A Year of Conferences

I went to a mix of big and small conferences, and everywhere I went, I learned something interesting and met some great people.

Brian Walter
Brian Walter
Jan 29, 2024
Context in Action
A Year of Conferences

With the New Year settling in, I’m looking back and reflecting on 2023. It’s been an intense whirlwind of a year building OpenContext. In an incredible year, one of the favorite parts of my job is participating in all the incredible industry conferences in our field. 

I went to a mix of big and small conferences, and everywhere I went, I learned something interesting and met some great people. I also got a chance to talk about OpenContext, and why we’re trying to build a tool that helps you discover and understand all the parts of your network, both the software and the human parts that make the magic happen.


We’re so lucky that Monitorama is right in our backyard. It’s a top-notch place to talk with people who really care about knowing what’s happening in a system. I recommend Dylan Ratcliffe’s Unknown unknowns and how to know them 

“The mental models of our applications and systems are built like this, from our experience in operating them, rather than from first principles. Wood’s Theorum states that as the complexity of a system increases, the accuracy of any single agent’s own mental model of that system decreases rapidly”.

Yes, that! Dylan is speaking to exactly the pain we’re trying to address, and his company, Overmind, has a very operations-focused approach. It’ll be exciting to see how their beta goes!

SRECon, Santa Clara and Dublin

SREcon is a very specific kind of nerds. Very much our kind of nerds. The kind of people who ask, “how can I make this incident response more about the sociotechnical system?”. 

In Santa Clara, Matt Davis of FORM gave a talk on SREcon23 Americas - Human Observability of Incident Response.

“If you don’t have confusion over your roles, then you’re lowering your cost of coordination.”

In Dublin, I was really struck by Charity Major’s exploration of the pendulum between engineer and manager, and how good organizations let people move fluidly between roles. The presentation on the new challenges we’re all going to face with European privacy rules was eye-opening and I think it will be interesting to see it play out. The talk I’m going to highlight from that conference is The World Blew Up But We’re All OK: How We Managed A Massive-Scale Incident at Datadog by Laura de Vesine and Laurent Bernaille of Datadog. Watching how very very large teams manage incidents gives us so many important lessons for teams of all sizes.

DevOps Enterprise Summit

This is the other fall technical conference in Las Vegas. Compared to re:Invent, it’s small, but it has a really high density of great ideas. Also, the food is better, but you didn’t hear it from me. ITRev is changing the name of this conference, so look out for the “Enterprise Technology Summit” if you want to attend the next one. I couldn’t decide between these two talks:

I also got accepted to give a lightning talk on how to Find Your Fixer! How do you know who can fix the problem, and how do you look that up? - SLIDES HERE


Several members of the team went to various DevOpsDays around the country! John Willis is a big part of that community, and he has a new book out, so it was great to hang out with him and the community. I made it to Austin, Atlanta, Boise, and Dallas this year, and the open spaces and conversations were great.

This year

Alice went to Github Universe [link here] and wrote up her thoughts on what she learned there. This year, all of us on the OpenContext team are going to dedicate some serious time to learning from our community and talking through how OpenContext can be a an internal discoverability tool for your organizations.

Look for me, or John Willis, at a conference near you in 2024!

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