Postgres Open: next year (!), resources, video

Postgres Open is over!

I wanted to share a few resources, and remind attendees to fill out our survey. I really appreciate the detailed comments I’ve been getting! Keep them coming.

I wanted to specially thank our program committee:

Robert Haas
Josh Berkus
Gavin Roy
Greg Smith

They were the people who put together and edited the website, found sponsors, recruited speakers, voted on talks, gave talks and tutorials and executed the many tasks needed to make the conference a success. We plan to make key members of the Postgres community part of the operation of the conference going forward. We’re really just emulating the way that PgCon is run.

I have some more thoughts about what makes a conference “community-operated”, and once my budget numbers are settled, I’m going to share with you what running the conference costs in terms of my time, and in terms of dollars to operate. It’s important to both understand the costs involved, how much of my time is required and what that means for you as either a sponsor, speaker, attendee or volunteer supporting what we are doing.

NEXT YEAR: September 17-19, 2012

I’m pleased to announce that next year’s conference for September 17-19, 2012 at the Westin-Michigan Ave. So mark your calendars now!

The conference will continue to be operated as a non-profit, with proceeds going toward operation of the following year’s event, and a very small percentage going to Technocation, Inc – our fiscal sponsor and a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to developing educational opportunities and resources for software professionals.

We had fantastic support from our sponsors this year, and hope to expand that next year.

In particular: 2ndQuadrant, EnterpriseDB, Heroku and VMWare’s support were instrumental in pulling this event together. We really only started planning in May. It feels good to now have a whole year ahead of us!

With greater sponsor support, we can help fund some of the things that attendees asked for like: soda (which costs $8/soda – I feel as though we should get some kind of gold plating for this), conference tshirts, and a closing party.

Please get in touch if you or a company you know is interested in sponsorship for 2012!


Speakers are uploading or linking their slides to the PostgreSQL wiki. If the slides you’re looking for aren’t there, please ping the speaker or me.

Streaming Video:

Streaming content will be available for about 30 days.

I will be getting all the video on flash drives this week. My plan is to upload it to either vimeo or youtube. I don’t really have the resources to provide individual copies of the videos, but if we find a location for raw data upload, I’ll pass that along to you all.

Reflections on a negotiation workshop: we’re better at it than we know

The Sunday before OSCON, I gathered a group of women who work with open “stuff” to participate in a workshop on negotiation with David Eaves. He talked a little bit about his recent work in open source communities in an interview with Ed Dumbill. I’ve mentioned David a few times in previous posts here, and was excited to finally get to meet him in person.

My goal in bringing people together was to launch an effort among open source communities to recognize negotiation as a core, required skill. I decided to target women in open source as the initial audience.

The day-long training was structured around two simulations, one based on personal experiences, and the other using an entertaining business situation – where two sides come together after about 45 minutes of research to negotiate an agreement.

Much of the “lecture” time was spent identifying key steps in a negotiation, and sharing a framework that helps individuals prepare for difficult conversations. A key feedback loop was:

It’s a very simple loop, but crystalizes much of the core of what negotiation is about. Preparation, execution, targeting a goal and reflection.

Like much of what I covered in the “Mistakes were made” talk, the diagram documents and reveals common sense as a system. Negotiation is a feedback loop, and there’s always opportunity for even better, more collaborative and satisfying deals.

Another revealing point in the workshop was that the goal of a negotiation is not necessarily to come to an agreement, but to find an acceptable resolution. That includes a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). Which is to say – enter into a negotiation with a clear idea of what your alternative is, and what your bottom line is so that you can feel comfortable walking away knowing what your next step is (even if it is not your preferred step).

Finally, during the workshop and simulations, I realized how many of the research and bits of process that were suggested I was already doing! It was very nice to leave with a framework for future negotiation, and a set of questions to ask myself and others.

My reaction to the preparation was to consider how I could share whatever I prepared with my negotiating partner in the future. And then I realized that probably wouldn’t always work, but it was a lovely thought. What if we could develop the strength in more of our relationships to be that open and direct?

I highly recommend attending any workshop that David gives in the future, and will be blogging about some suggested reading as I get through the books.

