Devopsdays Belgium 2014 was held over 27 and 28 October in the charming town of Ghent (or Gent, or Gand), Belgium. This event marked the five-year anniversary of the Devopsdays series of conferences – and with such an important milestone in play, expectations were running high. I’m happy to report that those expectations were met.
First off, the basic details:
- The Devopsdays format is half-day presentations and half-day open spaces (the programme is available here).
- All of the presentations were recorded by BMC and are available on Ustream for your viewing pleasure.
- Perusing #devopsdays on Twitter is probably the fastest way to tap into the over-mind of the conference attendees, both in real-time and in retrospect.
- The popular Hangops show/podcast did a recap of the event featuring speakers, attendees, and even Patrick Debois himself (if briefly).
Looking at the programme, it’s interesting to note that there were no strictly-technical talks (the same was true, more or less, for the ignites as well). Broadly speaking, the topics ranged from management skills, to brain chemistry, and as far as a post-modern analysis of the Devops movement itself. Indeed, in terms of content, this was one of the most human-centric conferences I’ve ever attended. Five years ago this wouldn’t have been the case and it is an indicator of just how far we’ve come as a community – in other words, huzzah, we’ve finally managed to stop talking about tools constantly.
Concerning the presentations specifically, much has already been written, and I don’t feel like I can add much more to the existing discourse. While I would recommend watching the videos themselves, for those looking for an executive summary of the two mornings, you could do worse than Carlos Sanchez’s posts at InfoQ here, here, and here.
The best part of almost any conference, for me, is the so-called hallway track: those serendipitous encounters near the coffee machine or spontaneous introductions around a lunch table. In many ways, the open space format is a formalisation of the hallway track, and one that works for everybody (not just people who are comfortable approaching strangers). In either case, when combined with the highly-local nature of Devopsdays, it made for a great opportunity to meet and speak with people whom I’d normally never encounter – the perfect environment for challenging discussions and generating fresh ideas.
A great example of this environment came courtesy of Bridget Kromhout, who (bravely) challenged the conference at large to use more inclusive language, especially when referring to groups within our industry (i.e. say “people” instead of “guys”). The subsequent conversation was civil, reasoned, thought-provoking, and – notably – itself inclusive, not only in terms of gender, but culture as well. This was interesting since it reminded everybody that, hey, different languages have different ways of dealing with this, and that while the problem exists everywhere, specific characteristics can vary wildly from region to region.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Dave Mangot who turned me on to something called the “1-1-1 model” (as pioneered by Salesforce). Basically the idea is to donate 1% of profits, product, and time (respectively) to charitable ends. This got us thinking about how we could apply the model to Devopsdays, and by extension, tech conferences in general. Put another way, is it possible to leverage our industry’s many social gatherings as a force for social good? I would submit that the answer is a resounding yes. For example, following the model, a given conference could:
- Donate 1% (or more, there’s no upper limit!) of the profits to charity.
- Set aside a pool of tickets for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford to attend – or better yet, put together a grant programme to help for the cost of transport, accommodation, etc.
- Facilitate an open space where attendees can volunteer to assemble care packages, sort clothing or food donations, or other types of manual activities along those lines.
Personally, I’d love to see Devopsdays adopt a model such as this one. Given the local, grassroots nature of the conference series, it seems like a perfect fit. Perhaps even the upcoming Devopsdays Paris, scheduled for April of 2015? Something to think about.
As always, if you want to chat, feel free to leave a comment, or hit me up on the twitters. Salut!