Category Archives: Community

Encouraging diversity at technical events – volunteers and organisers

In the third and final post of this three-part series, I will be exploring a few thoughts and ideas regarding how we can encourage diversity of volunteers and organisers at technical events. I have been organising events as far back as 2010 so I have (no doubt) been responsible for many failures (and hopefully a few successes) in promoting and hosting events to the community.

Before we start talking about diversity, I think it is first important to define what I mean by this term. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements” and especially “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization”. I don’t quite think this extends far enough, and I see personally see diversity as the inclusion of all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ability, physical appearance, age, size, race, or religion. Our aim, therefore, should be to provide a harassment-free conference experience in which everyone can enjoy this in equal measure.

The following is not a comprehensive list, but I hope it will provide some food for thought when you start planning your next event.

Understand why you are doing this

It is important that you understand why and who you are going to supplement your organiser and volunteer team. You are not trying to fill quotas here, but instead trying to build a diverse team that truly reflects all views, ideas, outlooks, and abilities. The reason why this is a good thing is it will help you implement an event that will appeal to a diverse audience (and we have already discussed why that can be a good thing). So remember, it is not quotas you are filling, but representation.

Look towards encouraging volunteers from other events and groups

It perhaps should now go without saying that you should reach out into other communities for help for your event. These people will be more attuned to meeting their own communities needs and wants, and will also be used to coping with the demands of pulling off a successful event.

Give people ownership of their responsibilities

If you are a control freak (like me), you will struggle with the idea of handing over power of any sort for your fellow organisers and volunteers to run independently of you. This kind of command structure is not conducive to team members from growing into their role and are more likely to fail. No one wants to be bossed around at an event and if they are, you are probably not going to see them wanting to join your event the next time. Most people will live up to their responsibilities if they have control, so it is important that you give them this, and offer your support where they need it.

Understand a persons strengths and appoint accordingly

Do not assume that all of your volunteers will have exactly the same abilities (or capabilities). One person might be able to stand on their feet for a large part of the day and run between rooms – but someone else might have a medical condition that could struggle with these kinds of duties.

It is important that you communicate with all of your volunteers and understand how they can most effectively participate with volunteering at your event. Assign them roles that they will not only be able to perform, but also ones that they will enjoy.

Get plenty of volunteers onboard

Not everyone can easily deal with the pressure that running an event entails. It is important that you do not put unnecessary and extreme pressure on your team members to deliver or that exposes them to too many problems. Ensure that you bring onboard plenty of volunteers so that one person is not a single point of failure to the event activities, and that everyone has plenty of support.


Summary

It is incredibly important that you try to bring onboard lots of diverse representation onto your team so that you can run a more informed and efficient event schedule that meets the demands of your audience. This representation will also act as a great way to encourage further involvement and diversity in future years and ultimately help you achieve your goals (where you alone might fail) of encouraging diversity at technical events.

I hope you have enjoyed listening to my ramblings on this topic and I am very happy to listen to your thoughts and ideas too!

Encouraging diversity at technical events – speakers

In the second of this three-part series, I will be exploring a few thoughts and ideas regarding how we can encourage diversity of speakers at technical events. I have been organising events as far back as 2010 so I have (no doubt) been responsible for many failures (and hopefully a few successes) in promoting and hosting events to the community.

Before we start talking about diversity, I think it is first important to define what I mean by this term. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements” and especially “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization”. I don’t quite think this extends far enough, and I see personally see diversity as the inclusion of all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ability, physical appearance, age, size, race, or religion. Our aim, therefore, should be to provide a harassment-free conference experience in which everyone can enjoy this in equal measure.

The following is not a comprehensive list, but I hope it will provide some food for thought when you start planning your next event.

