Awesome Conferences

Tom's 2010 In Review: Stuff I did

[Note: I had a very productive year at work but sadly I haven't gotten permission to talk about it externally yet. It isn't anything earth-shattering but I hope to turn it into a few papers eventually.]

January: Spent nearly 3 weeks in the SF/Bay area for training and...

February: Spoke at MacWorld on Time Management.

March: Started a collaboration with ACM to help them find sysadmin-related articles for their Queue magazine. After some brain-storming (at 2 meetings, 2 months apart) we collected 6-7 topics matched with authors around the world.

They've been well-received. The one I wrote on "A Plea to Software Vendors from Sysadmins -- 10 Do's and Don'ts" (published in December) got mentioned on Slashdot and helped push their web site to break 1 million visits for 2010. I'm rather proud of that.

While my article has a attention-getting title, I think the most innovative article to come out of the series so far isn't getting the publicity it deserves: Collaboration in System Administration. (Eben gave a similar talk at PICC (video here) and at LISA (slides here).

We have a few more article in the hopper, so keep watching ACM Queue. Please write to me if you have ideas for articles, whether or not you want to write the article to have suggestions of who we should approach.


PICC: In November 2009 some people in New Jersey thought it would be a good idea to have a small, regional conference for people in IT. We called it PICC. I think I spent all my free time in April working on the keynote I was presenting. The topic is the 3 biggest threats of system administration as a profession. I highlight one that is on the personal level, one that is on the organization/enterprise level, and one that is at the level of our professional IT society.

Which brings us to...


PICC conference a major success. 80 people (big for a regional conference's first year) and we made enough money to have seed money for next year.

My keynote was on the 3 threats to system administration: Personal: health (especially diabeties) Organization: the lack of dissemination of info (some orgs do great IT, others suck at things that are "solved problems" elsewhere) As a career: lack of respect (we need better PR and representation in D.C.) What do these three problems have in common? That no one person can solve any of them. They require community effort, and that is why organizations like PICC, LOPSA, Usenix, ACM and so on are so important.

Inspired by PICC, people in Seattle have decided to have a regional conference. People from all over the Pacific North West are expected to attend. If you are within reach, check out Cascadia IT Conference.

At this point I was also thinking about writing a new book. I had sort of a half-formed idea. I wrote 3 chapters as a test. I read them and a publisher farmed them out to a number of people in the industry. No dice. I didn't even think I'd read such a book. However, I did have an idea on how to reformulate it. I took one of the chapters, re-worked it, and published it in Usenix :login; as a test. (see September)

On a personal career level, this is when I started learning Django, a web framework for Python. I'm really enjoying it.


June, July, August and September there were relatively few blog posts because I was "heads down" focused on two projects at work. I created two web-based apps for use by my coworkers. I hadn't written serious code in a while and was enjoying it so much I was working nearly every waking moment because I was having so much fun!


Went to Disney/Florida. My SO and I had an awesome, relaxing, vacation this year. Something we've discovered? By having our "big trip" immediately when her break begins (Chris has summers off) we are more relaxed the rest of the break. We feel like we've accomplished something, so to speak, even though that "thing" is relaxation. If we have our big trip at the end of the summer then there is pressure to "do it right" because there's no do-over. (P.S. July 4th at Epcot is awesome).

Geek BBQ at my place. I have a house with a nice backyard and yet I rarely use it. I decided to fix that by having at least two cookouts this year. One of which I deemed the "Geek BBQ" and invited LOPSA-NJ and other geeky friends to attend. About 20 people showed up, which was the perfect size. We had a great time and I'm definitely doing it again next year.


I often teach a half-day time management class at conferences. With the help of my friend Pam, we video taped this class and chopped it into 5-10 minute segments. Around August I finally put them up on a new web site called The videos are free to watch, the site is advertisement supported (and of course, promotes the book).

I gave a keynote at the SAGE-AU conference. My talk was similar to the keynote at PICC, but customized for the audience. This was my second time giving a keynote in Tazmania, and the 5th time I had been to Australia to speak at a conference. I can't believe I'm saying that! (For those that aren't sure, yes, Tasmania is a state of Australia.)


Wrote a "Open Letter to people teaching system administration" prior to the workshop on that topic at LISA. (due to be re-printed in MacTech magazine soon). I'm unhappy with the sad state of how we train future system administrators. I think this is an important issue. It isn't just that "computers play a bigger role in our lives every day", today society can't survive without well-run IT systems. It isn't that computers are involved in getting food from the farm to our plate, we, as a society, no longer know how to do it manually.

Usenix article: A System Administration Parable: The Waitress and the Water Glass. I'm really happy with how this article turned out. I'd like to write 12-15 parables and publish it as a book. This would be a good project for me after the Usenix LISA 2011 conference is done.

October: LISA 2010 in San Jose. Big success. I agreed to co-chair the Program Committee with Doug Hughes in 2011.


This month began with my laptop being stolen 22 hours before I was scheduled to give a full-day Time Management class at Usenix LISA. The most painful part was that a friend's car window was smashed open to get to my laptop. Ugh. Well, I paid for the new windows. Luckily my entire presentation was 'in the cloud' (thank you, Dropbox!) but I had to get a new Mac and the latest Keynote software. Luckily I could go to one of my employer's many offices and get it taken care of. The presentation went on without a hitch.

After Usenix LISA and I was pretty much exhausted the rest of the month, though I got a lot of work done at work, there was not much blog activity.


Not a lot of posting. Again, busy at work. In all, it was a good year.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in Site Announcements

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