AYB14 – some post conference thoughts

I went to the All Your Base conference on Friday. I find thatĀ  it is a friendly conference and on that deals with issues that I am interested in. There are two themes this year that jumped out at me:

1. Open Data

2. Hardware and performance

Jeni Tennison from the Open Data Institute opened the conference with a keynote on Open Data. Using the Reformation as the gateway to opening the knowledge of the Bible, she put forward a powerful argument about the same happening now but with data. Open Data gives us the ability to check and record the provenance of data sets and allows the user to re-interpret the data. However she did bring up the point that we need to develop skills in critical thinking about data. As well as talking about government and philanthropic data, she mentioned midata, the personal data that we all have from DNA onwards. This is an area where I think quite of lot of work needs to be done in terms of privacy and ownership.

Yodit Stanton, of OpenSensors.io, gave a great talk about using sensor data and chat systems for the Internet of Things (IoT). Predictably one of the questions was about the security of IoT, an unresolved issue at present as far as I can tell, but some of the ideas that she presented are interesting and might have other uses.

Ian Plosker’s talk was ostensibly about Orchestrate.io but due to time, we didn’t get to that bit. Instead he gave a more interesting talk about the history of database systems with some reference to file systems and their evolution from the loom to the cloud. His argument was that the current state of database systems rest on out dated ideas and not designed for the cloud. This became a theme as Alistair Hann from Skyscanner talked about the realities of this in scaling the Skyscanner architecture and moving it into the cloud and getting changes in performance between bare metal and virtual systems. Cloud brings a different set of issues and more so if the cloud is commercial.

David Mytton of Server Density talked about the need to test and monitor systems to keep them running. Essentially the message was ‘design for failure’ which would appear to be fairly salutary. Laura ThompsonĀ  of Mozilla talked about her experiences with a refreshing wryness that nearly had me in tears of laughter. I really don’t think that I can do justice to the talk and can only suggest that the video (I hope it was recorded!) is watched. Again it was a monitor and test everything style talk but with practical examples and stories taken from a reality that most engineers will recognise.

Ola Gasidilo’s talk about Hoodie and its use of PouchDB and CouchDB got me interested again in trying Pouch. I vaguely recall it being talked about at the very first AYB conference but might be mistaken. Again it touched on knowing the underlying platform and coding to its best advantages.

Monty Widenius rounded the day off by talking about MariaDB and its forthcoming versions and features.

So data and hardware / performance. It is always welcome to hear stories and issues brought about via these issues but equally sites like HighScalability and the ODI and Open Knowledge are talking about them and practical ways of approaching the problems.

So would I go again? I’ve been to each one so far but I’ll take it on what the talks are for next year.