my eye. Because back then you did, for example, the navigation with images because things like CSS weren't available, so you were able to render those things as an image and display it on the website.”

TYPO3’s Reputation for Longevity Holds Up—Andri’s First Big Project is Still Running 

Andri LOVES that TYPO3 is such a long-running project, and the fact, “that you can update from version 3-whatever, to version 10, with basically just some minor tweaks.” TYPO3 has many long-term customers who have been using and updating the CMS successfully for a decade or more. Andri says, “I remember my very first bigger project, which I did by myself, still during my apprenticeship.” Andri’s first big project is still running on TYPO3, with (probably some of) the same code he originally built it in. “And this was for a company who sells posters to put on your wall like this one behind me, right. And I calculated for example, the margins around the poster, and the margin was displayed on the image in line in real time. And when you completed the whole process of ordering your poster, you got the invoice by PDF by mail. Back in 2003, this whole process was, by the way, very sophisticated for its time.” 

TYPO3 Helps Automation

Andri describes how the TYPO3 Server Team supports the community like this, “We’re running all applications behind the It begins with the website itself. And there are about 3000 other applications like bug tracker, or versioning, for code management, or forums, or whatever service you can imagine. And usually, those are open source softwares. We take them down, and update, and backup, we do whatever we have to do to keep the things running.” 

He says a specific feature helps him with his main focus, running and managing the servers. “In the moment, my favorite feature is that all the things are going to Composer-based installations. So we can just automate things in the background.” 

The Pandemic has Encouraged Us to Adopt More “Open Source-Style” Communication Skills

During the pandemic, essentially all communication has shifted from offline to online, where it can be easier for misunderstandings to occur and for responsibility about who’s in charge of what to get mixed up. Luckily, we can look to TYPO3 and other open source communities for models of effective — clear, concise, transparent — communication in these circumstances. Indeed, despite the deeply technical nature of his job, Andri says that good communication and organizational skills are the most important part. “I think communication skills are the key to all other things, because if you do something and nobody knows about it, it won’t get used.” He admits that this process of clear communication can get more difficult as the number of people working on a project grows, but that at the end of the day it’s about “being aware of your customer’s needs and doing something to fulfill those needs.”

TYPO3 Delivers Value to Every Client Who Uses It 

Andri has strong words of praise for TYPO3, saying the content management system “delivers value to every client who uses it.” He cites its open source nature, its easy upgradeability, and no licensing costs, as perks everyone can be enthusiastic about.

Application on YouTube

You can follow Application: The TYPO3 Community Podcast on iTunes, watch the behind the scenes recordings on YouTube, and join the conversation on Twitter here

Don’t forget to share the episodes with a friend!  

Need More Reasons to Press Play? 

As always, we round up today’s episode with some rapid-fire questions on TYPO3, including our favorite ‘Suggest-a-Guest’ segment.


Application, the TYPO3 Community Podcast could not have happened without our special guest Andri Steiner, b13 and Stefanie Kreuzer for our logo, and our house composer, Maestro Patrick Gaumond for his time and our wonderful, quirky theme music. 

And a huge thank you to the TYPO3 Association for sponsoring this podcast!

Subscribe! Get in Touch! Share!

Do you want to Suggest-A-Guest? Do you have ideas for topics that you’d like to hear? Join the conversation on Twitter. Let us know!

You can follow (rate, review, subscribe!) to Application: The TYPO3 Community Podcast on the platform of your choice.

Don’t forget to share the episodes with a friend!  

Meet Your Host

Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire, Partner at Open Strategy Partners, helps organizations communicate and grow at the intersection of open source software, business, and culture. He connects the value and people behind the technologies to the people who need to know about them through inspiring conversations, keynotes, podcasts, and more. 

His approach to technology marketing—sharing the human context of complex technology solutions, and celebrating the expertise and success of their creators—has left its mark in business and open source communities over the last 15+ years.

Interview Transcript

AI-machine transcription, human(ish) correction. May cause furrowed brows.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  0:03
Welcome to Application the TYPO3 community podcast One, two. Welcome to Application the TYPO3 Community Podcast. I'm Jeffrey A. McGuire. You can call me jam. And this is where we celebrate the TYPO3 community sharing your stories, talking about your projects, and the difference you make in around and with TYPO3 CMS. Today on application, that TYPO3 community podcast, I talk with Andri Steiner, the TYPO3 server team lead from Zurich, Switzerland, Andre, and I have a lovely chat about his history in TYPO3 since 2002, the slow pace of change in the project in terms of consistency, upgradability, business value, and so on. Since we talked in 2020, there was no avoiding talking about hobbies, and food and cooking and music along the way, I found it very interesting to talk with him about the potential future of the project as a more remote or hybrid model. And as he put it, you can't do stuff offline anymore, you're forced to communicate and do everything online. And I think that we can probably get a lot out of that in the future, we get into some server Team geekery, he'll tell you what sort of skills you need to bring if you want to join the server team. And in the midst of all this, we identified some communication principles that are probably valuable everywhere in life. But certainly, and especially in an open source project. I hope you enjoy listening just as much as I enjoyed talking with Andri to make this episode.

