SCaLE 16x Wrapup

Finishing my lightning talk at UpScale. Photo by Lisa Sweeney.

I had a great time at SCaLE 16x the past four days. It was and remains my favorite conference. Many outside this amazing community think it’s crazy. A conference that isn’t designed to make anybody money, that most people pay less than $50 to attend, that attracts over 3,500 people to participate in over a dozen parallel tracks, that features a game night and a kids track, and where you might easily mistake a keynote speaker or major sponsor for a homeless person or West Hollywood punk rock aficionado. (Actually, we have had both as speakers at various times.)

But it works, and over the past three years it’s started to feel like family. I’m so glad to have been able to finally give something back this year, even if less than I hoped to.

SCaLE was one of the first big conferences I went to when I got myself back into the technical side of the tech business, and remains my favorite. It’s a special time and a special place with special people. Being a community-run and organized event means it’s cheap, but also means the people involved do pretty much all the work that isn’t covered by a conference center union contract.

With a ten or more things going on during every time slot you can’t come close to seeing or hearing everything, so I varied things a bit: some old familiar speakers, some I had never seen before. Some topics of specific interest to me, some to familiarize myself with new topics. And of course some that were designed to be serious and some that were clearly being done tongue-in-cheek, but with a point nonetheless.

SCaLE gave me my first opportunity to speak at a big conference. It was in one of the smaller rooms at the end of the day on Saturday and it was lightly-attended. That was OK because I was not terribly happy with the job I did. But a less than two hours later I stepped onto the stage in the main auditorium and gave a lightning talk that I was very proud of.

The Good

This is the first year I helped with setup and a little bit during the conference. It was nice to help out and next year I’d like to make sure I can be part of the tech team as that’s likely to be where I can do my best possible work.

Not a whole lot of space left after the SCaLE 16x exhibit hall

The exhibit hall is a great place to see who is doing what, from hardware to software to services. And if you need more swag, stickers or anything else, it’s the place to go. Not only did I collect five new t-shirts, I also got enough stickers to pretty much complete the coverage on both my computer and my new Pelican case. Nobody’s ever going to mistake mine for theirs at the baggage claim. It is also more indestructible than theirs.

Corey Quinn gave us his usual humorous take on something AWS, in this case “The Silence of the Lambdas.” Also heard a couple of great talks in the Open Source in Enterprise track, which unfortunately caused me to miss Chloe Condon’s pun-filled take on monitoring in DevOps.

Also some great general advice from Anthony Chow about working beyond your comfort zone, which is something I need to remember to do more often. And some thoughts for us older career changers/re-aligners/re-positioners from Lori Barfield who also has me thinking a bit about shoring up my security credentials (currently nonexistent).

The PGP keysigning party moved to Friday night this year, so it didn’t conflict with UpScale and games night this time. Nice move. Also, keysigning parties are a great way of quickly meeting (and exchanging identification) with 50-60 people you might not have talked to otherwise.

And finally, the “hallway track” which is where I’ve learned to spend a lot of my time, seeing who’s there and what new conversations I could get myself in trouble in. This resulted in pastries for dinner one night, Chinese food another and a final meal of Teppan-Yaki after things wrapped up on Sunday. I’ve added many, many people to my twitter and LinkedIn communities.

The Bad

Variable weather lately has really screwed with my body and daylight savings time didn’t help. I felt exhausted two days out of three and couldn’t help out as much as I would have liked.

Could the fans on those switches in every room possibly be louder? Next year, just bring in some jet engines for improved ambiance.

It’s rained two years in a row.

You can’t attend everything.

Seriously, that’s it.

The Ugly

Who decided that the America’s Got Talent on-camera auditions should happen at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium at the same time as SCaLE, and on a rainy weekend to boot? The line for the audience was outside, between the two wings of the convention center. Random people dressed for a TV show were regularly walking in, looking for bathrooms or alternately thinking the building was where they were supposed to be. The juxtaposition of long-haired Linux nerds (male and female) dressed approximately like homeless people with those dressed to be seen on TV was quite striking and hysterical at times. Sorry, no, you won’t find Simon Cowell’s secret dressing room here. Go back outside in the rain…

I had no time for the badge track. Going to have to start going to Hackaday stuff for that.

I need a new car battery. Period. This has nothing to do with SCaLE, but so glad I have jumper cables and was surrounded by nerds who were glad to help.

Setting up. The calm before the storm.