Thursday, January 15, 2015

Serial Community Organizer Strikes Again!

TL;DR: At least officially, I am no longer a Google Developer Groups (GDG) Community Advocate. I am taking on a new challenge building communities of mindfulness practices within Google. In our final Team Vandria video, Adriana Cerundolo and I recorded this personal message for the GDG Organizers.

I’ve always advised others to follow their passions. That is what led to me becoming a GDG Community Advocate at Google for the past 4 years. As I wrote about back then, it was amazing to get paid to do what I love. I still have a passion for technology, but, recently I have been even more passionate about various mindfulness practices: Meditation, Yoga, Qi Gong, ...

Over the past year, I have been volunteering to help the Google Well-Being team on a new program called gPause. The goal of gPause is to build communities of Googlers around these mindfulness practices. An opportunity that I simply could not pass up was offered to me to lead that effort globally within Google. So now, I am embarking on my second dream job at Google. Here is a 2 minute video where my new manager talks publicly for the first time about gPause.

I’d like to close with one of my favorite quotes from Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis. This is a discussion between Hyoi (a Martian) and Ransom (an Earthling) on Mars:
Hyoi: When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it, what will it be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then - that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this?

Ransom: But even in a poem do you not long to hear one splendid line over again?

Hyoi: Indeed, the poem is a good example. For the most splendid line becomes fully splendid only by means of all the lines after it. If you went back to it, you would find it less splendid than you thought.

I look forward to what my GDG experiences over the past 4 years make in me all the days of the rest of my life. I can't thank the GDG Community enough for the great memories and for being such a huge part of the most splendid time in my life. When I was with the GDG Community, there was no place I’d rather be.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Finding the Space to Lead

Yet another benefit of my participation in Mindful In May is the daily emails from +Elise Bialylew with links to resources like this one. I really enjoyed this interview by Elise of Janice Marturano:

Janice is the Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful LeadershipI will definitely get her book, Finding the Space to Lead, when it is published in January of 2014.

Anyone who has influence over others is a leader. We are all influencers/leaders in some sphere. This is applicable to everyone and all +Google Developer Groups (GDG) Organizers are influencers of their local developer communities. This is why our GDG community participation in Mindful In May is what Janice would call a win-win-win.

It is good for the people being helped in Rwanda. It is good personally for the GDG Organizers that are practicing mindfulness this May. Going forward, it is also good for all the communities these now more mindful GDG Organizers influence.

Our +Google Developers fundraising team is accepting donations all the way until the end of June. Please consider taking a purposeful pause to make a donation to our team and help us reach our team goal of $2000 raised and 100 team participants. We have raised more than $1600 so far with with more than 50 team participants as donors and/or meditators so far. The larger campaign has already raised more than $77K and will be funding at least two major water projects in Rwanda that will provide clean drinking water daily to more than 1000 people.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Join Me At Silicon Valley Code Camp on Oct 5-6, 2013

I am speaking at silicon valley code camp. Please come to my session!  Click here for details.

If you have not already registered for the largest free code camp in the world,
what are you waiting for?

This will be the 8th annual Silicon Valley Code Camp and the 7th one that I have helped Peter Kellner organize.  Peter and I are leading an open discussion session near the end of the weekend about SV Code Camp 2014. I need to mention that Tammy Baker and Kevin Nilson are also key members of the core organizing team each year that I have been involved.

So, please do join me at SV Code Camp 2013 and don't forget to register in advance. If it is anything like past code camps, it will be another amazing weekend. Last year, we had more than 200 sessions and almost 2500 developers participating. There is still time to submit a session for this year. You will have the option to do that after you have completed the free advance registration.

That's All Folks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

#MetaCmgr Stone Soup: CLS West Unmeetups

TL;DR: Going forward, each CLS West Unmeetup gathering will be part of an agile community process for organizing the next CLS West Unconference.

Note: CLS stands for Community Leadership Summit. The first CLS was organized by +Jono Bacon in the summer of 2009.

