Tag Archives: conferences

LinuxCon NA 2014

Last week I attended LinuxCon North America in Chicago.

As always when I go to a conference, there’s always about 5 things going on at any moment, and one has to decide where to be and what to do, and then wish you’d done the other thing.

I spent most of the time working the Red Hat booth, talking to people about RDO, OpenShift, Atomic, and, of course, 3D printing.

I also spent a little time over at the OpenStack booth, although it was mostly staffed pretty well without me. The cool thing about the OpenStack booth was the representation from many different companies, all working together to make OpenStack successful, and the ability to be cordial – even friendly – in the process.

While I didn’t attend very many talks, there were a few that I made it to, and some of these were really great.

Rikki Endsley’s talk You Know, for Kids! 7 Ideas for Improving Tech Education in Schools was largely a story about an unfortunate experience in a high school programming class, and the lessons learned from it. I’m very interested in stories like this, primarily because I want to teach my daughters, but also, my son, how to deal with gender discrimination in their various interests, although it seems particularly troublesome in geekly pursuits.

Guy Martin’s talk Developing Open Source Leadership was brilliant. He talked about how to participate in Open Source projects, and encourage your employees to do so, for the specific goal of establishing your company as a leader in a particular field. While this sounds like it may be about subverting the character of Open Source for your own financial benefit, it didn’t go that direction at all. Instead, he talked about being a good community citizen, and truly establishing leadership by participating, not merely by gaming the system. This was a great talk, and well worth attending if you happen to see him giving it again.

The 3D printing keynotes on Friday were very high in geek factor, and, as we had a 3D printer at the Red Hat booth,
I learned more about 3D printing last week than anything else.

A large part of the value of the conference (as with most tech conferences these days) was the evening and hallway conversations, evening events, dinner with various people, and conversations with people stopping by the booth. The technical content is always useful. The personal connections and stories are absolutely the most valuable thing. Running into old friends and making new ones is also always a highlight of these events.

Wednesday evening, I participated in an event where we talked with the folks from Chicago CTO Forum about The Apache Software Foundation. That was a lot of fun, and I learned at least as much as I taught.

Thursday was superhero day, with various people dressing up as their favorite heros. Alas, I didn’t take a costume, but several of my coworkers did.

A final highlight of the conference (and of which I have no photos) was the running tour of the city. Friday morning, CittyRunningTours took me and 20 or so other runners on a historical and architectural tour of downtown Chicago. we ran about 4 miles, stopping every half mile or so for a history lesson. It was fascinating, as well as being a good run.

LinuxCon Japan day 0

My flight out of Lexington was delayed an hour and a half, resulting in a very tight connection in Chicago. I ran from gate to gate, and arrived as they were sounding the gate closing alarm. And a gate agent said that she thought I shouldn’t go, because my passport expires in September, and they’re not going to let me through immigration. (Turned out to not be a problem at all.)

But I made it on board – last one through the gate door – and had a pleasant flight to Narita. I arrived at Narita at about 5pm, and went to buy train tickets.

First challenge was getting cash. My debit card doesn’t have a chip in it, which is how cards work everywhere in the world other than the US, so the ATM said it wasn’t a valid card. Fortunately, the other ATM accepted it, and I was able to buy train tickets.

I took the train to Nipponi, and then changed trains there to go to Mejiro, without incident. People were very helpful in telling me how to get where I needed to go, and my worry was for nothing. The train was cheap ($12 and $1.50 for the two trips) and the taxi from the train station to the hotel was cheap ($15) and fast, too. I expected the trains to be packed, but they were spacious and incredibly quiet. Apparently it’s rude to speak on the train – or at least to speak loudly.

The airport was really quiet, too. The noise level in public spaces is really surprising – soooo quiet.

I arrived at the hotel around 7:30pm, and it is beautiful. It’s easily the most beautiful conference venue I’ve ever been at, and probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at. Check out the photos at http://www.hotel-chinzanso-tokyo.com/

My photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rbowen/sets/72157644738464202/
Conference website: http://events.linuxfoundation.org/events/linuxcon-japan/
Hotel website: http://www.hotel-chinzanso-tokyo.com/

Day One at LinuxCon

Although much of yesterday at LinuxCon was spent in a jet-lagged fog, it was a great first day. I arrived at the Edinburgh airport at 8 in the morning (I know, I should have come a day or two early!) and took the bus to downtown, then walked up to the conference venue. It’s a lovely conference center located a short walk from numerous lovely pubs, bakeries, and shops.

