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.


PDXPUG Day 2010: 9.0 and all sorts of good stuff

I’m nearly ready for PDXPUG Day 2010.

We’ve got some fun talks lined up from leaders in the Postgres community in town for OSCON. It’s free to attend. We’ll at the Oregon Convention Center, room D131.

Stop by sometime during the day if you’re in town!

Here’s our schedule:

10am: What’s new in 9.0 – Selena Deckelmann
11am: ORMs and Their Discontents – Christophe Pettus
1:30pm: Mining Your Logs For Fun and Profit – Josh Berkus
2:30pm: PORTAL – Dan Colish
3:30pm: An Introduction to Managing and Troubleshooting PostgreSQL on Windows – Tim Bruce
4:30pm: PostgreSQL in Brazilian Army and Air Force – Luis Dosso

6pm-10pm: Party at the Gotham Tavern!

Pluggable architecture, not just for code


photo from Chris Zakorchemny

One OSCON session that made me think was “Does Open Source need to be organic?” The panel contained Brian Aker (MySQL), Rob Lanphier (Linden Lab), Stephen O’Grady (Redmonk), Theodore Ts’o (Linux Foundation). The session was less about business vs. community, and more about how to increase community involvement in your projects.

Brian Aker mentioned Launchpad, and the way that it handles code forks. Forks are integrated into the system using a new revision control system – Bazaar. The forks are front and center – allowing all developers on the project to add forks and update them, incorporating them in with the primary code distribution point. This model reinforces the idea that forks are natural and can be positive evolutions in open source projects.

My big take-away: If you want to increase community contribution to open source projects, provide public and easy-to use interfaces. Publish your API early and create pluggable interfaces! Let developers add functionality and publish their add-ons easily, both in your project’s development space and on their own.

The same principal can be applied to the people side of open source projects. In your organization, make roles, tasks and responsibilities transparent. Let everyone – inside AND outside the project – know what they could be doing to get things done. The mistake that many projects make is assuming that people know what they could be doing.

Think of the people-side of projects the same way as you think about the code. Documented APIs are the same as public mailing lists, blog entries and wikis that reveal what your organization is actually doing, and how new people can get involved. Roles and titles that are meaningful let people know who they should bring their ideas to. And that lowers barriers to participation.

Leadership is not just telling people what to do – it’s inspiring, facilitating and then getting out of the way of people who are willing and capable of doing things on their own. Community grown from inspiration, and then fed by encouragement, fun and recognition of accomplishment, are the ones that last. And these communities are the ones that I want to be part of.

PDXPUG Day on July 20 – Register now!

pgday 2007

photo courtesy of Dan Browning

Registration for PDXPUG Day on July 20, 2008 is open! Please sign up and let us know what size t-shirt you’d like. We’re requesting a $20 donation (by cash or check) at the door. All proceeds to to Software in the Public Interest, a 501(c)3 organization that is used to fund PostgreSQL advocacy.

Registration for OSCON is not required to attend.

Registering also gets you in the door at the Gotham Tavern, our after-party location close to the convention center!

Our line-up of talks includes:

PostgreSQL Unit Testing with pgTAP – David Wheeler
Inside the PostgreSQL Shared Buffer Cache – Greg Smith
Muldis D – Portable Databases At Full Power – Darren Duncan
A Streaming Database Talk – Rafael J. Fernández-Moctezuma
Using GLORP to connect Squeak Smalltalk to PostgreSQL – RandalSchwartz
Fighting Disease with PostgreSQL Full Text Search and JRuby on Rails – Mike Herrick
All Your GIS Are Belong to You – Abe Gillespie
What’s PgUS – Joshua Drake

Sign up today!

Call for proposals for PDXPUG PgDay, due June 20, 2008

pgday 2007
(Photo from PgDay 2007)

Please submit a talk! The call will be open for 2 weeks and proposals are due June 20th. Follow the link for details on submitting.


PDXPUG PgDay will be on July 20, 2008. This is a one-day conference happening the day before OSCON at the Oregon Convention Center.

We are inviting anyone who has something interesting to share about PostgreSQL to send us a proposal!

We’d like to have at least one 1.5 hour tutorial and up to five 45-minute talks.

We welcome talks in any of the following areas:

* Case studies involving interesting and innovative uses of PostgreSQL from an application developer, PostgreSQL developer or administrative user perspective
* Converting from other databases to PostgreSQL
* Howtos for database administration tasks (partitioning, backups, replication, writing stored procedures)
* Practical advice on configuration, monitoring and database management

oscon: day 2

The opening talk about Processing was really cool. On Sunday, I’d talked with Schwern and Tom Limoncelli about women’s participation in computer science. Schwern mentioned some neat visual programming environments. I think that Processing seemed like something in that direction. I want to play with it!