After the recent +CLS West Unconference, I have decided to take the CLS West Meetup in a new direction. In particular, I want to thank +Kaliya Identity Woman+Randy Farmer and +Harold Shinsato for inspiring me to do so.

Kaliya has gratiously donated her professional unconference facilitation services to the CLS West Unconference for the past 4 years. When we met to prepare for the most recent one, we discussed why I started this three years ago and what was I hoping to accomplish through these annual unconferences. At the time, I didn't have a good answer. I do now.

How I got started is easy to explain. I attended the original CLS Unconference organized by +Jono Bacon. When I learned that future CLS unconferences would be held in conjunction with OSCON in Portland, I told +Marsee Henon that I wished we could continue to hold such events here in the bay area. She encouraged me to organize them myself here in the bay area and she would get +O'Reilly Media to support it. I did, she did, and here we are today. Many more people too numerous to mention were key contributors to CLS West. However, I have to call out +Dave Nielsen because he has been as critical as Kaliya to the success of the CLS West unconferences all four years.

What I hoped to accomplish with our CLS West gatherings is a bit harder to explain. For those of us that do community work, it can be both exhilarating and incredibly draining at the same time. Ironically, this work that involves interacting with lots of people on a daily basis can also be a lonely job. The goal from the very start with CLS West was to form a meta community of community managers here in the bay area. A community with gatherings more than just once a year.

Although our annual unconference has been quite successful, I have been unsuccessful in sustaining that success throughout the year in the CLS West meetup gatherings. Even worse, organizing the unconference and the ongoing CLS West meetups was itself becoming a personal energy drain rather than an energy infuser. This is where +Randy Farmer enters the picture.

At the recent Community Manager Appreciation Day event in San Francisco (instigated by +Jeremiah Owyang), Randy approached me about helping with yet another event for community managers here in the bay area. I indicated that I would love to be part of the organizing team, but, that I did not have the time or energy to take a lead role. He laughed and said that this was the same response he received from every #MetaCmgr like myself in the room that he had approached that evening. As we talked further, he made the observation that it should be possible to organize their event in a Stone Soup manner where no one person had to take a heavy burden in producing the event. In theory, I thought it was a great idea.

Less than a week later at the CLS West Unconference, I led a breakout session with the title "Stone Soup: CLS West 2014." I brought up my recent discussion with Randy. I threw out the challenge of how could we organize the next unconference a year from now in a more collaborative manner ala the Stone Soup story. +Harold Shinsato made the observation that the soup was created in an agile manner. The community iterated on the soup making additions until the soup was complete and ready for consumption.

The earlier discussions about CLS West goals with +Kaliya Identity Woman, the Stone Soup discussion with +Randy Farmer, and the similarities pointed out by +Harold Shinsato  between the scrum agile development process and the Stone Soup story all led to my "Aha! Moment." Why not repurpose the smaller CLS West gatherings between our annual all day unconference events as part of an agile community process with the end goal being the successful community driven execution of the next unconference?

I need to digress here and briefly describe the relevant aspects of the Scrum development framework with respect to this discussion. Sprints are the iterations where the work gets done. There is a planning meeting at the start of each Sprint. There are separate review and retrospective meetings at the end of each Sprint. We will need to compress this process for our purposes. The time between each CLS West Unmeetup will be the duration of each Sprint. At each meeting, we will first review our progress from the current Sprint. After that, we will conduct a brief retrospective to discuss what went well in this Sprint and what can we do better in the next Sprint. Finally, we will decide what we want to accomplish in the next Sprint and who will be responsible for those things.

Phew! I am finally ready to explain what a CLS West Unmeetup is. It is not your traditional meetup here in the bay area held typically in some large company meeting space with a corporate sponsor for the food and/or drinks where some well known person gives a talk and afterwards there might be some group discussion. Rather, I envision meeting ideally in someone's home. Rather than having a corporate sponsor for the food, it would be a potluck meal where everyone brings something to contribute to the meal just like in the Stone Soup story.

