This week on Ship It! Gerhard is joined by Constance Caramanolis, Principal Engineer at Splunk and former maintainer of Envoy Proxy, and Stephen Augustus, Head of Open Source at Cisco & self-proclaimed Caesar of Systems. Constance and Stephen are the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon co-chairs. Join us to find out what happens before and after KubeCon gets shipped.
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So can you tell that this is my third time that I’m recording this?
So it’s a new podcast, it’s all about shipping stuff, and the reason why we are meeting is because you helped ship KubeCon, literally. Every day, you were shipping KubeCon. And whenever it’s KubeCon, I like to get the organizers, the people behind the event, and then the co-chairs as well. So this is going to be a recurring theme, and that’s why in October we will definitely record again, because all the hard work that you put in - you make it so amazing; you really do. So this is basically for you.
I know it was so hard for you, because this was the European one, and the European one - you have to wake up, and you have to be there. You can’t record yourself.
Fair… [laughs] I think that’s the part that makes it fun… Not so much the timezone shifts for a lot of people. We try not to do the MC-ing recorded, because it allows us to kind of react to the day and weave in stories from people who are experiencing KubeCon, maybe even for the first time…
[04:24] Yeah, that’s right. It makes a big difference. I know it’s hard, and I’ve seen it… But you’ve done such an amazing job. So if this is like that, or if this was the way it was, considering all the things, how is Los Angeles going to be? I’m looking forward to that.
Los Angeles - we hope there’s gonna be an in-person… it is marked as happening right now, we hope the in-person part is gonna happen. So if the in-person part happens, we’re kind of expecting it to be smaller than other North Americas, and also EU, partially, because we don’t know what travel restrictions are, and we don’t know all that stuff there. But we have some fun ideas… I come up with a lot of like – you know, like the tinfoil hat; I come up with a lot of those ideas in terms of spicing things up, and so I have an idea for what we would do if there’s an in-person component for the keynotes… So just to tease it out for people, if there is an in-person, this is gonna be like a favorite - at least in North America - game show with Bob. So just to give that as a clue for people.
Okay. I don’t know what that means, but I’m intrigued. Do you know what it means, Stephen?
I do, I do. I think we’re still playing around with the idea, so I don’t wanna give away too much just yet…
Okay. You don’t mean Sponge Bob, by any chance, right? This is a different Bob.
No, no, no.
Different Bob. Different Bob.
He was the presenter for this game show a while back; there’s a new presenter now, his first name is Drew Carey or Drew Carey Flint to give people more hints if they want to Google it afterwards.
Especially like – since we have a lot more impact on the keynote… We have a huge impact on the content, but as you’re saying, our personality is where we get to change things up in keynotes… So we’re trying to make it a little bit more like – because it is a show; we just kind of forget that it is a show, because we’re at a conference and we’re all focused on the tech, so we’re trying to add a little bit more of that life to it, and so… That’s where the promo videos came in, and that was also an adaptation from us being virtual, but also it’s probably something that we wanna keep on going forward.
I think the show idea is super-important, because if you make it fun… A show has to be fun; well, it should be fun, right?
It should be fun.
If you approach it like that, you have some amazing elements there. Tinfoil hats? I love those. That was a great idea.
And then the best part was like “Which tinfoil hats?” That was even better. Like, “How do you mean?” That was so good. I love that.
We’re silly people, and I think we often weave these bits into the show… So I think if you’re gonna do a bit, you should commit to it. I think we’ve had questions and comments in the past about there being conspiracies in cloud-native, so we decided to play on that. And then with a conspiracy, there’s definitely an element of denial, and gaslighting… So yeah, committing to the bit is important. [laughs]
It’s also like we have distinct jokes. I think it’d be like we’d have to rehearse it beforehand.
Yeah, I think a lot of it sometimes is off the cuff, and eventually kind of like just evolves day of… The promo videos that we did for North America Virtual - that was just a few takes, and we had that idea pretty much day of.
So for those of you that are listening and are wondering who are these wonderful people that joined me today, and if you don’t recognize, we have Constance Caramanolis, and Stephen Augustus.
Yeah, you got it.
Both co-chairs. Constance was a co-chair since 2020, and I don’t know about you, Stephen…
2020 - yeah, that sounds about right.
Yeah, so I believe China was the first… Yeah, we’ve been doing it for a little bit now.
[08:18] Nice. So for those that are still confused, they’re not the co-chairs of China or Europe; they’re co-chairs of KubeCon/CloudNativeCon Europe, China, North America. These are like the three big conferences in the cloud-native, Kubernetes (but mostly cloud-native) world.
Just a quick clarification… The China event is now I believe OSS Summit China, maybe… So the primary KubeCon CloudNativeCon events are North America and EU. We do kind of like a region-specific for China moving forward… And Constance and I are not directly involved in that.
Not anymore, yeah. It’s also because it’s all up in the air too, because our co-chair reign of terror ends after North America… So China is supposed to be like afterwards, so Jasmine might know.
Who’s Jasmine? I’m glad that you mentioned Jasmine. Who’s Jasmine?
