All Things Open Conference Recap

All Things Open Conference Recap

Last week, I attended the All Things Open conference conference. The conference is hosted in Raleigh, so for those of us carless folks, it is a very accessible world-class conference a mere 30-minute bus ride away. I attended the conference last year (its 2nd year running) and enjoyed a shallow dive into a wide variety of open source technologies. Some of which was applicable to the work I was doing, and some of which was more geared towards inspiration, new ideas, and learning about technologies that I could utilize or at least should be aware of. This year I attended with a similar perspective, but also with my employer (red) hat (and shoes) on.

It was fun to network and discuss opportunities of diversity with organizations like girl develop it and advocate that the iron yard academy produce a PHP / Drupal class. It was also another chance to be impressed with conference organizer Todd Lewis’s ability to say “thank you” in nearly every sentence. Thank you Todd! All-in-all-things-open it was a productive conference for meeting people, hearing presentations, and getting our name out there a bit more.



Bitcoin, the Blockchain, and Open Source

Eric Martindale’s session on bitcoin was a very intriguing one. He described the complexity of the bitcoin system and underlying advanced cryptographic concepts methodically, and as thoroughly as he could in 40 minutes. Kudos. We probably won’t accept payments in bitcoin anytime too soon, but a future of a more open, and distributed financial system seems to theoretically well-address some issues that existing concentrated systems don’t. At the very least, we have opportunities to bet in more open and democratic ways. My little brony

Performance Profiling Tools & Tricks

Brad Blake, self-proclaimed non-brony (don’t worry, I was in the dark too during this presentation) with Phase 2 technology gave an excellent presentation on performance profiling which he incidentally found out upon arrival he had 10 minutes less to give than he had prepared for. This talk was likely the most applicable and valuable to improving our performance toolset. Perhaps the biggest takeaway was to use flamegraphs as nice visualization tools to assess bottlenecks during application execution.

See Brad’s Slides for a thorough reference.

Just Be Nice: Rethinking Tech Hiring

Mark Lavin of the across-the-street Caktus Group gave an excellent talk about hiring in tech. This was a pervasive theme throughout the conference, but Mark’s perspective and examples were insightful and helpful, especially as an employer.

You get the basic gist from the title, but I’ll pull out a few nuggets from Mark’s presentation:

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

Having open code samples (e.g. a Github profile) does not help candidates; it helps employers.

  • Further to that point, Mark says:
It takes time and mentorship to contribute to open source, and not everyone has those two things.
  • They look for people who are self-aware, know what they know, and know what they don’t.
  • Conducting whiteboard interview exercises reinforce imposter syndrome for folks who don’t come from CS backgrounds.
  • Rather they ask:
    • What is this person going to need to learn to be part of our team?
    • How have you functioned on teams in the past?
    • How will you function on this team?

Perhaps most salient to me was Mark’s point that they are looking for someone who is a

cultural add, not a cultural fit

In addition to hiring, Mark gets to work on some of the most important work Caktus produces.

Keynote themes

There was a lot of discussion about cultivating diversity in the technology industry. An excellent, and award-winning documentary called Code: Debugging the Gender Gap was screened followed by a great panel “Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion in Projects, Communities, and Companies.” I won’t pretend I can capture all of the nuances of that necessary conversation, but some highlights to me were:

  • Be mindful of the signals of culture in job descriptions - men tend to think (most of us undeservedly so – my assessment) that we’re all rock stars, unicorns, ninjas, gurus, or …
[INSERT ridiculous, contemporary bro-grammer term WHERE MAX(annoying) = TRUE;]
  • If your company wants to hire more women, don’t have your female developers passing out t-shirts, have them interview the candidates!
  • Meritocracy can work - but hyper-confrontational meritocracy can also better serve dominant or extroverted people.
    • To avoid this, constantly review your policies on inclusion.
  • Be visually inclusive: have pictures on your website, and booths at events that are demographically diverse.

I look forward to Savas Labs presenting at #ATO2016 next year.