While at SXSW, I recorded an episode of the IT Management and Cloud Podcast with Michael Coté and John Willis. You can find it on Coté’s People Over Process blog! Sorry about the background noise, we were doing it in the upstairs bar at the Driskill.
Tag Archives: sxswi
Day 2 started off a bit rocky but then got really good. I tried to get to the Lean Startup: King of the Apps Showdown session, but the shuttle buses take a long route and are few and far between, so I got there pretty late. I saw snapappointments.com, snapwebsites, Planzai, Icebreakr,and mapomatic all get their app and pitch critiqued by a panel of folks – Robert Scoble, Eric Ries, Dave McClure, Bill Boebel, and Stacey Higginbotham. They demanded mapomatic release right away, and told snapwebsites to remove half of his features. I was ambivalent about this advice – I can see streamlining the UI to hide advanced functionality, but “remove functionality”? Sure, a simple app has a wider reach, but if you can effectively provide an advanced mode/version with more functionality that professionals need, wouldn’t that be better? I just don’t like how all these apps are degenerating into one very narrow function “plus it checks you into Foursquare!!!!” Bah.
They joked about how many of the candidates had “Snap” in their name, and then on the bus on the way back I met a girl from TeamSnap. They have a site that lets you arrange sports teams, even take Paypal payments for team dues, very slick.
And congratulations to friend of the blog Lenny Rachitsky (@lennysan) of Localmind, who has been singled out by Scoble as “best SXSW app so far!” You should all go download it from the App Store now.
Then I tried to go to the session on How To Innovate At Big Companies, with Gene Kim of Visible Ops fame – I left the AT&T center early and went all the way to the Hyatt. But it was so full they had 30 people standing outside only allowed in if anyone left. So I went over to the Hilton to try to catch Mistakes I Made Building Netflix for the iPhone. And it also had a line of “one in, one out” standby people. Son of a bitch. They better be videoing this stuff. Anyway, at this point it was too far into the slot so I just went to the Screenburn Arcade, which was fun. Got my picture taken with Loren Wiseman of Traveller fame – apparently the venerable RPG is being turned into an iPhone MMO!
To recuperate from our disappointing morning, Peco and I went and had a burger at Casino El Camino, which takes a ridiculously long time but is worth it, they have the best burgers in Austin. We hooked up with Cote and John Willis there, and then went to the Etsy Code as Craft: Moving Fast At Scale event which was brilliant and DevOpsey. Continuous deployment, only coding off trunk, logging and metrics, “dashboard driven development”, and more. A lot of the topics have info on them on the Etsy Code as Craft blog - they didn’t record the talk but promise to record it the next time they give it and put it up.
I took a lot of notes but the high points were:
- They have open sourced their log collection/graphing tool, Logster, and their stats collection daemon, statsd.
- They perform hundreds of releases a month but only had six “bad deploys” over the course of a year by combining one-button deploy, testing, feature flags, and a theory of roll-forward. No more organized releases, release managers, rollbacks, all that stuff.
- They have a cute “deployinator” dashboard that lets people (and not just coders, they have more people deploying than they have developers) do the deploys – they’ll open source it, but stressed that it’s not much technically, the culture and practices are 99% of the work to get to this.
- They use a lot of chef but don’t use it for code deploys because that’s a simple task that they need more control over.
That was a two hour event, so then after a little VIP partyin’ atop Fogo de Chao, we packed it in for the day.
Isn’t that some 3l33t jargon. Anyway, Dave Nielsen is holding a CloudCamp here in Austin during SXSW Interactive on Monday, March 14 (followed by the Cloudy Awards on March 15) and John Willis of Opscode and I reached out to him, and he has generously offered to let us have a DevOps meetup in conjunction.
John’s putting together the details but is also traveling, so this is going to be kind of emergent. If you’re in Austin (normally or just for SXSW) and are interested in cloud, DevOps, etc., come on out to the CloudCamp (it’s free and no SXSW badge required) and also participate in the DevOps meetup!
In fact, if anyone’s interested in doing short presentations or show-and-tells or whatnot, please ping John (@botchagalupe) or me (@ernestmueller)!
We started out the week gently, with a light Friday (why am I still so tired then?). Two of your favorite Agile Admins, Peco and Ernest, were down at the Austin Convention Center to experience SXSW Interactive! The third Agile Admin, James, was busy giving a talk at the nearby Security B-Sides Austin.
After getting down there early, getting badges, and getting oriented, we saw Jason Calacanis interview Tim O’Reilly. He gave a lot of interesting insight into the development of innovation, tracing the Internet, open source, Web 2.0/social media/user contributed content, cloud, and Big Data.
The single most interesting thing he said, though, was a side note that illustrated how hard it is for companies to maintain a real vision over time, especially once they get big and various stakeholders’ needs conflict – he talked about how many people have become billionaires off of O’Reilly ideas and how there’s been pressure for him to sell out or cash in – like Cisco offered to buy them, noting that “You guys are always first on the scene with the cool stuff but you fail to exploit it.” Tim always rejected those offers, though he did note he is often conflicted because of all the people he has working for them – and not making all those great people the money that would bring.
Next, Peco saw Google’s Marissa Meyer talk (he’ll have to share what went on there) and I kinda played hooky by going to a session about “daddy bloggers,” as that’s a personal interest of mine.
Then we both went to a session that was supposed to be about “The Connected Car: Driving Technology” and automobile telemetrics, but it sucked. It was some car guys and a lady from Pandora telling us over and over again that “cars hooked up to networks and stuff are cool.” I am willing to put up with about 5 minutes of telling me something’s cool, but if it doesn’t give way quickly to you SHOWING me that it’s cool, I’m out. We bailed 30 minutes in, along with a lot of the other attendees.
Then we went down to the Austin Music Hall for four hours of Ignite, a format where presenters get 5 minutes and auto-advancing slides to make a point. The topic was “2021 Visions of the Future.” Besides the talks and some bands, there were also a bunch of Arduino and robotics and various weird Maker type booths, which was fun. The crowd was really varied, in fact there were other people there from NI who had been invited via various completely different vectors (UT School of Engineering, Austin Ventures startup stuff, SXSWi). [Side note - there was a contest to drop an egg from the balcony safely using only 4 sheets of paper and a couple feet of tape, and I was one of the winners and got a Roku for my troubles! Engineering education FTW.]
Some presentations were good, others incoherent, but a common theme throughout the day was people doing things they have a passion for, and worrying about the money later. This was a theme in Tim O’Reilly’s talk and it pervaded the presentations at Ignite. Really most people aren’t in the field they’re in because it’s the thing with the highest ROI they qualify for, they are in it because they have some kind of passion for it. A lot of life then tries to stomp that passion out, but the enabling factors of the Web, DIY, etc. are making it so you can flip off “the Man” and pursue your passion yourself if you want to. As a large company we struggle with that, and try to promote people following their passions and enable internal entrepreneurship at a high level, while however the natural grinding wheels of a large organization grind that into meal at the middle levels.
Then we got free ice cream from the Free Ice Cream Man and headed home. I’m getting sick and feel whupped, but it was energizing to see so many people doing so many great things – and let me tell you, SXSWi is getting HUGE. It’s nothing like the first year I went, when there were maybe ten sessions and the conference center was largely empty. The place was packed; companies have bought out and transformed nearby buildings – a bar across the street is now the Playstation Lounge, with huge video wall on the roof and stuff; CNN had a giant neon sign installed at one restaurant… I can tell the economy’s looking up and that Interactive is hot because Lordy there’s money getting thrown at this thing.