The overcoming bias talk was pretty boring. The idea was good, but Robert Hanson didn’t really have the crowd with him. He said one thing that stuck out in my notes: “Private advantage but at a social cost”. It was nice that he spoke before the Microsoft guy.

So microsoft is launching an opensource portal/marketing site. Nat’s questions about where microsoft was going with it’s litigation really put him on the spot, and the guy didn’t give a real answer.

The Pirat Partiet guy was awesome! Rick Falkvinge started the Pirate party in sweden to encourage copyright reform. They’re going for 4% of voters in 2009 (i think!). Campaign contributions are unregulated in Sweden, so you can donate here.

Steve Yegge spoke last about branding. Then the keynote sessions were done!
I saw Amy Hoy’s When Interface Design Attacks talk. A great distillation of a lot of UX material. I learned a new word: satisfice. It’s what a user does when they can’t do what they really want to do – use the next best thing or give up.

After that, I went to the Mahara presentation by Penny Leach. Penny is the maintainer of the postgresql port of Moodle. The idea behind Mahara to maintain ePortfolios throughout a student’s education career. For example, there’s hooks for creating a CV and creating/sending cover letters to employers. I like the idea of tracking that type of thing automatically. I learned that my husband’s high school the high school my husband teaches at uses Moodle later. Ton of functionality, seems like a great product. The talk wasn’t well attended – I wonder if fewer university/education folks came to OSCON this year. Penny mentioned mochikit as a good javascript library.

oscon: day 1 (continued)

I also saw Larry Wall’s Perl 6 talk – i need to look up implicit list comprehension and DFA/NFA regex syntax. Lots of neat stuff, I wish Perl 6 were coming sooner.

Luke Kanies also gave a talk about Puppet. I thought it was great, but heard some negative stuff about it from someone else. I’m going to give it a try, but cfengine is my fallback plan.

oscon: day 1

This is from my notes.. no real organization.

First, I saw Tim O’Reilly do his radar talk. It seemed like a re-hash of some ideas about open data I’d heard him talk about before (last year?). His success factors for open source projects were: frictionless distro, collaborative development, freedom to build/adapt/extend and the freedom to fork.

He also mentioned something I’m interested in – getting more people involved in open source. He specifically mentioned mozilla => firefox and said that they “rearchitected for participation”. I imagine that the community took advantage of all four success factors, so that’s what he’s referring to, but I didn’t take any more notes on it.

He also mentioned memcached and hadoop as projects to watch.

The first session I attended was Josh Berkus’ Performance Whack-a-mole. He divided problem databases into three categories – Web (CPU-bound), Online Transaction Processing (CPU and/or I/O bound) and Data Warehousing (I/O bound). He also suggested that basic setup checks and configuration should take about an hour. A lot of common sense advice in one place, with quite a few tool suggestions I’m going to check out.

Next I attended the Open Design talk from the Chandler project. I really enjoyed this talk. I wish they would have had more time to discuss examples of their decision making process. Based on what I saw of Chandler, it seems like their methodology is really working. They have a lead designer (Mimi Yin) who has the final design decision making authority. They really spelled out that consensus is not required to move forward, and that voting is used to get a feel for what the voters think, not to make decisions. In design, I think that’s critical for maintaining a coherent design and direction. They said they may be releasing Chandler at the end of August. I took a lot more notes – I may post separately about this later.

I spent the rest of my time talking with people about women in open source, Perl and PostgreSQL (at the booth). The food was really good and they had beer most of the time in the exhibit hall. Good call organizers!

moving on from experiencing to changing the structure

I attended a “women in open source community ” BoF last night. I think that the intention for the BoF was good. But despite the efforts of the moderator, the discussion looped repeatedly on personal problems, and didn’t get very far into the meat of what we might really do to get more women into open source.

What if we looked beyond individual behavior and experience to the structures preventing women from participating?

Someone mentioned a recent study on a public university’s successful effort to increase female enrollment – presumably in a computer science program. We need information like this distilled from academic papers and organized as principles! Arm change-agents with facts and let them loose!

I think that our goal should aim for equal (50%!) representation across all computer-related fields. That is not going to happen without systemic change, or because a few people stop being jerks. It will only happen if the system that brings people into computer science and information technology puts a premium on gender equality.