PostgreSQL at MySQL Users’ Conference 2011

So, I’m on the committee for MySQL Conf this year, and the committee is specifically seeking talks about PostgreSQL. The idea is to broaden the scope of the conference to include a lot of different open source database technology, including a bunch more about Postgres.

The theme of the conference is “the ecosystem and beyond”, which was chosen specifically because the open source database world has exploded and grown so much in the last three years. Below is a slide from a presentation I made last year at LinuxConf AU about the growth in free and open source (FOSS) databases:

We’ve seen a half-dozen forks of MySQL appear, exponential growth among “NoSQL” databases, and now, a powerful release from PostgreSQL. It may seem odd that the name of the conference didn’t change to reflect the change in focus – but this is the largest FOSS database conference I know off – weighing in at over 2000 people last year. Given the community that’s grown around it, I understand why they are keeping the name.

The content will still largely focus on MySQL — the core, the many forks, and the community around it. But we’ll also hear from many new, successful database projects, and definitely hear from PostgreSQL. To do that, though, I need you to submit talks!

The submission deadline for all proposals is October 25, 2010!

Topics for consideration include:

  • Innovative uses of Postgres
  • Data warehousing and BI
  • Architectures based on Postgres
  • PostGIS
  • Government + Postgres
  • [your favorite web framework] + Postgres
  • Performance and optimization
  • Security and database administration
  • “In the cloud”
  • Business and case studies

If you’ve got an idea, submit a proposal today!

Please contact me directly for feedback, help with submissions or help generating ideas. And if you’re submitting, please just drop me a line to let me know! I’d love to hear from all that are interested.

Thoughts on Grace Hopper

I’ve been at Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing for the past two days – soaking in the presence of over 2000 women in computing at a sprawling conference here in Atlanta.

The interesting thing about this conference is how much the same it feels to me as any other large conference I attend, and a couple small ways that it is very different. I realized while I was here how I have spent the last few years surrounding myself with accomplished, amazing women like Jen Redman, Leslie Hawthorn, Claire McCabe and Sarah Sharp. What’s funny is that we’re connected by Portland (although Claire is down in Oakland… for now…), and we’re all at Grace Hopper this week. They, among many others, made me feel right at home.

I feel the dislocation of being at a conference comprised 95% (or more) of women. There’s an odd politeness that I’m not used to. There are a lot of people who are in academia or industry who wear suits and use words like ‘leverage’ without irony. There were tons of students – over 900 of them, and an incredible job fair. And I was shocked at the number of people who asked me: What exactly is free and open source software?

As congratulatory as those of us who are “in” the free software world about having essentially won out over proprietary software, there is a huge, mainstream portion of the computing world who are not aware. I’m not saying that a person needs to understand the minutia of license differences, or have even read one. But wow, there is an incredible missed opportunity when a computer science student can graduate without knowing what open source even *is*.

So, congratulations to the women who put the first ever Open Source Track at Grace Hopper together: Jen Redman, Cat Allman, Sandra Covington, Sara Ford, Jenny Han Donnelly, Leslie Hawthorn, Avni Khatri, Stormy Peters, Hilary Pike, and Natalia Vinnik. I was very happy to participate in the “getting started in open source” panel. And many thanks to the NSA for sponsoring the hackathon with Sahana, a very worthy project, and one that I hope is infused with new excitement and contribution from the 200 people who signed up to participate. I hear that we’ll be having a hackathon again next year in Portland — when Grace Hopper comes to our very own city!

CouchCamp 2010: yay!

Max in a tree! Talking about GeoCouch

I was at CouchCamp last week out at the Walker Creek Ranch – a bit disconnected (no cel service, and spotty internet), but fully immersed in the CouchDB community.

I was there to give a talk on MVCC in PostgreSQL. I forgot to mention it during my talk, but it was a fitting topic given that I first talked with JChris after a talk he gave in Portland, where I basically trolled him about compaction and MVCC in CouchDB. My goal was to show people the benefits of CouchDB’s built-in MVCC, to point out some places where core developers can learn from PostgreSQL and avoid some of the traps we’ve fallen into over the years. I’ve got more to say about the talk some other day, but I wanted to just reflect on CouchCamp for a moment.

