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Introducing Scale Camp

2009-11-04 16:56:49 +0000

I've been to a fair few conferences recently, and something that has struck me is the large number of people who are dealing with similar issues.  How to deal with large numbers of users. how to scale their website to handle peak loads, how to identify what capacity they have for peak loads and so on.  The problem here is that although people are talking about it at conferences, and there are a few books around, there isn't anything dedicated entirely to performance and scalability.  The only thing I could find was the Velocity conference, run by O'Reilly over in the states, but over here in London?  Nothing that I could find.

I first raised this with Simon Willison soon after he joined the guardian.  He, and other colleagues here agreed that a conference would be a good thing, and suggested I might like to organise it.   So much for my big mouth!

So it gives me great pride to announce the first UK Scale Camp.  

We decided early on in the planning, that the best format for this conference would be a *Camp style event, like BarCamp or FooCamp.  A *Camp for those not in the know, sometimes called an Unconference or an Open Space, is a conference where the delegates themselves do the presenting.  Essentially everybody coming to the event is encouraged to participate, to make the conference what they want.  There is a big blank grid, with timeslots and rooms on it, and delegates come with talk or discussion ideas prepared, they find a slot for their idea, and put it on the grid.  This means that the conference is completely open, any of the delegates can speak, and anybody can go to anything.

The reason for choosing a *Camp style is that with an event of a smaller size, it helps to break down the barriers between speakers and attendees.  At some conferences, the speakers get VIP treatment, they stay hidden away in special rooms and don't mix with everyone else.  But at a *Camp, all the speakers are on an equal footing.  That means that there is an equal chance to share what we know.

*Camps also tend to encourage more discussion based panels than a normal conference.  These can include discussion panels where a number of experts sit and discuss, as well as roundtable discussions or even goldfish bowls, where anybody can take a seat and join in the discussion.

This really matches the vision of the Scale Camp.  I came up with the idea because I've been focused for a time now at the guardian of making our website scale, and we've done a pretty good job of it but I don't know everything about scaling.  In fact I hardly know anything about scaling, because our approach is based upon our under.lying architecture and our usage patterns.  In a room with 100 of the brightest and best minds in performance and scalability in the UK, I didn't want everybody to be focused on a few people, I wanted everybody to talk, to discuss and to share ideas.  I wanted to find myself talking one minute to a genius in RabbitMQ, and the next minute to somebody who manages hundreds of servers in a data center.

To get this all organised has been made much easier by the wizard events team here at the guardian and our first sponsor, Nestoria. The day itself will be pretty simple, there will be some tea and coffee and a brief introduction into the concept of a *Camp and the vision of Scale Camp, and hopefully people will start to put up some session ideas.  The sessions themselves will continue all day, with a few breaks for lunch and tea and coffee, and then we will have a quick thank you talk, and notification of a nearby pub that people can retire to.

If you've already got your ticket, then taking part is easy.  Think up something you want to talk about or something you want to learn.  We'll probably kick the day off with an introduction game, asking you to identify yourself with a few "tags" so people know something about you, then hopefully you can either put up a talk suggestion or find someone who's tags interest you and ask them to talk about something.

If you plan on presenting, then there will be projectors and whiteboards available in most of the rooms, but feel free to do a talk that is technology lite.  If you plan on doing a talk that is code heavy, please let people know in advance by putting that in your talk title.  "Memcached - Implementing it in a java stack" is better than just "Memcached".  We would love to encourage you to use a talk that allows for participation and discussion rather than lectures.

This event is already looking to be a great day, talking and learning from some of the brightest minds in the industry.  We already have people from such companies as Yahoo, Flickr, Google, the BBC, Claranet, Cloudsoft, Nestoria, and Thoughtworks coming to the event. 

There are still some tickets left, but they are going fast.  We've reserved 20 tickets until a few days before the event, the rest will probably go in the next week or so.