Sysadminprov and Uninterrupted Social InteractionsIn

This is going to be a shorter lightning post than my earlier ones.  I got very into what I was doing and the people I was with yesterday and didn't spend as much time (any time really) taking notes.  It's 30 minutes to deadline so here goes.

Morning: Improv workshop

Workshops are my bread and butter at LISA these days.  I start the day with a workshop.  Typical, right? Wade Minter's "Improv: Think, React, Go" (not golang) workshop turned out to be very different and a lot of fun (I think there was some subversive learning in there too). 

The first clue that something was not as expected was the lack of tables in the room.  The chairs were all pushed back against the walls. Something was going to happen in the middle of the room.  People came in, blinked, sat down and waited.  No one left.  (Wade told us later that some people had been upset the last time he ran this.  From the title they expected to be coding Golang and were disappointed.  Opps!).  When Wade had us get up and form a circle (about 20 of us) I was comfortable, but I wasn't sure about my fellows. After decades of teaching Children's Theater I thought I knew what was coming and knew I'd have fun, but I was still curious how it would relate to system administration.

Over the next few hours we walked in circles, while making increasingly creepy feeling eye contact, learned new forms of cooperative Rock, Paper, Scissers, failed to prevent the zombie from finding a chair and laughed so much that the organizers had to move us to a more secluded room at the break because our fun was making the folks in the lecture next door envious (at least that's the reason we made up).  The really cool part was that after each game Wade led us through a discussion of what had happened and how the way we communicate (or don't) and respond as individuals and a group (or don't) to different types of situations affects the results we get.  I don't think any of us will try to make our co-workers at home re-play these games, but we may be able to recognize a behavior pattern in our work and have a new insight into why it's happening and how we want to respond.

This kind of session isn't going to be comfortable for some people.  It's actually designed to make you uncomfortable (in a safe space) at times so you can learn to recognize the cause and perhaps use or defuse it in real life.  To get the most out of it you have to commit to going all in, or at least to be willing to accept that some of our normal social boundaries are going to be pushed and then examined.  The group we had yesterday had a complete range of types, but everyone went in head first. We all had a really good time and learned in a way we hadn't expected.

Interlude: Lunch with Bloggers

I got out a little early so I got seats for Hugh and Katherine at lunch and waited for them to come.  Lunch had salad and vegetarian dishes I didn't recognize (but which were very tasty) as well as a chicken in what I think was a cucumber sauce.  From the color I was hoping it was wasabi.  I wasn't disappointed, just surprised that what I tasted wasn't what I'd braced for.  Yum. I mean to sit with Katherine again today if I can.  Yesterday was the first time we met in person but we ended up in conversations which faced in opposite directions.

Afternoon: Go System Coding and Hallway Track

I didn't really come with a plan for the afternoon so I wandered along the ballroom hallway and looked at the sign boards.  I decided to stick my head into Chris McEniry's "A Quick Introduction to System Tools Programming with Go". (one perk of blogging is that I get to do things like that, but you can generally exchange workshop or tutorials fairly easily by talking to the people at the registration desk as long as it's a one-for-one swap). 

Chris really does start at the beginning.  He sets up a set of "Katas" (it's a martial arts term for a set of incrementally more difficult exercises).  In each one he introduces a new set of conceptual parts leading to his end result a couple of sample apps that work in a systems environment.  Chris adapted nicely to his audience, glossing the first few sections when he found that we were already comfortable with those parts.  He had to do a little prodding to get a quiet room to talk and work with him to get engagement, but it didn't take long for him to make people comfortable and establish a connection. I'll definitely look for his talks in the future.

I've done some Go coding already and the first hour of Chris's talk was review for me.  I looked at the rest of the slides and found I could probably get a couple of points from them and play with his demo VM when I get back to work, but the hallway was calling so I went back out. 

Interlude: An Organic Dinner Mob and My First Pho

[OK I'm past deadline listening to the keynote with Ken Pratchett from Facebook, but heck, keep writing, ML]

I had a couple of cool conversations with new cool people I met between the break and the end of the last session of the day.  About 4:45 I got a tweet from another one of the bloggers saying we were going to meet for supper in the lobby in half an hour.  There were five or six names.  I knew they were spread out all over the conference area and we'd alll converge on the lobby together. I turned to the people with me and said "Hey, I'm going to dinner, wanna come?" and we headed down.

Well it turned out that dinner with five people I knew and a couple of fresh faces turned organically into 20 people going for pho at a totally unsuspecting basement restaurant two blocks away.  Somehow between the time we left the lobby and when we arrived it became 26 people.  I never heard anyone say "are you sure?".  There was just no question. You're welcome, come with us, let's eat, let's talk.  I sat with two people I new and met six new people.

Oh, and I've never had pho before so I asked a stranger to order for me blind.  I had shrimp and Pak Choi and I have a new favorite.  Thanks Jill!

Well fed and happy we headed back for the evening's BoFs

Evening: LGBT BoF and a lack of Comfy Chairs (which didn't really matter)

I had another first last night.  I joined the LGBT BoF.  USENIX and LISA have a long history of support for the community (who's designation has changed over the decades).  A number of people at the BoF who are long time attendees (and organizers) noted that when they first started coming in the 80s and 90s it was freeing to see many of their heros with hand drawn pink triangles on their badges.  More welcoming to them was the fact that this went almost entirely unremarked by anyone else. Others also remembered that then there were still some people who had to sit away from open doors because at the time they still felt like they had to remain closeted for their safety and career. There was none of that last night and the idea felt wonderfully foreign.  I also felt welcome and had a few more learning moments, but it felt like such a safe place I was never uncomfortable.

Much of the discussion was about the changes in the LGBT(sorry I know there's more but I'm still learning) community in society that have come with the increasing acceptance. A few people commented on the disappearance of gay bars and other public safe spaces to meet people.  As an outsider I don't feel qualified to comment any more than that, but did take away a better appreciation of how growing up and living and feeling different can affect how a person feels and interacts wiith other people.

The conversation carried on in a smaller group of friends that I joined after the BoF hour was over.  We wandered down a side corredor where we knew there were a couple of tables and chairs where we could just talk.  

For all the tech and the geek stereotype (which is not without basis, as I am an example) LISA is a highly social event.  We really like to gather and sit and talk just outside the session rooms and connect with people as they go in and out.  This is the Hallway Track.  It turns out that this particular venue can't allow the organizers to put chairs and tables in that space for fire safety reasons.  They have to leave an unobstructed exit path for the people in the session rooms.  This makes many of us stand just outside milling uncomfortably and looking for somewhere to go.  We're resourcesful so we find ways.

We found a side corredor which had a couple of chairs and tables left over from the lunch and snack breaks and went on with our discussions.  We were pretty animated, so again, passers by often stopped and chatted with us for a moment and in one case joined us.

Again, I stayed up too late, but I just couldn't miss the chance to talk face-to-face with people who I only know by an IRC nick the rest of the year.  So be it.

What's up today? The Conference Program and Vendor Exhibition

I'm well past deadlline so I've already watched the keynote, but I'll write that up tomorrow.  The rest of my day is likely to be spent in the Red Hat, Fedora and CentOS booths talking about the stuff I'm working on.  This evening I'm running a BoF on Kubernetes and Container Clusters.  Please stop by either to say hello if it interests you.

- Mark