How to Organize a Tech Conference

Running a conference is hard work, and lots of things need to come together in just the right way to make it a great experience for everyone. This blog post is a collection of the most important things I’ve seen conference organizers get wrong (with the best intentions). It’s not comprehensive, but I hope it will help point out “low-hanging fruit” for interested people. Hopefully you’ll be able to avoid some of the mistakes as a result.


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Why I Don't Give Personal Tech Support

I don’t give personal, one-to-one technical support for open source software I’ve created. This may seem obvious to some of you, but to many people it is not obvious. What do I mean by personal tech support? I mean I don’t use private email or other means to answer questions about software I’ve created. I don’t troubleshoot bugs or answer how-to questions. The reasons are simple: I don’t have time to solve everyone’s issues.

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Baron Schwartz Left Percona

A number of people have commented to me over the last few years that when they search for me on Google, it suggests that they might want to search for “Baron Schwartz left Percona.” This is a top suggestion when I search for myself, too.


Since people are searching for it, maybe I should explain it.

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An Outline for a Book on InnoDB

Years ago I pursued my interest in InnoDB’s architecture and design, and became impressed with its sophistication. Another way to say it is that InnoDB is complicated, as are all MVCC databases. However, InnoDB manages to hide the bulk of its complexity entirely from most users.


I decided to at least outline a book on InnoDB. After researching it for a while, it became clear that it would need to be a series of books in multiple volumes, with somewhere between 1000 and 2000 pages total.

At one time I actually understood a lot of this material, but I have forgotten most of it now.

I did not begin writing. Although it is incomplete, outdated, and in some cases wrong, I share the outline here in case anyone is interested. It might be of particular interest to someone who thinks it’s an easy task to write a new database.

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New O'Reilly Book, Anomaly Detection For Monitoring

Together with Preetam Jinka, I’m writing a book for O’Reilly called Anomaly Detection for Monitoring (working title).

I’d like your help with this. Would you please comment, tweet, or email me examples of anomaly detection used for monitoring; and monitoring problems that frustrate you, which you think anomaly detection might help solve?

Thanks in advance.


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Surprising Database Bottlenecks You'll Never See Coming

I’ve been invited to speak at a joint meeting of the Austin MySQL meetup and the Austin Data Geeks meetup on Monday, July 27, 2015. This is a real treat for me. I have not spent much time in this area but whenever I have I’ve loved it. And the community is large and highly engaged at lots of levels. Here’s the summary of the event:

… your database’s performance is a lot less important to your business than the way you structure your engineering team. The interesting thing is that a lot of the most serious team, communication, and process bottlenecks in your business (the ones that make you miss ship deadlines, crash the site, and lose your best team members after repeated all-nighters) are actually driven by database issues, but not the way you think they are.

The topic may seem like a bit of a departure for me. I’ll be talking about organizational optimization, not mutex contention or query optimization. What gives?


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Staying Sharp While Exercising

In my last blog post I explained how to reclaim your mornings and make them the most productive time of day. In this one I’ll explain how exercise makes my mornings better, and how I avoid feeling sluggish after overdoing it.


Before I start, though, I am not a doctor, and by reading the following you agree you’re doing it at your own risk.

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Boost Your Productivity In Three Easy Steps

If you’re like a lot of knowledge workers, you might feel that you spend your time unproductively. You seem to “do stuff” all day long but then feel that you’ve done nothing but “stuff” at the end of the day.

How can you change this? I’ve found three things that work for me to not only stay focused and achieve my objectives, but also help me feel better about myself. You see, although on a less focused day I might not feel very productive, it’s not that I’ve failed to achieve anything (though I might have achieved fewer of my most valuable goals). It’s that I’ve worked with an unclear mind, and later cannot remember exactly what I did during the day. This leads directly to self-doubt and self-criticism.


Solving this problem is fairly simple for me and results in terrific productivity, as well as a great sense of satisfaction and progress at the end of the day.

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What Makes A Database Mature?

Many database vendors would like me to take a look at their products and consider adopting them for all sorts of purposes. Often they’re pitching something quite new and unproven as a replacement for mature, boring technology I’m using happily.

I would consider a new and unproven technology, and I often have. As I’ve written previously, though, a real evaluation takes a lot of effort, and that makes most evaluations non-starters.