One comment a friend made was, “Wow, these people are just so nice!” And it’s true. Every hacker meetup I attend is full of people who are overwhelmingly kind and thoughtful, and CouchCamp was more of the same.

CouchDB is at a critical point in their development – 1.0 is out the door, and developers are already building cool apps on top of it. CouchApps + Evently are an interesting and fun way to get started building things on top of a couch. And replication parties – seriously awesome. Ward Cunningham is rumored to be considering a CouchDB wiki to drive the patterns repository wiki (And here it is! Thanks, Max!), and CouchCamp was overflowing with ideas and implementations (distributed social, a replacement for email, UbuntuOne).

So what did I learn at CouchCamp? I learned how to hack on a CouchApp (Thanks for the help, JChris!). I learned about what Max Ogden is up to, and am so excited for him and the lucky folks that get to work with him. (and he’s running a hack/project night next weekend you should TOTALLY GO TO!)

I heard about the success and tribulations of running CouchDB on the desktop, and the launch of UbuntuOne from Stuart Langridge. During his talk, Stuart brought up the idea of a general replication API – something that I also believe is important to the growth of open source databases and is critical to enabling data freedom. I met a real, live Pick user/admin/developer, and talked about the inability to move to another system but the possibility of interfacing something like CouchDB to it. I got to chat with Rebecca Murphey about Javascript, MVCC and quality booze. I saw bunnies, foxes, deer, raccoons, and tons of bright stars late at night. And, I saw Damien Katz perform a brief interpretive dance.

I also was pointed to a retrospective on Couch 1.0 development by Ted Leung. I don’t know Noah Slater, but wow, what a testimonial. Noah’s comments about why he continues to contribute to CouchDB mirror a recent thread about PostgreSQL contribution — we work on these open source projects because of the incredible community that develops around them.

Thanks, Mikael, JChris, Jan and Damien, and all the CouchDB folks for creating a community that so many people want to contribute and become a part of. I certainly want to be a part of it, and look forward to finding ways of contributing more.

And thanks for bringing us all together in person. From the squirt guns in the welcome bag, to the campfire and sing-alongs, to the very late night Android libc storytelling by Aaron… These are the moments that glue us all together, and make all that work we do to connect up with one another through software completely worth it.

Speakers workshop at LibrePlanet next week!

I’m headed off to Boston (and then NYC!) next week for three days of free software love at LibrePlanet, March 19-21.

While there, I’ll be giving a speaker’s workshop – how to give talks at technical conferences. There’s not really a magical formula, just lots of tips and things to practice that will help you not only give great talks, but find excellent places to give those talks, be prepared for speaking to any size crowd, and have a good time while you do it.

I started giving talks at conferences about five years ago, and have been running my own conferences for three years. I still get the butterflies when I get up in front of people, but I’ve got a whole kit of strategies I now use to deal with it.

The workshop is scheduled for 3:30-5:30pm, and I’m sure we’ll all head out for dinner and conversation right after.

I’ve also got one free pass to the conference left, so leave a comment if you’ll be in the area and can use the pass.

Also, I’ll have some incredibly profane free software advocacy stickers on-hand to share. We’re free software activists, but we can still have fun, right? 🙂

Why you should go to LCA 2011


I returned from LCA 2010 on Sunday with an ecstatic grin, and tons of projects to work on for the rest of the year. I was lucky enough to have End Point send me to New Zealand! I knew a few of the organizers, and had high expectations. LCA totally surpassed them all.

Next year, LCA will be held in Brisbane, Australia. You should really go.

I’ll break it down for you:

* Content

The talks were really good. People went out of their way to talk about the technical issues they are facing without sugar coating it, dumbing it down, or resorting to lists of features.

Ted Ts’o‘s talk on EXT4 development was amazing in this regard. I came thinking that he’d give a laundry list of features, how it differed from EXT3, when he thought they’d be “production ready”. What I got instead was an incredibly detailed accounting of the failures in testing and systems analysis that filesystems developers had encountered over many, many years. The new development effort had its own fair share of bug creation, but they also found long standing bugs in EXT3. He went so far as to break down effort in terms of new feature creation, bug fixing and two other tasks (i wish I had a copy of the slides already!). Anyway, interesting talk, great advice for those who work with concurrency-sensitive applications (most of us these days) and very interesting case studies in failure.

