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LISA14: More craft, less cruft.

The schedule for LISA has just gone live.  You're looking at it, wondering idly if you'll go this year.  Scroll around, look for the usual...huh, it's not there.  Weird.  Scroll around some more.  Click some links.  Where's that talk that's there every year?  Where's the tutorial that always shows up? And what's this "LISA Labs" business?  It's like...It's almost like...

Yeah. They've changed things.  A lot.  Welcome to the new LISA: more craft, less cruft.

If you'll forgive the switch to first person, my own LISA experience might be illustrative.  My first LISA was in 2006, and it was AWESOME. There were people I'd never heard of ("Hey, you wrote that book!"), people I'd never heard of ("You got that to do WHAT?"), and lots and lots to discover. The tutorials were intense, the presentations were incredible, and the hallway track was mind-blowing. I came back energized about work, excited about possibilities, and with a bunch of new friends.

The second LISA was GREAT: I got a chance to take some of the training I'd missed the first year, I got to see a lot of wonderful talks, and I got to see a bunch of my friends again and make new ones.

The third one was ALL ABOUT FRIENDS: people I'd met at the first two, new ones made on the spot (it's incredibly easy to talk to people at LISA). I was filling in the blanks in the training -- good thing they put so many of the same ones on again...But the fourth one? Honestly, I was starting to wonder if I should come back or not. I mean, sure, sometime, but not next year. Not when it's...well, when it's often the same things again and again. I've taken that course; I've seen that talk; what's left?

Earlier this year, though, I was contacted by Matt Simmons. He was LISA Bloggity Captain for the last few years (and for good reason; his own blog should be on your required reading list); he made the jump to the organizing committee this year, and asked me to take his place blogging for the conference. I was open to the idea, but wasn't sure if I'd be going. "I think it'd be worth it," he said; "things have changed." So I agreed.

Last week I got a chance to peek at the schedule, and I was impressed. Windows (!) is making an appearance, with presentations on PowerShell, configuration management (!!), and scaling at Stack Exchange. (I had no idea 'til recently that Stack Exchange was a mainly Windows shop.) I'm a Unix guy at heart, always will be, but it's important to have your prejudices challenged. Plus, it's good to hear that Windows system administrators are taking some of our techniques and running with them.

And training? Training's there, but not like always. The best way I can describe it is that they know you're they're gonna help you be great. Statistics, planning, development, security, and of course management -- it's like someone visited your future self and asked what you should get a move on. Training doesn't end at 5pm on Tuesday, either; the LISA Labs continue the work -- it's a full-day hackathon, Wednesday through Friday. Tired of getting to "Hello, world!" and stopping? This is the place for you. You'll work with instructors, presenters, and your fellow attendees to go beyond the usual demo environment.

Navigating Layer 8 gets its share of time, too -- someone's got to persuade folks to adopt all the cool stuff you'll discover, and guess who gets to display their initiative? That's right, you do. Two LISA conference chairs are giving a workshop on "Navigating the Business World." Valerie Aurora from the Ada Initiative is giving a workshop on everyday ways to support women in computing. And in a wonderful melding of heads-down technical coolness with cool-headed political techniques, the final keynote will be about NASA and the human element in robotic exploration of outer space. Janet Vertesi, a sociologist, has worked with NASA teams exploring Mars and Saturn; she's bringing back lessons learned about the politics and social factors that drove some of the most amazing scientific achievements humanity has made.

You can check out the program yourself -- but over the next few months, the LISA blogging team will be your eyes on the ground in the leadup to the conference: talking to the presenters, the organizers, and the folks behind the scenes who will be putting everything together. We'll be exploring the six key themes the conference will cover. We'll be giving you reasons to attend, ways to convince your manager to send you, and generally whipping up excitement. First, though, we figured we should introduce ourselves. And our next post will do just that.

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