Wednesday Nov 26, 2008

On the road with the community

Notes of one week with MySQL community in US and France


I wanted to attend the first edition of the Open SQL Camp in Charlottesville, from November 14 to 16. For some mysterious reason, a four days plane ticket to any place in the US costs EUR 2,500, but if I stay 8 days, it costs EUR 800. Considering that I was in Frankfurt until November 8, the most sensible thing to do was flying to the US as early as possible and meet as many communities as I could. Among the ones I asked, Boston and New York answered enthusiastically, and then, serendipitously, I found an unexpected group in Baltimore, just before the last leg to Charlottesville.
I sent all groups a list of ten topics to choose from:
\* MySQL 5.1 features
\* Using MySQL partitions in practice
\* testing with MySQL Sandbox
\* MySQL Community How To
\* Recent community additions to MySQL code
\* Creative cross-language programming with MySQL
\* MySQL Proxy wizardry
\* advanced replications techniques
\* advanced Lua programming for MySQL Proxy
\* How to fake a list of ten with only nine topics

Boston MySQL meetup

The Boston user group has a clockwork organization. They were able to accommodate my request for a meeting quickly and efficiently. The meeting takes place in one of the MIT buildings, and a large load of pizza and soft drinks was delivered on the spot, so the meeting started with everybody happily fed.
The topic chosen by this group was MySQL Sandbox. The presentation lasted 50 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of discussion.

New York

MySQL meetup

The MySQL user group in New York is quite large. The venue for the meetings is a pub in South Manhattan that can accommodate 40 people comfortably seated, or 60 if there is standing audience.
The room was filled to capacity for the talk about MySQL Proxy. The participation was intense and widespread. We spent about 2.5 hours discussing the subject and related topics. There is much interest in the Proxy as a component for HA solutions.
Host of the evening was Philip Antoniades, who is widely known in the community.

PHP meetup

The second day in New York should have started with a presentation at Columbia University, which was postponed, and thus the ad hoc presentation made by Dups for this occasion will have to wait for another event.
Dups joined me in late morning. We had lunch with Ronald Bradford, and then spent the afternoon discussing the status of the community.
Dups presentation at the PHP group was a success. The room (the same as the previous day) was packed. The contents were very much appreciated and discussed afterwards for a few hours.
Philip did not attend, because (lame excuse!) his wife was delivering his second child, just while Dups was delivering his first presentation as Community Manager.

Baltimore MySQL meetup

Transfer to Baltimore using the Greyhound. We found out that the Amtrak train cost $400 for the ride, while the Greyhound was $70 for the two of us. The ride was very useful. It allowed us to discuss the community needs in more detail and to make plans for a MySQL Proxy extension that will deal with memcached transparently (or at least Dups says he will do it. We'll see how good his Lua skill will be in a while).
Some excitement came in the cab ride from the bus station to the hotel, when the cab driver got lost twice and had to ask for directions.
Fortunately, we paid a flat fee for the ride, and no damage was done. The host of the MySQL meetup is Greg Haase, who is known in the community as the author of a convincing use case for MySQL 5.1. He is also a supporter of MySQL Sandbox, for which he is creating some additional features.
The topic in Baltimore was MySQL Proxy, with a very passionate debate following, and I am happy to say that I was able to address all the concerns.
We ended the evening with a dinner at a popular restaurant, packed with very noisy football enthusiasts.
The locals were genuinely surprised - no, better, amazed! - that we came by bus, and we actually survived!

Charlottesville Open SQL Camp

Public transportation from Baltimore to Charlottesville was not an option, so we rented a car. While I drove, Dups interviewed me efficiently, and took notes about the wishes and needs of the community team. It resulted in a tentative plan for engaging the community in a better web environment. Stay tuned for news on this subject in the next weeks.


The initial day was about registration, introductions, and finalizing the schedule for the next day. The efficiency of the organization was impressive. Considering that Baron has done most of the work on his own, with little help from others is really commendable, and an example for who wants to organize something similar.
The schedule was hand made, quite useful, and fit for this kind of event.
There were about 60 attendees, out of 100 registered people. The level of the audience went from intermediate to advanced, with very few beginners.


The meat of the conference was on Saturday. The efficiency of Baron's organization (with some sponsors help) was evident with the huge breakfast provided to the attendees.
Th event was dominated by MySQL/Drizzle presence. Brian Aker's keynote on the ubiquity of open source databases caught everyone's attention.
Some of the sessions were very innovative (libdrizzle, with its evolutionary features and backward support for MySQL, is one of the breakthrough topics), others, like the PostgreSQL ones, were more traditional and down to earth.
The lightning talks were much appreciated.
After the normal sessions, there was planning for the hackfest on Sunday and an unplanned prize giving, when we awarded Baron with a T-shirt signed by all the participants.
The inner force behind the organization was Sheeri, who has organized the wiki, the donation page, a legal entity for donations, and a sergeant major attitude which, together with her personal example, involved many people in the organizational tasks.
Networking was the major activity of the day. The lunch (not enough food for the latecomers, I was told) and the dinner (too much food) catalyzed the attendees together in temporary bonds that often led to serendipitous findings.