Andri Steiner  1:39
My name is Andri. In my day job, I work at a company called ops one we're doing DevOps and hosting stuff. And in my spare time, I'm the leader of the TYPO3 server team. Cool.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  1:54
And what sort of projects do you do at work?

Andri Steiner  1:56
We just do our own web applications, like backends for mobile apps, or usual websites or whatever our customers want us around?

Jeffrey A. McGuire  2:09
Where are you based?

Andri Steiner  2:10
We're based in Zurich, Switzerland,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  2:12
how long have you been involved with TYPO3? How did you find it?

Andri Steiner  2:15
I find it was back in 2002, or something like that. I can't remember how I found it.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  2:22
Really? you've always done it since school days?

Andri Steiner  2:25
Yes. Yes, it was during my apprenticeship. I used to do websites in HTML. It was just a logical step to follow. And I was very impressed with the system, especially because you were able to render images out of text. That's what catches my eye. Because back then you did, for example, the navigation with images because you the things like CSS weren't available. Were able to, to render those things as an image and displayed on the website.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  3:01
I remember the good old days of wrangling gifs in tables. Yeah, so the early 2000s is when when lots and lots of people were were trying to solve this problem of making the web scale at all or making websites scale because copy pasting the the menu across more and more pages. And it was that was exciting. So but did you have your own CMS because a lot of people invented their own before they centered on something kind of I chose to use server side includes to put things like the manual, which you use on every site in a central file.

Andri Steiner  3:39
So you have to go through it on each file independently. But beside of that, I just went from HTML to TYPO3 back then.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  3:50
Did you try any other systems along the way? Yes, I

Andri Steiner  3:53
think such right, like Joomla or something, but I can't remember exact claim or I was like, I don't know, 16 or 17 years old back then. So

Jeffrey A. McGuire  4:05
the thing that caught your attention was that you could render images from text? Do you have a first memory of using it or our first project that like, then you knew you were hooked?

Andri Steiner  4:17
I think I just used it for my own website back then. And I started to do other things for customers friends, and that's how I got involved.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  4:28
Right. So what version was that?

Andri Steiner  4:30
Last one? TYPO3 was called TYPO3, if the name was changed from TYPO whatever version to TYPO3. I can't remember that.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  4:41
Aha, wow. That is that is the good old days. And I guess you were there when Casper came with the extension framework and and drop that in as well. From then until now, what's the coolest project you've built with TYPO3.

Andri Steiner  4:59
I Remember my very first bigger project, which I did by myself, still during my apprenticeship. And this was for a company who sells posters to put on your wall like this one behind me, right. And there, you could order your poster online. And I calculated for example, the margins around the poster, which were used to put it around the root. And the margin was displayed on the image in line in real time. And when you completed the whole process of ordering your poster, you got the invoice by PDF by mail. And my customer who prints the poster got the letter to put to the box in PDF. This was, by the way, back in 2003, or something and very sophisticated for his time. Nowadays, it's no problem. And

Jeffrey A. McGuire  6:03
no, that's a very, very cool project. And, and Fun fact,

Andri Steiner  6:06
project is still online and still run with TYPO3, really don't have anything to do with it. But it's still running. And I think some of the code I built back then is still in use.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  6:17
It's got to be in there somewhere. Wait, what's that? What's that site called