At a CLS West Unmeetup, there won't be a designated speaker for the evening. Instead, we will have a leisurely meal first. Afterwards, we will conduct our agile community process tasks of reviewing and reflecting on our progress since our last meal together and making plans for the work to be done between then and the next meal gathering. If time allows after that, we will have one short unconference style session where topics are thrown out and we choose one to discuss. Of course, the law of two feet would apply and those not interested in the main topic could find a separate space to discuss other topics or simply leave early.

What really excites me about this new direction for the CLS West Meetup is that it addresses my larger community goals for CLS West and at the same time has the potential to convert the annual unconference planning process into a life giving rather than an energy draining process for me personally. If you have read this far, then I hope you will join me in the agile community process grand experiment that I am calling #MetaCmgr Stone Soup (AKA CLS West Unmeetups).

If you would like to get involved, the first thing to do is join the CLS West Unmeetup. The second thing to do is join our CLS West Google Group. That group will be for discussions between our unmeetup meal gatherings about the ongoing plans for the CLS West 2014 Unconference.

Namasté, Van

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oracle vs. Apache Software Foundation: Absence of Malice (Take 2)

The resignation of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) from the Executive Committee of the Java Community Process (JCP) is giving me a strong feeling of Déjà vu. Oh wait, I know why that is. It is bringing up the same feelings I had when I wrote this earlier blog post about the Oracle lawsuit against Google.

The same scene from the movie Absence of Malice still comes to mind for me. It perfectly captures my sentiments regarding the ASF's resignation from the JCP Executive Committee. The segment I am referring to starts at the 6:16 mark of this YouTube Video.
"Everyone in the room is smart, everybody is just doing their job, and Oracle's reputation as the steward of Java is dead. Who do I see about that?"
The response in the movie pretty much sums up where we are now:
"Ain't nobody to see. I wish there was. You're excused now sir."
My problem is that I don't want to be excused. As one of a select group of Java Champions, I want to stick around. However, I am finding it increasingly difficult to support Oracle as the new steward of Java. In fact, I can state without reservations that I do *NOT* support Oracle's recent actions that led to the ASF's complete withdrawal from the JCP.

My quandary now is what to do about that. Is it better to continue on as a Java Champion and be engaged with Oracle about my concerns with their stewardship of Java? Or is it time to submit my own resignation from the Java Champions community? I can say one thing publicly. The private discussions amongst my fellow Java Champions and our Oracle liaisons brings another movie to mind, Twelve Angry Men. Just like the scenes in that jury deliberation room, there has been a lot of unpleasant discourse about what is happening amongst us in private. I'm at the point that I feel like this one juror does at the 1 minute mark in the movie trailer for Twelve Angry Men.

I doubt that anything can be done to persuade Oracle to change course at this point. I only know that doing nothing about it is not an option for me personally. I am going to ask my fellow Java Champions to join me in endorsing a public statement in support of the ASF's recent decision to withdraw from the JCP (and denouncing the JCP decision not to honor the licensing commitments made to the ASF). If I am unable to get a critical mass of my fellow Java Champions to do so, then it may well be time for me to excuse myself. I hope it doesn't come to that though.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Most Amazing Thing To Me

Some people would say it is pretty amazing all the volunteer community work I managed to do over the years with Java User Groups (JUG), Google Technology User Groups (GTUG), and Community Leadership Summits while still holding down a full time job as a web developer in Silicon Valley. The most amazing thing to me is that I will start getting paid to do community work as part of the Google Developer Relations Team on December 13, 2010. Or as Steve Martin would say, "the most amazing thing to me is ... I ... get ... paid ... for doing ... this."

I have the dot com bubble burst to thank for getting me started in my developer community efforts. When I escaped the imploding Silicon Valley startup world for a safe haven at VeriSign in 2002, I started the Silicon Valley Web JUG in early 2003 to scratch my own itch simply because I missed hanging out with other Java developers. I had no idea it would lead to me being part of a Global Community of JUG Leaders or that I would be the one creating our JUG Community Map or that I would eventually be selected by my peers to be a Java Champion. Of course, none of that would have happened without the support of Aaron Houston during his tenure supporting the JUGs at Sun or without Kevin Nilson coming on board as my JUG Co-Leader when I was on the verge of volunteer burn out.

