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2017 Speaking Recap

This was the year that I got more organized as a speaker. I took up Airtable as a way to track all of my conference proposals, and so I actually have a record of everything I submitted.


  • Attended 27 conferences, spoke at 24
  • Spoke at 3 user groups, 2 podcasts, 1 video interview, 1 twitch stream
  • 14 unique talks, in a variety of configurations
  • Learned to use Twine as a presentation tool, how to give demos on an ipad over lunch, how to change from saying “I’m a technical writer” to “I’m a developer advocate”

Longer version

High-Level Statistics

Submitted conference proposals: 62. Each conference got at least 2 and as many as 5 talk proposals, depending on their focus area.

Accepted proposals: 24+4+1. I spoke at 24 of those conferences. I had conflicts or funding problems that made it impossible to make it to 4 of them, and I notified the organizers as soon as I could. And I was standby at one conference and ended up speaking.

The other conferences didn’t need my talk, or I realized I had a conflict before I got their answer and withdrew my proposal.

This is a HUGE acceptance rate. This is also me working full-time to do conference speaking. Please, please, if you have a job that does not depend on you traveling and speaking, don’t use these numbers as a reason to beat yourself up.

Talks and workshops in rotation

  • Interviewing workshop with Carol Smith
  • Documentation workshop (The Self-Documenting Coder)
  • Search-First Writing for Developers
  • I Have ADD and So Can — Ooh, Shiny!
  • Fear of the Bus: Docs and Devops
  • The Kids Are Going To Be 200 OK
  • Y2K and Other Disappointing Disasters
  • The Death of Data
  • Verbose Mode: Coding and Crafting
  • Cassandra At The Keyboard: Whistleblowing
  • Garbage Collection: The Next Frontier
  • Tinkertoys and Microservices
  • Welcome to Our Product: API Documentation and Hospitality
  • Feature Flag Failures (Ignite)

2017 Chronologically

There was a lull at the beginning of the year, which was good since I was still trying to contract full-time as a writer.

Confoo Montreal

My first trip in the Year of Montreal. I gave two talks: Search-First Writing for Developers and Seven Righteous Fights. Chris served as enthusiastic food guide and I got smoked meat and poutine. The conference has a bunch of tracks, so the FOMO was large, but it was an overall positive experience.

We Love Systems MSP

A hometown conference! Well, meetup. Something between a meetup and a conference. The idea of this was super cool — what things do you love because they’re a cool system? I got to talk about knitting, and how it is actually code – Verbose Mode: Coding and Craft. This was hosted by Target, and I was impressed, as usual, by the capacity they have to drive community engagement.

Women Techmakers

Back to Montreal, this time to premier my talk on ADD. This one has a great title – I Have ADD and So Can — Ooh, Shiny!. It was really cool to go to a conference focused on women, and also I got a chance to talk about the ways neurodiversity in women presents differently.

DevOpsDays Atlanta

This was a particularly slick DevOpsDays, and the representation from regional companies looking to move into DevOps was amazing. I felt like I learned and gave so much. I presented my devops talk of the year, Fear of the Bus: Docs and Devops.


I’m not saying I apply to Minnewebcon just because of their amazing poster swag by a local artist, but it doesn’t hurt. No, I really go because they consistently have amazing and thought-provoking speakers, especially for the keynotes. I gave them a version of Search-First Writing for Developers.

Write The Docs Portland

Write the Docs was my very very first speaking conference, way back when. I always hold a special place for it in my heart – there are so many of my friends and colleagues fizzing around and thinking at high speed. This year, I was invited to give a 3-hour workshop the day before the official beginning. New Workshop at Portland Write the Docs

DevOpsDays Salt Lake City

I zipped right from Portland to Salt Lake City. Where there was snow. In May. They were experimenting with the DOD structure, which was interesting to watch. I gave a version of Fear of the Bus.

Signal by Twilio

This conference was in San Francisco. It was interesting to do a very slickly-produced conference (SMS-activated badge-things, headphones for noise isolation) after my run of community conferences. I vote against speaking in tents on windy days, though. Excitingly, I got to give one of my scariest talks, The Death of Data.

Revolution Conf

I’d never been to Virginia Beach before, but RevolutionConf made it feel like a great idea to go again. The content was interesting and the scenery was amazing. I was lucky enough to invite my brother to come down and join me. I talked about ADD.