Jasmine is our lovely, new co-chair. So we are actually expanding the roster from two to three co-chairs. What we’ve been doing every cycle is essentially we have a few chairs, or two chairs who were doing it, and then as one is getting ready to roll off, we pull in a new one. Those chairs tend to be balanced between kind of like Kubernetes and not. So kind of based on the conference name, we’ve got KubeCon and we’ve got CloudNativeCon. Also, we wanna make sure that we bring in perspectives from both the Kubernetes community, as well as the wider community. From my perspective, I’m definitely heavily involved in Kubernetes as a maintainer, and then Constance is involved in the open telemetry community. I will make a suggestion, and Constance is like “Maybe there is an observability play here, or “Maybe we’re doing too much Kubernetes content over here, and maybe we should highlight this instead.” So it’s nice to have that balance.
With Jasmine coming in - Jasmine is an engineering manager, and the engineering effectiveness organization at Twitter, and what I love about that is that Jasmine is also – I think each of us have been end users in the past in some way, shape or form. Jasmine started her cloud-native journey as an end user, so we’re getting that – and Twitter is also an end user company, so we’re getting that end user perspective. And I think that that is definitely really important to me with having background in selling cloud-native solutions to customers. I think that if you’re not paying attention to their perspective, you’re not effectively selling anything. So having someone who is looking out for that end user perspective as we build out the program for North America and in the future is invaluable.
That’s actually really interesting, that perspective, in that you’re on the inside, Jasmine is on the outside, in a way, end user, and Constance is everywhere, because she’s observability; she observes it all.
I do observe it all. That’s correct.
Okay. So I know that Stephen is Caesar of Systems, and I think that’s self-proclaimed… But what about you, Constance? Do you have a tagline like that? That was very catchy, Stephen. Great job if it was you. If it was someone else, great job to someone else.
Yeah, definitely me. [laughs]
[12:02] I don’t necessarily have a tagline, but for people who know me, I always have questions… And I guess it kind of goes with observability. Observability is all about answering the questions you have, and I just ask a lot of questions. So I guess that maybe I’ll be the question master. Yeah, I’ll go with that.
The riddler! [laughs]
Oh, the riddler… [laughs]
Right. So you should be asking the questions, not me… Right? Is that what you’re trying to say?
No, it’s more of like my role is right now Splunk – I switched to a product, but I’m always the person being like “Hey, so for our end users, why are we doing that?” How does that actually impact them? And I apply that also to open telemetry. So I’m always the person asking “But why? Okay, but why?” Kind of like a toddler; everyone knows a three-year-old is like “But why? But how? Really? Do we need to do this?” So I’m the 20 questions person.
Okay. So is there a Why question regarding this KubeCon, the EU KubeCon - is there a Why question that is on your mind, that wasn’t the answer yet?
I haven’t thought about that that much. Personally, both Stephen and I have had a lot of big changes these past few weeks and few months. I had to be in Canada for a family emergency, and I just came back from Canada and moved to a new house, so I’ve been kind of just compartmentalizing… But it’s the task at the moment, so I haven’t had a chance to actually reflect on KubeCon EU much. That’s gonna be something I’m gonna unfold in the next few weeks as things calm down.
Okay. The one thing which I was wondering about KubeCon - there are many, many… Like, what you’ve just mentioned, for example, I wouldn’t have known. You compartmentalized really, really well. If that’s a compliment, I’m giving it as such. It’s really hard, especially in this day and age; everything is changing so much, and things are just happening… They’re just happening, literally. We just have to respond in one way or the other.
Speaking of changes on compartmentalizing, I was looking at your Twitter, Stephen, about your clothes shopping. That was really interesting. Like “Finally, I’m getting to do this. I’m going to shop for some clothes”, right? I think there’s like a really good story there. For those that want to check it out, it’s all on your Twitter. I really appreciate those little real-life things… And sometimes you forget, right? You have KubeCon, and you have work, and you have all these million things happening and you need to catch up on, and then “Oh. Clothes. I need some of those.”
Clothes! Yeah. I am part of our co-chair of the unofficial one of the cool SIGs, SIG Fashion. SIGs are Special Interest Groups. I think what we’ve done with the in-person events is while they haven’t been like official events, we try to have fun with it, so there’s like SIG Bike, and folks that are into biking will bring their bikes to an event and get together and go on a ride. There’s SIG Bouldering, people will do bouldering events there… There’s SIG Beards, so people with awesome beards will get together and take pictures, and stuff.
I think part of bringing your entire self to the conference is expression, and part of how I express myself is by how I dress. So as we were getting ready to get this started, I realized “We’ve done so many of these events”, and at this point I was like “I think they’ve seen all my cool stuff. I have to go shopping.” So it was panic-shopping.
I think often the adrenaline of deadlines allows you to do things more effectively, even though it’s not necessarily the best way to do things. So knowing that KubeCon was coming up, and I was like “I have no new clothes for the stage. I have to go shopping.” [laughs]
[15:59] That was a good one. And Constance was paying attention, because she knew that you’re missing a hat. So maybe that’s how the idea came about? Like “Hm… He bought everything except the hat. I’ll make you a hat you cannot buy.” And this is exactly what happened.
