QCon: Enough with the theory, already—Let’s see the code

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San Francisco’s QCon was expecting a smaller crowd, but ended up bursting at the seams: the event sold out weeks ahead of time and in many sessions it was standing room only.

Targeted at architects and operations folks as much as developers, QCon was heavy on the hot topics of the day: SOA, agile, and DevOps. But if there was a consistent trend throughout the three days, it was “No more theory. Show us the practice.”

At Jesper Boeg’s talk for example—“Raising the Bar: Using Kanban and Lean to Super Optimize Your Agile Implementation”—the talk was peppered with some good sound bites (“If it hurts, do it more often and bring the pain forward”). But it also stressed the meat: Boeg demonstrated a “deployment pipeline” that represented an automated implementation of the build, deploy, test, and release process—a way to find and eliminate bottlenecks in agile delivery.

Similarly, John Allspaw started high in his talk—sharing his ideas on the areas of ownership and specialization between Ops and Dev, a typical DevOps presentation—but backs up the theory with code-level discussions of how logging, metrics, and monitoring works at Etsy.  (His blog entry on the subject and complete Qcon slides can be found on his blog, Kitchen Soap.)

Adrian Cockroft, who is leading a trailblazing public cloud deployment of production-level applications at Netflix, also wrapped theory around juicy substance. He “showed the code” and the screenshots of his company’s app scaling and monitoring tools (you can find his complete slide presentation here).

Not everyone took the time to drill down, though. Tweets from QCon attendees showed that the natives got restless in talks that stayed too high level:

“OK, just because you can draw a block diagram out of something doesn’t mean it makes sense.”

“Ok, we get it. Your company is very interesting, now get to the nerd stuff.”

“These sessions are high-level narratives. Show me the code, guys! Devil’s in the details.”

At the same time, they would shower plaudits and congratulations on speakers who gave them what they wanted: something new to learn.

When the Twitter stream started to compare QCon’s activities with an event happening concurrently in the city, Cloud Expo, the nature of the attendees was draw into sharp relief:

“At #cloudexpo people used laptops during sessions to check email… At #qconsf they are writing code.”

When it comes to agile, SOA, DevOps, and other problems of the day, people are ready for answers.