Open Source Bridge

OSB is a sprawling, multifaceted conference with all sorts of interesting topics. Carol and I gave our Interview Workshop. I talked about ADD, and Baz and I gave a parent/kid talk about internet security.

APIDays San Francisco

I debuted a talk about API Hospitality. This conferences was an astonishingly rich collection of many of the leading thinkers and speakers in the API/devex end of the world.

DevOpsDays Minneapolis

Did you know this is the biggest DOD outside of China? Now you do. It’s huge and chockablock full of great content. I got to present Fear of the Bus.

At this point, I got hired at LaunchDarkly! Between the end of DOD MSP and the next conference, I flew out to Oakland, picked up my laptop, made dogmatic sticker proclamations, and flew straight to Kansas City for my first conference as a Developer Advocate.

Kansas City Developer Conference

I’d never been to Kansas City. Besides a persistent earworm problem, it was a great experience. Everyone was super friendly and the conference had a lot of great content. I gave them the talk on ADD and The Kids Are Going To Be 200 OK. I got a really cool sketchnote souvenir from the talk about kids security.

DevOpsDays Chicago

I went to DOD Chicago and didn’t officially speak, but I do love running an open space on the particular problems of documentation in a devops world. It’s  problem most people have.

Velocity NYC

The LaunchDarkly marketing team went to Velocity NYC. It was my first time manning a product/company booth, and I learned so much about what makes a pitch effective. I also did a video interview about our product. There was some very fine ramen. Also, I spent a day in the garment district buying fabric and I regret nothing.


In one of those jarring transitions, I went from the glitz and shine of NYC and for-profit conferences to the charm and scrabble of a free open source conference in Seattle. The audience was very different, but many of the problems are the same. I got to give a more filled out version of Verbose Mode.

Agile Midwest

This was my first Agile conference, and I learned a lot. Not exactly about Agile, but about the different problems people face in implementing and coaching it. I was amused to see that I was in the technical track. This conference is when the true horror of USB-C incompatibility hit me. I needed to present from my laptop, because this was the first time I was giving Choose Your Own Deployment. My computer entirely failed, and I ended up giving a brand-new, non-linear talk with no notes or visuals. More on that later.

All Things Open

Off to Raleigh for one day, to give The Death of Data. I really liked what I saw of the conference, and regret I couldn’t stay longer.

DevOpsDays Phoenix

Another DOD experimenting with the format. I missed having the open spaces, but there’s no denying you can get a lot more talks in if you skip it. Really well attended for a first year event. I ran the Choose Your Own Deployment  again, this time with less disaster.


Carol and I ran our interviewee workshop again and realized we need to add an interviewer workshop. This was informative. I had time to spend the rest of the conference soaking up knowledge.


The last time I was at RubyConf, I premiered The Seven Righteous Fights and kicked off a year of travel with it. This time I got to do Y2K and Other Disappointing Disasters. I love RubyConf’s serious effort to be inclusive and do the right things. This year, there was a theme of mortality and acceptance of humanity running through many of the talks, and it was amazing.

PyCon CA

Hello, Montreal, good to see you again. I will never stop being amused that the bus from the airport is the 747. This time I was in town to give Search-First Writing to a bunch of Pythonistas. The conference was in a university (UQAM) that might double as a maze of twisty passages, all alike.


Back to Nashville for the charming Nodevember. This conference manages a great mix of highly technical talks with all sorts of interesting fun stuff thrown in. Also, the catering is full of bread pudding. This is my favorite part of southern conferences. Bread pudding. And awesome people, of course. I gave Choose Your Own Deployment, and I feel like it actually worked!

North Bay Python

After 28 hours at home, I headed out to Petaluma for the inaugural year of North Bay Python. Petaluma is like weaponized quaintness, it’s amazing. I was a standby, so a week out, I got tapped to deliver Search-First Writing. I’m glad I was able to help out. It was a great first year, and I had a wonderful time.

SpringOne Platform

My final talk of the year was an Ignite at SpringOne Platform. It didn’t come with a ticket, so I can’t tell you about the conference, but it was a good place to try out a new talk I called Feature Flag Flops.

Not exactly Conference Talks

I got to be part of a roundtable for Devops Minneapolis.

I was on a podcast, talking about feature management.

I have some plans and aspirations for next year, but I think this post is long enough!