Oh, we were churning on the tinfoil hat idea for a while prior to doing the promo video and everything… So we had that in preparation, we were just figuring out how to do it.
I think it was the week that the promo video – the idea started coming out was like the week that conference talks were accepted, so there was a lot of chatter and a lot of misinformation out there about how talks were selected, and that kind of inspired us to do the promo videos a little bit. And those all relate to world news. Right now misinformation is massive in all aspects of life, and at KubeCon as well, which really isn’t surprising. So that kind of inspired us to play on that narrative, make it a little bit more playful so people can think a little bit more about how they get their information… In an indirect way, but…
Yeah, that was appreciated in so many ways. I think it’s going to lead to so many other things, this idea. You take – I wouldn’t say a negative, but something that could be a negative, turn it into a positive, a playful positive, and then it leads to many other positive things. So that was really nice.
Yeah. One thing I do wanna say is a lot of people did have very negative experiences. I personally had some negative experience, like in feedback, and it happened – a lot of people who were big program chairs, and track chairs. We’ve said this many times, but they spend hours, up to hundreds of hours reviewing the talks and trying to give us feedback, so that we can curate it more and come and come up with a final selection… And that is thankless work. So thank you.
It’s tedious to read… It’s tedious because you’re just seeing conference talk after conference talk, and you’re trying to identify what’s different, and what’s unique, and trying to think about what people wanna see, and it’s a really hard place to put yourself in, so thank you. Also, thank you to everyone who submitted CFPs. Thank you. People do review them, and we appreciate it. We really do.
One of the hardest part outside of the volume of talks that we have to review, it’s also like – there are external factors to look at. It’s like, time of day, what’s going on with your family, how is work going? All these things outside of just trying to understand the technical content and the story that someone’s trying to tell. Those are definitely at play in the review process. And even reviewing a talk that looks similar to another one that you’ve seen, but the first one you saw first, right? So by default, you kind of have this feeling about it. So I think it’s important – we go through the process and we kind of look at the talks that are also similar and go “Okay, just because we saw this one first doesn’t mean it’s the better one. What are the actual strengths between these two?”
I think when we have duplication of content, finding ways to put folks together in a room, maybe it’s combining efforts with talks, maybe it is moving something to a different track and asking them to tweak the talk in the lens of that track… I think that observability is definitely a great example. I think customizing it and extending Kubernetes where you get lots of interesting takes… You’ve also got this end user play, where “How does this talk affect an end user?”
[19:45] The 101 track is another great example, where we have a talk that the way that the story is told fits very nicely for someone who is just getting started with this type of content. And then maybe the talk that looks similar is more intermediate-advanced content that may belong on, say, the observability track, or the customizing/extending track. It’s definitely a balance for all of the reviewers to provide really thoughtful feedback, and we do heavily depend on that feedback to structure the program. So like Constance said, thank you again for everyone who gets involved in the review process.
I think there’s a lot of nuance here that people just wouldn’t think about. This must take a really long time… And not just that, a lot of mental effort. And to be honest, I still can’t appreciate it, because I don’t know what is the volume; how many talks do you have to go through? How many discussions, how many hours do you end up discussing? And when you look at the end result, you think “Oh, just a hundred talks. No big deal.” But it is a very big deal. A very big deal, right?
I think the answer to any good, hard problem is “It depends.” It depends for KubeCon. Day by day, some of the stuff that we see ahead of time, some of the stuff that trickles in towards the end… What’s also interesting about it is for our program - how many talks were we at for the official program, Constance? A hundred and change, right?
It was 90-something.
Yeah, somewhere around 90 to 120 mark. And we had to cut…
To give a point of reference, for EU 2021 we accepted out of the 900, 100talks. And there was a maintainers track session that was separate. In EU 2020, which we expected to be in person, we accepted over 200. So that’s also part of why that shock was huge in terms of – we had send more rejections, because we were trying to make the schedule a lot smaller, so it could be more digestible for virtual. We didn’t do that for 2020, because when Vicky and I were choosing the talks… Vicky and I met in person to choose the talks back in January 2020, so no one knew about – or not no one knew about, but Covid didn’t seem real at that point. So that was a huge cut.
And for North America 2020 we accepted like 150, 160 maybe. That was I think out of 1,000 talks, but for in-person North America. In-person North America 2019 I don’t know what the numbers are, but more talks were accepted than EU, so probably like 300 talks maybe. We had to cut a lot of accepted talks because of the virtual component.
If you are going to submit a talk, what would you like to say to those that submit the talk, Constance and Stephen, for North America?
One, thank you. We know it’s really hard to put yourself out there. I think the one thing that usually ends up for me making things distinct from one talk over the other is clearly don’t say like “I’m gonna tell you five benefits.” Give me a hint, like “Hey, I have five benefits, and the first one is something different.” Make sure you position yourself a little differently from other talks.