I spent most of the day at the OpenStack booth, talking with people about what OpenStack is, as well as with people who have been using it for a long time and had deeper questions, or wanted to share what they’re doing with it.

In the evening, I met up with several colleagues – one of whom I had talked with online but never met – for dinner and discussion. I’m frequently impressed by my coworkers and their passion to solve problems, rather than simply jockeying for position and prowess. These guys really want to identify and squash bugs, both technical and relational. I love it.

After a very long day (I was up for nearly 40 hours, I think – time zones confuse me) I finally crashed around 9pm and got 11 hours of sleep. I feel much more human today and am really looking forward to the day. I have a few interviews I have tentatively scheduled for today and tomorrow to record for the RDO blog. Hopefully I can track these folks down.

Write A Better Talk

I just got done giving my Write A Better FM talk at Tek11, and I’m really pleased with how it was received. On the one hand, I feel like I was, at least a little, preaching to the choir, but I think I also got through to some people who had some of the same questions that I’ve thought about over the last 15 years.

I feel like my thoughts on the topic are still a little scattered, but putting together this talk solidified them quite a bit for me, and I think I might go back to working on the book just as soon as I finish the Apache book project I’m working.

If you’re interested in the topic of open source documentation, technical documentation in general, technical customer support, or any of those related topics, I’d very much like to hear from you, particularly if you 1) have a significant amount of experience in technical support and 2) are interested in collaborating with the book.

I realized, several times, mid-sentence, that I was being very harsh to one particular person or project, and backed off, but I think for the most part I am very pleased with how the talk went. I only regret that I wasn’t able to find my Flip before I left home. I would really like to have recorded it.

Geek Arrogance and Chauvinism

I read with mounting horror Aaron’s post about the Ruby conference, and the various things that he linked to from it. Unfortunately, it’s an old and familiar story.

Unfortunately, it reminds me of attitudes in another community I used to be very involved in – Perl. Attitudes within Perl seem to have changed an awful lot in the last 10 years. I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the discovery that Allison Randall was smarter than any half-dozen of the rest of us put together. But, too, it had a lot to do with the examples of folks like Larry Wall and Casey West, who demonstrated by their actions that it was possible to be brilliant, but still be professional. This is a message that many boys (I hesitate to call them men) within the Ruby community haven’t grasped yet.

Having been involved in the planning of ApacheCon for the last seven years, I’m also horrified that the planning committee for a (seemingly) respectable conference would accept a talk that made no secret of the fact that it would use jokes about pornography to make its points.

I’ve written before about how pornography is treated as acceptable for public discourse. That was 6 years ago. At least in the technical circles *I* work in, this attitude has lessened, but not vanished, in that time. It is far less common for me to hear reference to porn in every day technical discussion than it was back then. I don’t assume that the people in question believe, as I do, that pornography itself is damaging. I think it has more to do with the realization that some discussions simply don’t belong in professional settings. When someone spends good money to travel and attend your conference, they deserve to be treated with professionalism and respect, not treated to a stream of pornographic images and sexual innuendoes.

And this isn’t just about alienating the women in your audience. Turns out that some heterosexual men actually believe that objectifying women isn’t a good thing. But even if you don’t accept that belief, you owe it to your audience to treat them with professional courtesy, and recognize that they are paying a LOT of money to attend a technical conference, not a peep show.

Shame on Matt for putting together this presentation. Double shame on GoGaRuCo for accepting this talk. Shame on the decent men in the audience (assuming there were any) who didn’t get up and walk out after the first slide. Shame on the chauvinistic boors who are defending Matt in the various forums where this is being discussed.

Turns out, in the real world, it actually matters if you’re a jerk. It’s time for the Ruby On Rails community to grow up and realize that being professional isn’t a weakness. But it would be grossly short-sighted to merely point the finger at them and not take a close look at the attitudes within our own communities – be they technical or otherwise – and seriously reconsider our common courtesy in the work place.

Upcoming travels

In the last few days, I’ve received my itineraries for travels in May, and it’s suddenly seeming very close.