Promote your Call For Papers through other events and groups

In a similar way that you would (if you were trying) to encourage attendees to your event, it is important that you also reach out to other community events and user groups to announce your Call For Papers. There are lots of groups like Girls Who Code and PASS Women In IT who would be a great starting point, but you should also think about even contacting non-technical groups and associations. This will give your event much more reach to communities beyond bridging more than just the gender balance and help make your speaking roster incredibly diverse, interesting, and appealing.

Seek non-technical Sessions

If you are seeking speakers from non-technical communities, it probably should go without saying that the vast majority of the potential speakers in them would be non-technical. You should be open to (and actively seek) non-technical sessions on subjects that might be of interest to a technical audience. Topics such as embracing diversity in IT or designing a workplace for mobility could be a perfect fit for your event and will appeal to a more managerial level of audience – these are the very same people that your sponsors will be keen on (those with the power to sign off purchases of products!).

Approach Speakers Directly

As an event organiser, there is always a niggling voice in the back of your mind saying “if someone cannot be bothered to submit a session then they don’t deserve to speak” but the reality is that many people do not submit to your event for a million and one reasons. It might be a confidence thing, or it might even be a fear that your event won’t be welcoming to them. This mindset will not help encourage diversity of submissions, so you should make the effort to approach those individuals directly that would traditionally not submit to your event. Remember that you are not selecting someone because they simply “fill a quota” but instead selecting someone because they bring something extra to your event. It is a bit like a music festival organiser signing some great bands for their schedule – you are almost certainly going to want the populist bands that tour everywhere, but you’ll also want to seek out those exciting new bands so that people can say “I saw them first at your festival!”.

Do not be afraid of setting diversity targets

A persistent concern that I wrestle with is the fear of positively discriminating against someone in order to “fill a quota”. It is not good for anyone if your speakers are not selected on their own merits -and they should be, but you should also not fear aiming towards (and reviewing) your diversity targets year on year. Remember that the whole point of aiming for a good diversity balance today will serve to encourage others tomorrow and remove the fear of “I can’t do this” or “I shouldn’t be here”. Remember that until your event gets an equal balance of submissions from all-comers and becomes a norm (which is probably not going to happen any time soon) you cannot truly say that selection was “fair” and you should work towards making it so.

Blind selection

Blind selection of sessions can be a good way to remove unconscious bias from the selection process, but it can also help to miss striking a good diversity balance if (as we talked about earlier) you do not have an equal representation of sessions. If you perform blind selection at your event, you should also not be afraid to review how that may have skewed your diversity targets – and not be afraid to address them for the reason given above.

Fast Call For Papers and announce your schedule early

Speakers with a young family are going to have more difficulty in speaking at your event if you do not give them enough time to make arrangements for childcare or other such considerations. The earlier that you are able to give a speaker notification of selection, the earlier they can purchase flights and accommodation at much cheaper prices. This is essential for a speaker that does not have a large disposable income, or other dependents to consider, or someone traveling from another country. I generally find that a minimum of 3 months’ notice should be given to minimize the expense to the speaker and make it more likely that they will be able to attend.

Provide Creche facilities

At the last conference I organised, I tried very hard to provide creche facilities but sadly our venue did not allow children under 16 on-premises. It was my belief that if we could provide a temporary place for children to be looked after during the event, more speakers with children would be more likely to attend and drop their child in the creche whilst they spoke. Obviously a similar argument could be made for having a creche to encourage attendees with children, though I think it is less likely for a parent to bring their child or children to a conference and want to drop them off in the Creche all day.

Avoid unisex speaker shirts

Unisex speaker shirts sound like a good idea at the time since (as an event organizer) you would only be dealing with ordering various shirt sizes rather than worrying about cut, but from personal experience, I have heard too many complaints from female speakers (to ignore) that these Unisex style shirts do not fit ladies very well. In practice, the overhead of ordering a different style of shirt is insignificant, though one problem you might run into is that commercial clothing manufacturers often only supply certain items of clothing in Unisex style. Do your best to go for alternative items of clothing where possible as your official speaker shirt since I know that this is very much appreciated and demonstrates to all speakers that you really care.