[23:52] We do face this – now that KubeCon’s been going on for so long, especially when it comes to Kubernetes deployment, like “Hey, I deployed Kubernetes at my company.” Those are valuable stories, but we’ve heard a lot of those. So if there isn’t a lot of differentiation between all those previous talks, that might be a better blog post, because a blog post is a little bit more easy to digest.
So maybe think about like “Hey, I’m deploying Kubernetes at my company, and we have this ridiculous scale. Or we have this ridiculous requirement that’s really unique.” Calling that out, about why your problem is different than something else really highlights it.
Yeah, I think my big suggestion would be – I think a lot of making decisions is about understanding the different lenses of the people that are involved in decisions, as well as the personas that might be involved in the results of your decision.
I would say as you’re writing your abstracts - this is one of my favorite questions to ask, is “Would you want to go to your talk?” If you can’t answer that, then there’s something that you probably would want to tweak.
What about those that say “I have to go to my talk, because my company would force me to, to attend all the talks for my company.”
If you were not you, would you go to your talk? If you had no obligation to go to your talk, would you do it? Is there something valuable in that talk to take away? Would you go to it?
I guess the second suggestion would be don’t make this decision in a vacuum. You usually have people that you can bounce your talk ideas off of. You have experienced reviewers that frequently, as KubeCon is happening, or CFPs are rolling around, people will tweet like “Hey, if you need a review for your proposal, feel free. I’m happy to give advice.” So don’t not take advantage of those opportunities, and definitely shop your ideas around, because that is usually where we see the best ones.
So let me see if I understood this correctly. Let’s imagine that I’m submitting a talk. This comes out 17th of May, this will be live; you’ll have six days to submit a talk. 23rd of May is the last day that you can submit a talk for KubeCon North America.
If I was to submit a talk, based on what you said, this is what I understand. First of all, start with the takeaways; what are the main takeaways? And don’t say they will be five. Say what they are. Be explicit about them. And when you put them like that, before you submit, think “If you weren’t you, would you go and attend that talk? Are those takeaways that you’ve listed valuable enough, if you weren’t you, to go and attend the talk?” Is that a good summary?
There is one thing too - a lot of talks are actually a blog post, because there’s a lot of things I maybe wanna learn from people, but it’s really hard for me to – at least for myself, how I learn is I can’t consume things well in a talk, because they’re sharing snippets of code, and they’re running these things there, and it’s really hard to follow. So a lot of talks I actually wish they were either blogs, or they had the accompanying blogs detailing exactly what they did.
At least for myself, whenever I’m searching for some problem-solving, if I have to watch a video, I don’t process it really well, so that’s where I wish people wrote more blogs. But also, I understand that it’s incredibly difficult to write blogs, and I hate doing it whenever I have to do it, so I get why people don’t.
Well, I think it’s playing to your strengths, too. To your point, everyone learns a little differently. We take SIG meetings, for example - like, I will not go back and view a recording. It needs to be something that I’m building for evidence, that will force me to go back and look for a recording. I don’t like learning that way. I would prefer to see a digest, or something… There are some people who can easily churn out blogs. There are some people who are terrified of being on-stage.
[27:56] Figuring out how to play to your strengths… You know, some of the talks that we saw around kind of like playing with the borders of delivering a talk, because it was now virtual, like you just had more opportunity… People who have video editing experience went crazy with it for a few of the talks. I think both Tabby and Ellen’s talk this time around and Justin Garrison’s talk for NA were just brilliant examples of tearing down the borders of what it means to just give a talk to an audience. They played with it, and I liked that.
That’s right. It’s like a whole new world when you record yourself. Props. Sure. So easy, right? Do it again. It doesn’t have to be the first time. Refine it. Give maybe an internal talk and see what people think, and then do it again. So it doesn’t have to be the first time, right?
You have as many chances as you want. And the more work you put in… That’s the one thing that you cannot skip - the more work that you put in it, the better it will be.
It shows. It always shows.
I remember my last talk that I gave was at NA in 2018, and it was the second time I gave that talk. I had internally done it, and I am so upset with myself, because in the next three months after I gave that talk, I gave it again somewhere else, but I finally found a way to make things a little more clear, and I’m like “I wish I was ready for this at KubeCon North America.” But then it was just a forcing function of doing that presentation, feeling like “Oh, I didn’t see people laugh” or I didn’t see people like… people had this like “do I”… but like “I don’t get that.” I was like, “Okay, I need to refine that.” Until you get that feedback, you don’t really know how to iterate on it, so… There is a good forcing function for practicing it.
I think internal demos – like, you give a talk internally, in your company, you see how many people show up, see what they say, and if they don’t like it very much, maybe take the hint. Improve, or drop it. That’s another way, right?
Yeah. I’ve noticed that if people are giving a talk, it’s usually because there’s something that needs sharing, and usually it is probably the right time to share. One thing that’s hard about talks is that it’s 20-30 minutes of you just there, sitting, and you’re absorbing information. And if you don’t have a way – especially if you don’t have a way to interact with the data, it’s hard to process it. So that’s sometimes why things might flop, and some things may be better as a workshop, or tutorial versus a talk. The information you’re trying to present - you have to think about different ways to interact with it.
Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be a talk, as Stephen says. Write a blog post. That’s okay. It’s no less difficult or better or worse than a talk. it’s just a different format. People love it.
Hop on a podcast, hop on a Twitch stream. Talk about your idea. Show me your repo. Do the work in the way that you feel comfortable, first and foremost. Do the work in a way that you feel you’re gonna be most effective, and it’s gonna highlight your strengths.
We put on a conference, but it doesn’t have to be a talk. Opportunities to play with it, things like the bug bash was a great example of getting people together and just – we’re hacking on stuff. We’re hacking, and maybe that’s your best way of highlighting your strengths. Like “Let’s get into the code, let’s see what’s going on. Let’s just get it going.”
So yeah, I think taking time to assess what your strengths are and how to display them is really, really important.
I think that we kind of forget that there’s an element of tech fame, of having your talk accepted, and presenting yourself out there, but that’s one element of being recognized. And granted, recognition and appreciation is incredibly important. I know I thrive on it, and I’m sure for a lot of people that’s their source of validation… But I know so many people who are amazing contributors to the project, and public speaking or doing this presentation is horrible, but the way that they disseminate information is like being active in maintainer sessions, and within their smaller groups, responding to issues.
[32:06] So this is one way to be recognized in the community… And maybe you do get a little larger audience. The individuals who don’t like this venue of communicating and interacting with the larger community - they’re doing a lot of hard work in terms of responding to issues and being involved there, and that’s super-important. I guess we need to find a way to do more highlighting those people, too. We need to figure that out…
That’s a very good point.
…because that also might make the project important, like really successful… The people who are responding to issues, joining those meetings… “Hey, let’s go over this design doc and talk about it.” And they’re not necessarily gonna wanna do a talk. I realized for myself it could take me up to 100 hours, three workweeks to come up with a slide deck and a first draft of the presentation I’ll do.
That’s a lot of emotional energy. So for others, they might not necessarily have that bandwidth, because they invest it into other things that they find valuable. There’s other ways to be tech-famous, it’s just that this is maybe a more obvious way.
Yeah, I think part of it, too – that hundred hours… I think the hundred hours is spent, for me at least, panicking and not necessarily doing anything useful. I usually want to have a conversation with you. My talks tend to be more of a discussion with people than delivering any one piece of content.
If you saw the Kubernetes keynote updates, or anything that happened last KubeCon, there were no slides. I just spoke to you. So yeah, I think, again, figuring out what works for you, and playing to those strengths.
I think that takes special talent. Very few people can pull that off. If you don’t have slides, very few people can pull that off. I know a few, and yes, I would agree with what you’ve just said, Stephen. You’re one of them.
Is there anything specific that you’re looking forward to in the next KubeCon? Is there a specific element that you’re looking forward to, whatever that may be?
Yeah, it really is the – so those listening, you can’t see the hands and stuff, but Constance was trying to shake my hand. I have not met Constance in person.
High five. There we go. Virtual high fives all around. That just happened.
I’ve not met Constance in person, I have not had the opportunity to take the keynote stage since I have been chair. Again, my favorite part - I say this in pretty much every interview - of any conference is the hallway track… And we’re actively working to do more to make it feel like you’re in the hallway virtually, but being able to see the maintainers that I work with all year round in person, even if it’s the six feet apart, wave from across the hall… I think that’s what I’m looking forward to.
So for those that have never been to KubeCon, what is the hallway track, Constance?
So hallway track - it ends up happening where you maybe go to a talk and you see someone ask a question to a speaker, and I thought that person asked a good question, and I go to the person and I’m like “Hey, that question was really good. I was wondering, that kind of relates to my problem.” I’ve seen so many people who end up taking pen and paper in the hallway and being like “Okay, well I was doing this thing here”, and they’re like debugging things together, and they talk about it, and you end up becoming friends with these people.
So a hallway track is pretty much just meeting other people who have similar interests – or not even similar interests, because there are some other happy hours where it’s just like everyone’s together, and you just talk to people… But you end up getting to make friends and getting to know people who are in the broader community, and you get to meet them. You just get to hang out, and then – I’m just getting so excited about the prospect of hanging out with people in person.
I only got my first vaccine on Sunday. I’m in the States – I was in Canada, [unintelligible 00:37:25.18] I can count how many weeks away it is where I could be maybe in a crowd of people… It’s so exciting to think about it. But we did try to replicate this… So if things unfortunately take a turn and it goes to virtual-only, we do have hallway track Zooms. It’s a little bit inorganic at first, because you get to be placed in breakout rooms, but then you have an opportunity to meet a group of people that you never would have met before… And that is really fun.
I’ve met someone who was actually interested in OpenTelemetry. “Let’s talk about it.” We spent like two hours talking about OpenTelemetry. Or people who are like – someone goes climbing, or cycling… So you get to meet people with similar interests. It’s fun.