Andri Steiner  6:22
post the

Jeffrey A. McGuire  6:25
Nice, and it's even in TYPO3 colors. For people whose internet memory doesn't go back that long for 2003 that that's, um, that was huge. And I challenge people even now to go and and create that sort of a system without all the libraries and web services and automatic, you know, processing that you can buy today. My internet career started in about 2005. Seriously, and people don't always remember how when when we were starting communities in that point, open source communities and writing sites there wasn't get in there certainly wasn't GitHub, and there weren't all these. There weren't the PHP Digg standards, we had to at that time, we had to sort of build everything, and including the community and decide how a community would work and how contribution works. And what does it mean to write a patch? And, you know, well, version control was even controversial To start with, you know, it was the Wild West. And when was the last time you did an FTP upload? Because that's because that's what it was. Right. So that is a really, really cool project. And I think it It shows this, this claim of the the enterprise CMS, that TYPO3 has had for a long time feels really appropriate that, that it could handle quite sophisticated functionality in a scalable, sustainable way. I guess the other thing that you touched on there is there's some code of yours probably still running around in there. And I've always been quite impressed with the slow rate of careful change in typo three. And how you can still upgrade from version four, if you still running one of those all the way through to version 10. Right now with some careful work. And it's not impossible, right. And there's not impossible gaps to bridge and the fact that at least since version six, it's been quite possible to, to do upgrades without having to rebuild everything all the time. And the back end, when I use it when the when the decision was made to have the editor focus and make it attractive and functional and helpful for the people who live in in the back end every day. You know, it stayed really recognizably consistent. And now that it's responsive, it still looks the same, but it works like that. And I think that whole focus on sustainability is is really, really impressive with TYPO3. And I know that it helps people sell some projects here and there. But do you have any upgrade stories or long running projects that you're involved with?

Andri Steiner  9:07
Yes, well, I don't do TYPO3 projects by myself anymore, because I just focus on the hosting and server part. But our customers have several year or even decades long running customers, which they just update or do new stuff. And it's quite impressive. I was in a tablet tree, I think it was four or five version for five seconds recently. And then I just realized how much work was put in between version four, five and 10. It's quite, I was quite impressed. Because it just realize it when you look at something very old. And much The difference is

Jeffrey A. McGuire  9:52
and back in version 4.5. And back in those days with a lot of projects. It was all developers writing something for developers And not thinking about the people using it. And I think that the biggest change that we've all undergone in these open source projects that are still around is actually thinking of the people who use this stuff and evolving towards making making something that's comfortable for the authors and the the actual clients. And it's, it's, it's funny to say that because I remember not being a developer and showing up and and people were like, why don't we talk with you about, you know, why, why are you here? Your main contribution to TYPO3, currently is running the server team,

how did you get onto that team,

Andri Steiner  10:38
I was just asked by a colleague, who was the former team leader, it's Michael Suki, I was a member for I don't know, since 2013, or something like that. And Michael just decided to step back a bit, beginning of this year, and ask me to take over. And so Toby just switched roles. And I'm the leader now. And he's a member,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:03
how big is the team?

Andri Steiner  11:04
We are five people in total,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:06
who else is on the server team with you?

Andri Steiner  11:08
And it's Michael Stoker, I mentioned before. And then it's Boston, Brandenburg Stephen Ross parents and Andrea speical.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  11:19
Talk about what what you do regularly protect with your dog.

Andri Steiner  11:22
They're basically just running all applications behind the It begins with the website itself. And there are about 3000s other applications like bug tracker, or versioning, for code management, or forums or whatever service you can imagine. And usually, those are open source software's. We just take them down and update and bad cop. Yeah, do whatever we have to do to keep the things running. And we meet twice a month, remotely. And usually, in normal years, on like, 2020, we meet right times in person summer, in an office robbery, whether you could say about the 13 is that we're still looking for some members, great, we're very keen to add in new people to our team, and everyone interested in running stuff is welcome to contact me. Usually, we invite them to sprint in person so we can get to know them. But this is not possible at the moment, which is just we will just set up some remote call and whatsoever and yeah, introduce them to the project. Terrific. Yeah, as we run most of our applications in Docker nowadays, everybody who is a bit familiar with Docker can join us and help to run and manage those things on our infrastructure.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  13:01
I think the nice thing about Docker containers as well as essentially I can almost I can always practice, you know, setting things up and and destroying them and moving them around. And it's a lot less consequential than working on like the one running copy. What sort of skills or experience or knowledge should should someone have apart from knowing something about Docker, mostly communication skills?