Be flexible with timeslots

Speakers with children, medical conditions, or other considerations may have to return home as soon as possible once their speaking engagement has finished. It is important that organizers try to be as flexible and accommodating as possible when drawing up an event agenda and (occasionally) be able to juggle timeslots on the day due to short notice change of circumstances. Liaising closely with your speakers about speaking arrangements will give them confidence in your ability to accommodate any known or unforeseen problems and make them more likely to be able to deliver their session.

Provide a private area for speakers

It is important that speakers have a quiet place to relax, hang out, and get away from everything. I know that many events have started to “do away” with the speaker room to encourage interaction between speakers and attendees, but some speakers might feel socially awkward and uncomfortable doing this. Remember everyone is different. You are trying to encourage people from diverse backgrounds and identities to speak at your event, so you should try and provide what they need to let them be able to be themselves.


Summary

Having a diverse speaker line up at your event is a very powerful way of encouraging new and existing talent from other communities to speak at future events as well as promoting your event further to a larger potential audience. In my opinion, it is going to take a lot of time and effort to get to a point where we won’t have to proactively need to go out and look for speakers from other communities to present at our events, but the more effort we make today, the more likely it will become the norm in the future.

Encouraging diversity at technical events – attendees

In the first of this three-part series, I will be exploring a few thoughts and ideas regarding how we can encourage diversity of attendees at technical events. I have been organising events as far back as 2010 so I have (no doubt) been responsible for many failures (and hopefully a few successes) in promoting and hosting events to the community.

Before we start talking about diversity, I think it is first important to define what I mean by this term. According to the Merriam-Webster definition, diversity is “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements” and especially “the inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization”. I don’t quite think this extends far enough, and I see personally see diversity as the inclusion of all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, ability, physical appearance, age, size, race, or religion. Our aim, therefore, should be to provide a harassment-free conference experience in which everyone can enjoy this in equal measure.

The following is not a comprehensive list, but I hope it will provide some food for thought when you start planning your next event.

Implement a Code of Conduct

One of the very first things we can do for our event is to implement a code of conduct for all attendees, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and organizers to adhere to. This will act as a necessary framework to refer back to. I personally like the ability to amend and change the Code of Conduct where it becomes obvious over time that you have made a mistake or omission – but you should be careful not to change policy on a whim, get team approval, and document what and when a revision was made.

The Code of Conduct should be well publicized and kept as simple as possible to ensure that it is understood and followed by everyone at your event.

Have contact details for problems to be reported to – and make everyone aware during the event who they can speak to about any possible issues.

Ensure your event space is accessible and has adequate parking and drop-off areas

I once held a conference at an event space that had stairs and few lifts. After being contacted by a wheel-chair bound attendee in advance of an up-and-coming event, it became clear that we would have to assign a member of the volunteer staff to assist with the attendee in order for them to move from session to session. He was also arriving by train and getting a taxi to and from the event, so we also needed to arrange special dispensation into the event grounds to allow the taxi in and out since we were not allowed to use their private parking or access and the nearest public car park was a 15-minute walk away.

Clearly an event’s accessibility is going to affect who is going to want (or be able) to attend your event and it might not be obvious what someone’s ability might be.

You should look to make accessibility both in/ around and to/ from the event as painless possible -but it is also critical that you provide a point of contact for inquiries where extra help might be needed.

Establish session delivery rules

Firstly the event Code of Conduct should already make it clear to speakers to refrain from any inflammatory, derogatory, sexual, racist, or offensive comments or actions.

Furthermore, all speakers should adhere to a common framework of best practices for session delivery to ensure that a consistent and optimal experience is enjoyed by all. This is usually better being explicitly defined by an event.
Speakers can help people with audible impairments and deliver their session in a calm and clear manner trying their best not to mumble or rush (regardless of time). For people with visual impairments, the slide decks should avoid any color combinations that would give them problems (avoiding colour combinations that make it hard for colour blindness) and they should use large enough fonts and graphics. It should go without saying that all demos should be equally large enough for all to see.