Met a lot of people, and expanded my Facebook and LinkedIn portfolios.


The hackfest was a collection of coding efforts in different directions. Several bugs were found and fixed during the day, in both MySQL and Drizzle, while an ambitious group of web developers tried to create a startup in 6 hours (they failed, but just barely, and it was a splendid effort!)


The travel to Washington brought more brainstorming, facilitated by some traffic jams. Dups drove, while I collected the ideas, and we arrived to Washington with a fully detailed plan about enhancing the MySQL Users Conference with some surprising things that you will hear about, probably next year.

That was the end of the good news. The meeting with the local Sun rep was canceled, and we were on our own. Following ill advice from Jay, we left the car at the airport and went looking for a locker for our luggage. There was none, and we were sent to a museum downtown that had lockers. After a quick train ride, we were at the museum, where our luggage was minutely and messily inspected, only to find out that the lockers did not have locks.
So we had lunch at the museum cafeteria and went back to the airport, where we scanned the ether for free wifi, and spent some productive hours online.
We parted company in the afternoon and that was the end of my US campaign.


MySQL meetup

Paris meetup is held very far away from the center. It's a different town actually, which gave me time to catch some sleep in the cab ride.
The attendance was not high, but everyone was interested, and all resisted
until the end. How many? We were 10, which is decimal ten, not binary two. The funny thing is that the next day, at least ten more people told me that they would have come to the meetup, if it hadn't been so far away from the center!

The topic was, once more, MySQL Proxy, and the questions asked were a bit different from the usual ones. Someone wants to use MySQL Proxy as a front end to hide the complexity of using different versions of MySQL in a sharded environment.
After Proxy, Nat Makarevitch, a local celebrity presented a long topic on server optimization, which lasted until 10:30pm, when finally we had food and drinks.

Customers conference

More talks, met more people, was asked to explain Proxy features again, discussed the Infobright roadmap, collected more business cards, and fell asleep in an armchair, only to be woken up suddenly for an incoming meeting.
Oh, well! it was an interesting exercise, but don't ask me to do it again soon!

Monday Nov 03, 2008

Good Luck Jay, Welcome Dups!

Jay Pipes has joined the Drizzle project, and we have been busy looking for a replacement. Cloning Jay Pipes brought serendipitous results. You know that cloning is not an exact science, and we could not get a perfect replica. Perhaps it was a MySQL replication issue. We should try with row-based logging, next time. Anyway, we were looking for a replica of Jay's skillset, and instead we found a match for the kind of enthusiasm that brought Jay to start working for MySQL in 2006 and then to embrace Drizzle this year.

Exit Jay, whom we will miss dearly. He was the first person that I met in the MySQL community who went to work for the company. That's when I started thinking that maybe I could become an employee as well. Best of luck to Jay, and I am sure we will hear from him in the MySQL/Drizzle ecosystem

Enough with the past, fast forward to the present. Who is this Dups anyway?

Dups is a fantastic mixture of technical skill, enthusiasm, vision, and reliability. He's a doer with an attitude. He has a solid experience as a web programmer, an infectious sense of humor, a gift for simplifying complex problems and for describing them in plain English. Ah, and to solve them! Dups has a well deserved reputation of Getting Things Done ™.

I met him in cyberspace a few weeks before he came to work for MySQL, and we exchanged some very inspiring email messages. Since then, I have always had a high respect for his skills and his opinion, and when I finally met him in person I was confirmed that I was in front of a remarkable person.

That's why, when he sent me a message saying "how tempting ... ", minutes after I wrote the blog post in search of a new team member, I rushed to contact him in IRC and ask if he was serious.

He was! And the process of interviewing him and checking his requirements, his attitude towards community work, his set of values, was truly enjoyable. Dups has a vision, and he will show it in public very soon. He was not the only candidate. Within minutes, I got not one, but three candidates, and three more applied the next day. So it was a tough choice. Thanks to the ones who applied, and sorry I could not hire all of you!

So, welcome Dups! We needed new ideas, new energy, new expertise!

Thursday Oct 23, 2008

MySQL East Coast mini tour

Next month I will be in the US East Coast, to attend the Open SQL Camp. Since I will arrive a few days earlier, I will also attend a few meetups on the way from Boston to Charlottesville.

Are you around these locations? If yes, please attend the meetups, or drop me a note.

These events are happening because several people have worked on the issue behind the scenes. Thanks to Sheeri K. Cabral, Angelo Rajadurai, Josie Kaufman, Mark Rubin, Tom Coveney, Philip Antoniades, Ronald Bradford, Greg Haase for taking care of the organization and apologies if I forgot someone.

Thursday Oct 02, 2008

Cloning Jay Pipes

The MySQL Community Team is about to lose a valuable member. In a few weeks, Jay Pipes, Community Relations Manager for North America, is joining the Drizzle project, under a different organization within Sun, and he won't be much available for MySQL community matters anymore.

