Velocity conference: great content, weird format

I just came back from O’Reilly’s Velocity conference that just ended a few days ago. It was a lot of fun, with some good original content. Steve Souders, one of the organizers of this conference, asked for feedback multiple times, so here’s my opinion on it.

The good:

  • Very cool demonstrations of HTTPWatch, Fiddler and AOL Pagetest. I played with two of these tools before, and having the author’s there showing you a couple of the features was really helpful. AOL Pagetest seems like a pretty cool tool too.
  • The announcement of Jiffy (and the Jiffy Firebug extension) brought in a whole new perspective into measurement of performance data, and that is a huge deal.
  • Awesome content on Bill Scott’s session about the performance work that his team did at Netflix. Good advice in there on large XHTML pages and event handlers for sprite images.
  • Session from Eric Schurman (no blog?) at Microsoft about their performance work on improving the interaction of Live Search, all the way from a lot of AJAXy features, to a more simple approach. I asked him about the tool that generated some of his nice performance graphs, and he said that they are thinking about possibly open-sourcing it.
  • Good content on image optimization from Stoyan Stefanov, something most people often forget. We have a build system that does this automatically, but we should also have something in there to make sure we use PNG8s instead of GIFs whenever possible. Added to my TODO list.

The bad:

  • 15 minute sessions? Are you kidding me? It was such a rush to get these sessions finished in time, that in the end there was no space left to even ask a question. All of the good performance sessions were either 15 minutes in length, or just 10 minutes (for the demonstrations of HTTPWatch, Fiddler, etc). I’m sure there must be a reason for this, but it seems completely wrong.
  • The actual space in the second room was very small for the number of people in the sessions. It seemed like most of the performance talks happened in the small room, and it was packed to the brim. Also, not much ventilation in that room.
  • Seems a bit expensive to be paying ~$1400 for a two day conference, when the MySQL Conference was the same price for 4 days worth of sessions.
  • Why was there a 45 minute break in the second day, right after starting the day? The second day started at 9:15am, and by 10:30am there was already a break. Let’s get some sessions going.
  • Can we go without the spammy keynotes in the future? I have no desire to go through 30 minutes of a Sun executive telling me about this server with 1TB of SSD memory that will be available “pretty soon” for commodity prices. “Great as a memcached server.” Excuse me? This is a joke about the memcached server, right?
  • Even further, can we do fewer keynotes in the future? The first day had 7 keynotes, and while some of them might be interesting, it’s not interesting to everyone. Let’s change some of those into regular sessions, so the people that are interested can go to them, and whoever is not can skip them. For instance, Eucalyptus seems like a cool project, but giving it 30 minutes (as a keynote no less!) while the session on Varnish only had 15 minutes was completely wrong.
  • Where are all of the talks on memcached, gearman, TheSchwartz, nginx? I want to know more about these tools, and not just the basics that I could read from the documentation. I want war stories and tutorials on how to get started, and some reliable advice from big deployments. Where’s Brad Fitzpatrick?
  • Enough with the “clouds”. Please. Think of the children.

The conference was still very good, but the biggest issue was the amount of time reserved for the performance sessions that I was looking forward to.

I will try to get approval to go again next year!


  1. Jesse Robbins said,

    June 26, 2008 @ 4:51 pm

    Thanks for this outstanding feedback!

    I agree that the 15 minute sessions were a mistake and the room situation was frustrating. We’re moving to another venue next year which will be a better fit given the size of the conference, and will allow us to have tracks geared to different levels.

    If you have any other ideas or feedback, please feel free to email me at jesse at

    -Jesse Robbins

  2. Stoyan said,

    July 1, 2008 @ 12:44 am

    Next time we should do a Packt authors meet up :)

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