Speakers should be mindful of attendees with mobility disabilities being able to move between rooms. They should aim to start their session on (or just after time) and wrap up well within the designated end time to provide as much time for an attendee to get to another room.

Organizers should ensure that there is plenty of time in between sessions and that session rooms have plenty of access between the chairs. Why not even go one step further and leave a front-row clear for wheelchairs? Why not leave a generous amount of space between chairs to make everyone feel a little more relaxed and comfortable during the presentation?

Publicise your event effectively

It can be very difficult to attract diversity at your event since often people from different backgrounds might not hang around in the same social or disadvantaged circles as yourself. You should be mindful of this and think outside the box. Attempt to contact group leaders in these other communities and ask them to promote your event to their attendees. Perhaps you can even offer to provide a financial incentive for every successful referral they manage to make? Every attendee has a small financial value to an event, and sponsors like to see new faces, so why not pass on a small amount of your sponsorship in this way? Communities supporting communities is really why we run these events.

Whatever you do to spread the message far and wide to potential future attendees, the most important thing you need to do is to promote your positive event message of diversity ensuring that all information is available (or easily accessible) from the front page of your event. You might only get one-shot to attract new faces who traditionally might avoid these kind of events so this is your opportunity to sell it to them.

Set up social and quiet spaces

Not everyone likes talking to complete strangers. For some people this comes easy, but for many (myself included) event break times are usually not something I particularly enjoy. Try to do your best to set up various activities in your social areas to make it easier for people to interact and encourage dialogue and participation (for instance and some of my past events we have set up large garden games (such as Giant Connect 4 and Giant Jenga) in the social spaces. Also aim to provide several quiet areas where people can go and sit down, be by themselves, and relax. Do not forget that some people might have religious or personal activities that they need to do during break times -perhaps they need to pray or take medication. At all of my recent events, I have made sure we have had at least 1 quiet room and 1 prayer room available at all times.

Provide accurate name badges

Name badges are a rather personal thing. Not everyone wants their twitter handle emblazoned across their chest, nor might they want any assumptions as to their gender, names, or other such nomenclature printed there. You should, therefore, give this thought and consider providing a display name type field on the event registration, making sure that the attendee is happy with anything else you might want to print about them.

Respect opt-outs

Probably one of the most frustrating aspects of attending an event is getting spammed. Whilst this is annoying to many, to those from diverse backgrounds, the thought of having their personal private details distributed to complete strangers is probably a step too far. If someone states that they want to opt-out of sponsor communications, then ensure their details are not passed onto anyone else. Clearly GDPR means you should be handling other people’s data with care already!


Summary

Having a diverse attendance at your event is not only great to share different ideas from many different viewpoints, but can also be attractive to sponsors of an event who are always wanting to cross-pollinate and promote into different communities. But reaching out to these diverse communities and attracting them to your event can be very difficult. Over time, word of mouth can help to promote your event far and wide, but you first need to lay the groundwork so that your event is a safe welcoming place to be and provides for people with diverse needs and requirements. Remember that attendee diversity can also be encouraged through attendees seeing that there is also diversity in your event organizer/ volunteer teams and speakers chosen for your event. In the last two parts of this series we will explore these things.

MVP Award Day – The July cycle!

fightpaw

The first rule of Fight Claw Club is…

By the time this post is finally published, many of us will know the results of whether our renewal (or new award status) has been successful (or not). While I have only been the recipient of the award since Jan 1st, 2016 I had previously been nominated on many many occasions yearly since 2011, so I almost feel like a long-term veteran of the award cycles, and only know too well how rejection feels – so if you are one of those today, trust me when I say “You are not alone – I understand your pain”.

