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new adventures



summers always are big transition times for me.  last year i wrote about my transition to evangelism and this year i get to write about changes again.

this summer i decided to go looking for the next thing.  i did a lot of brainstorming and mind-mapping to find out what i wanted.  it turned out i wanted many things.  to those of you who know me well, this isn’t a surprise.  but it did present a bit of a problem.

seattle graffitti

i want to found a new company.  i have an idea or 10 but there are some skills that i’m lacking.  i considered starting a company anyway. recognizing that i’ll never know all i want  to know, i thought about it a lot.  ultimately, after a few weeks of conversations and lots of long hard thinking i decided i wanted to spend some time in a product company, first.

so, its official this is big transition time.

i’ve left the staff of BlueGecko after almost 11 years.  i’ll remain on the board and active in the MySQL community but my day-to-day work will only tangentially be related MySQL.  tomorrow i start a new role at Opscode i’ll begin by building their sales engineering team and learning Chef from soup to nuts.  I’ll get to spend time with customers trying to do product development and i’ll get to spent time with product people.

all this will move forward my skills in a new and exciting direction.  i can’t think of a better way to spend labor day than to consider my new opportunities and look excitedly to the empty frame of my next adventure.

ignite seattle #14 – og lifestyle



how many of you identify as geeks?  hands up….  I’m going to talk about us.
Hi, my name is sarah and I’m a geek and an entrepreneur.

Being obsessed a bit by language, I want to make sure we have common definition for geek.  in this diagram from mashable years ago, they identify geeks as the people in the intersection of the intelligent and the obsessed minus the socially inept.

if we use this as the working definition of geeks, then much of geekiness is about some sort of control.  how to make order or habit out of the world around us – how to live the geek lifestyle. i’m going to add one more characteristic to obsessed and intelligent. i’m going to add creative.

the proliferation of hacker spaces and competitions are examples of that. as are the innumerable startups here in seattle.  even without the glory of the valley or the alley, geeks are intelligently and obsessively creating here every day.

this modern geek renaissance is certainly not the first and won’t be the last. geeks and the geek lifestyle have been around as long as people have had extra time after providing food and shelter.  one of my favorite geek forefathers is ben franklin

ben was an entrepreneur, inventor, thinker, publisher and one of the earliest documented quantified self-ers – he was a prolific diarist who tracked many different aspects to his day. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

what is quantified self?  this is a relatively new name for an old idea. treating the self as a system to be monitored and improved through collection and analysis of data.  totally geek lifestyle.

we have several startups in town that are working in the quantified self space. Startups that  are lead by modern ben’s considering and solving problems. But, the geek lifestyle isn’t just about tracking and tuning.

buckminster fuller had some quirky obsessive habits that contributed to his personal style.  he was well know for wearing 3 watches. he wore one for the timezone he just left, one for the current timezone and a 3rd for the one he was going to next.

i don’t think we can have a conversation about geek life and style without talking about brady forrest.  ignite is a bully pulpit for geek lifestyle!  as i’ve heard the ignite story, brady wanted to catch up on all the cool stuff people he knew were working on, and this event was born.

understanding your own obsessions and allowing creativity to seep in is the simplest way to start a project. for fun, i have collected photos of things on the ground with my converse collection highlighted.  It’s not zappos, but it’s shoe obsession.

when faced with a challenge, geeks bring a unique perspective and those intertwined and fantastic characteristics of obsession and creativity.  obsessive side projects can become global phenomena like ignite.

i challenge you then-  how do we encourage the geek lifestyle here in seattle and make it flourish? how do we use our intelligence, obsession and creativity to buff and polish seattle’s tech image and attract and grow more innovation?

Well, we need to do some analysis see where we are and then take some risks.

i want us to balance our obsessions, anchor adventures with intelligence and let creativity help seattle take it’s place among the startup epicenters.  we’re dangerously close to being there already.

barbie is now a computer scientist, so seattle can certainly be an entrepreneurial mecca. Having defined that goal, it’s much easier to focus our collective intelligence, obsession and creativity to make it happen.

if the entrepreneurs in the audience lined up we’d circle the block.  So I ask you to promote the geek lifestyle in seattle, share with the world what great geekiness is happening here.  there is the commuinity, there is the intellectual power.  And there are the raw resources of people excited about ideas

intrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs.  revel in our variety, share the obsessions you have, the tools we’re creating, the ideas we’re generating.  seattle’s voice in the tech world once boomed with MSFT and amazon, it’s time to do it again.

it’s time to drive into the future (with robots).   let’s  use our skills, creative problem solving, obsession and intelligence to incubate, promote and support new ideas —  the ultimate product of the geek life. We stand out when we produce, participate in and present these ideas and projects.