Andri Steiner  13:24
organizations, because it's very important to communicate with the so called customers, like all the team members or end users of the project, you have to maybe due support to someone who is not able to log in into an application. And so you have to communicate with them in maybe English, or whatever language they speak, and you speak Yeah, you have to organize yourself a little bit. Because even if I'm the team leader, I am not the boss in your usual company who will stand behind you and tell you what you have to do. So usually, as I told you meet twice a month, and we just discuss the pending, work and share work with each other. And then all the people go once take something and do something,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  14:17
you touched on something incredibly important that I hadn't that I hadn't framed in this context before talk about the success factor in open source of communication skills, especially organization, I think, but communication even more. Yeah, well,

Andri Steiner  14:30
I think it's the key to all the other things because if you do something and nobody knows about it, or you do something for someone who wants something else, or it might be still a very low standard, you have to put a lot of time and effort into it and it's technically perfect and October. It won't be used and then it's So you have to be aware of your customers or your friends or call them needs, and you have to do something which fulfills their needs. And in such a big project teams and a lot of people are hundreds of people involved and talk time. And there are for some projects, very, very big number of people involved, you have to you have to take into account, for example, we, Erin, a constant process of streamlining our infrastructure. And one of the things we like to get rid of are the old mailing lists. But the mailing list is still used for some things, like at the moment, security announcements, and I cannot just drop the list altogether, because the security announcements wouldn't work anymore. And the security team would be not very amused about me dropping this just out of the blue. So I have to talk to them and look for another solution. And to find a way forward, that somewhere in the future, hopefully, we can disable those mailing lists,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  16:18
I think you just hit on three incredibly important points. You need to proactively communicate the ideas that you've had, because if they're good ideas, that's the only way that people are going to adopt them, and help you with them. And the second thing you said was, once we're communicating with other people, we have to understand their needs. So we actually have to be able to listen and think of think as well as broadcasting our own ideas, right? And then once that's happened, the last piece you described was, we have this project that nobody exactly owns, but everybody benefits from with your idea, you have to go and build coalitions around. Is this the best solution? I think I need this, you think you need that? What does that really mean? Right? And then get there. And that ends up being that ends up being the secret sauce, right, the engine that actually powers making this. For anyone watching this in the future, we're speaking in the in October 20. and Europe is heading towards the second wave of the pandemic. And more and more places are being locked down again. And the weather's also getting cold and rainy, how's your 2020 being on D,

Andri Steiner  17:36
it was actually quite good. Because I wasn't able to catch up with a lot of things and had a lot of time to do whatever things were required to do. things I wanted to do for years. Starting with theoretically, for example,

Jeffrey A. McGuire  17:56

Andri Steiner  17:57
there's a lot of time with my hands to do stuff I like and that was quite quite good.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  18:04
Was there some version of a lockdown in Zurich? Yes.

Andri Steiner  18:07
And we are also working from home, the full company almost since March or April, something like that. My

Jeffrey A. McGuire  18:16
company has been remote basically all the time. And I thought that okay, locked down, that's no problem. I'm used to doing this, I can sit at my table, I can, you know, I've got my different spaces, and that'll be fine. And I'm used to the communication style, and I know how to run a meeting. But the pressure this year, it's been it's been different. We had to do things like learn how to run a workshop through a camera instead of with a with a roomful of people. And there's, there's still a different energy, that's still we'll see how this winter goes. My silver lining was that it seems like most of the Western world learned how to bake this year, but I actually made jams and pickles, like crazy. And I found it incredibly therapeutic to stand over the big boiling pot of whatever and burn my arms and make but now I get to eat them. And, you know, profit from all of that I'm running out of I'm running out of fruits now that it's the fall,

Andri Steiner  19:09
you're not alone with that problem, I can assure you.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  19:13
So you worked on your music skills. That's super cool. I also miss I also I think I miss conferences in the end. And I actually missed those like the sprint and the actual getting together. And I just think that in TYPO3, for example, that very strong practice of, of getting the teams together and of having the the in person events, I think that it really helps now because there are strong relationships and you know, the people you work with, and you have had beer and pizza with them, and then we can survive a time like this. I don't think it could go on like that forever. And I think that people who can't get involved with on the on the direct level might be losing out on something in the long term. But on the other hand, do you think that learning to be a community like this could help us expand into Asia into Africa into Eastern Europe

Andri Steiner  20:05
more Yes, for sure. Because you, you can't you just can't do stuff offline anymore. And you're forced to communicate, just do everything online. And this might be a chance for sure.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  20:20
I'm really excited about the the increased activity in India and really excited about the opportunities in Africa. Now, it's, I think it's a great time to be presenting this, this technology to people. And I'm really excited that about the TYPO3 mentorship program that's going on, I think there's a lot of really, really, really interesting chances right now, why don't you tell us? What is your favorite feature of TYPO3?

