My experience at GUADEC 2023 Riga, Latvia

Akshay Warrier
6 min readAug 5, 2023


This was my first time ever traveling outside of my country. I remember landing in Riga, and on my way to the hotel just being in awe looking at the various buildings and roads, everything was so different from what I’m used to and even though I have seen stuff in movies, seeing it in person is a very different experience. I video-called my parents that day, showing them around the city and I found it very surprising that it was around 9 pm at that time but there was broad daylight everywhere. I’m pretty sure I slept at around 3 am that night because of my excitement for the event.

The next day, I got late for the opening remarks and ended up missing the first talk because my smart ass went to the wrong venue and I had to quickly go back to the hotel and get a taxi to the actual venue.

I first attended the talk given by Regina Nkemchor, where she talked about introducing Africans to the GNOME community and the kinds of challenges she faces. It was a very informative talk, and the insights she shared can be very useful for other people as well who are trying to take on a similar task. After the talk, we had a 10-minute coffee break where I finally got a chance to meet my GSoC mentor Sonny Piers.

A photo I took with Sonny Piers, who happens to be rather tall and is trying to squat down for the photo

Another talk that stood out for me, which I was also very excited about was “GNOME Design: State of the Union” where the GNOME design team talked about not only some notable design changes they made over the past couple of years but also some new and upcoming design changes we might expect to see which all seem very promising for example the new Activities button and the window tiling system.

After the first day of talks got over, me and the other GSoC interns took a walk around Old Town Riga where we got to see some really cool stuff.

On the second day, while on my way to the venue, I found Federico Mena Quintero (one of the co-founders of GNOME) also on his way to GUADEC. He was very friendly and I had a nice conversation with him about the history of GNOME and GTK while we were on our way, which was enlightening.

A photo I took with Federico later that day

I attended several interesting talks that day, like “How to make a delightful app listing” by Cassidy James which even though was aimed at app developers, I also found it useful to know if I ever plan to create a GTK app of my own. Another talk that stood out for me was “A GTK status update” by Matthias Clasen where he answered some important questions surrounding GTK, and also showed us some new additions to GTK we can expect to see in the upcoming updates. There was also a little discussion about GTK 5.

Then there was also a talk about GNOME Javascript, which was given by Evan Welsh, Philip Chimento, and my mentor Sonny Piers where they talked about various things surrounding GJS and its development. Sonny also decided to mention the GSoC work we do for Workbench, which I did not expect but I’d like to thank him for.

The third day was the last day of the conference, where after some rounds of talks, there was an Annual General Meeting and then a group photo following it. We finally ended the day with the GNOME Intern Lightning Talks where GSoC and Outreachy students get around 5 minutes to talk about the work they are doing and its progress. It was a fun exercise for me to talk in front of a crowd. You can watch our entire presentation here.

After the conference ended, the day wasn’t over for us yet because GNOME had arranged and sponsored a dinner for everyone. This was the most fun I had ever had, I got to interact with some cool people and it was nice to see everyone get along together and forming little groups, having conversations.

A photo I took with Julian Hofer (the author of “GUI Development with Rust and GTK4”). I became good friends with him during the conference.

The following 2 days we had BoFs (Birds of Feathers) which are sort of like interactive workshops/discussions. We had a workshop for Workbench as well where Sonny talked about creating apps using Workbench, and I also tried helping some people during the workshop. There was also a discussion about GSoC and Outreachy internships, how to make the internship experience better, and discussing challenges faced by participants which turned out to be very productive and we came up with some good ideas.

The last few days I also just spent some time sightseeing the beautiful city.

I also have to mention this one other thing, one of the days while coming back from dinner I stumbled across a bunch of GNOME developers, one of them being Sonny on their way back to the hotel and he told me that they were going to do a bit of “hacking” together and invited me to join them as well. And so I did, and I really liked it. Everyone was congregated in a Airbnb doing their own work and I found it very cool. I got some GSoC work done there and also got to have a good chat with Sonny and Julian again. I went back to the hotel at 1 am later that night but it was fun.

On the last day of my stay there, GNOME had planned a day trip for us where they took us to Sigulda, a town 50kms away from Riga. We visited several places in Sigulda and we also ate lunch at a palace which was very posh.

I can’t even begin to express my gratitude towards GNOME for sponsoring my travel and accommodation to attend the event. I wouldn’t have imagined in my wildest of dreams that I would ever get an opportunity like this.

Thank you, GNOME.