All Things Open 2018

Last week I attended the All Things Open conference in Raleigh. This is a conference dedicated to Open Source Software, which is very different from the usual vendor led conferences I attend. It was also unusual to commute to a conference in the morning and then back home at night. Usually conference season means at least one or two visits to Vegas. It was great to skip that this time around!

I mainly went to attend a few session and pick up some skills I could leverage myself. I wasn’t really going to market anything for Nutanix. Here are a few memorable things I took away from the show.

Overall Impression

This was different from a vendor led conference because there was no main stage presentation where a single vendor pitched their view or vision. Instead a lot of different voices were heard on a number of different loosely related subjects. At first my impression was that this led to a little bit of incoherence, but upon reflection I took a little something away from each of the presentations. They all fit in the general theme of the open source community – which is broad ranging itself.

Some of the sessions I wanted to go to were just too packed to even get in the room, so you won’t get any notes on SE Linux or “How to write good docs” (since the presenter was from Google).

I did manage to attend some great sessions on content marketing, personal brand building, and writing

Session: Building Your Personal Brand

Dorothea, the presenter for the brand building session, was herself a lesson on branding. She immediately opened with a comment about the price and ostentatiousness of her “Lady Gaga” shoes.

Your brand is the perception of you that others hold, that lives outside you. Your reputation is what follows you from birth and even beyond death.

She continued with a fun example of Martha Stewart’s brand journey (starting at age 15) that I found really helpful because it tied concepts into real world examples. My key takeaway from this session was LESS on branding and more on how incorporating a good story and example can make a presentation memorable.

I still don’t know what my brand is after this, so you tell me. What is the impression that I’m leaving with you, that persists separate from myself? IT Superhero? Something else?

Session: Marketing Your Open Source Project

I’m not marketing any open source products, but I’m certainly in the marketing organization. I found this session pretty helpful and also example packed.

The thing I can’t forget is this quote:
“Everything that touches the customer is marketing.”

Yes, that sounds right. Sometimes I hear the phrase “We’re ALL in sales.” Yes, I think that’s true. We’re also ALL in marketing. There is no way around it – your interactions with customers, your product, these all leave an impression about your product with the customer whether you are conscious of it or not.

Logos came up in this and many other sessions. If you have a logo your community can rally around that logo. People will want your stickers even if they don’t know what the product is. I don’t know how to take this into the corporate world, where every single product within a company is clamoring to be a uniquely identified component.

Another thing that I really need to start working on:
“If you need to answer something more than three times, it should be in a document.”
I spend a lot of my time just responding to informational queries directly. This is a good point that maybe could be an end of week ritual. What questions have I answered this week. Go back and copy the answer from slack and email and put it into a doc. Repeat and build.

I also want to read a book as a result of this talk:
Kathy Sierra: Making Users Awesome
and a blog
Creating Passionate Users

Keynote: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Python

This was a fun main stage keynote in the morning about the sort of projects Python is used for. I found it upbeat and chocked full of great project examples. That’s the theme of the show so far. Examples are king!

I took a note to investigate HomeAssistant, an open source home automation tool that’s core focus is on giving you control and privacy while also providing home automation. I don’t know how this fits into my home automation journey, but now I have an item to research.

Keynote: Money As An Open Protocol

My vote for “Most Impassioned Presentation” goes to Andreas Antonopoulos for “Money As An Open Protocol“. He delivered what seemed like a 20 minute slide-less monologue that had the audience putting down their cell phones and paying attention. That’s a skill to admire.

Here’s my ham fisted summary.
Digital Currencies and the block chain are a way of implementing rules that allow us to establish and scale trust beyond the Dunbar number. When you move to a distributed system of money you remove root control of money. Who has root? Finding out who controls the system of money and what rules the system operates on are imperative for the operation of a society. Today the system and rules are behind a gatekeeper. Today the subject of money is taboo. Today, when people learn how fractional reserve and other parts of the system function, they say “That must be a scam.”

Reform in society should start with taking back control of the mechanism for expressing value, money. You don’t have to trust everyone in the system, but you have to trust (and know) the rules that the other players operate by.

Here’s a fun analogy I pulled straight from my notes during the talk: Remember when the Internet ran on top of voice phone lines. The crappiest copper pair you could string together. Now all voice runs on top of the Internet as just a tiny fraction of traffic. Imagine the same thing for banking and BitCoin. Eventually all of commercial banking could run on top of a distributed ledger such as the BitCoin block chain as just a fraction if the chain’s functionality.

How to Write Your First Book or Just a Blog Post

Azat Mardan presented this session with advice on how to start writing. It’s why you’re reading this post in the first place! I’ve been stagnant in my writing and his tips were incredibly valuable. The key thought is to just start writing down your ideas. Start writing down your outline. Start iterating on the outline. The biggest problem he sees people falling into is getting stuck on tools and process, or not being able to break things up into small pieces.

Technology should be no barrier to writing. We’re all carrying notebooks, laptops, iPhones with us everywhere. We can start writing ANYWHERE for any amount of time. I woke up in a moment of sleeplessness a few nights ago and managed to come up with 15 blog ideas in just a few minutes before falling back to sleep. These all exist in my iPhone now!

I don’t have any immediate plans to start writing a book – but I’d like to be a little more active in the nerd blog here with some “How To” blog posts. I’d also like to start writing about my adventures with the wife, and sharing recipes that we love. It’s all a little bit of writing that exists for no other reason than to explore what makes me happy.

Doing it for myself was like the key to unlocking the project. It’s a thing I want to do, and if I break it into small enough pieces for short enough time periods it should be manageable.

Wish me luck!