Program changes

When the changes to the award program renewal cycles (to move almost everyone to a July 1st renewal) were announced in now what seems like an eternity ago (perhaps over 15-18 months ago now), I confess I had mixed feelings about such a change. On one hand it gave some MVPs more time to get their “house in order” for an extra 3-6 months longer (assuming they needed to “up” their contributions) due to their moving to a new renewal cycle, but on the other hand, it meant an awful lot of MVPs would go into the same bucket for consideration, thereby potentially increasing the risk of you being overlooked. One observation I had (and I’m not entirely sure if this is correct or not) was that post cycle change, the numbers of awardees increased significantly month on month. And if that is the case, it could have contributed to raising the “bar” for renewal this time around.

Renewal time

Over the past couple of weeks there have been some high profile casualties announced privately, including several who I consider being the epitome of what an MVP is all about, and others who openly admitted that their priorities have changed and not had the time, resources, or inclination to keep up with their contributions over the last 12 months. For the former category, I truly cannot express how gutted I am for you and hope that you make it back onto the program as soon as possible. For those that haven’t hit the bar, then I’m sure you know what to do to make it back.

What next?

For those that have missed out on their renewal, I am happy that Microsoft has the new MVP Reconnect program in place, which I think is an excellent way for people not renewed to stay connected. I would like to see this program elevated in importance over the coming years -and especially for it to be easier for current MVPs to communicate with rMVPs. That way, missing out on renewal will feel less like you are losing lots of friends and professional contacts and more like hanging out in a different forum, with an easier (potential) route back should you increase your community contributions.

I would also like to see a similar program for potential MVPs (people who are almost “there”), which would allow Microsoft to substantially increase their pool of talent, but without the cost overhead that running the MVP program incurs. This would provide an initial route into the full program and allow people to be less overwhelmed, understand what is expected to become an MVP, make them better prepared, and more useful as Microsoft evangelists (should the MVP email finally land in their inbox). Given the sheer amount of talent out in the community, I see this as a huge win/win for Microsoft and community contributors. Perhaps Microsoft could initially adopt and formalize their various “Advisor programs” into an MVP stepping stone?

Final thoughts

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months about what I’m actually specifically delivering to the MVP Program, and the general community at large. Whilst it is fair to say I am really happy with the level of community contributions I make (the unhappy wife and kids are a fairly good barometer that I am investing *a lot* -perhaps too much of my time in this area), I do think I can (and need) to add more value to Microsoft. In this last 12 months, a couple of particular stand-outs would probably be my SQLSaturday and SharePoint Saturday events (in which we always have lots of early adopter sessions – which actively promote the use of such technology), delivering a Microsoft and GDPR session at short notice to Future Decoded (which obviously pushed on-premises and Cloud solutions in a very hot topic), and feedback to product team regarding SQL Server on Linux (my motivations were also helped having been working as the Technical Editor for the book of the same name). However, there are lots of other areas I either need to improve or to add to my list. Those specific things are (in no particular order):

  1. Focus my energies towards learning and presenting on several emerging Azure technologies.
  2. Diversify even more (i.e. start investing more time in Business Intelligence and Machine Learning).
  3. Get involved in the Microsoft Docs program (where possible) to improve the quality of MS Documentation.
  4. Increase my blog output (for it has dropped somewhat of late) – and also try to blog on things I learn in 1 and 2!

There are of course a million and one other things that I could probably do better, but for the sake of time and your patience, I will leave it there for now.

Thank you very much to everyone involved in the MVP Program, congratulations to all awardees (and re-awardees), and commiserations if you have missed out on this occasion. Your efforts are still appreciated by the community with or without those three letters so keep up the good work!