Yeah, I think it’s definitely like extracting the – they joke around, like “Oh, I’ve always imagined you as a tiny square on Slack, or GitHub.” Often, the way that we interact with people is mostly through their contributions, asking and answering questions about things that are happening on our projects, but there is a transactional element of doing that, which is entirely different when you get to meet in person, because you get more of an opportunity to – like, you’re not at the computer… You get to have the opportunity to talk about the self that exists outside of the open source community or outside of their day-to-day work.
As we head back into this, I would remind folks of the PacMan rule… Depending on how close we’re allowed to be at that point. So the PacMan rule is a fun one; if anyone has played PacMan or seen what PacMan looks like in the past - imagine a pizza with one of the slices removed. That’s kind of like the image of PacMan. And what the PacMan rule is about is essentially like when you group up, when you start bunching up into – because this is essentially what’ll happen in the hallway… A bunch of folks that know each other will group up into a circle, and start having a conversation. And what I would say is follow the PacMan rule, let the circle be PacMan-shaped. Because when you let the circle be PacMan-shaped, it allows someone new to come into the conversation. And then they expand the circle wider and wider, and you start bringing in different perspectives… You maybe get an opportunity to talk to a new contributor, someone who hasn’t gotten involved in things yet.
I think we’re all human, but definitely for me, I have a bunch of heroes in this community, and you could be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with one of your heroes… So give them an opportunity to have that experience and to have conversations.
[40:20] That’s a very good one. This is the first time I’ve heard that. That’s really good. And what I would add to that is if the circle gets so big that you can’t talk anymore, that’s your limit, right? That’s your limit. Stop expanding it. You can’t talk.
I think that one of the fun things that ended up happening in – it was Barcelona. Barcelona, there was a giant swarm party, and I think there was a DJ that they hired for the party… And I think people were kind of grouped up in their own groups… And we noticed that there weren’t that many people dancing. As we were chatting, our group was kind of out on the floor, and we were like “There’s no one dancing. This is a party. We need to start dancing”, and it kind of started off as a circle of maybe four, five folks, and turned into a very large circle of maybe 20 folks by the end of it. So I would say your circle can get as big as it needs to get, for the space that it allows.
One thing - if a new person joins the group, someone in the circle should be like “Hey, new person, what’s your name?” and actually give them an opportunity to introduce themselves. I’m actually pretty shy in new group situations, and I was always eventually going to be like “Hi.” But if someone’s just like “Hey, who are you? Nice to meet you.” So you have an opportunity to introduce yourself and feel a little more easy to say hi and join the group.
Yeah. I think that when we’ll meet first, we’ll be so crazed by that moment that we won’t know what to do. We’re gonna be like “Whoa!! What is this happening?!” I think there’s certain rules which we need to reiterate; it’s very important that we start with them, because… We forget. It’s all Zoom, it’s all whatever else it is, online chatting, and then when we get in-person, when we bring the human element, which I think everybody is looking forward to… That question is almost obvious. The answer is it will be in-person; everyone will be looking forward to that. The in-person element, the human element. And then there will be certain rules which we’ll need to remind ourselves of how it works, first of all. [laughter] And second of all, how to make it work in the new world. So the combination.
Is there anything specific that you wanna discuss in the last 15 minutes? Anything that you want to get out there… So now you get to take the reins, if you wish.
Go on, Constance. Anything. Go for it.
So one thing from the keynotes… [unintelligible 00:42:47.17] talk was amazing, and also important for the community. And one thing I do wanna (I guess) call out is a sense of ownership. People were asking “Oh, I hope they can do a follow-up talk again”, and I wanna keep on hearing from them, but I also want this to be a call-to-action to the community… It isn’t you know, Eva and Bob’s responsibility to give us updates. It’s actually like – this is a really good time for us to pull from them. Don’t let them push the information, let’s pull the information from them. They’re a part of big groups that are doing this effort, and they’re posting updates, and there’s a lot of ways to engage with them directly… Especially for [unintelligible 00:43:23.02] because there was such a strong reaction in the keynotes Slack channel; but it’s like, they don’t have to give us the updates, we can get the updates ourselves and be more involved.
This also applies to other projects, too. Everyone, all these projects, and SIGs, and working groups [unintelligible 00:43:40.03] all these places have mechanisms for being involved and pulling information from them. So it’s more a call-to-action for everyone to be more of an active participant instead of a passive participant. If you’re curious about something, pull that information; get it yourself.
[43:57] I guess it’s like Eva and Bob did an amazing job, but it shouldn’t be their responsibility to always update us. We should be active participants, getting all this information and making sure that we’re being healthy community members.
How can people pull this information?
So very specifically for their talk, something that Eva mentioned that is worth repeating - the responsibility for gaining information, especially as we’re talking through and thinking through and having discussions about diversity, about equity, about inclusion in these communities, it’s not our job to teach everyone everything. It is your job to care enough to do that work yourself.
With regards to that talk specifically, github.com/community will give you everything that you need to know about the Kubernetes community, a walkthrough on governance structure, all the various SIGs, working groups, subprojects that are within the community, as well as links out to information on the Kubernetes Steering Committee, as well as the Code of Conduct Committee.
I think for talks in general - we were going over this just yesterday, but it will be many more days since yesterday when you hear this… But we were going over kind of like the composition of talks, the expectation for content… It is not possible for us to give you all of the information that you need. I think that in any KubeCon that you go to, in any conference that you go to really, it should generate questions for you; hopefully it generates questions for you, hopefully it generates interest for you, to want to go and discover more about that particular topic. I think that there is a component of being kind to the people who are delivering this content as well. Very often you will see things on the internet where folks will go “Oh, well I was expecting X, Y and Z from this talk, because blah-blah-blah, and this is the thing that I care about.” The thing that you care about is not necessarily the thing that the speaker cares about, or not necessarily the audience that the speaker is trying to speak to. So be kind when you think through content that you’re receiving.
The content that is delivered on stage, virtually, what have you, is the sum total of hours and hours of dedication, conversations with multiple people, decades of experience often. So try to figure out how that content can be useful to you, but try to do it in constructive manner. I think that there is always a way to ask questions that can be effective and useful to both parties, to try to think of ways to do that.
When we say [unintelligible 00:46:57.20] Pull information from the committees that they represent, from the communities that they represent. I’m pretty sure that’s what Constance meant.
That’s exactly it, yeah.
I think it’s worth clarifying that point. Do not reach out to them necessarily. They can be your ingress point to these communities, but do your own due diligence to get this information. The information is out there because we have put it out there, because someone has asked that question before. You are usually not the first person to ask the question, and I think that a lot of the communities in the open source space do tremendous work to try to answer questions that have been asked before, and put them in places that are visible.
I will get us the links… Because you meant github.com/kubernetes/ community, right?
Yup. In the show notes. Great.
[48:01] So what I understand from what Stephen said - and you, Constance, as well - is that the content and the experience that is KubeCon, you pay for your ticket, but that doesn’t give you the right to behave like an ***** It’s a gift. It’s a privilege.
Nothing does. Nothing gives you that right.
Exactly. It’s a gift. Everything that you receive, everything that you learn, all the conversations - they are a gift; treat them as such. If you don’t like it, say “Thank you” and be polite, even if you don’t like it. That’s what you do when you get a gift. So if you think about them like that, then maybe you’ll feel less privilege in that you’re owed something. You’re not owed anything.
And I think there’s for sure a flipside to that, where we’re not standing from on high giving gifts out, necessarily. I think that we always want feedback; there are official venues to provide feedback - there are talk surveys, there are conference surveys, there are transparency reports that come out at the end of conferences to give you more of a clue of the composition of the conference and how people felt it went, and stuff… So if you have feedback, make it constructive, put it through official channels.
I think that a lot of the things that we often see - we’re on Twitter, we’re on the internet, and sometimes it’s easy to get wrapped up in conversations that fall out of the official channels, and people will often have expectations of these conversations, but not realize that because you didn’t put it through an official channel, the people who have the ability to change these things - you didn’t give them the feedback. So that feedback that you thought was effective for whatever it’s worth, it doesn’t reach the people that you need to to change it.
And if you don’t know how to give feedback, I’m pretty sure this is answered in the community guide on how to give constructive, positive feedback, right?
We have speaker guides, we have conference guides, we have a code of conduct for the conference…
I’ve tweeted about it. We’ve tweeted about how to give constructive feedback, yeah. But you can actually also search “Constructive feedback”, there’s a lot of different ways to do it. There’s a lot of training on it.
So there’s that as well. Okay. So be kind. This is something that keeps showing up, and maybe don’t take things too seriously, right? People do make mistakes sometimes, and it’s not meant to hurt you in any way, right? It just happens, so don’t take it too seriously. If you didn’t like it, don’t be a jerk, or whatever the other equivalent is. Be nice, be kind.
Yeah. I think there’s something to add to that, too… People will make mistakes, and sometimes you’ll accidentally be a jerk. And it’s not okay, but the thing to do is to own it. Apologize [unintelligible 00:51:00.10] Don’t just ignore it, because then it’s not actually addressing it, and ignoring the problem is actually a part of the problem… But if you address it, like “Hey, I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I offended you, and that wasn’t my intent.” Rectify the situation, because that does build trust and makes them feel better.
And I think there’s a kind of aphorism that people agree and disagree with, which is “Assume good intent.” And it’s tricky, because when you walk into situations, there’s of course a balance. I think that in the open source space you wanna be good, and kind, and true, and assume that people are operating in the best intentions of the community. At the same time, the flipside of that is you’re often requesting that from people who have been historically marginalized and under-represented, so when you ask them to assume good intent from people who have not historically given/had good intentions for them, you’re asking them to self-harm, essentially.
[52:22] So I think that there is, for sure, a balance of having thoughtful discussions, and again, doing the work to be thoughtful in your communication to people. I guarantee you, anytime I see – there are quite a few communities within the cloud-native space that I work on, across Kubernetes, across KubeCon, for the Technical Advisor Group, for Contributor Strategy, for Inclusive Naming Initiative, all these places; if I see you potentially causing harm to one of the contributors that I work with, I will say something about it. Every time. I will call you out.
I think everybody should do that. It shouldn’t be just Stephen. It’s all of us, right? It’s the community that we build.
We are responsible.
We know it’s hard - certain degrees of hard, but it’s hard… But it’s worth it. It’s worth it to be kind, it’s worth it to be nice; it’s worth to actually invest in this… Because it is ours. KubeCon is all of ours, so what do we want it to be? Well, it happens to be my favorite conference out of all the conference, and that doesn’t just happen… And it’s not just a group of people that made it happen, it’s everybody. Literally, everybody. So if you’re a participant, if it’s your first time, if you’ve been at every single KubeCon - it doesn’t really matter; it doesn’t change anything.
You’re part of it. You’re part of team CloudNative. I think that the second you decide that you want to attend, the second you stare at a GitHub repo, the second you join a mailing list for one of these projects, you’re part of it. We do this for you, and we can’t do this without you. So bring your best self to this.
I also think too, KubeCon became so big because the community is great, and because we keep on reflecting on what our standards and our commitment is to the community, and trying to improve ourselves, and we don’t stay stagnant. And that’s why these conferences are so large, it’s because we do try to make it inclusive, and we try to hold ourselves accountable and try to grow and learn. Once we stop doing that, it will no longer be the community that many of us love.
So a PSA on that that I think is important to hear as we prepare for hopefully more people to start doing in-person things again - and I mention this because it’s very important right this second, because I’ve seen it happen… These projects, these communities, these events are held by a code of conduct, often multiple codes of conduct. Conduct yourself appropriately if you are attending one of these events. These events are not dating events, you do not have the permission or the right to make someone feel uncomfortable in these spaces, and if we find out about it, we will act on it. That is not invited behavior in our communities.
Thank you, Stephen, thank you, Constance. This was like – if you’ve made it to the end, you got all the good parts; and if you’ve made it this far, rewind ten minutes and listen again, because that was the best part of this interview; it’s really powerful. We have to acknowledge the negative parts, because they’re there; we can’t just gloss over them. There’s also positive there. Choose whatever you wanna focus on, but don’t ignore the bad bits. Manage them.
You can’t ignore it.
When you decide to ignore, that makes you culpable.
That’s the beginning. Who knows what the end will be, but don’t get there. Just catch it early.
I know I’ve had horrible experiences in tech, and I will say, one thing that made me wanna keep on staying was this community. And if it’s to ever resemble some of my previous bad experiences in tech, I would just be like “This isn’t worth it for me.” So I am very proud of this community for holding ourselves to higher standards than what the baseline is for tech. Because baseline for tech, honestly, is abysmal. We can do much better, and CNCF is thankfully – the projects are doing much better than that, and I want us to keep on growing, because we still have a long ways to go.
So first of all, you mentioned about tech and how abysmal things are in tech, Constance. And you’re right. We all have different perspectives. The under-represented groups have it the worst, and most of you have no idea what it’s like. It can get really bad. And I think I’m finally - after years and years - starting to understand what is special about the cloud-native landscape and the CNCF. It’s not even like the effort; it’s this attitude that people have, and it’s this community that’s coming together. And it doesn’t matter what happens, all the ideas coming together, all the good stuff coming out of it, it’s the people that have this attitude which is very positive, which is very inclusive, and it’s this strength that drives everything else. That’s why people commit to it, and do amazing things within it, because they can thrive. So all we’re doing is creating this place where people can thrive, they can feel safe, they can feel creative, and the sky is the limit, really. There’s nothing you can’t do. Well, I say that; there are things you can’t do, and you shouldn’t do… [laughter]
There are limits, for sure. But I think that getting cert’ed in the cloud-native space, I definitely was very excited, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, and excited about learning the technology… I don’t really care about the technology as much anymore. I spend a lot less time on the command line these days, I spend a lot more time especially in the new role, talking to people. I think that we’re building a people system, or we’re building a set of people systems… And every time I have a chat with someone who is just getting started, or is stuck on something, or maybe we catch up after a year of them being involved… That’s what gives me the energy to keep doing it.
Because seeing us create a space where, like you said, people can thrive and learn and grow, and then how – you know, with any good technology, especially in our space, it’s like “How do we make it distributed? How do we scale it?” So it’s beyond that, and this is a great example. I can’t necessarily have this one-to-one conversation with everyone who might be listening to this later. But having opportunities to make something that is scalable… You know, how do I give a lesson to someone, or how do I learn from someone in such a way that we’re gonna be able to replicate that with someone else, with a group of people, with a set of projects, with multiple areas of the tech industry? It’s like, how do we continue scaling the good work that we’re doing?
This is too good. I had too much fun. I’m not sure whether it’s safe to have this much fun on a Friday, but this made it the best part of the day for me, so thank you.
Yeah, this was great. Thank you!
Thank you. This was the best conversation I had all week, so thank you.
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