LISA13 Conference Review / Overview Thing

Date November 11, 2013

I'm used to being worn out after LISA, but I feel especially hard hit after this one. It's kind of expected, what with the whole week-long-conference thing, but it seems like this year, it's even more-so than normal.

I attended several sessions and classes, only one of which I've written about so far (incidentally, it's Introduction to PowerShell with Steven Murawski, and it's awesome). The rest exist as pages in Evernote that I'll be typing up this week in my free time.

I think the reason I'm so wiped out is because it was the first year that I attended LISA as a LOPSA Director, and I underestimated the amount of time that LOPSA, plus blogging for USENIX would take. I also had to get the finishing touches on the LOPSA Recognized Professionals program, which was pretty heavy, but important enough that it made me get up early and stay up late working on it.

All told, I was in DC for 8 days and it's nice to be back home. Today is also Veterans Day in the United States, a holiday recognized by my work, so I'm at home working on collating my various writings.

As for the LISA13 content itself, I was really impressed. The opening keynote was on the topic of Modern Infrastructure: The Convergence of Network, Compute, and Data, given by Jason Hoffman, founder of Joyent.

Sadly, I missed the talk by Bruce Schneier. Unfortunately, he couldn't be there in person because the IETF meeting was happening in Vancouver, but there was some remote teleconference happening. I heard from a few people that went though, that the talk was great and the format worked out alright.

One of the more interesting talks I did go to was Brendan Gregg's Blazing Performance with Flame Graphs. In this talk, Brendan explained what flame graphs are, and showed some very cool use cases for debugging and performance tuning. Maybe the neatest part was that he posted examples for DTrace, which in included out of the box on OS X, so I could play along on my laptop. You can check out FlameGraph on GitHub there. Really cool talk, though. I'm very glad I went. Just check out the slideshow:

Blazing Performance with Flame Graphs from brendangregg

Another talk that pretty much everyone told me was excellent was Hacking your Mind and Emotions by Branson Matheson. Or, you know, "Social Engineering". Branson is a funny guy in general, and apparently this talk was hilarious as well as insightful. I wish I could have gone!

Matt Provost from Weta Digital presented a talk with excellent content at Drifting Into Fragility. This was the story of a failure in Weta's infrastructure, as told through the lens of Sydney Dekker and his Drift Into Failure and AntiFragile by Nassim Taleb. I really enjoyed the talk, and I really hope that Matt was able to introduce new people to those books. The concepts they cover are really important.

The closing plenary was delivered by Todd Underwood at Google, speaking on what I believe is a term he coined in this usage, "Post Ops" His talk was amusing, discussing the concept that system administration is finished (direct quote from slide 2). And there's some truth to that, I believe, but it's a little myopic to use as a flat statement. I really enjoyed the talk, and there was some great discussion during and after on Twitter using the #LISA13 hashtag.

While all of this "official" content was going on, things were happening all over the place. The inaugural hackspace was actually really awesome. It was the size of a normal tutorial room, except there were whiteboards everywhere, and the fastest internet connections at the whole conference. There were always snacks and drinks, and every time I went, there were people there working on things, and even more amazingly, throughout the entire conference, I never heard a single word of complaint about it. I believe USENIX is going to do it again next year, so I expect that it'll get even better. If you go to LISA14 in Seattle, make sure to check this out. I wish I had more time to go in there and hack on things. It looked awesome.

So what of next year? Well, as I said, LISA14 is in Seattle, November 9-14. The Call for Participation is out, so start thinking about things that you're interested in speaking on. I was a conference volunteer last year, helping with the training. This year, I'll be doing similar, and involved with Invited Talks, too, so if you come up with something you'd really like to have people know about, talk to me, either through email or on Twitter.

And now, if it's all the same to you, I'm going to unwind and spend a day relaxing.

  • Mark Lamourine

    Hey! What happened? I'm not even in the hackspace picture *once*!!??

  • John Detke

    Todd needed a sysadmin to config his mac not to screenlock every 5 mins