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More thoughts about submitting papers to Usenix LISA

I've been a sysadmin for 2 decades. When I think back about my career I realize that the first time I presented a paper to LISA was a major turning point for me.

It wasn't my idea to submit a paper. My boss at the time put a lot of effort into career development and he suggested that a good bridge from being a junior sysadmin to a senior sysadmin would be to start submitting papers to conferences. I wrote about some projects we had been doing and submitted. I couldn't believe it when I got the acceptance letter!

Being published lead to many important things for me. It got my name around; other people wanted to collaborate with me. It helped me in job hunting; having a paper published gave me a new level of credibility. Most importantly it got me noticed by Addison-Wesley and that lead to co-authoring writing my first book (the second most important turning point in my career; which wouldn't have happened without those early papers). That lead to some other milestones, such as being honored with the SAGE Award.

Maybe you haven't considered writing a paper for LISA. Maybe you think your projects aren't that amazing. My first paper was about how we renumbered the IP address of 1,000 machines (this was before DHCP was popular). Doesn't seem to exciting, does it? We had interesting problems that needed to be worked through:

The last few years some papers (not by me) have included topics like: Migrating thousands of users to a new email server and why it became a disaster; the method someone uses for stress-testing their web server to find performance bottlenecks; data mining Cisco network configs stored in a source-code repository for many years; virtualizing networks; using a dependency graph to determine security risk. All of these are interesting because they solve real problems.


The deadline for submitting papers is May 17th. If you want a mentor, ask the chair and a helpful committee member will be assigned to you.

Unlike past years, submitting papers is a bit easier this year:
  • This year you don't have to write the entire paper! Submit a 1500-word abstract. If it gets accepted, then you'll have to write the paper (of course!).
  • We are now accepting "experience" papers. Do an massive email migration? Deploy a new thingamabob? Survive an interesting attack, management change, or technology ? Tell us all about it!

If you have never submitted a paper to LISA, this is a good time to give it a shot.

It could be a turning point for you too.

Tom Limoncelli

Submission guidelines:

Writing advice here:

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Conferences

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