 

4 days of Dockercon – Day 4

After doing some more work in the evening for Microsoft and watching my Football match, I didn’t get to sleep until midnight, so I woke with my usual conference groggy feeling. At my age, I really need more hours in bed! Thankfully I had done most of my packing the night before so didn’t have an awful lot to do. However given the fact that I had skipped dinner/ supper the night before I was determined to grab a big breakfast. I’d skipped my evening meal since I really couldn’t be bothered to wander down to the Shopping Mall and waste 40 minutes on a round trip in doing so, nor did I fancy a meal in the hotel restaurant wasting 2 hours of messing around.

This morning I was out of my room by 8 am. and promptly checked out, booked my transit back to the airport and checked my luggage into the Conference drop off point and headed to the post-conference Summits. I had somehow managed to register for two (the Moby Project Summit and Enterprise Summit) and whilst I suspected that the Moby Project would hold slightly more interest for me, I felt that it probably would hold less business value than the Enterprise option. So I deregistered myself from Moby, and went to get myself a freshly-born bouncing plate of bacon, eggs, beans, and… cheese! (yes these Danish folks are nut-cases!!!).

The Enterprise Summit kicked off talking even more about the MTA program and perhaps labored a little too long on its overview (especially since we had witnessed much of this material during the conference and keynotes). A few demos later and I am impressed that MTA and Docker Enterprise are a very good business proposition for most (if not all) businesses, though I really must try these things out myself on some problematic apps. You know the saying that  “if it sounds too good to be true….”? That’s partially how I feel at the moment, and I would rather hear about the serious problems encountered and failures experienced – that (I believe) would be more useful for us to understand the limitations of this service. The Enterprise Summit in truth was an extended series of sessions and regurgitated material and took us up to lunchtime (only 3 hours after breakfast – seriously guys?!) but I decided to take the opportunity now, given the proximity of the hotel to anything else and also taking into account my arranged departure time to the airport (5.30 pm.). The afternoon section of the “Enterprise Summit” consisted of completing the lab exercises, so I decided to finish lunch early and head over to my favorite spot.

Unfortunately for me, by 3pm. I was kicked out of the Conference center since Dockercon was “officially over”, and therefore had no option but to head back to the hotel and continue the labs from the bar area where I managed to do some cool stuff in swarm (playing around with node failures, container scaling and failed upgrades/ rollbacks).

This. Is. The. Future. Folks. (And the future is now…).

Thankfully I’d just finished up and grabbed my ride to the airport and 15 minutes later hit checkin, security, etc. After refuelling on airport pizza I decide to crack open the labs for one last time and 2 hours later remember it is probably a good time to hit the button on this blog post :).

All in all, a very productive 1st Dockercon and I have got much more return on investment than I could ever dream from certain other conferences (which shan’t be named!). I did miss bumping into many of my friends and familiar faces during this conference and certainly found the (presumably) Danes very reserved and hard to have a conversation with at the dinner tables -so after several abortive attempts to get them speaking I ultimately gave up. I already have another (bucket list) conference firmly on my watch list for next year, but really hope I can add Dockercon US/EU also into my budget.

Other posts in this series
4 days of Dockercon – Day 3
4 days of Dockercon – Day 2
4 days of Dockercon – Day 1
4 days of Dockercon – Day 0

4 days of Dockercon – Day 3

The second and final day of general sessions arrives and I manage to leave my room with a little more time to spare than yesterday. Again, I grab a bite to eat in the exhibitor room and then find myself a good seat for the keynote day 2. This time it was lead by Scott Johnson (COO of Docker) and focused again on Docker Enterprise Edition but with a strong focus on the MTA program and migrating legacy apps to Docker. The atmosphere was slightly more subdued today -probably because people were nursing hangovers from last nights party, but I was intrigued by a few things. For instance, when they talked about migrating a legacy .NET app and modernizing it to Docker, it wasn’t really clear to me whether doing so was also irradicating dependencies on older .NET frameworks.

