Just a Break, no Goodbye - Thank you, Harald Leithner
Elections again… one of the reasons is that you, Harald, stepped down as Operations DC. I understand your decision, being totally in the hot spot of Joomla! leadership is, at times, absolutely no fun. But it is also a very sad moment for the Joomla! project as you, Harald, were the rock in the surf for many people in Joomla!. Hundreds (probably thousands) of volunteers benefited from your support and millions of website owners benefited from your dedication for Joomla.
We met many years ago in Wien at a Joomladay after a talk I had given, not being aware that a few years later this would have turned into one of the best friendships in my life. By pure chance we were assigned the same room in Krakau in my first international event and we immediately got on very well. From that moment there was no holding back. You always went ahead, leaving big footprints so other people (also me) can follow. You brought many new ideas to the Joomla! project, which I was honored to implement with you. With you, Joomla! managed to stop the raw downfall, with you the Joomla project improved its infrastructure, with you Joomla became a better place for many people. When there was a problem, the most common answer was: “Ask Harald, he can fix it”.
You were The Guy, carrying Joomla on your shoulders over the last years without being in the focus you deserve. So it’s only fair to take a break… as long as it’s not a goodbye.
What I also learnt over the last years: whatever positive I’m telling you about you, you never believe me, so let’s see what other people say about you.
Let's hear it from someone else!
My introduction to Harald was gradual over time when the previous release and general fix-it person, Michael Babker, suddenly left the project.
Harald was one of those who stepped up to the plate and did the work that was needed.
Never one to seek the limelight, he just grafted diligently, fixing and improving, getting on with releases and occasionally asking for some with a release article or announcement.
When I joined the board of OSM, he followed along with Benjamin, then became a strong team moving the project forward.
The run-up to last Christmas saw the move to Mattermost, and for Harald, a lot of work to make the move from Glip (Ring Central) to Mattermost happen. And happen it did. With a relatively smooth transition it has been a blessing for the project, and one of those things that makes the changes others enjoy without necessarily realising who has done all the hard work.
I recall two times in particular when Harald really impressed me with his calm and direct manner of taking over the situation and pulling the rabbit out of the hat.
The first was the release of Joomla 4, back on 17 August 2021.
It was the first major release in almost a decade, and I was privileged to be one of those in the “room” at the moment of birth.
Many issues, large and small, cropped up to thwart the planned release at 8 am that morning. By 9.30 am it was clear there was a fair bit more to do, and the person who had intended to head the release had an unavoidable work deadline approaching fast.
Harald was the one who came forward with the ability and knowledge to take on the task and see it through.
Without drama, he delivered Joomla 4 and then helped with the fallout of some of the inevitable issues from such a release, helping to make it the huge success it undoubtedly turned out to be.
The same happened on another release when the update server schema was not behaving as it should. He took the time needed to assess the problems and address them, then worked late to rebuild the system and delivered a new and improved way of doing it so the project could be in a better place going forward.
He has come under some, in my view, over-the-top criticism, mainly from some who have not followed the procedures, come forward and stood for lead positions themselves.
It is always easy to dip in and out when you want. Take a pop at someone in charge, then when things don't suit, go off and work on other things, leaving the project to pick up the pieces; Harald has been the epitome of someone who sticks with the project through the flack and puts their all into it even when under fire.
He came forward to lead the project and get Joomla 5 out the door. With that challenge came certain requests from other quarters, which made his task all the more difficult, such as turning a major migration into an upgrade and keeping backwards compatibility as much as possible. He has achieved this using the compatibility plugin, but more than that, he has built a Docusaurus repository, manual.joomla.org, to help extension developers get the help they need. As well as delivering Joomla 5 on time and full of the needed improvements.
I had the pleasure of meeting Harald in the flesh last Autumn at DACH and found him to be very welcoming, friendly, supportive and inclusive.
Harald Leithner, you have put so much of yourself into the project, more than most are aware of. Thank you for all you have done.
– Philip Walton
I know Harald from Joomladay 2016 in Vienna, and in all the years since then he has been one of the most stable figures in the Joomla world. He's a personal friend, but that's not the topic here. He's a man who used to be in the background, but always helpful and always available. Harald is a doer. He works efficiently, he is always there and always ready to help (if you dare to ask him).
Harald has achieved many things in his position as Operations DC, including some that are not so well known as the switch from Glip to Mattermost.
He was particularly involved in manual.joomla.org and introduced us to Docusaurus and got the manual off the ground. Without Harald, the manual would not exist. Now we just have to fill it.
Right now I have a new release note in front of me - thanks to Harald, the new layout is much better than our old release messages.
Harald, thanks for everything and come back after a little break. Deal?