I have Chris Schalk to thank for prodding Kevin and me to start the Silicon Valley GTUG. When we held our first GTUG meeting in January of 2008, we had no idea that three years later ours would be the longest running GTUG with 2400+ members. It has been wonderful to see the explosive growth recently in the number of local GTUGs all over the world. Stephanie Liu has done an amazing job supporting the GTUGs over the past two years. I am so looking forward to working with her to keep the GTUG momentum going strong.

Finally, I have Jono Bacon to thank for organizing the first Community Leadership Summit (CLS) in the summer of 2009 and Marsee Henon for putting the bug in my ear to organize the first CLS West in January of 2010. It was my involvement in the main CLS and subsequently in CLS West that made me realize it was time to make the move from software development to working with developer communities for my day job. If you get a natural high from hanging out with other community leaders like I do, then come party with me at our second annual CLS West gathering on January 15th, 2011.

That's All Folks!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

JavaOne 2011: The Middle Way Approach

The Middle Way Approach is proposed to peacefully resolve the issues with JavaOne and to bring about stability and co-existence between JavaOne and Oracle OpenWorld based on equality and mutual co-operation. It is inspired by the Dalai Lama's Middle Way Approach for resolving the issue of Tibet. Obviously, our issues with the co-location of JavaOne and Oracle OpenWorld are trivial compared to the issue of Tibet. That in itself will hopefully bring some lightness to dealing with the JavaOne logistical issues. In the grand scheme of things, it is truly not all that significant. Having said that, it still matters a great deal to those of us in the Java development community.

I much prefer a middle way approach rather than the nuclear option (i.e., the community starting their own "J2" conference). The problem as I see it though is the sheer size of Oracle OpenWorld makes it very difficult for JavaOne to co-exist with that event. I do accept the practical necessity to have them in close proximity. However, the use of adjacent hotels for the JavaOne 2010 sessions was a logistical nightmare and dismal failure this year. Since holding a separate JavaOne conference at a different time is a non-starter in discussions with Oracle, I propose here some slight modifications to the current organization of the combined events that I believe would significantly improve the situation.

Instead of relegating all the developer sessions to the hotels, the primary goal of this proposal is to move the developer sessions back to Moscone. The way I propose accomplishing this is by having the JavaOne developer sessions start one day earlier on Saturday and the OpenWorld sessions shift their start/end dates by one day. The old format was:
  • User Group Sunday
  • Oracle Open World/JavaOne on Monday-Thursday
The new format would be:
  • JavaOne on Saturday-Sunday
  • User Group Monday
  • Oracle OpenWorld on Tuesday-Friday
You might be wondering what this really buys us. It would allow JavaOne to move back to Moscone. There will be no competition with OpenWorld during the weekend. So, we can have the technical sessions like in past years in the meeting rooms at Moscone. I also envision a few Java talks of crossover interest being held on the overlapping Tuesday of the two events. Since it will only be a few talks of crossover interest on Tuesday, they can be fit into the overlapped schedule at Moscone on Tuesday. In my personal opinion, being back in Moscone for two full days would be better than the current situation being in the separate hotels for 4 days. Plus, it does retain an overlap between the two events that is important for some of us. With respect to the big appreciation event/party on Wednesday night, that could be a separate additional option you can choose to buy (or not) when you register for JavaOne.

By the way, this would allow Oracle Develop and a new MySQL conference to also move back to Moscone for the weekend. There is plenty of room at Moscone to co-locate all three developer focused conferences. They could follow the same overlapping schedule as JavaOne. I truly believe this is a middle way approach that could work. My biggest logistical fear is that it is already too late to change the Moscone reservation for next year's event to include the additional days required to do this.

As an aside, a JavaOne pass could have the same benefits as the Discover Pass this year did for OpenWorld. That way, JavaOne attendees that choose to hang around could still network with the OpenWorld attendees later in the week.

Namasté, Van