During the break between the keynote and first session, I decided to pick up where I left off with the Docker Labs and managed to go through the Docker on Linux 101 and Docker on Windows 101 excercises. Apart from a few minor typos in the demo code, these worked really well, although the Windows environment was noticeably slower than Linux which was a little frustrating. I decided to skip the first session so I could work my way through more lab material which took me up to lunchtime.

For my first session of the day I decided to attend “Docker EE Deep Dive” by Patrick Devine, which I found quite interesting but felt that it didn’t quite go as “deep” as I’d like to have seen.  That said, I am convinced that I need to spend more time familiarizing myself with Enterprise Edition if I am ever going to make a success of my “microservices journey”.

After lunch, I decided to speak with a few more storage solution vendors and deliberated whether to go to my second session of the day. None of the sessions that were on offer grabbed me enough, so I decided to extend my adventures with the lab environment and worked through a few more scenarios. So by the time my next session arrived, I was really looking forward to it and chose “Becoming the Docker Champion: Bringing Docker Back to Work” by Jim Armstrong. To be honest, I was more than a little disappointed that the content was not technical and focused more on the “politics” of the workplace and your company’s staff motivations for adopting of Docker (or not). For me, this was largely a waste of my time even though Jim presented the session well, the session needed really to live in a management track (had one existed). During the next long break, I headed back to the Lab area and continued to work through the material. After the last session, I deliberated whether I should attend the last session of the day (of which a Serverless panel was quite appealing), and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was probably more worthwhile if I continued working my way through the labs.

That was really the end of (a slightly disappointing) day, but at least I got some good value from the Labs. In the evening I struggled to remote onto my machine back home so I could watch the Chelsea v Roma game and failed. Therefore I had to resort to finding a hooky stream which kept cutting out every 5-10 minutes. Even though Chelsea went 2-0 up quite early on, the match ended 3-3 to compound my disappointment!

Tomorrow is my last day in Denmark, in which I will be attending one the post-conference Summits.

Other posts in this series
4 days of Dockercon – Day 4
4 days of Dockercon – Day 2
4 days of Dockercon – Day 1
4 days of Dockercon – Day 0

4 days of Dockercon – Day 2

keynote

Why is it that at every conference I always seem to be rushing around in the morning trying to get to the keynote sessions in time. No matter how early I wake, I always seem to run out of time. Today was the first main day of sessions and I was determined to grab a bite to eat before heading to the keynote, so I headed across to the sponsor hall and grabbed my required bacon supplement for the day and managed to have a very interesting chat with a Docker insider (who is apparently contributing to the keynote the next day – I’ll insert name if that is correct). We discussed the future of containers in a potentially Serverless world and it was really interesting (and reassuring) to note that Docker has their eyes and ears firmly planted in all the right places (can’t say any more right now!).

I managed to get to the keynote just a few minutes late, and the central message was to push the awesomeness that is Docker Enterprise Edition. There were some great demos on show and also some great (but quite clearly staged) banter between the speakers, but unlike most conferences, they were fun and engaging talks. Probably the biggest announcement of the day came when the co-founder of Docker and CTO (Solomon Hykes) wowed the audience with the news that Kubernetes will be treated as a first-class citizen and that it will be baked into the product alongside Swarm, so that choosing one orchestrator over another did not compromise many of the great features present in both. This is clearly great news for Kube fans (and very welcome news at that), but I do also wonder how this will affect other orchestration platforms? I couldn’t quite make out whether other platforms will be closely integrated in the future as well. If I had to guess I would say yes.

I started the day off by going to a Docker “beginner” session called “Learning Docker from Square One” delivered by Chloe Condon. I was in two minds whether an intro session was a good idea for me, but I decided that starting from the beginning wasn’t a bad idea to refresh core concepts. I enjoyed her delivery of the session and general materials and explanations although it was perhaps a little more basic than I probably needed and if I was brutally honest I think too much time was spent on the opening analogies between containers and images -which I mostly didn’t think worked very well. She did, however, use one that I have in the past – that of development code ( or more specifically: Object Orientation concepts) using classes (as the image) and instances (as the container). Anyhow, those minor nit-picking aside, she delivered a good session and I think her “dad jokes” as she put it, generally had people laughing through the session.