Paul Gunn, an engineer at Weta Digital, gave a detailed talk on his experiences scaling their data centers. Much of the lessons there were fairly well understood by data center engineers (hot/cold aisles, raise the temperature to save some dollars!, don’t cram stuff under the floor where air is supposed to flow!, use high ceilings to sink heat). It’s always great to see companies sharing their practical experiences with developers.

Another fun project I learned about was Sheepdog – an EBS replacement developed by a team from NTT. The whole project looked fantastic – providing snapshot, cloning and thin provisioning, and a reasonable looking GUI. This could be a fundamental building block of free clouds.

I also was inspired by Cucumber-nagios, a relatively new project from Lindsay Holmwood. He and others have been talking about “behavior driven infrastructure“, a great bit of syntactic sugar on systems automation work that started with cfengine in the early ’90s. I look forward to playing around with these tools. And I really like that he leveraged nagios’ existing interfaces rather than inventing something new. This type of collaboration between projects is a breath of fresh air for sysadmins, who (if they’re anything like me) struggle to make awesome new tools talk to the awesome old ones.

I spent some time in an Arduino intro class, soldering and hacking on a temperature probe for a few hours. I ended up with a working temperature monitor and an appreciation for how easy to use the tools are.

* Hallway Track

There was a fantastic common area filled with people hacking on their talks, having conversation or maybe just hanging out to see what would happen next. IRC was full of hilarious chatter, and people connecting to see new babies (my god, so many people have had babies!).

There were also some couches, and a nice courtyard that often filled up with people. The common spaces in a conference seem to determine how well people can connect once they’re not just sitting in front of a speaker.

Another convenient and wonderful aspect of the location was the food. Excellent restaurants at reasonable prices were within a 5 minute walk of the conference venue. This made impromptu coffee breaks and relaxed but productive lunches very easy and enjoyable. I really, really liked this.

* Inspiration

Three keynotes by Biella Coleman, Benjamin Mako Hill and Glyn Moody were inspirational and subversive. All three were rallying cries for a hacker mentality – the drive to tweak, tinker, create and share. All three spoke to the pleasures and joys of software development.

Biella Coleman brought up the origins of the Free Software Foundation, and even played a video of a very young Richard Stallman talking about his frustration with not being able to modify source code. She also discussed the responsibility leaders in free and open source have to be transparent in their management of their projects (and how we remind ourselves of that in amusing ways).

Benjamin Mako Hill gave a rallying talk about antifeatures, and how their existence is a competitive advantage for free and open source software. Pia Waugh gave a detailed description of the talk, and the categories of antifeatures – protection money, market segmentation, securing monopolies and protecting copyrights. A memorable quote was “I have yet to meet a free software DVD player that respects the unskippable DVD track.” Mako reminds me that humor is the best medicine for something that’s seriously broken.

Glyn Moody went a slightly different route – talking about how sharing and openness are leaking out into the rest of the world. The Human Genome Project and Project Gutenburg were two of several examples he used, and to briefly cast a glance at what was at stake if public ownership had not been achieved – in particular with the Human Genome Project. He managed to convey a sense of urgency and importance that is often missing.

What free software actually gets used for and why are critically important stories. We all need to get better at telling compelling stories.

* Friendship

Free software is built on friendships. Trust, willingness to make mistakes in front of each other, and a desire to build on top of others work to make something better are the traits I see among those who collaborate with each other. Building free software can be a painful process – long nights, tedious bugs, no recognition for the work that went into it all. Conferences like LCA are a tremendous affirmation of the work that we all do.

From the scripted get-togethers, to the spontaneous hackfests and anti-scripted gatherings (the un-professional networking session!), all events are attempts to connect to the other people who know what it’s like to live inside of free software. And we relax around each other, make jokes and enjoy for a few days the knowledge that we’re doing something really cool.

I met so many people for whose time and attention I am incredibly grateful for. And, for those Kiwis who took me out for great food, shopping and long walks along the pier in the sunshine — thank you so much for taking the time. I miss you all.

OpenSQLCamp was awesome!

