The MySQL Conference first timer’s guide from an old-timer

This is a “first-timer’s” guide to the MySQL Conference & Expo 2009. It is by no means official, but are things I think are somewhat important. Its broken down into sections: What days to attend, What to bring, Laptop, Blogging, Twittering, etc…, Be Social, The Attendee Directory, Evenings, and Did I miss something? Its long, but do bear with me — its just some friendly advice after attending this conference for quite the number of years.

What days to attend

The conference runs from Monday to Thursday. Monday is tutorial day, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are days where you have the conference proper.

Tuesday and Wednesday are days the Expo Hall is open. Go there, visit the place, learn about the ecosystem, and probably walk away with goodies while you’re at it. Don’t forget the DotOrg Pavilion, as there are plenty of open source projects that showcase their wares.

On Monday, you’ll also notice the career fair. If you’re looking for a job, this is the place to be. Bring a resume, bring plenty of business cards (make some, its not that complicated), and soak in the atmosphere.

If all that wasn’t enough, you’ve also got MySQL Camp running in parallel. On Monday, there’s a hackfest with Mark Callaghan of Google fame — if you’ve wanted to be a MySQL hacker, this should be a great start. On Tuesday – Thursday, MySQL Camp is happening, and there’s plenty of sessions. Did I mention that this event is completely free?

Know that there are plenty of events and parties, where you can enjoy free canap̩s, and drink Рalways keep the event schedule handy.

And oops, I almost forgot, there’s also a Performance Conference on Wednesday and Thursday. So keep in mind that there are up to ten tracks for you to attend on Wednesday and Thursday.

At nights, don’t forget the Birds of a Feather sessions. These happen on Tuesday and Wednesday night, and we’ve had sessions in the past go in till past midnight (2am seemed to have been the kicker, one year).

What to bring

The dress code is pretty casual. Its California, t-shirt, shorts, and sandals will suffice. Otherwise, I’ve seen folk mostly be in smart casual attire. Or just plain t-shirt and jeans. Your mileage will vary. Just remember to be comfortable, as the days are long, and you’ll want to be at your best no matter what. Seven in the morning starts, that end at two in the morning the next day is pretty overwhelming for the body, so wear comfortable clothes and footwear.

Also, bring along:

  • Business cards – these can be with your company, or personal ones that you create (have your name, email address, URL, and whatever else seems significant). One of the biggest gains of being at the conference is the networking aspect of it. Think of it as social networking, in person. Make connections. Immediately go forth and add them on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or shoot them an email — don’t let the business cards sit and rot.
  • ID – this is America, and if you’re planning on drinking, some kind of ID will be useful. Even at the Expo Hall reception, they tend to ask for ID when you order a beer
  • Laptop
  • Thumb drive – you might need this during the tutorial day, and it will serve for easy exchange of stuff

Laptops

You need one. The certification exams for example, don’t have any paper this year. Some tutorials are “live”, and require a working laptop, with a MySQL installation. If you’re going to be at the hackfest, without a laptop, you’re not going to have as much fun. If you want to follow other talks on IRC or Twitter, a laptop is probably required.

Having a laptop is not a requirement, but it will make your experience a lot better.

Power sockets will be available throughout the conference, but keep in mind that they may be scarce. You may not always be plugged in. If you’re coming in from overseas, you’ll need American styled power adapters — if you’re using an international one, try not to get one that is too oversized (in where it takes about two or three slots of the power board). I only mention this because I too have been guilty of such an act!

Since you’ll be moving around a lot, try and bring a light laptop. Lugging a 17″ laptop is not going to be fun, seeing the frequency of you shifting rooms. One of those netbooks are sounding better all the time.

There will be WiFi at the conference. Remember to be careful with security when using an open wireless connection. If you have access to SSH somewhere, think about tunnelling your traffic — better be safe than sorry.

Don’t upload gigabytes worth of files. Be nice to your fellow conference attendees. BitTorrent really should not be tolerated, and just keep in mind that you’re sharing bandwidth with a couple thousand folk.

Blogging, Twittering, etc.

When blogging or Twittering, tag it, so we can find it. Heck, do the same even when you’re uploading photos to sites like Flickr. Popular tags include: mysqlconf09, mysqlconf, mysqlce, mysqlce09. If its tagged “mysqlconf09”, it tends to get picked up by our feed, and placed at sensible areas.

Don’t forget to read Planet MySQL. You might like to read it in a feed reader, because the posts just get really crazy around this time with all the live blogging and so forth.

Be social

I spoke earlier about business cards and the need to carry them around. If you didn’t print any, there are at least four Fedex Kinko’s within a four mile radius of the hotel. Get some.

But being social means speaking to people in person. Not just hanging out on IRC and chatting — or always being behind your keyboard. When you meet someone, remember to talk to them! You never know what interesting stuff you will have to share with them. Opening lines include:

  • What sessions have you been to so far
  • What sessions are you going for next
  • What does the company do? What do they do?

Don’t talk to the same people all the time. In fact, there’s an unspoken rule that you should never find two MySQL’ers on the same lunch table. The whole idea is to spread the love, and to allow a lot of mingling.

The Attendee Directory

In the past, we printed a “Who’s who” list. People tended to lose these after going home, and you could never find them a year later. This year, you can participate in what is known as Attendee Networking. Its pretty cool, do check it out – Attendee Directory. You can setup your personal profile, comment on and evaluate sessions (we will value this stuff greatly), create a list of contacts, mark people you want to meet, send messages to other attendees, let others find you on Twitter, and so on.

This is by far, the coolest feature of the conference. It allows conference attendees to create a social network amongst themselves. Its opt-in, but I definitely think you’d be missing out, if you don’t opt-in! So far we have about 900 attendees that have already opted in. I want to see this number grow!

Evenings

Besides all the events and parties (go to the Expo Hall, you’ll find out about parties nearby even), the hotel has a bar, that serves liquor to late. But pace yourself — don’t drink more than you would normally do.

Did I miss something?

I’m sure I did. I wrote this when the Internet access in my hotel wouldn’t work. Write a comment. Maybe we’ll beat this up into a “proper” guide for future conferences.

Most of all, remember to have fun! And learn lots! Happy conference!

6 Comments

  1. Ulf Wendel says:

    Colin, you did not say who to follow to find a good party… but I guess that is left as an excercise to the reader. Once you are an old-timer, you will know what person goes to what kind of party.

  2. Mark Callaghan says:

    Follow the old-timers, especially those from the cold countries up north, and ask for salmiakki.

    • Ulf Wendel says:

      Oh, I did not know those would come! If I had know that, I would have tried to come. For the first-timers: watch out for suspicious plastic bags.

  3. Mark Callaghan says:

    I can’t believe how fast time flies. I have half a bag of the candy in my refrigerator from last year’s conference.

  4. […] don’t know how many of you are going to Computex this year but inspired by bytebot’s post, I’ve decided to write a first timer’s guide.  I know I’ve only been there […]

  5. Skinny Ties says:

    Blogs like this are why I use the internet.


i