OSCON08 Day 1

Breakfast was tasty, but the good grub was dwarfed by the conversation at the table. I sat down at a table of four or five guys and no one seemed to know each other. These two guys who were both in their mid 40’s kept trying to out-geek each other. It was really quite unintentionally comical.

The one guy was especially hilarious because he had all of these parroted mannerisms. You know how little kids will see an adult say something and then the kid will do it in exactly the same way with the same hand-gesture and vocal inflection? Geeks to that too and this guy apparently opted to use the mannerisms of geek presenters in lieu of developing his own personality.

When anyone mentioned anything, he felt the need to repeat it back to them in “his own words” which were often the same words that were already said preempted by phrases like “So that resolves to…” etc. He also loved to use the “letting you know I’m making up generic examples” set of vocal inflections and gestures. So for example someone would say “My company rents DVDs to independent rental stores.” and he’d say something like “In other words, your company rents DVDs to independent rental stores so that when ~~joe customer~~ wants to rent a movie, they’re renting your movie with the store as a middle man.”  Gee, thanks for explaining that again, uber-geek! Because I was completely baffled the first time!

I just sat there in silence chuckling to myself. I really wish Doug had been there, because he would have loved this guy.

During the first break, I checked out the exhibit hall. I think there were at least 4 CMS solutions out there and only one fit the needs of our upcoming project: Jira. I talked to the guys from Atlassian (who makes Jira) and they were super nice and seemed excited to have a non-paying (potential) customer! They convinced me that we should give it another, better shot. Sorry, Hap :)

I stayed too long in the hall and was late to my first presentation. There’s a new policy at the convention center that you can’t stand(!) in the presentations. You must find a seat. The person enforcing the policy said something about “fire marshall,” so I assume that’s why. So I had to squeeze past a bunch of people who refused to just scoot down one seat.

The presentation was about going open-source with a project and it made several excellent points, but one hit home more than the others. The presenter didn’t use this analogy, but I think it fits. Releasing an open-source project is like giving birth to a baby. You don’t release and then go back to your old life. You now have another job as a project maintainer and it’s a hell of a lot of work even if no one contributes any code at all. I hope his slides end up being available because they had a lot of great stuff in them.

My next talk was about using XMPP (Jabber) as an alternative to REST. You know you’re in the right talk when all of the big wigs are there and excited to hear what the presenters have to say. It was a really great talk. One of the presenters works for Flickr and he described a scenario where an external site polled their RSS feeds over three million times in one day to find out about 54 thousand users and during that day only 6700 of their total users (not of the 54k) had made updates. If instead they had a constantly open connection, polling goes away and updates can now be thought of as instant messages. The bandwidth goes way down and you don’t suffer other sorts of bandwidth problems like the “width” of an RSS feed. That is to say if the RSS feed contains only 10 or 15 items and you upload 40 photos at once, your external service can’t possibly get every update.

I hope Luke from Puppet was there because I now think that XMPP would be vastly superior to REST for something like Puppet. As the presenters said, polling sucks. This was a great talk. I wanna use XMPP for everything now (even though I know the presenters weren’t presenting it as a solution to anything other than a specific problem.) If Puppet were to use it, suddenly you have things like inter-machine dependencies and instant updates. To me it seems like a huge win.

Speaking of Luke from puppet, I saw him at one of the couches after the presentation so I walked over and gave him the “hey, what’s up” index finger. When not-Luke gave me the “who the fuck are you” eyebrows I realized my mistake and pretended to be distracted by something else.

I saw Larry Wall with his con-shirt on. I knew it was him before I could actually make out his face.

Next up: Google GXP. Um, soft-talking monotone and instantly starts talking about java classes. zzzzz Bail!

Head over to Ubuntu Server presentation for Hap. They haven’t talked to Oracle and made jokes about suggesting MySQL as a better alternative. Seemed like really nice guys. Talked quite a bit about KVM and that they see Linux virtualization going that way instead of Xen. They also said that with their new virtual maker awesome++ thingy you could go from zero to running virtual machine (with OS) in about 90 seconds.

Hypertable is next. Hypertable is a clone of Google’s Bigtable horizontally scaling database. Presenter really knows his stuff, but isn’t a good presenter. He sorta mumbles and trails off sometimes. He looks like a cross between Travis Draft and William Fitchner. The talk is largely over my head so I find myself daydreaming.

By this point I’ve seen not-Luke at least 4 more times and been convinced once that it was really him this time. I’ve heard “Last FM” mentioned several times, so I need to remember to check it out. I’d seen references to it around, but didn’t realize it was what all of the cool people were doing. I’ve also seen a lot of talks and things about Postgres, but in all the talks people use “MySQL” as the generic database noun.

While daydreaming in the Hypertable talk I realize that the server-side code in our soon-to-be-released project should have some sort of simple alerting that takes place via an external hook or filter. External so that it can be its own thing that can mature at its own pace. I also think more about the going-OSS talk and realize that I have a lot of documentation to write and help write. I wonder too if simultaneously generating graph overlays if the number of graphs is below X would be fast enough.

My next talk was called Eat My Data and it was great. The presenter was really funny and smart. His biggest laugh was for “Have you ever tried reading POSIX? It’s a lot like being drunk, but without the plesant feeling.” The presentation was about how everyone who writes programs gets I/O wrong and risks your data almost always. And of course he’s right, at least in my experience.

I then actually ran into Luke. I told him my idea about XMPP and, being Luke, he wasn’t too excited about it. Perhaps I planted a seed though. Maybe I’ll find out at his talk today. (Yes, it’s the next day and I’m catching up.)

I went to some shell scripting talk, but the guy was talking about Eric Raymond and quoting his book in a monotone voice, so I bailed and went to writing an RSS reader in ruby, which was canceled. :( So I ended up in another XMPP talk which was merely ok having had its bubble burst by the earlier talk.

I met Michael and we went to the former Portland Chophouse. Yes, thanks to a huge corporation, the great, expensive food that was is now just expensive. That part of the dinner was extremely disappointing.

The company, on the other hand, was great. Michael is super smart and funny. His dry delivery makes his comedy seem so effortless. It was a lot of fun.

Oh, I forgot to mention yesterday that the uppermost point of the shower head in my room is at the height of my collar-bone. Nice! Seems like I forgot something else, but I can’t recall it now. Off to the keynotes for the morning. More later.


2 responses to “OSCON08 Day 1”

  1. I think this is the presentation you saw: Beyond REST? Building Data Services with XMPP PubSub.

    Coincidentally enough, I thought one of the best OSCON 2007 presentations I attended was Secure Communications with Jabber by Peter Saint-Andre, the executive director of the XMPP Standards Foundation. He’s a terrific speaker. Funny: I just noticed that his most recent blog entry is about a conversation he was having with Evan Henshaw-Plath, one of the presenter’s at the talk you went to, about XMPP communications with last.fm!

    I’m glad your having a good conference. Bummer about the lodging.

  2. Sorry, I also meant to include this in my previous comment:

    You might be interested to know that Evergreen, the open source library system software originally developed by the Georgia Public Library Service and now in production as PINES and elsewhere, uses XMPP XMPP as the foundation of OpenSRF, its core communications & clustering framework! You can read more about it in these historical blog posts, which provide a history of their use of XMPP/Jabber, as well as some technical details.

    The Router : More on Communication

    The birth of OpenSRF


    OpenSRF Jabber: A Technical Review

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