It was now time for lunch and quite a large break, so I decided to grab an (ultimately) rushed bite to eat (since sadly my table mates were about as exciting as a cold bath in December) and then had a great time visiting and talking to sponsors. This is not something I generally do at big SQL Server conferences and mostly find vendors a complete waste of my time (or is that me or theirs – who knows?), but for whatever reason, I really enjoyed talking to them and was particularly interested in persisted storage solutions for containers. I have got a few more to visit tomorrow if possible!

Next up, I decided to keep to my Microsoft roots and check out “Navigating the Docker Toolset in Visual Studio and Azure” delivered by Microsoft’s Shayne Boyer. I’ll be honest and say that I wasn’t familiar with Shayne, and I always feel sorry for Microsoft speakers at non-Microsoft conferences (and user groups) since I generally get the feeling of a lack of engagement from the audiences (partially due to the historical leanings and historical open-source community failings of the company). That said, times are changing, Microsoft is embracing and integrating (and contributing) and the future is bright. Shayne did a good job convincing me to crack open Visual Studio 2017 and create and deploy some Azure containers, making it all seem incredibly easy – so when I get the time, this is exactly what I will do.

I now decided to attend “Creating Effective Docker Images” by Abby Fuller since this topic was a no-brainer for me, and it also appeared to be the view held by everyone else at Dockercon. Her session room was absolutely packed and had no standing room available, having (at a guess) 500+ people in it. Her delivery of the material was pretty faultless and given her age (to an old git like me) I watched in admiration of this talent. I learned some really useful things in the session but was left *just* wanting a bit more… Perhaps this is Abby’s intention and perhaps the reason she gets packed rooms?!

Next up was a fairly meaty break (approximately 45 minutes) so I gathered my things and decided to start having a play with the conference workshops. I only managed to get through 30 minutes of the lab (before having to rush back to sessions) but I am going to do my best to try and do them all.

My next session stood out like a sore thumb and was right up my street. I watched “The Truth Behind Serverless” by Erica Windisch. I really enjoyed this session and Erica is quite clearly very passionate about the topic and also very knowledgeable. I would perhaps have like I few more real-world demos, but I left happy and enjoyed listening to yet another unique personality in the world of microservices. I look forward to watching other content by Erica in the near future.

My final session was a real toss up between “My journey to Go” (my #1 choice) by Ashley McNamara (although I later realised I have already watched this at Gophercon) and “Modernizing .NET Apps” with Elton Stoneman (w|t) and Iris Classon (w|t). The latter actually won through in the end for two reasons. The first being that Elton “encouraged” me to come to his session on Twitter which I thought was amusing and the second was because of Iris Classon. I don’t think Dockercon attendees realised (given that there was space available in the room), but Iris is a HUGE name in the world of .NET and has been for a very long time, but she is also an amazing person -as those who have followed her for a very long time will testify. This was actually my first ever time I’ve attended one of her sessions live (oh the shame), but I really enjoyed the experience. Both Iris and Elton worked really well as a partnership and despite one of their demos crashing and burning (which they both turned into a funny ending), it was very nicely delivered. As an aside, I think Iris must hold the Dockercon world record for saying “sh*t” in a presentation :). I definitely couldn’t get away with this, but there is something very endearing the way she does and I think her humor is very Monty Python -very much up my street!

At the end of the sessions, I had to do a rain check on the Dockercon party due to the small fact that I have a ton of stuff to do for Microsoft from the confines of my hotel room, so their gain was my loss. No matter, I had a brilliant day today and look forward to what tomorrow brings.

Other posts in this series
4 days of Dockercon – Day 4
4 days of Dockercon – Day 3
4 days of Dockercon – Day 1
4 days of Dockercon – Day 0