LISA14 After Hours

OK, so it’s 3:00pm, everyone’s on break getting coffee.  It’s been a long day of sitting and listening.  It’s good stuff and I’ve met some people that I want to keep in contact with. There’s another two hours to go before dinner and then… what?

Actually there are a lot of possibilities. While the days are for other people to talk, the nights are for me, and the place to start is the sign boards near the registration desk. This is where the evening activities are posted.

It all starts Saturday night. There’s a small reception for new arrivals before the tutorials begin the next morning. Sunday ends with an informal board game session. These are more social events than anything else, though there's no getting away from the friendly  geeking that happens whenever you get a lot of technical people together.

During the rest of the week there are a time slots set aside both for pre-arranged meetings and for more impromptu get-togethers. There are Vendor BOFs each night.  More about those a bit later. On Monday there are meet and greet discussions for both young admins and the Women in Advanced Computing groups. There is also the LOPSA annual meeting and a meeting for the LOPSA mentoring program on Wednesday.  Thursday night is the conference reception which is always a good social event

The Schedule? Didn't I mention that earlier?  The evening activities schedule is also available online on the USENIX LISA14 web site.

The vendors get to show of their stuff at the vendor expo which will be open into the evening on Wednesday.  (I’ll be at the Red Hat booth for some of the time if you want to meet a geek and talk about the stuff we’re working on.)

The centerpiece of the evenings is the part that we get to plan.  The Birds-of-a-Feather sessions (BoFs) are whatever we decide they are.

I'm currently working with containerized application development.  I'm learning and working with Docker and Kubernetes. I'm interested in meeting other people who either are working with them or are interested in learning.  So I emailed the people at USENIX and requested a slot.  The instructions for submitting a BOF request are on the page.  It just takes an email.  (The Docker/Kubernetes BOF is Wed. at 8:00pm)

There's no real strong criteria for what makes an appropriate BOF.  If you're there and think others might want to talk about something that interests you, send in the submission. The USENIX staff will make sure there are no duplicates.

There's also no real requirement for you to have anything but interest.  A BOF is what it says it is: A place for people who are interested.  A BOF doesn't really need a leader, just someone to ask for a slot.  People will come, people will talk, people will learn. You don't even need to be knowledgeable really.  If there's something you want to learn about and meet other people who also do, go for it. (Though in that case you might be better starting at the LISA Labs...see below)

So, at 3:00 when you're out for coffee, be sure to check the BOF board.  This is your chance to plan your own night, your own learning or teaching.  And remember, some of these are written in even on the night of the meeting, so check back regularly.

OK, now imagine that conversation.  You know the one where you and some new person you just met are just riffing on some idea and thinking "I could show you if..". If you had a place to sit and work. Well you do:  The LISA Lab is a room set aside for just this kind of geeking.  I expect to spend a fair amount of time there.  I know I did last year.

The lab is a place where you can take the conversation into practical demonstration.  It's a room set up with a number of large screens, desks and chairs set up for small groups to work together and a pool of virtual machines provided by a cloud vendor for the conference.

In much the same way as the BOFs, people who have an interest in sharing practical knowledge can come to the lab, post a note on a whiteboard with a topic and time and see who comes.  There are volunteers who write in the topics they can talk about.  The curious can also write in what they'd like to learn and see if anyone responds.  Check the board regularly, you never know what you’ll see.

There are always conversations going on in the lab.  It's a great place to listen for people talking about new topics.  More than once I've overheard a conversation that pricked up my ears, and after a polite self-introduction, I was able to join the conversation, meet people and build both my knowledge and network.

The LISA Lab is a relatively new addition and we have the means to shape it to be what we want.  Be sure to check the boards there and participate.  That's what it's there for.

There is one other thing that would be easy to miss or to misjudge: Poster night.  That’s where people present new work not yet ready for a paper or a talk. The poster presentations are on Wed night from 6:30-7:30.  Be sure to take a look.

I've been attending LISA conferences for twenty years, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that the learning doesn't stop at 5:00pm.