The last week of April I’ll be leaving for Apachecon in Amsterdam. I’m still frantically trying to get my tutorial notes done so that I can have them in by the deadline on Friday. I was dumb enough to submit a brand new tutorial for this ApacheCon, after giving the same tutorial every ApacheCon since 2000 in Orlando (with one exception – I was just so sick of it that I didn’t do it in Austin.) and now I have to actually prepare it. Just an enormous amount of time involved in putting together a half-day tutorial.

Two weeks after that, I’ll be speaking at PHP|Tek in Chicago – one of the few places in the world that I can fly to without changing planes. I’ve never been to a PHP conference before, and it’s a great honor to be asked. I’ll be giving my “intro to mod_rewrite” talk, and then I’ll get to hang out with all those cool PHP people for a few days. I’m really looking forward to that.

So, if you’re going to be in either Amsterdam or Chicago in May, do drop by and see me. And if you’re not, well, you should make plans to be. They’ll both be great conferences, and there will be interesting people there.

Ohio LinuxFest

Ohio LinuxFest was great, as usual.

There were 5 of us there from Asbury, as well as two other folks (that I knew) from the Lexington area. And, in addition to the 7 of us, there were about 1050 other people, up from just over 700 last year.

I did a new talk – 20 things you didn’t know you could do with your Apache web server – and I had a ton of fun doing it. 20 things is really way too much material for 60 minutes, but even that worked out pretty well, as folks were never given the chance to lose interest. If one of the things wasn’t of much interest, there would be another in 2 minutes. And there was only one person in the audience who claimed to know as many as 10 things, which was very satisfying.

I did cheat a little bit, since a lot of the stuff was from 2.2, and one thing was from 2.3. But evangelizing 2.2 is, I think, pretty important. There’s lots of amazing stuff in it.

Also of great interest was the (as they were introduced) LIVE NUDE PENGUINS! Yes, two penguins came to see us. They were jackass penguins, and did indeed bray like donkies. It was very cool to see them. I’m sure that someone has posted a bunch of photos on Flickr by now.

Other excellent speakers included Chris DiBono, Jeff Waugh, Jay Pipes and Jon maddog Hall.

Jay’s talk, in particular was very valuable. However, by about half way through, he had gone past my ability to understand what he was talking about. This is, of course, one of the things that makes OLF so unique. Zero product pitch. 100% technical talks.

Also very cool was hanging out with Skippy and Owen, and putting together our detailed plans for world domination. (No, I can’t tell. It’s a secret!)

Looking forward to next year’s conference! It will be even better!

iVAN

This weekend several of us from Asbury went up to Ohio LinuxFest. The conference is another post.

On the trip up, there were two cars, and we had an iVAN – that is, an intra-Vehicular Area Network. In one car, we had an inverter, and a wireless access point. I was in the other car, running the IRC server. I also was streaming Old Time Radio podcasts from iTunes, which they were playing on the stereo in the other car.

Oh, yeah, and we had CB radios, too.

We got a pretty strong link between the cars when we were 2 or 3 car lengths away, but beyond that, it broke down pretty fast.

Mostly, though, it was cool just to do it. And very geeky. 🙂

Ohio Linux Fest

I’m *finally* done with my presentation for Ohio Linux Fest. Yay. And it’s only a week from today.

If you’re anywhere near the area, you really should come. It’s great.

In reviewing my slides one last time, I discovered that at the end I made a joke about Lilo coercing me to put in the plugs for irc.freenode.net. It’s always interesting to uncover these little reminders of someone who is gone. Rob always encouraged me to softpedal promotion of Freenode when I talked about IRC involvement at conferences. If you benefit from Freenode’s services, consider sending them a few bucks.

Conference TShirts

The great conference TShirt is one that, if you have to explain what it means to someone who wasn’t there, takes 30 minutes, and leaves both of you feeling like it wasn’t worth the effort.

My canonical example of this is the shirt from the first YAPC I attended. It proclaims:

YAPC 19100
Laziness, Impatience, Hubris
Pick Any Three

This has embedded in it at least 5 inside jokes/references. Or 6, depending on how you count.

Most conferences I go to try to make shirts that live up to this level of cleverness.

A good bar is like good software: Open

Trillions and Trillions Served

But I don’t think folks often live up to the YAPC shirt.

I was thinking about this while doing laundry and I came across the “hAPI hAPI joy joy” shirt from the Yahoo booth at OSCon.