On the Joys of Being a Vendor Exhibitor

OK yesterday was a very different day than the previous ones.  The Conference Program starts on Wednesday.  The tutorials and workshops are largely over and it's time to hear from the people doing research or presenting invited talks on the whole gamet of our work.  I got to listen to the opening and the keynote speech by Ken Patchett, a sysadmin at Facebook (They let a SYSADMIN talk in PUBLIC!!).  He gave an animated and colorful account of the evolution of the Facebook datacenter standards and the efforts that have gone into making their work efficient in a number of dimensions.  They use wind power and hydro.  They use evaporative cooling.  They've re-designed their power delivery to the server in the rack to reduce conversion losses.  This stuff is really cool...err sorry.  I did finish my post for Tuesday not long after.

Conversations In the Vendor Expo: Letting Stuff Come To Me

I was really happy to find, several months ago, that Red Hat would have a couple of booths at LISA this year.  There's one for CentOS, and a double space on the opposite corner for Red Hat and Fedora.  There are people from Red Hat who do this conference vendor thing for a living and they got us a couple of couches and a glass table and we had the only loungey booth in the place. I got into the exhibit hall early to help set up and to make a first wandering pass before the hall opened.  I suspected (and I was right) that I was going to spend the day hovering nearby and I wanted to get a look while I could.

There was a great mix of vendors from hardware, software, services, monitoring companies.  LISA is really a true technical conference rather than a vendor show like CES, so the vendors are guests.  They support the conference and bring people to talk to us about the products they can offer to make our work better or easier.  At least that's how I think about the vendors when I'm one of them.

After my one round I did end up hovering near the booth for the remainder of the afternoon.  It opened at the lunch break and I did manage to eat a couple of spring rolls between conversations.  I ducked out for an impromptu meeting with a potential customer (my boss emailed me asking if could contact someone who was attending from overseas to discuss a possible contract project.  This is NEW to me!) and when I got back dessert had been cleared away.  Probably for the good.

I'm a bit bummed that I completely missed the presentations today, but I had a really good time regardless.  I mostly work with other developers on projects and we generally communicate by IRC and Git interactions.  It was great to talk to people who had real questions about our tools, and it was fun to learn about the work they do.  Especially nice was talking to people who were interested in the training and certification programs.  It turns me on to see new people who are curious and motivated and passionate enough to take a leap into something new.  They are always pumped when I tell them about LOPSA and suggest going to the Town Meeting and Community BOF.  I'm always ready to check for a LOPSA local in their home area.   Several of the people I met at the Young Sysadmins BoF came by and I was able to hook a couple of them up with people who live close to them.

I got wrapped up in the flow of converstions and barely noticed the ebb and flow of the conference breaks. Before I knew it it was supper time and the hotel staff were wheeling in trays of hors d'ouvres and drinks.  It was time for me to start getting ready to lead my first tech BoF ever.

Kubernetes BoF

I'd decided a couple of months ago that I wanted to go to a BoF on Kubernetes (google it if you want, I'm not going to fill space here).  I looked at the big empty BoF schedule on the web site and took the leap to submit the idea myself, not knowing if anyone would come.  Like everone I have nerves before I get up in front of people so I left myself the session before to gather my thoughts and my plan for guiding the conversation.

The session was successful (for my purposes) beyond my hopes.  The room was full.  The conversation was active. I learned a lot. Lots of people got to talk and everyone listened. The conversation continued between people who had just met in the hallway after we gave up the room to the next BoF.  I didn't have an anxiety attack and start speaking in tongues. In terms my theater friends would get, it didn't suck. Success.

I did learn from a couple of speaking veterans that I'd missed a point of etiquette by allowing the talk to go over time.  Next time I'll start drawing the conversation to a close with 10 minutes to go and wrap at five minutes of the hour.  It's just polite to leave the room free for the next group without forcing them to fight for it.

Tomorrow: it's MY conference!

I did spend most of my day in the vendor booth and I'm going to have to fill in the the presentations I missed watching the videos as they are posted (look for the links, I don't have them yet).  Today I'm going to check in at the booth to be sure they can find me if someone asks, and then I'm going to make today about my interests.

Oh and thinking about a five minute topic for a Lightning talk Friday morning (You're welcome Lee!)