Let’s make this proto-geek right.  “go ahead, make fun of me now. i’ll forgive you and hire you when we’re grownups.”  it’s time to embrace seattle’s entrepreneurial and innovative penchant and remind the VCs errr ….   The rest of the world we’re here. geek seattle, loud and proud.

update 7/23/2011 – video


silly voicemail



ignite talks as a format + my favorites



it seems that i’ve been mentioning ignite talks to everyone i speak to for the last few weeks. i’ve been a huge fan since i gave my first one at the MySQL C&E in 2010.

for those of you who might be living in a cave or not on every oreilly media mailing list, ignite talks are a specific type of lightning talk. enlighten us, but make it quick is their tagline. 5 minutes, 20 slides, auto-advancing every 15 seconds. it’s usually spectacular or a spectacle.

this year i was able to mc the ignite talks at the 2011 MySQL C&E, will be giving an ignite talk on geek lifestyle at ignite seattle 14 on may 18th and then mcing and presenting at OSCON’s ignite show in july.

but, the things i’ve been mentioning to everyone over the last weeks as i describe how much i enjoy ignite talks are some of my favorite talks that from the last few years. so– here are my top 5 ignite talks:

  1. why i love my 3d printer (and you will too) – Schuyler St. Leger
  2. flashmob gone wrong – Tom Scott
  3. the secret underground world of lego – Hillel Cooperman
  4. lymphomartini – Tom Music (sadly, tom died from complications of his illness almost a week ago on 4/17/2011)
  5. how to write 1000 words – Scott Berkun

i hope you enjoy and find an ignite show near you (there are more than 100 cities that have these events regularly).

notes from my press training



thanks to Kristen Miller from Tech Image for preparing me for my first press interview!  I’ve collected her bits of wisdom below with my notes about the mysql council announcement

1.  have a central theme

  • creation of the mysql council
  • why was this created.
  • ioug saw opening and wanted to bridge between mysql/oracle

2.  talk in soundbites.

  • a bit of tech jargon is ok
  • concrete
  • don’t use overly long analogies

3. don’t use this space for an ad

  • deliver news
  • be respectful of reporter and her goal of unbiased testament

4  answer or refer or followup

  • reporter isn’t in total control
  • ok to say I’d like to double-check or followup
  • easy out – andy a better person to answer that question

5.  dead space is ok.

  • reporter might be writing notes
  • this can be a tactic to elicit unguarded ramblings

bonus: cheat, have the press release in front of you.

thanksgiving and filberts



today i am thankful for all the things i have accomplished this year, all the wonderful people in my world that support me in the things i attempt, all the joy and excitement and pain and experiences i have to learn from, and lastly for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow and improve myself and the world i’m part of.

i’m filled with a sense of gratitude as i sit at a friend’s house quietly watching deer graze in the front yard and cargo ships pass in the bay considering how each day presents possibility and how for that i will be eternally grateful.




words differently arranged have different meanings, and meanings differently arranged have a different effect. -Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662)

what i did with my summer vacation



this summer has been an exciting one of opportunity and fostering new beginnings.  to this end, i’m super excited to say that my role at Blue Gecko is changing!  before i dropped off the virtual world, back in august, for a month-long vacation i handed off the operational support part of my day-to-day work.  today is my first day back to focus on business development and evangelism.  so, yes i’ll be out on the conference circuit more as well as schmoozing and making introductions left and right.

the second big change that becomes official today is that i am now co-chair of OSCON with the esteemed Edd Dumbill.  as his announcement suggests, i’ll be harassing everyone i know for feedback, suggestions, proposals, etc.  i’m also soliciting unsolicited feedback (if that makes sense) so find me on the internet and let me know what you think.  i’m very excited about the opportunity to shape the 2011  version of this venerable open source institution.




domains in my netsol acct: 29
gb available on my laptop: 66.5

Mount Point : / Capacity : 148.7 GB (159,697,911,808 Bytes)
Format : Mac OS Extended (Journaled) Available : 66.5 GB (71,350,788,096 Bytes)
Owners Enabled : Yes Used : 82.3 GB (88,347,123,712 Bytes)
Number of Folders : 200,588 Number of Files : 1,098,353

It’s nursing for the future trans-humanists



these are the notes i wrote for a talk i’m giving today at ideawave.  the audience was fairly non technical, so there was a bit of time spent laying the framework for the problem of too few women in technology.


