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Deserted Island DevOps Recap


April 30, 2020 Austin Parker, Principal Developer Advocate at Lightstep and co-host of On-Call Me Maybe, hosted a one-of-a-kind DevOps conference. With the cancellation of events all over the world in the face of COVID-19, virtual conferences have been blooming (see our coverage of Failover Conf here), but Deserted Island DevOps was the first ever conference held in the world of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This one-day event brought together amazing speakers who presented on a wide range of topics, from teaching cloud migration to the art of collaborating, as well as 700+ attendees. We especially loved the virtual conference swag!

Below is a brief overview of the talks given, complete with tweets and adorable screenshots of islands in ACNH.

“Bridge Construction Kit: DevOps and Security Don’t Have to Be Islands” by Ian Coldwater (Lead Platform Security Engineer at Heroku)

Ian kicked off the conference right by talking about the need for DevOps and security to come together during this difficult time to solve problems. Ian spoke about the need for empathy for one another, especially when times get tough. As Ian said, “Security isn’t a blocker. It’s integral.”Likewise, Ian spoke about seizing the opportunity to learn from those who may not have the same use cases as us. There is always more to learn about process and communication to give insight into our own services or areas of expertise.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">DevOps and security need to work together! The amazing <a href="">@IanColdwater</a> keynotes <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DIDevOps</a>, explaining brilliantly how we need to communicate to prevent and solve problems. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Bridget Kromhout (@bridgetkromhout) <a href="">April 30, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“No Dev is an Island: How to do serverless together” by Nočnica Fee (Developer Advocate at New Relic)

Nočnica was next up, and her talk focused on how to work better as a team when doing serverless. Attendees learned about honest documentation, allowing margin in the budget for experimentation, and planning for observability. She also had some great quotes phrases such as, “0% of managers like explaining your AWS bill.”

Deserted Island DevOps recap

However, perhaps the most impactful part of her talk was her instruction to “embrace the shame” and explain through complete, narrative documentation exactly why something was built the way it was, creating more room for empathy and comprehensive understanding.

“If You Can Wait 6 Months, You Should” by David Sudia (Senior DevOps Engineer at GoSpotCheck)

David’s presentation talked about the “shiny new things” syndrome many of us suffer from, and how to address it in the modern tooling environment. He spoke from experience and stated, “We're a small team, and we try to glue tools from other people together to make a great platform for our developers.” David was full of great words of wisdom: “It's tempting to jump on the new hotness when it comes out, but if you're trying to run a small team, it may be a good idea to just wait and let it shake out before you adopt.”Our main takeaway from David’s talk is teams who can wait 6 months to adopt shiny new tooling may want to do so, as it’ll pay off in product maturity.

Deserted Island DevOps recap

“Building Virtual Community” by Mia Moore (Developer Advocate at IBM)

Mia’s talk focused on building a virtual community since, as she so gracefully put it, “We’re all on our own deserted islands right now.” The most important takeaway from this talk is that community building is about providing value through connection!

Deserted Island DevOps recap

Once she established what a community is and how it should operate, the rest of her talk focused on guidelines for setting up an ideal digital community. She walked attendees through the process of moving IRL (in-real-life) communities to digital spaces, creating a digital community from scratch, tools of the trade (again cautioning against adopting “shiny objects”), and finished by defining what both a good leader and citizen look like in a digital community. She asked attendees to ask themselves, “What would Isabella do?” and stated, “A success anywhere in the community is a success for everybody.”

“Mob Programming From Home: A Case Study in Teaching Cloud Migration From YOUR Island Getaway” by Tori Chu (Developer Specialist at Nationwide)

Tori’s talk might win the award for most interactive talk of this event. This is no surprise given the interactive, collaborative nature of mob programming. In this talk, she tackled the big problem of knowledge sharing, especially in the context of WFH.In this talk, Tom Nook has a problem and he needs our help! Tori walks us through a mob programming scenario where our furry racoon friend is attempting to turn a docker file into a docker image. Attendees were encouraged to type out what command would work, why it would work, or even simply admit we don’t know the answer. After crowd-sourcing our knowledge, team driver Tom Nook was able to successfully complete his Docker build! So cute, and so educational.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Tom nook runs docker build! He may not have known about docker run before, but he&#39;s now heard it via community suggestion, and run it! Hearing, and physically doing. Two methods to help the new knowledge stick, and we&#39;re just getting started! <a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#didevops</a><a href="">@f00handle</a><a href=";ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#acnh</a><a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Kaslin Fields (@kaslinfields) <a href="">April 30, 2020</a></blockquote><script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“Embrace the Wasp Sting: Why Failure Helps Your Team” by Adrienne Tacke (Senior Developer Advocate at MongoDB)

Adrienne learned the hard way that shaking trees can cause wasps to attack! In this talk, she draws parallels between the fear of failure in AC:NH and fear of failure in our professional lives.

