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Marketing With Flaming Dragons And Other Pearls of Wisdom from Velocity 2011

Every year at the web performance and operations-centric O’Reilly Velocity conference, Adam Jacob from Opscode leads a crowd full of the world’s best and brightest web experts through a “Choose Your Own Adventure” series.

The first one up? An introduction to Sales & Marketing for techies, or perhaps better described in this simple three-step plan for success:

1) Build a trap.

2) Use flaming dragons (marketers) and wield fire swords & bald eagle shields (salespeople) to chase potential customers into the trap.

3) Profit!!!





Adam Jacobs - Velocity 2011
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All kidding aside, this really is one of the best shows we attend each year as it’s jam packed with best practices from industry veterans like Heroku, Netflix, Facebook, Etsy, Dyn, Opscode and many, many more. Here are the major takeaways, aka The Pearls Of Wisdom, from this year’s Velocity 2011 event.

Hiring in Development and Operations – Not Going to Get Easier!

There were two job boards at Velocity, both overflowing with opportunities. It’s pretty clear that there is a lot of competition for the top talent. What are you doing to ensure your venture stands out from the crowd?

Killer Presentations Worth Sharing with the Whole Team

A handful of presentations really stood out from the pack, leaving attendees with a strong desire to take what they had learned back to their organizations for the better. In no particular order, here are my favorites worthy of sharing with the entire team:

Theo Schlossnagle on “Career Development”

What does it mean to work in operations in 2011? What does it take? Favorite quote:

“DevOps is bullshit. It’s incomplete and far too isolated. What we really need is *Ops. Or for those of you that like regular expressions, that’s .*Ops, or if you really want it …
… everyone in your organization needs operational mentality.”

Theo Schlossnagle - Velocity 2011
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John Allspaw on “Advanced PostMortem Fu & Human Error 101”

A root cause analysis is pointless when the “root cause” you identify is “human error”. What can you really do to prevent systemic failure? It boils down to culture.

Major takeaways on what you need to look for in your culture:

  • A Just Culture: A just culture balances accountability with learning. No room for malice.
  • Near Misses: Post mortem discussions are extremely important and most people realize that. What’s often missed are those “near disaster” moments. Many lessons can be learned by investigating what almost went horribly wrong and we need to have a culture that values honesty and humility to send out an email like this:

John Allspaw - Velocity 2011

  • Pre-Mortem: What’s better than a post-mortem is a pre-mortem! Discussing what COULD go wrong before it does. Communication is key.
  • A Failure Gone Wrong is a Success: Rather than evaluating your failures and trying to figure out what went wrong, evaluate your successes and evaluate what went right. Maybe you did 100 code pushes and 6 caused problems. If you only focus on the failures, you have six sets of data to evaluate. But if you switch the question around and try to figure out what in those 94 code pushes went right, you’ll open yourself up to many more opportunities for insight.
  • Effective Organizational Structure: People can only be held accountable for the things that they’ve been given both the responsibility AND the authority for.

For a full recap of John’s presentation in-depth, check out this post from my personal blog. Standing On The Brink.

John Rauser on “Look at Your Data”

Modern monitoring software makes it easy to plot a statistic like average latency every minute — too easy. Fancy dashboards of time series plots often lull us into a false sense of security. Underneath every point on those plots is a distribution and underneath that distribution is a series of individuals: your customers. Watch John’s video below:

John Rauser - Velocity 2011
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Adrian Cockcroft on “Netflix in the Cloud”

Did you know that is ~100% cloud? See how they leveraged EC2 to enable massive growth in Adrian’s slides below or for the quick highlights, head over to

Netflix Cloud - Velocity 2011

Jon Jenkins on “Velocity Culture”

Did you know 100% of is powered through Amazon EC2 as of November 10, 2010? Watch how Amazon “eats their own dog food” with EC2 in Jon’s presentation below:

Velocity 2011 - Jon Jenkins
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Big Trends in Web Performance and Operations

Just How Much Is In Amazon EC2? – With both entirely run from Amazon EC2, and (the eCommerce site itself) being entirely powered by Amazon EC2 as of November 2010 when the last physical piece of hardware for was powered down, it begs the question… just how much of “the cloud” is Amazon EC2?

Going Global for Performance and Availability – Between the Netflix presentation and the Wikia discussions on how to globally serve their content as quickly, reliably and efficiently as possible, more and more folks are exploring ways to expand geographic coverage of their infrastructure. DNS Global Server Load Balancing to the rescue!

People, Culture, and What Really Makes an Impact – One of my favorite parts about the conference as a whole is a lack of emphasis on specific tools, and a strong emphasis on how your team works together in getting the most out of whatever tools you’re using. Just check out the “Choose Your Own Adventure Series” from last year if you need proof.

Problems with Email Delivery – If there is a trend that gained serious momentum in the last year, it was the number of times I heard “You guys do email now? Sweet!”. We launched version 2.0 of DynECT Email Delivery at Velocity with a killer DynTini to celebrate.

At least a third of the folks that stopped by the Dyn booth mentioned the challenges they were encountering in email deliverability – first and foremost being that application notifications were getting marked as spam by ISPs and email clients.

The Movers and Shakers of Velocity

Want to stay in the loop with the best and brightest Velocity has to offer? Follow these folks on Twitter. You won’t regret it.

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