We recently took part of our team to All Things Open in downtown Raleigh. It’s a great, affordable conference for developers and super inexpensive if you live in the Raleigh area. There were over 3,200 attendees, and the crowd has grown significantly since the first year. And so has female participation and speakers. Kudos to the crew that runs ATO for their efforts on diversity. If you weren’t able to attend, here are musings from my viewpoint:

Conference Takeaways

  1. As mentioned, the conference has grown significantly, from 750 in 2013 to over 3,000 in 2017. I’d love to see the geography stats for attendees to see how many are local to the Raleigh area versus out of state.
  2. There’s a little something for everyone. The tracks range from DevOps to UX/UI and Business. Check out the schedule and consider paying for only 1 of 2 days if you’re still unsure about both days.
  3. IMHO, the best sessions hit the high-level bits but then also gave practical advice and tactical actions for implementation. Craig Keirsten on Postgres Performance for Humans was one of my top 3 favorites. For those on MySQL, Valerie is a database rock star and covered a high-level approach to database upgrade testing. If you’ve never upgraded a production database, you haven’t lived life on the edge. You should follow her for all things MySQL.
  4. Kubernetes is the hotness this year. We heard it so many times it left one of our teammates rocking back and forth muttering it to himself over and over.
  5. It’s an incredible opportunity to learn at a high-level about other technologies that you don’t use day in and day out. For example, we’re dedicated to native app development for all of our mobile projects, but it gave us the opportunity to check out React Native and other frameworks. It didn’t change our minds, read more here about what we think about cross-platform.
  6. Machine learning interest continues to grow, and there was a dedicated track to it, however, most content was high level. The best teachings on machine learning came from a 15 minute conversation with Dave Anderson at Oracle (aka NetSuite aka Bronto). He has incredible hands-on experience with Spark at scale. Hopefully, he’ll submit a talk for next year. Dave echoed the teachings of another local machine learning expert John Haws: keep it simple. Don’t use things like Spark until you really need it. Most things can be handled with basic algorithms. Just guessing, but I imagine the same goes for Kubernetes.

And finally, ATO is like a mini-reunion where I was able to see some of the best developers and engineers I’ve worked with over the course of my career. It was also a refreshing reminder of how blessed I’ve been to work with those, like Dave, that mentored, taught and supported me as a young systems engineer to where I am today. We plan to attend again next year and hope to see you there.

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