my world is IT operations.  i spend a lot of time thinking about how to bring more women to programming and operational management of software, hardware and work that generally requires a computer science background.   if i draw parallels to the world of science these would be the theorists, the experimentalists and the mechanics that make all the tools and technology work.  the number of women working in technology has been decreasing since the mid 80s by most measures.  i want this to change.

a pencil is technology, your watch is technology.  the text message on your cellphone and correspondence in your gmail account are only new variants of old technology the optical telegraph and the pony express.  the Chappe telegraph sent information over long distances through a character set that was defined by the position of the arms on a semaphore relay system.  this is not that different from characters rendered on a screen today.

these are simply examples to frame that there is nothing new or inherently scary about technology.  Today we have an awful time recruiting girls and women into jobs avocations and careers that are developing or even managing what is commonly referred to as “technology.  I don’t think there isn’t interest.  and this hasn’t always been the case so, what has changed and how can this be reversed?    there is outreach to girls —Barbie can now be a computer scientist.  There has been research about the leaky pipeline that loses girls and women from the field at every turn from childhood through retirement.  For anyone interested, there’s a fantastic book written about this research called “unlocking the clubhouse” by MIT press about the extensive research done at Carnegie Mellon University.  But the problem still exists. not enough women come into the pipeline and it leaks the entirety of our lives.

Technology is everywhere. network access, data access and data capture are all becoming ubiquitous.  our culture is becoming more reliant on external storage and services to stitch together our days – for example google maps helped me to get from my hotel to here, i’ve been tweeting 140 character summaries of these talks all weekend, and I use wikipedia to end more arguments in bars than i’d care to admit.  this information exists in the ether, the tools to access continue to become smaller and eventually become parts of our selves be it metaphorically or physically. (in fact as i was preparing this talk, a tweet came in to just this point).
it’s not a stretch for me as an apple fangirl to say–  I currently consider my iphone, ipad and ilaptop part of ime.

which leads me to nursing!  my mother is an RN and i say the parallels between the skills of a nurse and a database or system administrator are remarkable.

  • i frequently have an an opportunity to give family of the technologically deceased  (say the CTO of a large company whose server has just melted) bad news.
  • i also get awakened at odd hours to answer questions from staff and clients.
  • the first thing I do in the morning is check on all the open concerns from yesterday and do a sort of rounds with the overnite staff for handoff.
  • after major outages, I’ve walked c-level execs through the 7 stages of grieving.
  • i’ve stayed on many-hour long conference calls that could be called suicide watches for other ops staff that were at the ends of their ropes talking them out of doing anything technologically foolish.

just as nursing isn’t for everyone as evidenced by the extreme shortage of nurses in the US at a minimum, perhaps the women who are choosing not to follow IT operations have some reasonable points.

  • most haven’t arrived late to a dinner party they were hosting with takeout pizza instead of the meticulous menu whose component parts are still in the refridgerator because there was a database crash.
  • they don’t get 00:00 calls from midnite staff personnel who want to negotiate a raise right then and believe that they have a superior negotiating position since someone has to be awake around the clock to run a successful network operations center (and i’m sleepy).  I fired that person at 01:00 when i arrived at the office and worked the shift myself.

but i digress.

i choose nursing as my reference career for this talk mostly because it is a such a stereotypically female career that men who are nurses are called “male nurses” explicitly.  wait.  I am frequenty referred to as a female DBA. damn. while i find this ironic and  vaguely sad, the jobs are really similar.  troubleshooting and repair work on complex systems.  one organic, one silicon based. the risks are very different, but that’s one of the reasons I think technology is the better choice for me.

IT Operations is by no means all downside, there are great benefits of future transhumanist nursing most specifically as opposed to traditional nursing.  For example, I’ve never had a client die due to my action, inaction or anything relating to my work (fortunately)  and there are very rarely any unfortunate smells or nasty organic cleanup.

can rebranding and reframing this sort of work be another tool to encourage women to try it?   i’ve done and continue to do outreach. i try to write job descriptions that are more focused on the intangibles of the job than the raw skills and competitive, high risk, high reward portions of the work.  i  host women’s groups to talk about Linux, open source software and databases. i speak where i can about the work i do and talk to anyone who will listen about the fantastic puzzles we get to solve on a daily basis. and yet, there are still (proportionally) only a handful of women in this business I still have to look hard to find women who want to work in IT operations.

i’m reaching out now even further to ask you to please do what you can with girls and women you know to encourage an openness and curiousity about technology.

thank the women you know who work in IT for their skills and encourage them to keep up their good work. they are nurses for the computers of today and the trans-humanists of tomorrow.

i’m going to be one of those early adopters who augments myself early and most of the men i know in IT operations will have a crappy bedside manner — I want to know there are women with good tech chops available in the pipeline to help me out.