Deserted Island DevOps recap

Deserted Island DevOps recap

After the first wasp sting, she was hesitant to allow herself to be hurt again in the same way. However, by speaking with her island villagers, she was able to learn how to cure herself with medicine! This teaches us that “Failure is a chance to collaborate.” If you reach out to your colleagues when you’re in a tough spot, they might be able to help, meaning you don’t need to suffer alone.Additionally, Adrienne points out that after a wasp stings you, you now have access to the wasp’s nest and can use it to craft your own medicine, making you slightly more self-sufficient. Plus, getting attacked randomly by wasps prepares players to always carry our butterfly nets, teaching us the ability to be adaptable. In short, failure helped us learn. She finishes her talk by discussing the need for psychological safety. As she mentioned, “Everyone needs to feel safe to fail.”

Deserted Island DevOps recap

“Snakes on a Car” by Kat Cosgrove (Developer Advocate at JFrog)

Kat’s talk was a walk-through of how her team worked to up their in-person conference presence by creating a donkey car that could update while driving (countering the assumption that updates need to be lengthy endeavors that take down your entire system for an extended period of time).

Deserted Island DevOps recap

This project was super ambitious, and actually enabled in-person conference attendees to be able to both drive this car on a virtual, green-screened track and push code updates to the car while in motion. In addition to the interesting subject matter, Kat’s personal experience with feature-creep became a powerful topic during Q&A. Kat emphasized that to dissuade feature-creep, we need to know how to set boundaries and become comfortable with sharing the truth with people no matter how high up on the food chain they are.

“Kick Em or Keep Em - Collaborating on our own Deserted Islands” by Matt Stratton (Transformation Specialist at Red Hat)

What does psychological safety mean, and how can we achieve it within our own organizations? Matt’s talk gave us some great insight into how this can be done. According to him, you can instill psychological safety by:

  • Approaching conflict as a collaborator rather than as an adversary
  • Replacing blame with curiosity as nobody ever has all the facts
  • Modeling vulnerability to create emotional bonds

He also stressed the importance of blameless facilitation of retrospectives and provided guidelines for what a facilitator’s role should entail.

Lastly, he ended with the African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

“You Will Not Go To Space Today” by Jacquie Grindrod (Developer Advocate at HashiCorp)

In Jacquie’s talk, we got to listen to her speak on a WIP her team began during Hack Week. The team goal was to create an uplifting, collaborative game reminiscent of Jackbox games. However, she had no previous knowledge of game development, so this entire experience was one of learning and growing.

Deserted Island DevOps recap

Some of the most important lessons she learned included:

  • Be gentle with yourself in times of failure,
  • DevOps tools are important, but adopting the culture and bringing people together is what it’s really all about
  • Empathetic documentation is key.

She ended her talk with a very insightful invitation that anyone who can write a guide or tutorial should take the time to do so, in order to make someone else’s day just a little bit better.

“Sticking Together while Staying Apart: Resilience in the time of global pandemic” by Aaron Aldrich (Advocate at LaunchDarkly)

Aaron took on the topic of resilience engineering, both in a professional and personal context. He delved into socio-technical systems, asserting that you can’t really separate the humans from the system, and that the most crucial fixes are often ones that step from the bottom up rather than top down.

Deserted Island DevOps recap

Solutions come from the individual practitioner, so what do we need to do to empower them? Aaron believes that giving each person a sense of ownership will create the incentive. Additionally, more resilient systems will flourish as we work to establish common ground through blameless retrospectives, chaos engineering, game days, and modeling vulnerability. He left us with this quote: “Community building is resilience engineering.”

“You've Got A Friend In Me” by Katy Farmer (Developer Advocate at Lightstep)

Last but not least, Katy took the podium. Her talk was the perfect end to a wonderful conference. She reminded us to be kind to ourselves; this situation is not normal, it’s not just about working remotely. We’re all suffering from lower productivity as this global pandemic is a traumatic event.

She provided attendees with coping strategies that work for her during this tough time. These include breathing exercises, phone and video calls, emailing/texting/sending a good old-fashioned letter, creating or appreciating art, and sometimes simply doing nothing. She also stressed the importance of supporting your community by buying local, supporting struggling businesses, and tipping the essential workers in the food and delivery industry that we rely so heavily on. This heartfelt talk was the perfect note to conclude Deserted Island DevOps.

Deserted Island DevOps recap

We want to take a moment to thank all the speakers and organizers of this extraordinary event, and especially Austin for all his hard work, imagination, and optimism. We’re so proud to be a part of Deserted Island DevOps. Now catch some bees and chop some trees!

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