– Christiane Maier-Stadtherr
It is with a sense of deep appreciation that I reflect on my interactions with Harald Leithner, someone whose humility and expertise have guided the Joomla community through numerous challenging yet transformative times. Our first encounter at Joomla’s Forum for the Future in Marbella, Spain, in early 2020, was unassuming but impactful. Engaging in a conversation where his significant role was initially unbeknownst to me, I was impressed by his approachable nature and insightful remarks on programming.
During his term at Joomla, Harald has played a pivotal role in managing critical transitions, adeptly navigating the project through complex scenarios with a calm demeanor and a progressive outlook. His contributions, marked by a composed resolution, have been crucial not only in maintaining but also in elevating Joomla's standing in the technology sector.
In my relatively short time as his assistant DC, I had the honor of witnessing Harald's unwavering dedication to our community. His ability to address complex issues while promoting Joomla's continuous growth and innovation underscores his exceptional leadership and deep commitment. Harald's influence extends beyond the tangible elements of coding and strategy; it resides in the lasting impact he has on those around him, myself included.
Him stepping down from being Operations Department coordinator marks the end of a notable chapter, characterized by technical acumen, understated leadership, and a sincere devotion to the community's well being.
– Llewellyn van der Merwe
I am thankful for Harald. He has been very patient, kind, and helpful with my many questions. There were so many times I needed his assistance with access, issues and such from my various volunteer positions. One thing that surprised me was how funny Harald is. He has a great sense of humor. I am so glad to have met him and getting to know him. I am grateful for all of the help he has provided me and all of the contributions he has made to the Joomla! Project.
– Shirielle “SD” Williams
When Shirielle and I assumed the responsibilities of Release Managers, Harald was a team member who played a crucial role in our onboarding. His extensive knowledge and patience enabled us to navigate the onboarding process smoothly. During the modifications of the Guided Tours for Joomla 5.0, his insights proved to be invaluable, significantly enhancing our implementation.
– Olivier Buisard
Harald is one of the silent heroes of the project. He has invested countless hours of work to bring Joomla forward and make the project a better place. Whether working in the security team, in code sprints, in his time as release lead or in the countless projects managing Joomla's infrastructure: Harald has recognized, taken on and reliably completed important tasks.
What I particularly appreciate about him is that he didn't do all of this for fame, influence or profile, but simply to give something back. He is unpretentious, objective and stands by himself and his work.
– David Jardin
I met Harald for the first time in 2016 at the JoomlaDay in Austria and since then I have appreciated his opinions and insights on Joomla and web and tech stuff. Sometimes his opinions are controversial and critical. I like that, because he does not care for easy solutions, but for best solutions even if they take more time and effort at the beginning. He wants to make it meaningful and long lasting.
Harald made me join my first official Joomla team in 2019 – the CMS Release team - and I am still active in the Production department. Our common time at the OSM board was only for a few months (September-December 2023) but he was also a reason for me to join the board because I know and appreciate his attitudes and straightforwardness.
He has done so much for Joomla as he was one of the release leads for Joomla 3.9 from Feb 2019 until August 2021 and stepped up for Joomla 5.0 Release Manager. These responsibilities are a high burden as it means commitment for quite some time and sometimes you are blamed for “everything”, even if it is not your fault, because you took the task to “push the button” and merge or release.
For the Austrian Joomla community, he has joined the JUG Vienna team and the JoomlaDay Austria organization committee in 2017 and works with us until today for organizing all our events – no matter if JUG meeting, PBF location or JoomlaDay stuff. So, I am the lucky one to meet Harald every now and then in real life :-) and ask him all the questions about Joomla coding and so personally… and he always knows the answer.
And I guess there is even more you contributed to the Joomla community I have never noticed.
Thanks for still sticking around… and I am hoping for many more hours in the car/train to travel together to Joomla events.
– Sigrid Gramlinger
As I have only recently become more intensively involved with Joomla, I have not yet been able to meet Harald personally. Our few contacts on Mattermost have been brief and factual. His detailed knowledge has always impressed me.
I have always perceived him as a committed and competent member of the Joomla community.
I would be delighted if he were still willing to take on a similarly responsible position.
– Dieter Ziller
Harald has been a valuable asset for Joomla.
He brought his huge experience and improved the way we handle our internal operations.
Also he increased the communication and collaboration between Operations and Production department during his tenure.
– Luca Marzo
I've had contact with Harald a couple of times, on various topics. He's always calm and correct and he's there to help if you need him. That's how he comes across in public as well (for example in Mattermost channels): keeping his cool, always friendly or at least polite, smart and inventive. He’s one of Joomla’s rocks.
– Anja de Crom
He is a great guy, with a lot of ideas, and it is fun to work with him.
– Fedir Zinchuk
I have known Harald for several years. We first met at one of the JoomlaDays. He is always available and ready to assist. Harald has become an integral part of our community and was one of my go-to persons when I became treasurer. His efficiency and willingness to help, combined with his calm demeanor, make him a true asset.
– Nadja Lamisch