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Phil Whelan, October 8, 2013
Last week I was lucky enough to have ActiveState pay for me to travel to and attend DevOps Days Atlanta. I was also selected as a speaker. In this post I am going to summarize my experience and hopefully give others, who might be thinking of attending one of the many other DevOps Days that happen around the world, an idea of what they are in for.
This was my first DevOps Days. I am actually an organizer of DevOps Days Vancouver, which is taking place in just a few weeks from now, so I had my eyes open to everything that was happened at the event, from the coffee to the number of chairs. It being my first, I obviously felt like the new kid at school, but a poll of who had been to DevOps Days before showed that only a handful of the attendees had earned their DevOps Days stripes.
DevOps Days is broken in roughly two halves. Each day we start with a series of 30 minutes talks, which are followed by some quick-fire Ignite talks. Then sometime after lunch the format changes and we start the Open-Space sessions.
The Ignite talks are a lot of fun. The speaker gets 5 minutes and 20 slides to talk about whatever they like. Hopefully this is related to DevOps, but you get the occassional spanner in the works, which mixes it up a bit and usually brings a few chuckles.
Some Ignites are personal, some are advice, some are wacky and some, like organizer and MC John Vincent's, tell you how to actually give an Ignite talk. Personally, I was hoping someone would give an Ignite talk on how to give and Ignite talk on giving an Ignite talks. There's always DevOps Days Vancouver for that one!
What makes the Ignite talks interesting is that each of the 20 slides will auto-progress after 15 seconds. It takes a good bit of thought to get the timing right for this. I think this tripped up every talker at some point. Sometimes they were still talking about the previous slide, sometimes they could not remember what the slide was, sometimes they only needed the slide for a second or two and it felt like eternity while they waited for the next slide to appear with their key point on. All to the amusement of the audience, of course.
My talk was a 30 minute talk and so, in hindsight, I had it easy when compared to the Ignites. The talk was on "Deployables" and you can find the video here http://vimeo.com/album/2555095/video/76135585. It took me a few minutes to shake of the nerves, but after that I enjoyed it. I even saw a few tweets from folks watching on the live stream, quoting "after each deployment I required a fresh pair of underpants".
After lunch and a few announcements we began the process of proposing Open Space sessions. This is open to anyone. It only requires jumping up on stage and telling everyone, in a couple of sentences, what you would like to discuss with other attendees. Then you write a very brief title on a card and post it on the wall. Once all the proposals are in, everyone grabs a pen and we vote on the cards. Top voted cards are ordered in sessions timeslots for the available rooms and we start Open Spacing!
Anyone who has been to an "unconference" will know this format well. Polyglot Vancouver is one such conference that has been very popular in Vancouver the past couple of years. I like the half and half format of DevOps Days, as the talks can plant seeds and getting people thinking.
The Open Space sessions I attended covered topics on OpenStack, PaaS, DBaaS, but also covered many human elements. How do you interview or onboard a new DevOps hire? I would say that approximately half of the talks, conversations and Open Space sessions that I was involved in revolved around things that were not technical, but related to our biggest problem... humans. Culture, communcation, hiring, firing, responsibility, accountability, trust and lust. Ok, I threw in that last one to check you were listening.
Don’t Fear the DevOps!
One talk I enjoyed was on dinosaurs. Everyone loves dinosaurs. Well, it seems that the tech industry is not as fond of dinosaurs as me. Mark R White's talk, "Don’t Fear the DevOps!" http://vimeo.com/album/2555095/video/76213070 spoke passionately about the growing pool of Ops guys, with 20 years of experience keeping machines up, that are being put of the scrap heap, because they do have no experience of new tools like Chef, Puppet and Jenkins. Good people are good people and it is not hard for them to learn a few new tools if given the chance. This was the message from Mark, who himself, a single Dad of two kids, has been through this. Currently the way to survive is be proactive, quit your dinosaur job before it is too late and educate yourself. But, as Mark says, it should not be this hard when companies with a strong DevOps focus complain how hard it is to find talent.
Look out for Gene Kim's next book as Mark hinted that there might be a character based on him.
Caught on Camera
The talks from DevOps Days Atlanta can be found online http://vimeo.com/album/2555095
In a few weeks Vancouver will be hosting its own DevOps Days, of which I am one of the organizers. We have a great line-up of speakers and even already have a full list of Ignites. But that is only half the story. Even if the speakers have all finished writing their talks, which I doubt, the other half is still to be written. And that is by you, the attendees. If you are passionate about Ops, DevOps or are a developers who is struggling to continuous-integration to your organization, we want to see you there and hear your stories. There will be a great pool of advice from people working in the trenches at companies like ActiveState, Metafor Software, Backbone Technology, CA, Hootsuite, AnsibleWorks, Unbounce, Colony Networks, Demonware, DeNA, GREE, EA, Heavy Water Operations, Cisco, Mozilla, Puppet Labs, Salesforce, AirG, Kashoo, Payfirma, Best Buy, Move Inc, PayByPhone, Playerize, Serena, Invoke Media and many more. I mention these company names only to show the broad spectrum of people who will be there coming from places doing serious things, but this is not about companies. This is about people. Leave your companies at the door and bring only your experience, questions and passions.
See you there!
DevOps Days Vancouver 2013. October 25th-26th. Vancity Theatre
Tickets available here
Any questions, find me on Twitter @philwhln