How To Write Exciting Conference Proposals

Most conference proposals are too boring, even when the speakers and topics are great. This is a pity. I think something about the process of submitting to a CfP sets a trap for most speakers. This post is my advice for avoiding that trap.

TL;DR: Your proposal should focus on your story about what you’ve done personally and what you’ve learned. Your story, not the topic. And, don’t tell us anything about the importance of the topic or how high the stakes are.

Crocodile

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Don't Miss PGConfSV, Silicon Valley's Newest PostgreSQL Conference

If you haven’t heard about PGConfSV yet, it’s a conference for the Silicon Valley PostgreSQL community and beyond, featuring leading PostgreSQL performance and scalability experts. It’s happening November 17-18 at the South San Francisco Conference Center. I encourage everyone in the area to attend, since this is likely to be the best Postgres conference held thus far in the Silicon Valley.

I also urge you to buy your tickets before they sell out! Of course, the earlier you buy, the more you save, too. (Use SeeMeSpeak for a 20% discount).

Convention Center

I’ll be at the conference along with some of my colleagues. I’m pretty excited about this for a few reasons. Allow me to ‘splain why?

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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.

audience

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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.

Leaf

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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.

Laptop

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Can You Bring A Guitar To Velocity?

I need help. I’m giving an Ignite talk at Velocity EU that involves a guitar. I don’t want to bring a guitar all the way from America just for this. Would you please loan me one?

guitar

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Win a Free Pass to Velocity

O’Reilly Velocity is November 17-19 in Barcelona. O’Reilly gave me a 2-day pass to give away, and I decided to have some fun with it. We’re also giving away a pass on the VividCortex blog, so you can double your odds of winning. For your chance to win a 2-day pass, do one of the following: Answer any of the following questions; or Write a haiku that’s somehow relevant to Velocity Tweet your answers to @xaprb with #velocitytrivia.

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Meditate With Me At Velocity

Join me and other Velocity attendees during the Wednesday afternoon 2:40pm break for a 10-15 minute guided meditation session appropriate for people of any faith or of none.

Meditation has a host of scientifically proven immediate and long-term benefits. If you get an extra 10% of clarity and effectiveness for the rest of the afternoon, you’ll end up learning more and making your conference experience more worthwhile.

meditation

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Two of My Favorite Conferences: Velocity and Surge

Two of my favorite conferences are coming up. One’s just next week, and another’s in the fall.

Velocity

Velocity is such a great event. I wanted to go for years, and when I finally did it was honestly one of the highlights of my professional career. I still don’t know what I did get get invited to speak that first year. It was a golden horseshoe falling out of the sky and landing right in front of me.

Velocity

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Monitorama 2014: This One Weird Time-Series Math Trick

Monitorama 2014 Portland has been a great show. I’ve enjoyed the technical nature of the talks, the diversity of the speakers, the topics from hilarious to thought-provoking, and the stage in a theater, set up for a Shakespearean tragedy. I have also taken a lot of notes. For example, Toufic from Metafor Software suggested that the audience look into the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test. I am proud of the slide that made its way into my talk as a result:

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Freeing some Velocity videos

Following my previous post on Velocity videos, I had some private email conversations with good folks at O’Reilly, and a really nice in-person exchange with a top-level person as well. I was surprised to hear them encourage me to publish my videos online freely! I still believe that nothing substitutes for the experience of attending an O’Reilly conference in-person, but I’ll also be the first to admit that my talks are usually more conceptual and academic than practical, and designed to start a conversation rather than to tell you the Truth According To Baron.

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Get out of your comfort zone

One of the most valuable life skills you can ever develop is to overcome the urge to stay within your comfort zone. If you stay where you’re familiar and feel safe, two things might happen: You might find out that it’s not safe after all. Bad things can happen where you feel at home just as well as out of the familar. Nothing good will happen. You might skate through life without even living it.

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Should Velocity videos be free?

At the closing keynote of the recent Velocity conference in New York, an audience member stepped up to the microphone and called for O’Reilly to provide videos of the event free to the public, instead of behind a paywall. The conference chairs, who don’t call the shots on such matters, squirmed and looked at the person who does call the shots, a few feet away. Someone volunteered the information that speakers are able to download their own talks and post them freely if they wish.

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Speaking at Percona University Sept 12th

I’ll be joining Percona for a free day of MySQL education and insight at their upcoming Percona University Washington DC event on September 12th. My topic is accessing MySQL from Google’s Go programming language. I’ve learned a lot about this over the past year or so, and hopefully I can help you get a quick-start. If you’re not familiar with Go, it’s the darling of the Hacker News crowd these days.

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Speaking at Strata NYC: Making Big Data Small

I’m off to my first Strata conference, and I’m speaking! I’ve always wanted to attend Strata. (OSCON too, but I haven’t yet made it there.) My session will be about ways to make big data small, in both the storage and processing dimensions, without losing much of the value. If you’re familiar with Bloom Filters, this is an example. Bloom Filters let you answer the question, Is value X a member of this data set?

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My recipe for more enjoyable presentations

Since I started making my presentations more beautiful, people have often asked me my secret. It’s not a secret, and it’s really quite simple to do. First, realize that it’s not about you. It’s about your audience. Now, get and read a few good books on presentations. Your presentations, and your presentation skills, need to be good. You can’t just make things beautiful to compensate for badness in other areas. This is something I’m always working on.

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Quantifying Abnormal Behavior in System Metrics

I’ve posted slides for my Velocity talk on VividCortex’s blog. The talk explained how we use exponentially weighted moving statistics to generate a meta-metric of abnormality for the time-series metrics measured from MySQL. That’s kind of a mouthful. Maybe you had to be there :-)

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A great talk on Go concurrency patterns

This 35-minute video from the recent Google I/O conference explains how to use Go’s concurrency primitives – goroutines, channels, and the select statement – to do things elegantly, correctly, and safely in a few lines of Go, which would otherwise turn your brain into a pretzel in most programming languages. My favorite thing about Go is that a good Go program looks self-evident and obvious, even when it may be doing things that would be insanely complex in another language.

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Two upcoming Go-related talks I'm giving

I’m scheduled to talk about Go a couple times in the upcoming weeks. The first is May 4th in Arlington at A Day Of Foster.ly. I’ll be a participant in a panel titled Add To Your Programming Toolkit: Languages You Should Know About (Erlang, Clojure, R, Go, etc…). I’m talking about Go, naturally. The second May 7th is at my local technology guild, the Neon Guild. I’m going to be giving a “gentle introduction” to Go.

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Adaptive Fault Detection food fight

I was a guest on the Food Fight Show last week, along with a bevy of really smart people asking and answering tough questions on fault detection. We didn’t talk a lot about MySQL, but given that VividCortex is focusing on MySQL initially, pretty much all of my experience with zero-threshold, zero-configuration fault detection is MySQL-based. It’s a fun conversation with a lot of insights into the industry, what’s wrong with current monitoring tools, and where monitoring is going.

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