Saturday schedule 11/14/09

Thanks to everyone who attended OpenSQLCamp this past weekend in Portland, OR! More than 100 people participated – developers, DBAs and hobbyists from all over the world. Database developers participated from PostgreSQL, MySQL, MariaDB, Drizzle, TokuDB, LucidDB, MongoDB, Cassandra, CouchDB and many more.

The great thing about these events is the opportunity to trade ideas, code and stories. One project I’m very excited about is coming from some Portland State University students and a capstone project to create a new, interactive database client that works with more than just one DBMS. Igal gave a review of non-relational datastores. We had lightning talks about: open source column store databases, a many-master replication system called Trainwreck, open source at Microsoft, how to translate between NoSQL and SQL and many more.

You can see the full list of talks and notes from sessions as people update the wiki.

Joking about NoSQL aside, I was very happy to see many non-relational database developers in attendance, sharing information and participating in interesting discussions about the data management ecosystem. One meme we were happy to spread is that every tool has a purpose and I was happy to see this tweet:

Best thing I learned at #opensqlcamp today: #nosql vs. #sql is a false duality. Different features for different problem domains.

I hope next time we can get a few more core Postgres developers to a Camp. Mark Callaghan expressed interest in a comparison of backend storage mechanisms, and several people were interested in detailed comparisons of replication strategies across many DBMSes.

Thank you to everyone who participated! (sorry I spelled your name wrong in the email, Mark. And left off your name in the list of GoDaddy road-trippers, Dan.) If you were there, please give us feedback!

We’re already looking forward to the next OpenSQL Camp. Some people thought we should do it again in Portland – and we’d be happy to host again next year! Baron also mentioned running an event in Washington, D.C.

Perl Mongers, Open SQL Camp and JPUG 10th anniversary coming up

Just asking.

I’ve got a busy couple of weeks in November:

  • November 11, 2009 – I’m presenting Bucardo (a sweet replication system for Postgres) at the Portland Perl Mongers group, 7pm at Free Geek.
  • November 13-14, 2009 – I’ll be helping run OpenSQL Camp with Eric Day here in Portland, OR. We’re having it at Souk, and kicking things off on Friday night at Old Town Pizza, starting around 6pm. Eric asked about having an n-master (multi-multi-multi…etc master) replication session, so I might talk with him about that there.
  • November 19, 2009 – PostgreSQL Clustering Summit in Tokyo. I’ll be giving a 5-minute presentation on the state of Bucardo development, and meeting (or seeing again!) the major contributors to replication and clustering technology for Postgres.
  • November 20-21, 2009 – Japanese PostgreSQL User Group 10th Anniversary Summit. I’ll be presenting a talk on User Groups with Magnus Hagander, President of PostgreSQL Europe.

I’m happy to say that I’ve got my slide decks done well in advance this time, and am mostly working on example configurations. I started a repo on github to hold my bucardo examples. Enjoy!

GSoC Mentor Summit and the new mentor’s manual


I’ve been in San Jose since Wednesday, working on a book and preparing for today’s Google Summer of Code Mentor’s Summit. We’re here at Google’s campus, setting up the schedule and meeting new and old friends.

A group of us – me, Jen, Alex, Bart, Jonathan, Leslie and Olly – worked with Adam Hyde from to create a new GSoC mentoring guide. We “book sprinted”, writing the entire manual in two days. Leslie was nice enough to produce printed copies for attendees, and the whole thing is available online at: is pretty cool — you can create epub books, PDFs and beautiful looking printed books quite easily.

I was happy to reference the patch review process from PostgreSQL in the ‘upstream integration‘ chapter.

We’d love comments, feedback and contributions to the manual!

Kicking off Open Source Bridge planning

Starting the rodeo rumors now...

Starting the rodeo rumors now...

We’re kicking off the planning for Open Source Bridge 2010, old school. We’ve got a mailing list that you should subscribe to:

Last year’s organizing team was very structured. I like to think that we managed things well, and our attendees were pleased with the results.

But, this time – we’re changing how we manage things.

We’re letting everyone in on our planning process! So, if you enjoyed Open Source Bridge last year, and want to see it be a success this year, join our mailing list now, and see if you can lend us a hand.


Photo courtesy of FirstBaptistNashville, via a Creative Commons license