Leslie Hawthorn has blogged about her experience.

We were able to hold the workshop, thanks to the sponsorships of Mozilla, Wikimedia Foundation, Google, Technocation, Inc and O’Reilly.

OSCON: We’re at the end…

I’m finally getting to blog, and here are a few highlights:

* “Mistakes were made” was a great time. Thank you everyone who shared stories. And those of you who attended, please connect with me – email or whatever, and let’s continue our discussions about failure.
* I have a little bit of editing to do left on the harder, better, faster, stronger slides. Talk ratings have been very high (thank you audience! 🙂 Should have that up tomorrow!
* Not having a booth at OSCON was a real bummer for Postgres. We need to figure out a way to make this happen for us every year.
* Great having the time to connect with old friends in the hallways this week.
* Thanks O’Reilly for supporting our open source community.
* Thanks Google Open Source Programs office for bringing together open source leaders yet again this year for some important conversations.

Thank you everyone from the Postgres community who contributed to the Postgres day just before OSCON. All the speakers and their talks are listed here.

We need to keep having adjunct events like this! I think LCA has it right scheduling Mini-BoFs to provide networking opportunities for the distinct groups. I think OSCON should formalize this next year, and figure out a way of facilitating those groups in a more structured way.

I have another blog post brewing about difficult conversations.. but that’s going to have to wait until after I enjoy the brewers fest!

Getting ready for OSCON, code of conduct and cultural change

UPDATE: See bottom of post.

I totally should be working on my talks right now, but instead I’ve been talking with people about the lack of a code of conduct for OSCON.

I’ve written before about cultural resistance, and how I think it fits in with changes that must happen in technical communities when we invite more women in.

One of those changes is making it clear that women (and other minorities) are not just tolerated in public spaces, but that they are explicitly wanted there.

I think OSCON has made great strides in that direction by changing their marketing materials to include the faces of women. Sarah Novotny, co-chair of OSCON, travelled extensively to invite women face-to-face to submit talks. There are many women speaking at OSCON this year.

OSCON put the time and energy into creating a sense that women were already attending (which they are), and that they wanted more.

So, why all the fuss about having a code of conduct? Well, this community is changing.

What people think of as “summer camp for geeks” is this year a gathering that by definition includes people who haven’t previously been part of the OSCON community. When a community (which OSCON definitely is) sets out to change the gender percentages, it needs to be clear that the women are being invited to join and shape the culture, not just show up to be tourists of the existing culture.

The leadership of the conference needs to establish with existing attendees that the cultural change is wanted. The fact is, OSCON is a for-profit enterprise, with a business driving the event. Grassroots activism is helpful in encouraging change, but ultimately, the owners of the brand need to make a statement in addition to the marketing.

I applaud Jono Bacon for his creation of an anti-harassment policy for the Community Leadership Summit. I also am heartened at O’Reilly’s recent tweet that they are following this conversation.

I don’t think that codes of conduct are the perfect solution. But how else do we communicate to everyone participating that the change is happening, and that they need to accommodate new members *who are very different from them* during a period of cultural adjustment? That’s not a rhetorical question — I am genuinely interested in answers to this question.

I’ve updated my profile to state that I am pro-code-of-conduct, and included a link to anti-harassment resources, which I think should be part of an overall code of conduct. Donna put up a wikipage with easy to cut-n-paste additions for OSCON speaker profiles. If you agree that a code of conduct is a positive direction, please join us!

UPDATE: Tim O’Reilly has blogged about his expectations in a post titled “Sexual Harassment at Technical Conferences: A Big No-No” regarding a code of conduct for conferences under the O’Reilly umbrella going forward.

Looking for worthy “mistakes were made” stories

I’m giving a couple talks at OSCON this year! One of them is titled “Mistakes were made“, and I need a few good stories.

I’m focused on web operations, but really, any stories where there was a plan, and it went horribly wrong, would be great. And, I’d love to know whether whatever went wrong ultimately got fixed, hacked around or was just left as-is.


Summer’s finally here: Plans and more plans

I’ve been pretty busy since I left PgCon. Emma is gearing up for a pretty awesome API release, and I’m working on a bit of tricky migration code.

