Anton McConville
Digital Designer & Developer
Kubecon Europe Reflection

Thought I’d jot down a few notes about reflections and observations of KubeCon Europe 2019

I didn’t attend as many sessions as I’d like - about half my time at the conference was spent either preparing to speak at the IBM mini theatre, speak at the mini theatre or help at the booth - there to work … so these are thoughts about the few sessions I was able to attend …

Mental Health in Tech - Dr Jennifer Akullian

Was happily surprised to see this on the agenda of a cloud technology conference. Even happier to see it so well attended. I’ve been managing a development team for almost two years now, and try to be conscious of the human challenges, as well as the work challenges we face - they’re real. So I welcome any insight into the subject of mental health in technology.

Jennifer recounted a few personal stories and perspectives. She shared some eye opening statistics about the rates and weights of mental health challenges in the tech workplace, and gave a few pointers of advice.

Definitely a talk to watch again when the videos are posted.

Strategies to ‘Kubernetify’ Legacy Applications - Sai Vennam

Sai is an IBM colleague - I’ve been lucky to collaborate with him on a couple of projects. In this talk he sped through a few examples from ‘lift and shift’ to extending a classic Java application to Kube. It was very well done, with a slick performance from Sai - he certainly has a gift for this :)

The hall was large and packed - which provides a clue that the developer world has an appetite for this subject. One of my own talks was about app modernization, and I detected a similar hunger from my much smaller crowd about approaches and case studies.

Would recommend Sai’s video when it is posted.

Testing Your K8s Apps with Kind - Benjamin Elder & James Munnely

A minimal, but very informative presentation about unit and integration testing of Kube apps. Kind is a fast, lightweight, cross platform and ‘hermetic’ tool for running tests.

Another good talk - clear, concise, and useful. Impressive.

Chaos Debugging - Idit Levine & Mitch Kelley

Began with the funny because true observation that we replaced our monolith with micro services so that every outage could be more like a murder mystery.

They shared a few tools to debug in real time, which if they can be set up as easily as they claim, look super useful and fun to work with …

Squash for real time Debugging

Another called ServiceMesh? which is not open source yet, but which allows requests to be recorded.

And another called Gloo which I have to admit my brain was already too overwhelmed and impressed by Squash to tune into. It was a jam packed but very decent presentation. Would recommend a view when posted.

Building Cross Cloud ML Pipelines - Holden Karau & Trevor Grant

The presenters shared a link for a forthcoming book

I’m really interested in machine learning, and regret not having more time to really immerse in it. I was hopeful that this talk was going to be a practical walkthrough, but it was a somewhat jovial, and anecdotal list of steps, I felt for people a bit more clued into the topic. So I was somewhat disappointed by this talk.

Building Cloud Native GDPR Friendly Systems - Zsolt Homorodi

I got a lot out of this talk. I’m usually not a one for bullet pointed slides, but with such a nebulous topic of GDPR, I felt that they really worked this time, to introduce the relevance and challenges for developers.

The talk was in a couple of parts - the first part introduced the reasons to care, and the operational boundaries of gathering data. This part alone makes a great presentation …

… which was good, because the second part was a demo that ran over the allotted time - it was the presenter’s first conference, and I don’t fault him for this, since it was generally a super useful and inspiring talk for me.

The presenter works at a government sponsored research organization in Finland - where they work hard to protect privacy and adhere to the rules. He mentioned that throughout Europe, during the first 9 months of GDPR approximately 50 million Euros in fines had been issued, with over 200,000 complaints of violations.

I found this site tracking some of the cases

I’m especially interested in this for some upcoming work, and think it makes a really fascinating and important topic for the future of cloud tech. Definitely a talk to look out for when posted.

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In general I found the conference well organized, in an enormous venue. For me personally it was the second half of a long business trip to Europe … I was jaded in the the evenings from preparing my own three talks, or/and working my shifts at the booth … and then immersing in other people’s talks, so I regret not being more sociable this time around. I really wanted to get the most out of the work time I had there.

I was staying at a hotel closer to the city, so it took me 30 minutes on the train each day … and prepping for a half marathon the day after I returned to Canada … so distracted a bit.

Otherwise, I really valued the conversations at the booth, and the observations about my own projects ( which I’ll share more about in the coming months ). And I got a lot from these talks. Thanks to all who made it possible for me to travel, and for all of those who shared time and information with me :)

Westeros Northern Ireland

Like millions of others, I am addicted to Game of Thrones. An added allure for me is that it is produced, and much of it is filmed in Northern Ireland, where I grew up.

I hadn’t heard of some of the amazing, and naturally beautiful looking surroundings where they’ve filmed.

So - three sites that I am making a mental note to check out next time I’m home:

Mussenden Temple

Dark Hedges

Cushendun Caves

There’s a really nice Northern Ireland Tourism page about them.

Passport

Somehow I ended up a citizen of three amazing countries. I’m writing this post to say thanks for that, and to note down the impressive UX of applying for a new UK passport.

As a citizen of Canada, Ireland and the UK, I’m lucky, and very conscious that there are many around the world who would sacrifice a lot, just to be a citizen of any one of these countries.

Growing up in troubled Northern Ireland, I didn’t always feel lucky. I’m sure admitting that even now offends some people. There was bitterness from both sides of the divide that I can still feel vividly decades later. It was hard for me to feel proud of being either Irish or British.

It has taken my lifetime to recognize the beautiful aspects of my origins and culture. I think a lot of people take time to piece their own jigsaw together. Yet, as peaceful as Northern Ireland miraculously is at the moment, there are still individuals within it who cling to the divide. Peace there is delicate, and vulnerable to the decisions made for Brexit.

A new UK passport

I made my own personal Brexit a long time ago, when I decided to make a life in Canada. And I feel that I belong here. I hope and wish that we can all experience a definite feeling of geographically, and culturally belonging. Although I think it might be time to move away from Ottawa, and think about the warmer West Coast of Canada. I love Ottawa, but the winters are really taking a toll on me now.

Since settling here in Canada, I’ve exclusively traveled with my Canadian passport. I am on my second edition now. I haven’t renewed my UK passport since it expired six years ago. Recently, a series of events led me to needing it again - related to my past employment, and future pension.

It used to be the case that I would have to visit the British Embassy in Ottawa. This time there was a new beta version of a passport application process that was entirely online.

Even the photograph could be taken at home against a white wall. When uploaded, the picture is tested for shadows, and cropped to the necessary size and shape. The directions were very clear, and didn’t feel overwhelming. Each step of the application explained what came next.

The process texted to remind me to mail the accompanying documents. Then texted me when they were received, when the passport was approved, when it was dispatched, when it arrived. I was immensely impressed at how well done the user experience was. It wasn’t glossy, or domineering. It was very well balanced, if anything it felt like it was on my side, clear and minimal.

Reconnecting to the UK version of me

My three passports feel like three chapters to some extent. Three periods of my life that began and ended. With my recent trips to London, and holding this UK passport in my hand, I am realizing that the three passports are ongoing, those identities are ongoing, and still alive too. They’re in my accent. They’re in the choices of music I listen to, the food I choose to eat, the books I read, the podcasts I listen to. The tea I drink!

In the past year I’ve been thinking more about my time in the UK, I suppose as Brexit unfolds. I traveled on the channel tunnel this year. It takes very little time to reach France from England. My time in the UK was when it was part of the EU. That’s how I prefer to think of the UK.

Next time I travel to the UK, I might enter with my new passport. Just to dig a bit deeper into how I feel about that part of my identity.