Perhaps the most important thing I’m considering is whether the product is mature. There are different levels of maturity, naturally, but I want to understand whether it’s mature enough for me to take a look at it. And in that spirit, it’s worth understanding what makes a database mature.


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History Repeats: MySQL, MongoDB, Percona, and Open Source

History is repeating again. MongoDB is breaking out of the niche into the mainstream, performance and instrumentation are terrible in specific cases, MongoDB isn’t able to fix all the problems alone, and an ecosystem is growing.


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What I Look For In A Conference Proposal

I’ve written a few times before about how to write a good conference proposal. I’ve been on the committee of various conferences many times. It’s surprising how few people actually can write good proposals. Somehow it’s also suprisingly hard to explain what makes a good one, so I’m going to give this another try.


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Beware Of The Only Correct Way To Do It

Everyone who’s been successful at creating something remarkable, and scaling it, likely has developed into a repeatable process. If they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have scaled it, and you’d never have heard of it. (There are lots of geniuses you’ve never heard of who’ve created remarkable results at an individual level.)

A lot of times they’ll go through several iterations of massive success with this, then write some books, found a consulting company, go on the speaking circuit, and so on. And almost always, they seem to demand rigid adherence to specific sacred-cow principles that must remain inviolate.

You should be really skeptical of anything that smells like this. Sacred cows make the best steaks, and here’s why.


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A Standing Desk On The Cheap

Everyone loves (or mocks) a good standing desk, but most of us don’t love the price. Adjustable sit/stand desks and bolt-on apparatus I’ve seen cost up to $1000 to $5000. I have a feeling if you get something on the cheap end of that scale, you probably will regret it. There are less expensive ones that just sit on your desk, but they seem like abominations I would hate to use.

As an alternative I won’t regret because it’s cheap and minimalistic, I’ve been using a simple but effective adjustable laptop holder for a few years. It’s easy to place on a desktop or counter. At this point there are a few of them at work and one at home. I keep recommending them to friends so I might as well just post it here too.

Furinno Adjustable Laptop Stand

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Digg Reader and Feedly, Two Great Google Reader Alternatives

I used Google Reader since time out of mind, but of course by now you know it was discontinued a while ago. I still live and breathe RSS feeds, and I really don’t pay much attention to social media, news sites, or the like of Hacker News and Slashdot. I like the flexibility and unhurried pace of subscribing to updates from specific individuals and companies.


At first, I didn’t see a reader that offered the experience I was looking for: a GMail-like user interface with feeds clustered together in categories, navigable with keystrokes. Importantly, some subtle features such as marking an item unread are a key part of my usage.

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State Of The Storage Engine - DZone

I contributed an article on modern database storage engines to the recent DZone Guide To Database and Persistence Management. I’m cross-posting the article below with DZone’s permission.


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Scaling Backend Systems at VividCortex

I wrote a guest post for High Scalability about how we scale our backend systems at VividCortex. It’s heavy on MySQL, sprinkled with a little bit of Redis’s magic pixie dust, and Kafka is also a key part of the architecture.


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Nine Great Mac Power User Tips

If you’re a Mac user like me, maybe you’ll find the following tips helpful for making you better at your job.


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The Ultimate Pen

In The Ultimate Notebook, I reviewed a large list of notebooks I bought in my quest for the perfect one for me. (I’m happy to say that I’ve been using the Quo Vadis Habana in Raspberry exclusively for a while). But what about the perfect pen? Ah, pens. As much a personal matter as notebooks are. I’ve tried a variety of pens. Here’s my review of some of them.


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The Age Of Smart Machines

What will life be like in the age of smart machines? According to a Batten Institute briefing on Innovation in the Age of Smart Machines, up to 66% of the U.S. workforce may lose their jobs to computers in the coming decades. The report points out, however, that humans will always be needed to direct the computers. I’m not so sure.

ZT 0001

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Making High Performance MySQL's New Website

HPM Cover

I recently updated the High Performance MySQL website to modernize it. I am impressed at how easy it is these days to get a great little brochure site hosted. It used to be a lot more work. I used a variety of tools and services to do this and decided to share this for people who are interested. Hopefully you’ll add comments and point me towards more tools and tips to make these things even easier for me in the future!

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