I’ve also got a number of upcoming talks to suss out:

And, then August off from the conference circuit, and a trip to Chicago for Postgres Open. And I’ve agreed to MC for another great event coming to Portland this fall.

So, I’ve got a busy few weeks ahead preparing for such great conferences coming here to Portland.

Otherwise, chickens are laying eggs regularly, I’ve got a delicious looking crop of cherries developing in the front yard, and maybe some strawberries if the sun lasts for a few days. For the moment, I’m taking it easy today, reading a few books and relaxing in warmth that Portland has deserved for quite a few months now.


Photo courtesy of roome via Flickr

She’s Geeky report Day 2!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Mei

I’m sitting in the closing session for day 2 of She’s geeky – tired, but feeling inspired.

The main sessions I participated in were connecting women’s communities, OSCON proposal creation and a session on recruiting. I spent a lot of time talking one on one with a couple community managers, and touched on a ton of issues involving leadership, vision and the future of women in open source.

One idea that resonated with lots of people was the idea of going deeply into identifying the common values of the women who start and lead change efforts in open source. And using that foundation to launch future work.

A few action items came out of it involving creating a set of calendars, using posterous for some more communities, and creating a crunchbase-like database of women in the tech community.

I got a chance to talk to a couple women who are Linux kernel and embedded systems hackers. They’re submitting talks to OSCON thanks to Sarah Novotny’s session on creating talk proposals. So awesome!

Now we’re about to go have dinner, and looking forward to a fun evening after a full day.

She’s geeky: day 1 report

Image courtesy of Sarah Novotny

I got in about 1pm to She’s Geeky, an unconference about women who self-identify as geeks.

I’m here on a mission: to find developers who want to move to Portland! Emma, Urban Airship, Puppet Labs, About Us and BankSimple are all hiring (and BankSimple is even interested in remote hires).

My favorite conference session yesterday was about leadership and management, the difference between the two, and how to work with managers. We had an amazing discussion, with @noisegirl, Allison Randal, and Ursula Kallio leading a lot of the discussion. Topics ranged from how to carve out time for individual contribution when you take on a management role, to dealing with insane micromanagement to exploring the limits of change in an organization.

Another discussion I participated in was “Startup. Now what?” We talked about the issues each woman faced in starting her own business, and I asked a lot of questions. 🙂

I also attended a talk about the commerce department’s Privacy Green Paper. I hadn’t heard of it before, but the response being formulated is here:

The main gist of the discussion was about encouraging congress to think carefully about the legislation and the business environment created (or stifled) by new data regulations. The contention is that activity data stored in “personal data stores” (PDS) is inherently of value — we already know this because our data is bought and sold without our consent or knowledge currently. So, why not create a system where businesses can do this, but with the consent and knowledge of consumers? I’d probably say “citizens” there instead of consumers, but you know. Whatever. 🙂

I’m not sure I fully understand the issues yet. I tried at one point to draw a link between PDS and “owning your own logs.“, but that didn’t seem to resonate. Kaliya said something about respecting definitions, so I think that I still don’t quite understand what defines a PDS.

Or, put another way, I am having a hard time understanding the distinction, because the freedom issues seem to be very much the same.

I tweeted a bit about my thoughts on APIs related to PDS, and here’s one conversation that tumbled out of it:

Welcome, Selena! | LinkedIn
Uploaded with Skitch!

Anyway, much to think about from the first day, and I’m excited to see what discussions unfold today!

GSoC Mentor Summit: Day 1

Today was the first day of the GSoC Mentor summit. I attended a few sessions and had several interesting hallway conversations with developers and leaders of projects from all over the world.

First, I attended a discussion about book sprinting, and did a recap of how our latest book sprint went (blog post to come!). We discussed the advantages of having the same group of people to two book sprints as a group, and how things seemed so much easier the second time around. We also had copies of the book that we’d hand-bound there to share. Lunch was spent chatting with Noirin and others about food, culture, travelling lots, and the hilariousness of having “Sotomayor” as a surname in Washington DC these days. Happy to have met a couple more Apache Foundation folks, and lovely to talk about names with an OpenNebula contributor. I also spent some time chatting with Greg Stark about the session on retaining students, and go over a few bits of inspiration he had for encouraging students to work on the more mundane aspects of PostgreSQL development.

Next I stopped upstairs to have a chat with Asheesh Laroia about new things he’s been up to around promoting free and open source community. He’d run a class recently to introduce new students to open source (at Penn State), and had some thoughts on what we should do next to make open source communities more welcoming. He also talked to me about Fedora Design Bounty, and how that model might be applied to other projects. Genius idea, and after reflecting on the idea a bit, maybe we could try it in pgsql-advocacy. Maybe. 🙂

I then breezed through the Chocolate session. Yum!

And went off to see about Bradley Kuhn‘s session on options for joining or starting non-profits around free software. He’s now executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, and was giving out great advice around picking an umbrella organization, making the right choices early about where to put money (don’t use your personal paypal account!), and notes on where to go for help if you’ve got questions about what to do next. Not sure where the notes are for that session, but I’m sure contacting him for more information about Software Freedom Conservancy if you’re interested is an option.

Then we had the great Git Migration discussion. The notes were wonderful, and it seems like many people were either considering or were in the middle of a git conversion process. Two PostgreSQL developers were there, including Magnus Hagander, whose voice wasn’t working so well. I helped out a bit by giving a rough overview of how our process had worked, and pointing people at the many resources and tools Magnus and others who worked on the conversion made available.

Afterward, I sat down for a bit with Zooko to talk about Tahoe-LAFS, which appears to be an encrypted, distributed document store database with a http interface. Sounds really cool, and I’m interested in trying it out.

Now, I’m getting ready to head off to the party for the evening. Great day!

Training lessons learned: Code dojo, whiteboards, interactivity

Training can be an incredibly boring, frustrating exercise. Often, I have friends who don’t bother to attend sessions or tutorials during conferences. Instead, they cherry-pick friends and colleagues that they can work on code, gossip or brainstorm with in the hall while others sit passively in lectures. When I think about it now, knowing this about my friends is what motivated me to start Open Source Bridge.

The PostgreSQL training I gave to Ondo State was specifically targeted at developers. I used material End Point had from previous trainings, and added few new things designed to meet the needs of fledgling database developers. The high points I wanted to hit were: schema design basics, user defined function development and highlight developer-friendly features of Postgres that they should be aware of.

One big obstacle for me was that they would all be using Windows as their primary operating system. I develop exclusively on UNIX-based platforms, and so I had to spend a little time getting re-acquainted with Windows tools. pgAdmin III was essential, and I was happy that a new version was released along with version 8.4 of Postgres.

Also, while the concepts are the same, the built-in monitoring tools for Windows are quite a bit different, and I used freely available material from my Postgres colleagues who support Windows for a couple hour tutorial on interactive troubleshooting.

When trying to explain concepts – like replication, or basic database terms – it really helps to have a whiteboard. I was working with a group of people with diverse IT backgrounds, and often, I asked individuals to try to explain in their own words various terms (like “transaction”). This helped engage the students in a way that simply stating definitions can’t. Observing their fellow students struggling with terminology helped them generate their own questions, and I saw the great results the next day – when students were able to define terms immediately, that took five minutes the day before to work through.

Finally, one important request from the client was that some time be spent mentoring developers on standards, best practices for development and coding style. To accomplish this task with fourteen students in such a limited period of time, I decided to conduct a series of coding sessions where students and I took turns at the keyboard programming as a group. We call this coding dojo, a concept built on the Coding Katas from Dave Thomas.

Overall, I prefer interactive training, where students are not only encouraged, but forced to interact with each other and the instructor.

When I sent out the CFP for MySQL Conf yesterday, lots of people asked me for suggestions on talk topics. In general, I recommend that speakers focus on a particular take-away for the audience, and mention specifically what a person sitting in is going to learn *and* apply immediately. Not every talk can be interactive, or give people chunks of code. But *every* talk should have a clear goal, and leave the audience educated. The best leave them inspired!