Andri Steiner  20:46
In the moment, my favorite feature is that all the things are going to composer base installations. So we can just automate things in the background. And as mainly a server guy, I'm also very interested in new service stuff like nowadays, Kubernetes, for example, right? I'm interested in the way to go into a cloud, so called Cloud 93rd. of its TYPO3, which will confer Sure, sooner or later, how much needs to be changed in TYPO3 to make it compatible with with that sort

Jeffrey A. McGuire  21:18
of a world, it's not

Andri Steiner  21:19
that much anymore. Actually, if all the extensions to use the file abstraction layer properly, it works already quite good to dice. So you can actually split them out of services, yeah, well, you just come save or store data locally anymore, because the term local local server doesn't exist anymore. It's just some container running somewhere, which you don't have really control over it. And you have to make sure that all your data is stored in a meaningful manner, in a central way. And that's what's the file obstruction layer can provide us. So we just configured this layer that it doesn't save data to the local file system, but to some other service instead. And all the instances running wherever they are, to get stared at her data from there. Same applies to the database, of course, and things like the caching layer, but then you go to All

Jeffrey A. McGuire  22:21
right, so now it's it's mostly a matter of configuration. For me the fun thing about how you just explained that consequence of the file abstraction layer is that I've always been, I've been explaining it to people from from the other side of that picture, which is take any data source and plug it into your instance. And as an end user, you have a file system that looks complete and normal, but it can be actually stored anywhere. And it can be some of its from a web service, and some of its from an s3 bucket. And some of it like it simulates from your hard drive, and it doesn't matter. When I first figured out what was going on with the pile abstraction layer, I was terrified for the idea that you could basically plug the Google Drive in and let it designer have that sort of access. But over time, the consequences of it, you know, and the proper configuration of it have really, really have really, really impressed me, how do you see TYPO3 delivering value to clients in the real world? Yes, something

Andri Steiner  23:15
that it's delivers value to every client who uses it, because otherwise, you had to use maybe a closed source system with a lot of licensing costs or just a system which could not operate this easy, or system, which might require much more resources. survice, which would be much more expensive to run, or? Yeah, absolutely.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  23:44
What's a fun fact about TYPO3 that most people wouldn't know?

Andri Steiner  23:48
maybe that's it's just such a long running project. And the fact that you can update the version three, whatever, to version 10. With basically just some minor tweaks.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  23:59
That is definitely a fun fact! And that's definitely yes. unusual. I'd like to know who you think I should talk with on this thing, and who the community should get to know better? Well, I

Andri Steiner  24:12
think you should talk to Michael Stoker, because he introduced me to the whole project and was kind of my mentor during old house. I know him in like 15 years now. And he's a good friend.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  24:26
Was he there when you when you started using TYPO3?

Andri Steiner  24:29
Yes. Yeah.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  24:31
A hot seat. So you don't remember you don't remember how you started with it, but I'm gonna find out from him. I'm gonna see what he has to say.

Andri Steiner  24:39
Well, we just met we just worked at the same same company Two years later, but I just knew him from things like the mailing list, and I think he was the core core leader back 10 or something, and it was just a name which popped up everywhere and uh huh. me as a young Swiss guy was very impressed that there are other Swiss guys around who have such central roles in such a big project.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  25:11
Right. A lot of the rookies are in Switzerland. If someone knows a little bit about Docker or wants to learn a lot more and has good communication and organization skills, I have the feeling that Andrew would be very happy to hear from you to grow the server team. And speaking also from absolute immediate knowledge, those sorts of skills that you'd learn with Andre and would make a huge difference to the project. If you're earlier in your career. There's a lot of really great job opportunities that come from that sort of thing to Fantastic. Thank you so much, Zurich. Thanks for taking the time. Thank you. Thank you, you for all your contribution and enthusiasm. And thanks everyone on the server team for keeping our background unglamorous technologies running. I really look forward to being able to meet in person sometime, but in the meantime, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.

Andri Steiner  26:03
Yeah, welcome. Thank you.

Jeffrey A. McGuire  26:07
Thanks to the TYPO3 Association for sponsoring this podcast. Thank you v 13 inch Stephanie coisa for our logo. Now see, beaucoup de como TYPO3, developer and musician x tall, the noun for our theme music. Thanks again to today's guest. If you like what you heard, don't forget to subscribe in the podcast app of your choice and share Application, the TYPO3 Community Podcast with your friends and colleagues. If you didn't like it, please share it with your enemies. Would you like to play along and suggest a guest for the podcast? Do you have questions or comments? Reach out to us on Twitter. You can find show notes, links and more information in our posts on Remember, open source software would not be what it is without you. Thank you all for your contributions

Additional contributors for this article
  • Contributor : Mathias Bolt Lesniak