Last week I attended the Open Networking User Group conference. My main reason for attending was to participate in three roundtable discussions put on by Tech Field Day. These sessions were recorded, and I’ll be following up with specific thoughts on each session in later blog posts.

These round-tables only occupied a portion of the two-day conference, so I spent the remainder of the time speaking with some of the vendors and sitting in a few of the sessions.


I wasn’t permitted to attend a large chunk of ONUG sessions, and I’ll get to that in the next paragraph. I did manage to see a good friend Kyle Mestery present on two of my favorite topics - OpenDaylight and OpenStack. The sessions at ONUG were not recorded, but I’ll again direct you to this video for a reasonably close approximation:

Kyle is the embodiment of the passion and energy found in great communities like OpenStack and OpenDaylight, and if you ever have the opportunity to hear him present, I encourage you to take it.

I also finally got to meet Brad Hedlund in meatspace:

I arrived a little too late, but Brad was presenting on NSX in the afternoon of the second day, and I was able to catch a little bit of it from just outside the room. I’ve seen a few presentations on NSX from Brad before and he’s certainly passionate about the product.

Conference Thoughts

Finally, some thoughts on the conference itself.

I’d like to prepend these thoughts by saying that I partially understand the reasons for this. Still, I feel compelled to give my opinion and make a request. I also want to mention this has nothing to do with the Tech Field Day activities - the TFD round-tables were reason enough to attend all by themselves, as any TFD event usually is.

When I arrived at the conference, it was clear that there was a “special” type of badge for those that the conference was made for - “users”. However, those of us there with Tech Field Day were not given these badges - we were given a red-colored badge, with the green “press” ribbon below. I am not a journalist, but didn’t really give it a second thought.

Then…minutes after I donned this badge (and a few times after) I - and other TFD delegates - were  basically told that the morning sessions were off-limits to press, and we had to go somewhere else. This wasn’t that much of a surprise, because 1) we had been told of this before-hand, and 2) we had round-tables scheduled during all the morning stuff. However, it still gave the morning a very “secret squirrel” aura.

I won’t bother with any whining - only some suggestions.  Independent tech bloggers attend conferences - ANY conference - for a few very specific reasons:

  • To network with other independent tech bloggers and share experiences (usually over a pint)

  • To get to the technical details of a technology, and cut through all manner of marketing fluff.

  • Generate useful content about these technical details, with the express intent of sharing freely with our readers.

  • To otherwise be of service to the community through participation in events, discussions, videos, podcasts, etc. etc.

We generally do not attend conferences to:

  • Be the first to break the news that some financial corporation is using some crazy new technology. This is in my opinion one of the biggest distinctions between independent blogging and tech journalism.

  • Generate FUD - or speak negatively about an organization’s strategy without providing technical justification for our opinion

  • Write down what people say and regurgitate it in an article. Yes, we may do impromptu interviews or podcasts, but it’s always focused on the tech. Talk is cheap - we like action. We like running code.

Independent tech bloggers are just that - independent. Each one of us strives to put out quality content that reflects the truth about technology. We don’t really care about the who-said-what, or about spilling the beans on what an organizations technology strategy is. Most of us do this blogging thing as a side project to our actual day jobs. We don’t have a Jonah Jameson looking over our shoulder asking when the new scoop will be published. We write because the details matter, and because we value integrity above any other consideration.

In my day job, I work with diverse customers all the time, and as a result, I learn much about how they’re using technology. Chances are very good that if one organization is using a certain technology to solve a problem, I’ve seen a very similar implementation at another organization.

This is not to say that ONUG was not a technical event. There was a lot of technical content, if a bit obscure. In addition, there were folks there like Kyle Mestery, Brad Hedlund, Chris Wright, all the Tech Field Day folks, and many more where a technical conversation was low-hanging fruit. However, I still felt like it wasn’t the focus of the event. Again, there’s a full day’s worth of sessions I can’t speak to, because I was not allowed in.

Based on this, if one of my peers were to ask if the price of attending ONUG was worth it, I’d have to say no. If I am not your target audience, then by all means continue doing what you’re doing.

Coming Up…

I mentioned that I spent a good chunk of time in Tech Field Day round tables. We spoke with Nuage, Glue Networks, and HP Networking. There were some great discussions and I fully expect to have a few blog posts on those, so stay tuned, and those will be popping up here on the blog shortly.

I attended ONUG as a delegate as part of Tech Field Day. Events like these are sponsored by networking vendors who may cover a portion of our travel costs. In addition to a presentation (or more), vendors may give us a tasty unicorn burger, warm sweater made from presenter’s beard or a similar tchotchke. The vendors sponsoring Tech Field Day events don’t ask for, nor are they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of my blog posts … and as always, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own. (Full disclaimer here)

Matt Oswalt

Matt Oswalt is an all-around technology nerd, currently focusing on networking, software development, and everything in between. He is at his happiest in front of a keyboard, next to a brewing kettle, or wielding his silo-smashing sledgehammer. He spends his days diving deep into the intersection of networking and software, and likes to blog about his experiences when he comes up for air. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIN.