Getting The Most Out Of The MySQL Conference

Posted by Artem Russakovskii on March 26th, 2008 in Databases, Personal

As half of the world population already knows, the MySQL conference is coming in less than 3 weeks. Since this event only happens once a year, lasts only 4 days, and costs more than a Russian mail-order bride, I'd really like to get the most out of it. Considering that the schedule is completely packed, with 8 (!!) events going on in parallel, I imagine things can get a little frantic. Additionally, I've never been to a conference of such size before and I'm not sure what to expect.

So… I'm contemplating:

  • printing out the event schedule and drawing a zig-zagging "map" of exactly where I'll be jumping to next, once the previous presentation ends. I'm actually wondering if I'll need to figure out where all the events are located exactly in advance. How big is that place? Did Google invent in-building walking maps yet? Do people normally jump from one presentation to another parallel one or is that unheard of?
  • bringing a laptop to take notes. I find it that my brain tends to retain mostly the general ideas for a good period of time. Code details and specifics tend to flush a lot sooner. Keeping notes (and publishing them online) is the best way to retain all this tasty information. Learn it and starting doing it, don't be lazy. For my note taking application, I actually prefer Microsoft (:gasp:) OneNote. It keeps things organized and has a coupe of neat tricks up its sleeve, like built-in OCR, Win-S shortcut for a quick area-defined screenshot, integration with Outlook, audio note-taking. Aha!..
  • recording audio at every presentation, is that allowed?
  • getting plenty of sleep the night before each conference day, as the amount of information is going to be simply crushing. I guess I'm going to have to postpone my 3am sessions until Friday or so.
  • bribing an organ thief to steal Peter Zaitsev's brain and replace it with a statistical computer chip capable of running 17 billion MySQL benchmarks a second. Nobody is going to notice the difference anyway.

Do you have any tips? How do YOU handle conferences? Please share in the comments.

● ● ●
Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer and blogger. Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.

  • The schedule with locations is in the program book and every day daily ones are printed out. There are about 10 rooms plus the expo hall, and basically there's one hallway that has 5 rooms down it, and another that has the other 5 rooms. They're not far apart.

    As for the audio recordings, they're not only allowed, but they've been done in the past. In fact, last year I not only did video, but compiled a page with all the recordings and slides I knew about at http://technocation.org/content/2007-mysql-user-conference-and-expo-presentations-and-videos

  • Planning ahead is a good strategy. There will be enough time to make it between the rooms.

    Forget about getting much sleep tho πŸ™‚ You will find yourself hanging out with folks for dinner, for a beer or two and go into further discussions.

  • Wow, Sheeri, that's quite impressive. You'd be priceless if you could do it this time too. Re-watching the videos, seeing all the speakers again, and having access to the information would be invaluable.

  • I also recorded everything I went to last year. There should be several people recording. If you do it, it would be great if you could share too. I urged MySQL to plan to video-record and YouTube every session this year, but I haven't followed up on that — I doubt they will.

    It's hard to balance sleep and the chance to learn from all these people. I'm not sure I have the art myself.

  • Sleep forget that, you have yet to realize the additional free events such as beer at the pool, the MySQL Quiz show again (I'd assume) and BoF's that can easily run to midnight are all outside of the "daily" schedule.

    I think PZ would notice the difference if you tried to replace his brain.

    Taking notes with a laptop is highly regarded, and reading http://www.planetmysql.org or the dedicate channel for the conference will enable you to review what is said in other parallel sessions generally.

  • Here's the floorplan of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara convention space:

    I'm sure there will be a map in the conference bag too.

    This year the conference schedule has a nifty AJAX interface to note which presentations you want to see. View the schedule, and click the star icons in the sessions you want to see. Then click on "Personal Schedule" to get chronological list of where you should be during every timeslot.

    You might have already figured this out, but hopefully this will help other readers too.

    I also downloaded the iCal version of the schedule (now that I'm one of the cool kids – I finally have a Macbook).

  • *Squint Eyes* You guys make me jealous. I don't have a sponsor or a Russian mail-order bride to spare.

  • Baron (Xaprb), I sure hope they will. And if not them, then everyone else, even if they have to use their laptop webcams. P.S. Congrats on Percona again.

    Kai, Ron, sweet @ beer! I'm going to work on installing additional brains for parallel processing of all information there at the same time.

    Bill, I didn't realize this because you have to have an OReilly login to customize the schedule. I guess I'll sign up for one, thanks for the tip.

    Thaya, at least you'll hopefully be able to listen to everything we record there (and see if there's video!).

  • Diego

    because you have to have an OReilly login to customize the schedule
    you can actually use openID if you have one.

  • Hello Artem,

    Glad to see you won your pass for the conference, it seems you're very self-motivated for it !

    About the tutorials session and the ajax interface on oreilly website, I've asked Jay Pipes about it, his advice is there :

    As you've already installed & worked around the cluster, perhaps can you try the cluster certification ? As you know there is a big discount on them at the conf… You have to be a DBA certified to validate the cluster exam, but for 25$/exam you can try both πŸ˜‰ (or pass the dba exams later…)


  • Matt Dunn

    A good rule I've found for conferences is to try and establish in advance which talks are the most practically relevant to what you might need to know. Avoid the temptation to go to events that, although interesting, bear little relevance to what you are trying to achieve. Try and spot speakers or other attendees who you know are in a similar area of database application and then follow them around – you may end up in useful talks that you would have otherwise missed. This method naturally falls down when people start following you.

    Unless you want to attract attention and ask questions, stay at the back so you can leave quietly if it turns out to be irrelevant or mind-numbingly dull.

    If you can, stay late and socialize. Sometimes you can learn more from 10 minutes over a drink than you can in a two day conference. But don’t drink too much and always take what you hear with a pinch of salt.

    Also try not to heckle or throw things at the speakers.