BoF - OSCON 2008

On one hand, I am glad for Jay. He has been craving for more technical work, and he happily jumped at the offer from the Drizzle team. On the other hand, I have now the hard task of finding a worthy replacement. It won't be easy. For several years we have taken Jay's presence for granted, and he has done incredibly remarkable things, like creating MySQL Forge (v1 and v2) and organizing two MySQL Users Conferences and two MySQL Camps.

So, here I am, shouting to the world my need for a new manager. What am I looking for? What makes a good Community Relations Manager? At the end of this post, you will find a more detailed and formal list of requirements, but here is my personal take. The ideal candidate should

  • Be a clone of Jay Pipes
  • live in North America (US or Canada);
  • be willing and able (valid passport) to travel domestically and abroad;
  • be a team player, a good communicator, already comfortable with some Open Source community;
  • speak and write English fluently;
  • have a deep technical knowledge about MySQL (a certification would be nice);
  • have a broad understanding of databases, open source, and community in general;
  • be a proficient blogger;
  • be able to work from home effectively;
  • have a relevant wealth of contacts in at least one social site (LinkedIn, Facebook, Xing, etc);
Nice to have:
  • author of a book on MySQL :)
  • author of articles on MySQL or databases in general;
  • experience as web developer;
  • experience of the world outside North America (time zones, foreign cultures and needs, foreign languages, exotic food)

If your fit the above description, please get in contact with me. I am leaving no address on purpose. Being able to find an unlisted email address is part of the skill set for that job!

Oh, and don't forget that you will have strong competition. Please read A glimpse and a hook before pressing the send button.

The official part starts here

Primary Responsibilities and Duties

  • Establish inroads into various MySQL and open source communities through:
    • Attending and speaking at open-source conferences
    • Blogging about MySQL and community topics
  • Initiate and maintain contacts (primarily in North America) with:
    • Developers who use or could use MySQL for projects
    • User groups and meetups in the open source ecosystem
    • Community leaders and advocates
  • Assist the program chair of the MySQL Conference and Expo in
    • Planning, reviewing, and administering the conference
  • Write articles for various MySQL web properties and other publications
  • Actively participate in mailing lists, forums, and other websites by:
    • Encouraging the growth of MySQL
    • Assisting others in MySQL technical issues
    • Vetting and reviewing open source projects which use MySQL
  • Develop and maintain in-house software such as PlanetMySQL and the MySQL Forge
  • Actively promote open source development practices internally and externally to Sun/MySQL
    • Blog and write articles about best practices in open source development models
    • Encourage openness and transparency of MySQL engineering roadmap and development practices

Required Knowledge and Skills

  • Experience speaking at conferences, user groups and functions on technical topics
  • Experience networking with community leaders and open source advocates in building and growing the MySQL and associated ecosystems
  • Deep technical knowledge of MySQL
  • Understanding of open source development practices
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Knowledge of at least 1 programming language

Preferred (Bonus) Knowledge and Skills

  • Knowledge of Bazaar and/or other source control systems
  • Knowledge of PHP/Perl/Python/Ruby
  • Knowledge of Spanish language

Friday Aug 08, 2008

New Community release - MySQL 5.0.67

MySQL Community Logo

After a long delay, a new community binary has been released. MySQL 5.0.67 has reached the mirrors and it's ready for download.

The list of changes is quite long and includes a tiny incompatible change.

Every version of MySQL ships with sample option files, called my-small.cnf, my-large.cnf, my-huge.cnf.cnf. In this version, these files contain a line saying

That won't affect existing servers. However, if you are starting a new server using one of the sample option files, be aware that the Federated engine is disabled. If you need to enable it, you comment the line with skip-federated.

In MySQL 5.1 it's the opposite. The server ships with federated disabled by default, and if you want to enable it, you must add a federated directive in your options file.

Monday Jul 14, 2008

Helping Ivan

The MySQL community is mobilizing to help a 2 year old boy who is at grave risk of dying.

The son of Andrii Nikitin, MySQL Support engineer, needs a bone marrow transplant to survive.

Online donations are the fastest way of helping this unfortunate kid.

His father is doing whatever it takes to help his son, including mortgaging or selling his possessions, but that may not be enough. Everybody's help is necessary to give this boy a chance.

Last Saturday my accountant gave me the unpleasant news that I have to pay the IRS a large sum of money. Nothing you can do with taxes, unless you are a crook. My choice of action was to counter the unwelcome IRS news with some hope. So, in addition to paying my taxes, I donated for Ivan, and I felt better. I felt richer, actually.

Thursday May 29, 2008

At ease in the Aquarium

As announced by Eduardo, I have started playing with The Aquarium.
That does not mean that I sleep with the fishes, but that I am playing along with the group. And besides, dolphins are not fishes, but nonetheless they should be at ease in an aquarium.

This blogging is part of MySQL integration in Sun. Slowly but surely we are becoming aware of our surroundings and we are engaging the rest of the Sun communities.

We are learning.

Tuesday May 06, 2008

Friendly encounters at CommunityOne

Close encounter of the sun Communities in San Francisco.

Josh Berkus and yours truly enjoyng the company friendly environment.


Giuseppe Maxia


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